So you’re looking at planning your backpacking trip to Kerala.
And you’re trying to figure out your plan for India, including where to go and how many days to spend in each city.
One week can be a good amount of time to get a feel for a few different places in Kerala. (Of course, longer is better!)
But when you want to cover a lot of ground when backpacking India and you only have so much time, you can work with 7 days in Kerala.
First, the quick list of the must-visit places for backpacking Kerala.
Then, some ideas for your India itinerary and getting to Kerala.
And then, a more detailed look into how you can fit the top places to visit in Kerala into your one week itinerary, along with ideas for how to get around Kerala by public transportation.
Now first the quick list…
4 best places to visit in Kerala in one week
Colonial history in Kerala
Tea plantations in Kerala
Backwaters in Kerala
Beach vibes in Kerala
The need-to-know India travel tips!
If it’s your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more!
Mosquito repellent tip!!
You can buy good mosquito repellent when you’re in India! There’s a cream (and spray and lotion) called ODOMOS. It works SO well for me! Why do I say that?! Well, there had been times that I would wait until mosquitoes would start biting me to put on odomos. Well, after I put it on, no more mosquitoes! To me, that’s proof. 😉 But of course, your experience may vary. You can find odomos at street shops all over India to try it for yourself! It’s a natural repellent, and it has vitamin E and almond oil in it too… meaning it’s good for your skin too. 😉
India tourist visa tip!
See the current cost of an e-visa by selecting your country. (partner website.) If you’re American, know that you can get a 10-year tourist visa! If you’re fairly certain this South India trip is your ONLY trip to India you’ll make, then the e-visa will be a simpler process. American or not, also see about how to get an e-visa for India.
Arriving to Kerala
Backpacking in India
If you’re making Kerala a part of your one month in India (or longer), and you’re starting in Delhi and North India, be sure to see this 2 week Rajasthan itinerary.
Then once you’ve finished up the north (that of course includes a Taj Mahal visit), you can start making your way to South India by first going from Rajasthan to Mumbai or Rajasthan to Goa… that maybe includes a stay at a beach hut in Goa!
There are a few stops, like Hampi, that you may consider making along the way, and Bangalore can make an easy access point to Kerala too.
Depending on where you’re coming from outside of Kerala, it may also make sense to take an overnight bus to Kerala. It’s really not so bad!
Airports in Kerala
There are 2 airports in Kerala on the backpacker tourist trail:
- Cochin Airport in central Kerala (kind of near Fort Cochin, Alleppey, Munnar)
- Trivandrum Airport in south Kerala (kind of near Varkala)
If you’re interested in North Kerala, there are also 2 more airports:
- Calicut Airport (nearest airport to Wayanad)
- Kannur Airport
But most of the backpacker activity sticks to central and south Kerala, so that’s where the focus will be here.
Kerala by train
There are also train stations that can make Cochin (Ernakulam), Alleppey, and Varkala your gateway to Kerala by train.
Kerala by bus
It’s possible to arrive by bus to all tourist destinations in Kerala when covering a shorter distance.
When coming from outside of Kerala, you might consider arriving by bus to Munnar or Wayanad if you’re coming from Bangalore.
Kerala by ferry
And, this is Kerala, home of the famous Kerala backwaters!
You won’t be arriving by ferry to get TO Kerala, but when you are IN Kerala, there are some tourist destinations that are also accessible by the backwaters ferry!
More tips for public transportation in Kerala
See the guide for how to get to Alleppey.
Although this is specific to Alleppey, the general tips for getting around Kerala will apply!
In short, nothing is set in stone and be flexible! This is India. 😉
How to put Kerala’s top backpacker cities into a one week itinerary?!
How to spend one week in Kerala:
- 1 day in Cochin
- 1-2 days in Munnar
- 1-2 days in Alleppey
- 1-2 days in Varkala
Kerala is a place where you could spend more days in any of the main backpacker cities if you’re looking for chill vibes and a place to relax.
That’s why Kerala can be a perfect place to visit following the (generally) more chaotic North India.
You might even consider giving one of the places a miss so that you can spend an extra day or 2 in another.
When in Kerala – take it easy, take it slowly!
Do you have more time in Kerala?
If you have more time, like 10 days or 2 weeks, consider extending your stay for any of the following:
- Meesapulimala Trek from Munnar
- Day trips from Alleppey
- Day trips from Varkala
- 1-2 days in Munroe Island backwaters
What are the best things to do in Kerala?!
Kerala travel in pictures: Best things to do in Cochin in one day
Cochin is one of the bigger cities in Kerala.
Fort Cochin is the backpacker area of Cochin, and you can see a mix of cultures in Fort Cochin with Kerala’s colonial past. This includes influences from the Dutch, Portuguese, Jewish, and British.
You can also go cycling in Cochin by renting a bike to ride around Fort Cochin, and then also head towards Marine Drive where you can go for a tourist boat ride.
Cochin also is known for its fishing nets, and this is something you can see too.
You can see fishing nets from land, and you can also see them from a super cheap ferry on your way to Cherai Beach.
When you first arrive to Cochin, your entry will probably be at the Ernakulam bus station or Ernakulam train station. You can take a ferry to Fort Cochin from Ernakulam for a ferry ride in Kerala!
If you have even less time to spend, like say 5 days in Kerala, then you may consider skipping Fort Cochin and going straight to Munnar or Alleppey.
1. Fort Cochin
2. Marine Drive
3. Fishing nets
Hotels in Fort Cochin
Put in your travel dates below and you’ll be able to see the prices of hotels in Fort Cochin on the map!
I’ve stayed at Zostel Kochi.
Next up: Fort Cochin to Munnar by bus
You’ll be going from coastal Kerala (Cochin) to the hills of Kerala (Munnar).
There is no train station near Munnar, so bus will be the way to get to Munnar.
There are frequent government bus timings between Cochin and Munnar, so it’ll generally be pretty convenient to get to Munnar from Cochin. You’ll also find plenty of direct buses.
No matter what city you are in, your guesthouse in Kerala will likely be able to give you accurate bus timings so be sure to ask!
You don’t need to book bus tickets in advance. You can just show up to the bus station and get on the next bus to Munnar. You’ll pay for the ticket once you’re on the bus.
The time on bus might be around 4 hours.
It can get chilly in the hills in the evening, so packing some layers of clothes to wear in Munnar can be a good idea.
It can also be a good idea to make sure the place you’re staying in Munnar has a hot water shower!
If you want to skip Munnar, see tips on taking the Cochin to Alleppey bus.
Kerala travel in pictures: Best things to do in Munnar in 1 or 2 days
Munnar is known for its tea plantations.
You can basically make it a travel day going from Cochin to Munnar, and then the next day, go for a day-long Munnar tea plantation trek, which is generally more like a leisurely walk.
More places to visit in Kerala
If you have more time, or you are looking to go for a solid day hike, there’s the Meesapulimala Trek that you can do through the Kerala forest department.
This will take you to the second highest peak in Kerala.
The way to do this trek is as a guided group hike, and it’ll come with overnight camping in the mountains of the Western Ghats.
Hotels in Munnar
Put in your travel dates below and you’ll be able to see the prices of hotels in Munnar on the map!
Next up: Munnar to Alleppey by bus
There are a few direct buses from Munnar to Alleppey that you can take, so once again, this can be a pretty convenient trip.
The bus will take around 5-7 hours.
If you’re not liking the timings of the direct bus, the next best option by road might be to get a bus from Munnar to Cochin, and then another bus from Cochin to Alleppey.
Although it’ll seem like you’re backtracking, it might be an option worth considering since there are generally very frequent timings of buses between Cochin and Alleppey. Locals will say “every 5 minutes.” Maybe not ALWAYS every 5 minutes, but there are tons of buses.
Munnar to Alleppey by ferry (in part)
You should totally also consider arriving to Alleppey in style, aka via the Kerala backwaters!
This basically means that you can take a bus AND ferry to get to Alleppey from Munnar.
First, you’ll take a bus from Munnar to Kottayam, and then you’ll take a ferry from Kottayam to Alleppey.
This WILL take longer for you to get to Alleppey, but… when in Kerala!
Kerala travel in pictures: Best things to do in Alleppey in 1 or 2 days
This means that you have a few different options for experiencing the backwaters.
And after you’ve gotten your fill of the backwaters, you can finish it off with more things to do in Alleppey by relaxing with views of Alleppey Beach at a beachside guesthouse or beachside hostel, along with eating at a beachfront restaurant!
You can totally make it a perfect one day in Alleppey.
More places to visit in Kerala
But if you’re looking to stay an extra day or 2, you can also make a day trip from Alleppey to Marari Beach.
You can walk the 10km to Marari Beach pretty much the whole way from Alleppey with coastal views and empty beaches.
Bus, rickshaw, or scooter rental are also options to get to Marari Beach, but without the views to get there!
A scooter to the backwaters of Kainakary and Kuttanad can also be a nice day trip from Alleppey.
1. Kerala backwaters
…or a rooftop stay waking up to ocean views!
Walk to Marari Beach
Scooter to Kainakary
Hotels in Alleppey
Put in your travel dates below and you’ll be able to see the prices of hotels in Alleppey on the map!
Next up: Alleppey to Varkala by train or bus
The bus will likely take around 4-5 hours, and the train will likely take around 3 hours.
Since this is a shorter distance, you can go for the train in general class so you won’t have to book a train ticket in advance.
You just show up to the Alleppey train station on the day you want to go to Varkala and buy a ticket before you board the train.
Taking the train in general class does mean that you do have a chance of not being able to get a seat.
Alleppey to Varkala by ferry (in part)
But once again, similar to Munnar to Alleppey, you should totally consider leaving Alleppey in style!
And that means leaving Alleppey via the Kerala backwaters!
And THAT means you can take a ferry in part to get from Alleppey to Varkala.
First, you’ll take the ferry from Alleppey to Kollam. Then once you reach Kollam, you can take a bus or train to get the rest of the way to Varkala.
Note that this ferry doesn’t operate in the off-season, which generally speaking is during the summer months.
More places to visit in Kerala
Alleppey to Amma’s ashram to Varkala
With more time in Kerala, you can also take the same ferry to Varkala to get to the world famous Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri.
This ashram, where you can practice yoga and meditation, is located right on the backwaters on one side, and just a few minutes walk from the ocean on the other side.
There’s a ferry stop directly at the ashram.
The train can also be a good way to get from Alleppey to Amritapuri and Amritapuri to Varkala.
The nearest train station to the ashram is around a 20-30 minute rickshaw ride away.
Alleppey to Munroe Island to Varkala
Also with more time, if you want to get in a little more of the Kerala backwaters, or you are looking for a quieter alternative to the Alleppey backwaters, then you just might love a Munroe Island backwaters homestay.
You can still take the Alleppey to Kollam ferry, and then once in Kollam, you can take a rickshaw to get to Munroe Island.
Trains passing through Munroe Island aren’t as frequent as other main cities in Kerala.
Other backpacker cities like Cochin, Alleppey, and Varkala get more long-distance trains passing through which means more train options.
You can also take this as a sign that Munroe Island really is located in a quieter area!
Kerala travel in pictures: Best things to do in Varkala in 1 or 2 days
Varkala is known as one of the beach towns in Kerala.
It’s also famous for the restaurants and accommodations that you can find on the cliff.
Kerala is also the birthplace of ayurveda, which is basically using natural herbs and remedies for treating chronic illnesses (and non-chronic), as well as to stay healthy.
You can find many yoga retreats with ayurveda across Kerala.
You’ll also be able to find a place to get an ayurvedic massage in Varkala pretty easily. There will be beach resorts that offer them, and you can also find places as you walk along the Varkala cliff.
More places to visit in Kerala
If you have a few more days in Kerala, there are a couple of day trips from Varkala that you can make too.
This can include a trip to the Ponmudi hills with a short waterfall trek along the way, as well as a trip to Kappil Beach.
It would also be an easy trip to head from Varkala to Trivandrum by train to the what’s been said to be one of the richest temples in Asia, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Unless you’re Hindu, this would be a temple that you would just see from the outside though, as they don’t allow non-Hindus inside.
Trivandrum is the capital of Kerala, so it’s a bustling big city.
Another pretty easy day trip from Varkala is a trip to Kovalam Beach. This is another one of the main beach towns in Kerala, and you may also consider staying in Kovalam for beach vibes.
To get from Varkala to Kovalam, first you would take a train to Trivandrum, and then a bus from Trivandrum to Kovalam.
1. Varkala Beach
2. Varkala cliff restaurant
3. Ayurvedic massage
4. Day trips from Varkala
Waterfall trek near Pondmudi
Walk to Kappil
Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum
Hotels in Varkala
Put in your travel dates below and you’ll be able to see the prices of hotels in Varkala on the map!
And there’s your one week in Kerala with Cochin, Munnar, Alleppey, and Varkala!
Where to go next after Kerala?!
Leave Kerala by flight
The closest airport to Varkala is the Trivandrum airport, and this is around 1.5 hours from Varkala.
If you’re doing this Kerala itinerary in the opposite direction and ending up at Cochin, it’ll take 1 to 1.5 hours to get to Cochin airport.
From Alleppey to the airport is around 2 to 2.5 hours.
Domestic flights are a convenient way to get around India, so depending on where you want to go next, this could be a good option.
You can use makemytrip to search for flights from Kerala.
Leave Kerala by train or bus
And, depending on where you’re going to next, train or bus may be a reasonable option too!
Search for trains using trainman.
More top destinations for your backpacking India itinerary
aka southern tip of India
Kerala to Rajasthan
HAPPY KERALA ITINERARY PLANNING!
The need-to-know India travel tips!If it's your first trip to India, be sure to see these tips for getting around India on a budget, and more! You might wait until India to buy this mosquito repellent that works for many foreigners! Also be sure to see how to spend one month in South India and 2 weeks in North India, as well as tips for the Golden Triangle. And, overnight sleeper bus travel isn't so bad, and neither is traveling in general class on the train! Also see the easy way to get an e-visa. And this is the easy way to book train tickets online as a foreigner. I've used it, and it's simple! You can just show the e-ticket on your phone.
There are affiliate links on this page that lead to partner websites.
Hostels in KeralaFor a hostel with international standards in Kerala, try Zostel!
More Zostels in Kerala:
Zostel is a top backpacker chain across India, and I've stayed at many Zostels in India! And outside of Kerala, if you'll be passing through Gokarna as you go from Goa to Kerala (here are options of how to get from Goa to Kerala!), then Zostel Gokarna is in an amazing location too! Here are pictures from the on-site cafe that overlooks the ocean.
Where to stay on the tourist trail in KeralaThese places basically go down the coast from north to south!
- Cochin: Try a homestay in the cute heritage area of Fort Kochi.
- Marari Beach: This is an "off-beat" location as Marari is mostly unknown to backpackers, but it can be a convenient stop to make between Cochin and Alleppey with chill laid back vibes. For an idea of what type of beach can be nearby, see my beach walk from Alleppey to Marari.
- Alleppey Beach:
- Funky Art Beach House again for chill vibes with a location among locals in a residential neighborhood
- And there's Zostel Alleppey too for another beach location to stay several days
- OR if Alleppey is a quick visit, try Dream Nest to be closer to town
- And see how to spend one day in Alleppey (short version: go for the backwaters village canoe tour instead of a houseboat!)
- Alleppey backwaters:
- Munroe Island: This is another generally kind of more off-beat location, and you can see a different part of the Kerala backwaters on a quiet island
- Varkala cliff:
Retreats in KeralaFor relaxation and rejuvenation for health and wellness, also see:
- Yoga retreats in Kerala
- Ayurveda retreats in Kerala - ayurveda is basically healthy living through natural herbs and remedies, and Kerala is the birthplace of ayurveda!
How to book India train tickets online as a foreignerIf you don't want to go through the complicated process of setting up an IRCTC Indian railways account as a foreigner...
Then the most convenient way to buy train tickets online is through this booking website. I've used it, and it's super simple! You buy the ticket, and then show the electronic version on your phone once you're on the train. Compared to buying directly through an Indian ticket booking website (IRCTC account required) or directly at the train station in India, there is a small convenience fee, as well as a less flexible cancellation policy, though!