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Traveling in South India: The Best Tips for Kerala

India was the first country of our great Southeast Asia trip. A culture shock at the beginning? Almost, but not quite. We were quickly impressed by the friendliness of the people, the hustle and bustle in the cities and the breathtaking nature of the West Ghats.

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The following destinations are listed in chronological order according to our itinerary.

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Cochin

Cochin is a colonial city in the south of India and is particularly influenced by Chinese fishermen, but also by Arab and European colonies such as Portugal.

sunset, india, evening sky
Chinese fishing nets in Cochin
  • Our hotel tip for Kochi: The Airport Hotel “Alfa Inn” (ca 11 $/ room), within walking distance from the airport (10 min).
  • Highlights of Cochin: Jew Town with the Spicemarkets on the road to the Paradesi Synagogue and the Chinese fishing nets.
  • Our flop: The Hotel Excellency (Ernakulam) and our purchase of overpriced (as we found out afterwards) spices in a shop supported by Prince Charles.
  • Travel tip for Cochin: Take a walk through the city around Fort Kochi.

Alappuzha Backwaters

Alappuzha, formerly also called Alleppey, is a port city in the south of Kochi in the Indian state of Kerala. Alappuzha is known for its backwaters, a labyrinth of canals and basins.

Fisherman on a wooden boat in the Alleppey Backwaters in Kerala
The Alappuzha backwaters
  • Our hotel tip for Alappuzha: The Lake Paradise Resort
  • Restaurant tip for Alappuzha: The Thaff Restaurant at the Zilla Court Bridge.
  • Our highlight of Alappuzha: Kayaking in the backwaters at sunrise (paddling around the island).
  • Our flop: Our stop in an overpriced tourist restaurant in the city.
  • Travel tip for Alappuzha: Do not book a houseboat tour! These are usually overpriced, there is disturbing party music playing and you can hardly see anything because the boat docks for a few hours; rather explore by yourself with a kayak.

Kumily

The city of Kumily in the West Ghats of Kerala is located next to the National Park Periyar Tiger Reserve.

tea plantation, tea garden, india
Tea plantations in India
  • The best hotel tip for Kumily (!): The Panthalams Residency
  • Restaurant tip for Kumily: Panthalams Residency
  • The special attraction of Kumily: The Periyar National Park (we did the Green Walk Tour (7:00 am) in the morning and the boat tour in the afternoon)!
  • Our highlight of Kumily: Our host Shukkoor and his family were the friendliest hosts we met in India.
  • Our flop: The countless leeches on our Green Walk Tour!
  • Travel tip for Kumily: You have to the pay entrance fee for the Periyar Park only once a day, so it is advisable to make full use of it and preferably do two activities in one day!

Munnar

Like Kumily, Munnar is a small town in the western ghats of India.

The Attukad waterfall near Munnar in Kerala India
Attukad waterfall near Munnar
  • Our hotel tip for Munnar: The SMM Cottage, basic but cheap!
  • Restaurant tip for Old Munnar: Gugarathi Marwadi Bhojanalaya and Sree Annapoorana.
  • Our highlight of Munnar: Wild elephants at Mattupetty Dam and Attukad Waterfall.
  • Our flop: We were attacked by wild bees and were surprised by torrential rain.
  • Travel tip for Munnar: Besides taking a tuk-tuk, simply explore the area on foot. Don’t visit Ernakulam Park on Sunday, as Sundays are very crowded!

Extra: Madurai in Tamil Nadu

We had to go to the neighboring state Tamil Nadu because we booked our connecting flight to Sri Lanka from Madurai.

Once we arrived in the state of Tamil Nadu we immediately realized what makes Kerala so special. In Madurai there was much more poverty, much more dirt, strong smells and the people were by far not as friendly as in Kerala.

Tower of the Hindu Shri Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai
The Minakshi Temple, also known as “Meenakshi Amman Temple”.
  • Restaurant tip for Madurai: Naina Noruks (Shenoy Nagar, Madurai, Tamil Nadu 625020, India), especially the Porotta is good
  • Our highlight of Madurai: At sunrise we went up the Thiruparankundram Rock, with a tuktuk it takes about 30 minutes from Madurai (about 600 steps, be careful with food because of the many greedy monkeys).
  • Our flop: The M3 Boutique Hotel (on the pictures super, in reality very rancid).
  • Travel tip for Madurai: The Minakshi Temple, also known as “Meenakshi Amman Temple”, and the Gandhi Memorial Museum.

Summary

We strongly recommend everyone to go to Kerala as we are simply thrilled by the friendly people there and the fascinating nature, especially in the mountains. In the bordering state of Tamil Nadu we were only in Madurai. But we noticed immediately that India can be very different.

More articles about India on our blog:

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