If you are planning to travel to India, most people would agree to make sure to start in the South. It’s less populated, more liberal and allows you to warm up to the perks and quirks of India in a much more mellow way.
There is so much to see and do in the Southern state of Kerala, from trekking mountains, exploring tea plantations, floating through the backwaters, tasting their famous seafood and of course relaxing by one of Kerala’s beautiful beaches.
Here’s our guide to getting the best of Kerala’s sandy shores.
Kovalam is infamous for Light House Beach, a small stretch of sand that is shadowed by a beautiful old lighthouse. The vibe is mainly for families, or older couples, so it makes it a bit hard to find fellow travellers here. However, if you’re down for some solo beach time, this quaint little town will definitely chill you out.
NB: This is NOT the place to shop. Everything is super over-priced.
The boardwalk is small, so after a stroll or two, you’ve seen what the beach scene has to offer. Take some time to get lost in the back streets behind the main strip, it’s filled with vendors, coconut stalls, and forest. Every corner looks like the last until you realise you’re somewhere completely different and sort of lost! Head here for rationally priced chai, or to just enjoy the shade as you sip on a coconut.
The beach is lovely, but if you would like a break from the crowd, I can’t recommend taking a stroll to Leela’s enough! This 5 star resort is a gorgeous entrance to seeing Kovalam with a bird’s-eye view. They have multiple infinite pools in their complex, some of which are open to non-guests. They also offer 2 for 1 cocktails from 4-7 and serve decent wine, which you won’t find many places in India! I would suggest heading up for sunset, taking a dip and enjoying your favourite beverage.
Most restaurants on the boardwalk are similar. Long menu’s, offering Indian, Chinese and Continental, however Kovalam is big on Seafood, so restaurants also have a big seafood display out the front. You won’t find huge variation between the places, most are quite expensive around 270-400 for a vegetarian main and from 400-600 for a seafood main. Malabar seemed to be reasonable, and their staff were super friendly.
Since this spot is built for tourists, the prices are quite high. You’ll also notice they Western-down their food a lot, dulling down flavours, adding fries, or offer mostly continental menus. It’s nice to try a seafood dish at one of the boardwalk restaurants, but after a day or so you’ll get over paying triple the price for something you know you can get cheaper and better in another town. So here’s where street food comes in! At just 20rps a vender was serving up a delicious chickpea salad on the beach, grab one or two of these for lunch and enjoy a picnic instead of dining in.
Just under 2 hours North of Kovalam, is the neighbouring beach town of Varkala. This stunning beach town is set atop a cliff filled with palm trees and pubs. Varkala is the place to learn to surf, practice your bargaining at the many small stores or just check out the stunning view from a bar on the cliff top. Varkala has much more of a backpackers vibe to it, and is a little less expensive than Kovalam. If you’re looking to relax, enjoy a watermelon mojjitto or two, and meet other travellers, this is your go to beach in South India.
At first Cochin seems like just another chaotic city, littered with crowds, dogs and construction. It’s also not the go-to place to lay by the beach, as it’s quite polluted. However if you head down to Fort Cochin, you can explore the Fisherman lifestyle and get to know more about Kerala’s infamous seafood.
Take a walk down to the wharf and you’ll be able to watch how the locals catch their fish. Also, the town is filled with street art, from the road to the walls, painted by locals and visitors alike.
This brand new hostel is decked out with utilities that are clean, comfortable and in working condition – a bit of a luxury when it comes to budget accommodation in India! At 500rs for a dorm bed, it’s a little pricey, but if your body needs a good rest and a fresh shower, this is the place. You can start asking around for cheaper guest houses, but if you are travelling solo this may be your better option.
If Cochin is not your first stop in India, and you feel it time to take a break from Indian cuisine, Pizza Italia will be an instant pleasure for you. The place is run by an Italian so unlike the Indian style pizza you can find at most cafes, this is the real deal. You must try their bruschetta, the fresh tomatoes and basil is the perfect bite of freshness you’ll be craving.
Koshi Art Cafe
If you have a bit of time and would like to just relax at a cafe, enjoy some great wifi and even greater sweets, then definitely stroll down to Art. It’s the type of place you can just bench at all day, as fellow travellers come and go, you share a chai or two, and continue to just indulge in
If you’re after a more romantic scene, a candle-lit dinner is available a top of the wharf at Fort House Hotel. Many items on the menu are quite pricey, but if you go or the plain vegetarian pastas at around 200rs, it works out to be fancy food on a backpackers budget! Or just head there for a glass of wine! There is a bar next door, that is a bit more happening, but the food and wine is terrible.
For more travel tips check out our guide to the Magical Mysore. If you have any questions about an upcoming adventure to India, comment below.
Love and light,