This is the first in a new Kerala India Travel series on suggested itineraries for trips to Kerala. I have received many queries from people who are unsure about the best places to visit in Kerala, and what’s possible within a certain time frame. These suggested itinerary articles should give you some ideas for planning your trip.
Many people visit Kerala on short trips of around 1 week. Luckily, as Kerala is a compact state it is possible to see some of the highlights in this timeframe, especially if you hire a car and driver. I would recommend focusing on the Kerala backwaters. They are unique to Kerala, and one of the most beautiful, relaxing parts of India.
Here are some suggestions for 1 week itineraries in Kerala:
The Backwaters Experience focuses on my favourite part of the state- the beautiful backwaters. A full day’s sightseeing in Fort Cochin is enough to take in the Chinese Fishing Nets, art galleries, colonial architecture and an evening Kathkali performance, and then it’s time to head out of the city.
Spend the rest of your week sampling the full range of backwaters experiences, using Alleppey as your base for an overnight houseboat trip, canoe ride and local homestay.
Backwaters & Beach
The Backwaters & Beach route is similar to the above Backwaters Experience, but includes a day or two at the beach. You’ll still have time for a houseboat trip and homestay, but the trip will be more rushed.
Unspoilt Marari Beach is the ideal beach to include on this itinerary as it is located only a short taxi ride from Alleppey, and an hour’s drive to Cochin airport for your departure.
Backwaters & Hills
I wouldn’t recommend the Backwaters & Hills itinerary in a week for travellers using public transport. It can take 6-7 hours on the bus from Cochin-Munnar, and the same back down to Alleppey. However with a car and driver the trip can be done in much less time.
You’ll be able to enjoy the highlights of Fort Cochin, before wandering in luscious tea plantations in the cool mountain air of Munnar, then head back down to Alleppey to explore the backwaters.
If you are more interested in wildlife than tea and pretty mountain views, then you could substitute Periyar Wildlife Sanctaury for Munnar, for the chance to see elephants and monkeys. Visiting both would be too rushed in just a week though.
Cochin-Alleppey-houseboat to Kollam-Varkala-Trivandrum
If you are arriving in Cochin or Trivandrum and leaving from the other, the Keralan Coast itinerary is the best use of time to combine backwaters and beaches. It starts by following the same route as the above Backwaters Experience but you’ll take an overnight houseboat from Alleppey–Kollam, saving you time and exploring some of the quieter backwaters.
From Kollam you can head straight for Varkala, or spend half a day on the fantastic village canoe trip run by the DTPC Tourist Office. The lively beach scene and clifftop views of Varkala beach are only 30 minutes away, and it’s another short hop from here to Trivandrum. On a short trip there are better places to spend your time than Trivandrum, so arrive here just in time for your departure.
Hopefully these suggested itineraries will give you some ideas of places to visit in Kerala on a 1 week visit. If you have less than a week I would recommend focusing on just one of the locations detailed above – preferably the backwaters. If you have longer than 1 week then see our suggested itineraries for 2 weeks in Kerala.