We were planning for Kerala for quite sometime; however we mostly ended up with an international travel for December holidays. Summer is too humid and monsoon too heavy in Kerala; hence Nov – Jan is the ideal time to visit. We planned the Trip from 25th Dec to 2nd Jan with itinerary as:
Kochi – 1 Day
Munnar – 2 Days
Thekkady – 2 Days
Kovalam – 2 Days
Alleppy – 1 DayI also wanted to do this as a self-driven Road trip and not hiring a driver. The challenge though is, unlike other metros, car rentals for self-drive are not available. Check out the details on pros / cons of self drive in Kerala right at the bottom of the blog.
We landed early morning in Kochi and had booked Saj Earth Resort near the airport. Its an exceptional and unique experience with all rooms having direct entry into a large swimming pool. We started our trip with Fort Kochi – an old island town connected by Ferry to mainland. Being Xmas day the streets were decorated and houses lit with the festive season. We hired a local rick for 100Rs 1 hour tour through Fort Kochi covering the churches, famous Chinese Fishing Nets, beach and temples. We had an amazing seafood lunch and beer in a nice restaurant. With some free time in we decided to go for Ayuverdic massage – over priced and not authentic L. One must not miss walking around the alleys of Fort Kochi where you get to see some nice Portugese style homes and cafes. We had then booked for Kathakali show in the Kerala Kathakali Centre. There are multiple places where you can experience this traditional folklore and it is definitely a must do.
Next morning, we drove via NH47 to Munnar – the roads are narrow two lane and winding through the hills. We had booked Season7 – a camping place 15km before Munnar. Unfortunately, the weather was hot and sunny and hence we could not enjoy the cold and fog which Munnar is famous for. Day 2 in Munnar went around the town, Tea Museum and visiting some Tea Gardens.
Munnar to Thekkady is about 4 hours drive through beautiful Western Ghats with Spice, Tea, Coffee and Rubber plantations. We had a booked Green Court Homestay where we welcomed by a very warm Mr. Joseph– the owner. We did an Elephant Ride – over crowded and not so great and some trekking in near by forest area. There are multiple options of half-day, full day trips incl. open jeep safari, bamboo water rafting, trekking, boating etc. We decided to opt for the full day Gavi trip which started early in morning at 0530 hours into the Periyar National Park. The ride is very scenic and an early morning increases the chances of spotting some wild life. Unfortunately, besides Black monkeys and Malabar giant squirrel, we did not get to see much. You can then do a government arranged tour which includes boating, waterfall, trekking, cardamom factory and 3 meals. The full trip incl. car costs you around Rs. 2000 per head. Evening was spent in local markets in Thekkady.
Thekaddy to Kovalam was the longest distance ~230 Km and 6 hours. Kovalam has a mix of traditional hotels and lot of Ayurvedic resorts which occupied by foreigners. We stayed at Maharaju Palace which was near the Lighthouse beach. We were pleasantly surprised at the Kovalam beach culture with beach beds, clean water, variety of shacks and good sea food. Almost all places sell beer and wine and some cocktails illegally, but much needed esp for 31st Dec! Next day we took a ride to Poovar, about 15km from Kovalam and had lunch in the floating restaurant. Evening was spent planning for the New Year night and we decided to hop places with few of our hotel guests. There was nice music a firework show sponsored by the government with strong police control and security. Overall a great experience for the new year’s party.
Getting up early on 1st of Jan was an arduous task and we dragged ourselves into the car. Alleeppy is about 150 km / 4 hours from Kovalam via NH47. We had not booked houseboat due to time constraints; but I will highly recommend booking one. It’s a journey worth experiencing and if you consider the total cost of stay, boat ride and 3 meals, it comes to almost the same price of staying in a normal lake side resort room. The Shikara boat trip via the backwaters is really mesmerizing and please plan it during sunset – you see floks of birds, a nice sunset through paddy fields and a quitter and pleasant village surroundings.
Last day we were back to Kochi airport for a noon flight and returned our car. It was a great experience as you get to cover an old town, hill station, national park, beach and backwaters all in a single vacation. The people are warm and friendly, the roads are good for a self drive and food is delicious.
I was a bit sceptic about self drive through Kerala mainly because you do no have established car rentals. After a lot of googling a stumbled upon one Mr. Anoop ( +91 9847947222) who was providing cars on rent. These were however private cars with white number plate. The charges were reasonable –Rs.750 per day for a Swift Petrol and Rs. 950 for Diesel.
The road conditions are very good, however it’s a continuous winding drive through the mountains. The roads are narrow, and mostly 2 lanes without a divider. The traffic is not heavy and people generally drive within rules and safely. So if you are the one who like to speed through some straight multi-lane roads, Kerala is definitely not the place. But if you want to enjoy some scenic mountainous terrain and greenery then its definitely worth a shot!