Kerala - As pretty as a postcard! -- Kochi, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Varkala and Kovalam

Tripoto
6th Feb 2021
Photo of Kerala - As pretty as a postcard! -- Kochi, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Varkala and Kovalam by The Benjabi Affair

Which place comes to your mind when someone talks about swaying palm trees, beautiful backwaters, finger licking local food served on banana leaves, rice paddies, elephant rides and coffee plantations? The answer is quite simple.. All these and many more of these beautiful visuals teleport you straight to Kerala.

February 2021, saw our first trip to Kerala where we got to know why it is called Gods own country - an ideal place to relax and forget about all our worries. Every year we plan an anniversary trip to an international destination but due to the current covid situation, this year it was not possible and hence we decided to celebrate our third anniversary in the most beautiful part of India and that is Kerala. Kerala is a beautiful state with beautiful people and awesome food .

We spent over three month planning this trip, trying to pick the most scenic locations also keeping in mind that we do not opt for crowded and over commercialised locations from a safety point of view. We tried to fit everything in from city life to backwaters to mountains and even beaches in these 9 days that we had. There's a lot to do in captivating Kerala: so this 9 day itinerary will help you to pick wisely! Here you'll find recommendations for the best eco friendly resorts, community tourism projects, wildlife, locally owned restaurants and a whole lot more!

Day 1 (Kochi):

We took an early morning direct flight from Delhi on the 6th of February,2021 and landed in Kochi at 11 am. It was a 3 hour long flight but when we started descending, the visuals of the palm trees and water bodies surrounding the Kochi airport made us instantly forget our fatigue. We then took an Uber from the Kochi airport to our hotel - The Taj Malabar Resort and Spa in Willingdon Island. The reason for choosing this resort; apart from the fact that it was extremely picturesque; was its close proximity to all the local sight seeing spots like Fort Kochi, Princess street and Jew Town.

Stay at Taj Malabar came at Rs. 6,500/night. Might sound a little costly, but then it's "TAJ".

Day 1

Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Kochi

Photo of Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Cochin, Willingdon Island, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Kochi

Photo of Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Cochin, Willingdon Island, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Kochi

Photo of Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Cochin, Willingdon Island, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

On reaching the resort, we freshened up and left for Fort Kochi as we were staying for only one day in Kochi and didn't have much time in hand. It took us 10 minutes to reach Fort Kochi and we immediately made our way to the Chinese Fishing Nets, where we tried our hands at catching fish in the old Chinese way but were not fortunate enough to catch even a single fish. They usually don't directly ask you for money, but tourists usually pay Rs. 500-1000 for one attempt at catching fish because it requires the joint effort and help of 4-5 folks.

Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Kochi

Photo of Chinese Fishing Net, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Kochi

Photo of Chinese Fishing Net, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

By this time, it was already 3 pm and we were extremely hungry. The restaurants in Fort Kochi operate on a simple philosophy - " Bring your own CATCH"🎣......Now, there are 2 ways to achieve that: 1. Either you visit the nearby Chinese Fishing Nets facilities and catch with your own hands, Or 2. You buy the fresh catch from the nearby fish markets and local stalls at a meager price...The last step involves asking these restaurants to cook it for you in whatever style you like - "Kerala Style, Butter Garlic etc.". As we couldn't catch any fish, we bought it from the fish market and went to this small cafe - Cafe Cuba where we opted for Kerala Style fish wrapped in banana leaf. It was simply outstanding. They charge only Rs. 200-250 for cooking, which is pretty okay for a big catch.

Cafe Cuba, Fort Kochi

Photo of Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Cafe Cuba, Fort Kochi

Photo of Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Cafe Cuba, Fort Kochi

Photo of Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

After lunch, we took a walk in the Fort Kochi area. Along the way, we walked through Princess street, the place to hunt for souvenirs, snoop around bookstores or relax with a drink and some food.

One such restaurant that should be definitely visited is the "Kashi Art Cafe", where ART meets APPETITE!..You can sit here for hours just reading a book, engaging in discussions with fellow travellers, and enjoying the amazing art with a sip of tea / coffee plus a piece of mixed fruit cake.

Princess Street, Fort Kochi

Photo of Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Kashi Art Cafe, Fort Kochi

Photo of Kashi Art Café, Burger Street, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi, Kochi, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

By this time, it was already 5.30 pm and we were very tired. We however decided to take a quick tour of the Jew Town which is famous for its spice market and is just 10 minutes away from Fort Kochi. We met the sweetest auto driver here who had agreed to drop us to Jew Town at Rs 50 but even after taking us an extra 4 Kms to a specific shop, we didn't ask for more. We however, gave him Rs 100 and the thankful smile on his face just made our day! Unfortunately, many of the shops were temporarily closed due to Covid here. We bought a few packets of spices from some local shops and headed back to our resort. You can however skip this market if you are visiting Thekkady which itself is famous for its spice plantations.

We rested for an hour in our room and then came down to the hotel lobby where a special performance of Kathakali was put together for the hotel guests. We thoroughly enjoyed the performances and then headed straight to the restaurant for some drinks and dinner. The waiter suggested we try their special coconut water based cocktail and Appam and stew for dinner. I can vouch for that as it was the best Appam and stew we have had till date! After the sumptuous dinner and the long day, we headed back to our room and fell asleep in no time.

Day 2- 3 (Kumarakom) :

The number one tourism draw in Kerala are the "Kerala backwaters". Over the last few years, crowds have flocked in increasing numbers to Alleppey. What were once tranquil backwaters have become noisy, congested with tourists and polluted in many parts. Hence, we decide to skip Alleppey and stay at Kumarakom instead. Nestled on the opposite bank of Lake Vembanad, Kumarakom is the perfect place to slow down and experience the backwaters (from shore) at their most peaceful. Kumarakom is also one of the locations where Kerala tourism is implementing more sustainable measures: one such hotel is the Coconut Lagoon (where we decided to stay) which is trying to minimise their environmental impact and make sure that products are procured locally where possible, helping to maximise the economic benefit that goes back to locals.

So from Kochi, we continued our journey to Kumarakom the next day. We booked a private cab from outside the hotel which charged Rs 1200 for the 1 and a half hour journey to the private jetty/car park area of Coconut Lagoon resort in Kumarakom. For luxury along the backwaters, there's no better place than Coconut Lagoon which is owned and run by Keralan family run CGH Earth group. Although the stay comes at a significant cost - we had to shell out Rs. 20,000 for 2 nights, but the entire experience was totally worthwhile.

From their private jetty about a kilometer upstream, the resort organizes a complimentary boat ride over the lake's gentle swells, past lazy coconut palms and houses, to the resort . At the resort , we were welcomed with the melodious tunes of flutes being played and fresh coconut water!

Day 2

The property has a number of in-house activities like bird watching, sunset cruise, butterfly garden etc and you can easily spend two days here without stepping out. After taking some rest, we decided to take the property's complimentary sunset cruise in the evening, an hour-long idyll with flute accompaniment. On our way to the sunset cruise, we stopped for tea and snacks at their floating tea stall.

The Boat Ride, Kumarakom

Photo of Kumarakom, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

The next morning we had asked the property to book us a sunrise canoe ride to cruise along the multiple canals of Kumarakom and experience the life on the backwaters. It costed us 2500/canoe but the experience was worth every penny. It was a 2 hour long ride spent watching birds and adoring the beauties of pink lilies growing in the backwaters!

Day 3

Backwaters, Kumarakom

Photo of Kumarakom, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

The same day we had requested the manager to arrange "Sadya" for lunch, which is a traditional Kerala feast served on a banana leaf. The property was not serving Sadya at that moment but the manager was gracious enough to arrange it specially for us. You can get a glimpse of our Sadya experience below:

The rest of the day was spent exploring the property and spending some quality time in our private pool villa.

Photo of Coconut Lagoon - CGH Earth Resort, Kottayam - Kumarakom Rd, Kavanattinkara, Kumarakom, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair
Photo of Coconut Lagoon - CGH Earth Resort, Kottayam - Kumarakom Rd, Kavanattinkara, Kumarakom, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Day 4-5 (Thekaddy):

The next morning we were extremely sad to check out of the beautiful property but were also excited at the same time as we were moving into another CGH property - Spice village in Thekaddy . The boat left us till the Coconut Lagoon jetty park and from there we hired a private vehicle to take us to Thekaddy which was a three and a half hour road trip.

We reached Thekaddy around 2.30 pm and immediately headed to the hotel's restaurant for lunch as we were extremely hungry. We decide to opt for red rice, dal and Papadam for lunch. The resort is designed in the theme of a Tradition Tribal Village in Botanical Garden. We got to stay in cute little huts with elephant grass thatch roof. Spice village represents all things sustainable by minimising plastic usage and focusing on sustainable living be it their glass bottling plant, handmade paper mill, organic composting or solar energy harvesting. This property was fairly priced, we had to shell out only Rs. 11,000 for 2 nights.

Day 4
Photo of Spice Village – CGH Earth, Kottayam - Kumily Road, Thekkady, Kumily, Tamil Nadu, India by The Benjabi Affair

In the evening, we went for a spice garden and property tour. We also attended their culinary workshop where we learnt to cook Malabar fish curry and watched their traditional kathakali performances. One of the things which also attracted us was their evening tea stall serving hot cardamom tea and freshly baked local products.

We had an early dinner and went to bed as the next day was going to be quite eventful with a number of activities lined up.

Spice Village - CGH Earth, Thekaddy

Photo of Spice Village – CGH Earth, Kottayam - Kumily Road, Thekkady, Kumily, Tamil Nadu, India by The Benjabi Affair

One of the major reasons we had decide to come to Thekaddy was to experience Bamboo rafting at the Periyar National reserve.

You could either opt for a full day program which includes hiking through the Periyar national park followed by bamboo rafting. We however opted for a half day trip which is a dawn to afternoon range hiking and rafting programme through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve., a mosaic of habitats will be traversed before the party gets into rafts made of bamboos. While rafting, you will get a panoramic view of forest-clad hills. Animals like elephant, gaur and sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake. We paid some Rs. 5000 for two of us to experience this activity.

The hiking was average but the bamboo rafting is something which should not be missed!

Day 5

Bamboo Rafting, Periyar National Park, Thekaddy

Photo of Periyar National Park, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Bamboo Rafting, Periyar National Park, Thekaddy

Photo of Periyar National Park, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Bamboo Rafting, Periyar National Park, Thekaddy

Photo of Periyar National Park, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

We returned back tired and after lunch took a quick nap as the next activity we were looking forward too also needed all of our energy- The elephant Camp. When in KERALA, Elephant bathing & feeding is a must!. We went for this elephant camp at the elephant junction in Thekkady, where we had an amazing time with "Gajraj", we had a bath with him & fed him bananas. Also, there is a local chocolate store just outside the elephant camp which is a must visit. We tasted a lot many varieties and bought a lot of chocolates which we forgot in our hotel room :(

With this, our very eventful day came to an end!

Photo of Elephant Junction Thekkady, Thekkady, Kumily, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Day 6 (Varkala):

The next day we left Thekaddy to reach Varkala. We were staying in Varkala only for a day and hence wanted to make the most out of it. Varkala is fast becoming the new hippie destination of South India , some also refer it to as the next Goa. Set on top of a cliff, Varkala is the place for sunsets, yoga, ayurveda and perfect turmeric lattes.

It took us three and a half hours to reach Varkala and we had booked an airbnb just to experience the hippy feel of the place resonating perfectly with the vibes of Varkala. The hotel was called "Cliff stories". The property; apart from being an epitome of beauty, having access to a private beach and giving you the perfect bohemian feel with its dreamcatchers and white decor; enjoys a great location advantage and provides easy and fast connectivity to the major transit points of the city. We paid some Rs. 3300 for 1 night, the rooms however are average but clean, however the property is a hit among travellers and locals.

Day 6

Cliff Stories, North Cliff, Varkala

Photo of Cliff Stories, Varkala, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

Cliff Stories, North Cliff, Varkala

Photo of Cliff Stories, Varkala, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

After grabbing some lunch at their restaurant, we quickly got ready and went to the North Cliff area which is the major attraction of Varkala with an array of cutes cafes and a way to a beautiful beach. After enjoying a spectacular sunset, we headed back to the cafe for dinner and drinks. Some of the cafes we recommend here are Cafe Italiano, Cafe Del Mar and Coffee Temple. Varkala has a lot of cafes to explore and we recommend you spend at-least 2 nights here.

Varkala Beach

Photo of North Cliff Road, Varkala, Kerala by The Benjabi Affair

North Cliff, Varkala

Photo of North Cliff Road, Varkala, Kerala by The Benjabi Affair

Cafe Del Mar, Varkala

Photo of Cafe del Mar Varkala, Varkala, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

The next morning we went to the property's private beach to click some pictures and to enjoy a glorious sunrise before heading over to our final destination - Kovalam

Day 7-8 (Kovalam):

The last two days of the trip were reserved to enjoy some relaxing beach time. We however, felt that we could have devoted one day less to Kovalam and allotted another day to Varkala. Kovalam is worth it only if you opt for a resort with an access to a private beach like - The Raviz or the Rockholm at the Light House Beach Resort. We however, were staying at The Turtle on the beach which was a little far off from the main beach area, otherwise the hotel was decent, the rooms were spacious and airy and we had to shell out only Rs. 9,000 for 2 nights On the way to Kovalam, we crossed Trivandrum and stopped at a restaurant called "Mother's Veg Plaza" which specialises in Sadya. Priced at 250 Rs per person, the food was really finger licking good.

Day 7 was spent walking along the Kovalam beach and enjoying the beauty of the lighthouse there.

Day 7

Lighthouse Beach, Kovalam

Photo of Light House Road, Light House Beach, Kovalam, Kerala, India by The Benjabi Affair

The next day we decided to have lunch at the restaurant of Raviz called "The Tides". The setting (right on the beach), the service and the food made eating there an experience you just should not miss!

Leela - The Raviz, Kovalam

Photo of Kerala - As pretty as a postcard! -- Kochi, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Varkala and Kovalam by The Benjabi Affair

In the evening, we went to the restaurant of the Rockholm at the light house beach resort where Rohit had organised a surprise for me as it was the Valentines Eve. It's a paradise in the true sense as the place faces the gorgeous sea and is surrounded with scenic beauty. Their staff is also excellent who value customer service to the core. The manager had taken utmost care to decorate the table with flowers and made us feel really special.

Day 8

Day 9 (Trivandrum):

After having breakfast, we headed to the Trivandrum airport from where we had to catch a return flight back to Delhi. The airport is just 30 minutes away. We wanted to buy some silk sarees on the way but the shops were closed and hence we decided to buy a few sarees directly from the Kerala Emporium at the airport.

This trip to Kerala has by far been the most luxurious trip we have ever had in India yet was very peaceful and brought us very close to nature. We pledge to come back here again when the covid situation is better! Here is a short and sweet video summarising the same feeling!

For the visual version of this experience, please head over to our youtube and Instagram channel.

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