Day 1-2: Kochi (Cochin)
If the use of Cochin and Kochi gets you confused you’re not alone.
Both names refer to the same city. Kochi is the official name but many people still use the unofficial Cochin which was used by the British occupiers.
Kochi is the major airport in Kerala. The airport is served by many domestic and international flights.
Depending on how late you arrive in Kochi we would recommend staying one or two nights.
Our driver was waiting for us at the arrivals hall. In hindsight, we can now tell you that we are glad we had arranged one.
Although the distances that you will cover to visit these Kerala sights are nothing compared to the kilometers we traveled in the Northern part of India it is still a much more comfortable way of traveling.
i. kochin sidesine
If you have we can tell you that Kerala will be a whole different experience. It could just as well be another country.
It’s a very tropical city with lots of water and palm trees and if somebody would have told us that we were no longer in Indian but in Thailand instead we could have believed him.
Here we share the best things to do in Kochi.
Things to do in Fort Kochi
Kochi is the economic capital of the state of Kerala.
It is a big city but the highlights are all located in the same part of the city called Fort Kochi and can be covered in a half-day.
We visited the Chinese Fishing Nets, the Pardesi Synagogue, and the St. Francis Church. 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.
Next, we went to the Mattancherry Palace, also called the Dutch Palace. It’s a beautiful small palace with some awesome mural paintings. It can in no way be compared to any of the palaces we visited in Rajasthan.
The museum does a good job of showcasing the many differences in the life of the Maharaja between the north and the south of the country. Kochi is also a good place to attend a Kathakali dance show.
This is a story play that originated in Kerala and is still unique to this region.
The show kept us amused for the full hour. Although we lost the storyline somewhere halfway, the costumes, make-up, and acts alone justify attending the show.
The make-up is done in such a way that you might think that the actors wear a mask.
You can see a similar Kathakali show in Munnar if your agenda wouldn’t allow you to attend the show in Kochi.
Here you can find more places to visit in Fort Kochi.
We loved the Kathakali show
Where to stay in Cochin
Le Méridien Cochin
le Méridien Cochin India
We stayed in the Meridien Cochin and had a wonderful time. We had a very big comfortable room and enjoyed the delicious breakfast. The staff was very accommodating and even invited us to the miss Kerala election that was held in the hotel. We would definitely stay here again if we would return to Cochin.
Check prices and availability:
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Cochin on Booking.
Munnar From Kochi, we continued our journey towards the hill station of Munnar.
Driving time: 112 km- approximately 4 hours.
Things to do in Munnar
Munnar is a great location to spend 2 days. Best of all is that the temperature is really enjoyable as it is higher up in the mountains. It might even feel a little chilly when you’re acclimatized to the temperatures in the other parts of India.
So bring a warm jacket or sweater.
The main tourist attraction of Munnar are the many tea plantations. Did you know that India is famous for producing one of the best teas in the world?
You can’t miss them, all roads in the area zigzag through the tea plantations.
The sight is so spectacular that I think we may have asked our driver a hundred times to stop for a picture.
Munnar Hill Station, India.
Several tea plantations are open to visitors.
Some of them have a small museum where you can see how tea is made in the factories.
There’s also the tea museum that tells more about the history of tea in this region.
For an even more authentic experience, you can book an organized tour that takes you on unpaved routes deep into the fields. You will meet some of the tea pickers and see how they still mostly manually pick the leaves. Did you know that they collect around 100kg of leaves every single day?
We loved the tea plantations so much that we would almost forget the other sights of Munnar.
Once we sort of had enough of the impressive vistas on the tea plantations we headed to the Mattupety Dam, Echo Point, and Top Station.
Except for Top Station, the sights in themselves are not that special but the roads that take you there are all the more.
Along the way, you pass several photogenic waterfalls as well as many more incredible vistas.
A beautiful waterfall in Kerala Munnar is also surrounded by some beautiful national parks.
Eravikulam National Park is located half an hour outside Munnar and is the habitat of the almost extinct Nilgiri Tahr.
Almost 2 hours North of Munnar is Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary where you can spot elephants and deer (and even leopards if you are really really lucky).
Hiking is another excellent way to witness the beauty of the region.
Several gorgeous hikes and trekkings can be done ranging from easy to rather difficult but most are unmarked and require a guide. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking, we would advise you to wear hiking leggings.
They are a lot more comfortable than shorts when you plan on hiking a lot. In the evening you can attend the Kathakali as well as Kalarippayattu shows.
The latter is a very energetic martial arts show.
Kalarippayattu Show, Munnar, India
The impressive Kalarippayattu Show.
Where to stay in Munnar
Fragrant Nature Munnar
Fragrant Nature Munnar India
The Fragrant Nature Munnar hotel is gorgeous and beautifully situated on the top of the valley amidst the jungle. It is surrounded by tea and spice plantations. The hotel has comfortable and well-equipped rooms and is run by helpful and accommodating staff. The view from the room is outstanding.
Check prices and availability:
Agoda If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Cochin .
Kumarakom and Alleppey are both nice places to end your vacation in Kerala. They are located on opposite sides of the Vembanad lake.
We ended our vacation with some quality time in a resort in Kumarakom but you can also spend some relaxing days in Alleppey.
We have included a short comparison between the two to help you pick the best destination for your vacation.
St. Mary Forane Church:
One Of The Oldest Indian Churches Don’t miss the Kerala backwaters during your one week in Kerala Should you go to Alleppey or Kumarakom? This depends on what you want to do.
If you want to cruise the backwaters and stay a night on a houseboat you might want to choose for Alleppey.
The boats leave from both locations but Alleppey has by far the biggest choice for a backwater cruise.
You won’t find a lot of resorts in Alleppey, these are all located along the lakeside in Kumarakom.
Kumarakom is the most flexible of the two as it allows you to combine a stay in a resort with an overnight cruise in a houseboat.
Some of the resorts have their own houseboats and offer this as a package. You should know that although a Kerala backwater cruise lasts almost a full day the boat will only sail for about 6 hours.
Local regulations reserve the lake for the fishermen at night, all houseboats need to dock by 5:30 PM. The majority of the 6 hours are also spent on the lake, most Kerala houseboats are too large to navigate the narrow channels of the backwaters where you can really experience daily life.
The small boats called Shikara offer an alternative way to see the backwaters. You can charter these per hour as a couple or family.
An advantage of these small boats is that they can navigate the narrow channels and because it’s a private tour you can ask the driver to stop if you want to take pictures. We saw a lot of colorful birds so there’re plenty of picture opportunities.
We arranged a 2-hour Shikara boat ride. It seemed like 2 hours was enough although the scenery is really stunning. This cruise was one of the highlights of our trip to Kerala as the backwaters are so peaceful and beautiful. I think the backwaters might be the reason why they call this state “God’s own country”.
We saw this beautiful kingfisher during our backwater tour If we would go back we would definitely opt for a Shikara again. The Shikara boats leave from the Kavanattinkara boat jetty in Kumarakom.
This is close to the entrance of the bird sanctuary and your boat ride will actually take you along part of the edge of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is a nice place to enjoy nature but the dense forest will make it difficult to spot birds.
You can combine your boat ride with a visit to the sanctuary, just know that you will probably see more birds during the boat ride than during your forest trek in the sanctuary.
This region in Kerala is also famous for its Ayurveda massages.
Ayurveda is a buzzword that’s popping up all over the world. What you may not know is that it originated in India several thousand years ago. It’s a way of life that revolves around creating peace and harmony in the body by aligning different energy channels, called chakras.