Going to India
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- Kodianthara Heritage HomeAppithra Road | Behind St.John Knanaya Church, Kottayam 686563, Indiarecommended Kodianthara Heritage HomeThis was our favorite place we stayed during our trip to India last year. It's a true homestay experience, and the hosts make you feel immediately comfortable in their beautiful home. We learned so ... read moremuch about Indian culture from talking with Sonny, who also happens to be a marvelous cook. If you want a true Indian homestay experience in a beautiful setting, stay here.Recommended for:
- Jew TownJew Town Rd, Kochi, Kerala, Indiarecommended Jew TownThe shops here offer some of the best browsing in Cochin. There are numerous antique stores offering brass objects galore, as well as typical souvenir and artisanal products. Bargain hard. The ... read moresynagogue is also lovely and historic- worth a quick visit.Recommended for:Beth Wright
We really liked wandering around the Jewish market in Kochi.
recommended MunnarRecommended for:recommended MunnarA sculpted mass of tea plantations like a garden of the gods high up in the mountains of eastern Kerala, this is the state's classic hill station. Lovely for a couple days' stay and walks through the ... read morehills, the town itself is a bit shabby. Definitely stay up in one of the tea plantations in the hills.Recommended for:Outdoor EnthusiastsMatthew Crompton
Obviously, a whirlwind tour may not be "time-permitting", but staying at a place up in the tea estates is fabulous.
recommended Alappuzha (Alleppey)Alleppey's charm is in its location. Along the coast of the Caspian Sea, Alleppey the beginning of the fresh water backwaters and coconut-tree-lined lagoons. This is a great spot to rent a houseboat ... read moreor book a canoe tour of the canals. During one weekend each winter, Alleppey transforms from a sleepy backwater village into a massive, colorful tourist attraction for the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, also known as the Snake Boat Race. Enormous canoes shaped like sea serpents race by with as many as 100 people on board rowing in unison. If you can get tickets, it's quite a unique sight.Recommended for:Evan Roth-Howe
Check to Snake Boat Race calendar to see if you'll be there for the big event. It's packed and crazy (in contrast to most of the rest of Kerala), but worth it if the dates happen to work out.
recommended Mahabalipuramrealy intresting place - culture and beach, a lot of backpackers,Recommended for:
recommended Rameshwarama lot to see, pilgrim place, colorfull, friendly people, not to far lonely beachesRecommended for:
recommended Hampivery interesting, you need at minimum a day, climbing is possible there, if you want to stay near good bus connections you can stay in Hopet and make a day tripRecommended for:
recommended Mysorenice interesting city, realy beautifull a little disney- the iluminated palaceRecommended for:
recommended VarkalaPossibly the nicest beach town in Kerala, Varkala is famous for the beachside cliffs that rise from the shore of the Arabian Sea. It has a famous Vishnu temple that attracts a large number of ... read morepilgrims, but the real attraction here is spectacular natural beauty and relaxing in the sun. The city is well-connected by rail to major hubs in the rest of the state.Recommended for:Matthew Crompton
Kerala's pre-eminent beach town. Good luck! ^_^
(ps- I'd skip Pondicherry -- you've seen it done better elsewhere.)
recommended Tiruchirappalli (Trichy)Known as 'Trichy', this city has two neat temples (including the rather striking rock fort temple perched on an outcropping high above the middle of the city). The place is otherwise unremarkable, but ... read morewell worth a stop-off for a day during a temple-hopping tour of South India.Matthew Crompton
Between Madurai and Mamallapuram, this spot is worth a stop, if only for the arrsome rock fort temple.
- AmritapuriAmritapuri, Kerala, Indiarecommended AmritapuriFor those looking to explore India's spiritual side, a visit to Amritapuri - a whole ashram city grown out of what was once a tiny fishing village in central Kerala - might be one of the finest places ... read morein the country to do it. The home of Amma, a small, rotund woman revered as a saint throughout South India and the world at large, this complex of temple buildings and high-rise lodgings (for Amma's thousands of devotees) is a fascinating place to observe the intersection of Western and Old World Hindu practice. The setting directly on the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea is also frankly lovely.Matthew Crompton
Amma probably won't be there, but if she is, Amritapuri is sure to be memorable.
recommended MamallapuramSomething happened between my first visit to this town in 2007 and my return visit in 2011: Mamallapuram got hip. Surfing has appeared on the scene, with a half-dozen people riding the point break off ... read morebeyond the Shore Temple on any given day, and a cool little social vibe has begun in the town as well. Now popular with families and (especially) the French, the town still offers its historical wealth of ancient stonecarving, which makes a fun day of exploration, and has a slew of good restaurants for international dining and relatively cheap fresh seafood. The small nighttime social scene centered around the Shanti Cafe is a pleasing development, and the beach has been cleaned up somewhat and is in better condition. There are still some dangerous currents to contend with if you're swimming, but as the beach is better watched, drunk domestic tourists have stopped drowning here, which is good news for everybody. In short, it's a town much improved since my last visit, and moving towards realizing its full potential as a hip and relaxed beach spot.Matthew Crompton
Personally wouldn't miss this spot -- it's tops. =)
- Meenakshi BhavanSouthern Railway Colony, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Indiarecommended Meenakshi BhavanNothing epitomizes the local phrase "cheap and best" as well as Meenakshi Bhavan, a relatively small chain of simple, but superb restaurants specializing in Tamil food. The varieties of dosa, uttapam, ... read moreiddly, and rice thalis are among the best in the city, but unlike some of Madurai's fancier restaurants, you likely won't hear more than a few lines of English here. Aside from being invited to someone's home, this is about as authentic (and cheap) as Tamil food gets. When you're visiting the famous Meenakshi Aaman Temple downtown, stop by the Meenakshi Bhavan branch on Town Hall Road, between the temple and the train station.Recommended for:Foodies
- Meenakshi Amman TempleMadurai 625 001, Indiarecommended Meenakshi Amman TempleRemove your sandals and step back in time by entering the massive, majestic Meenakshi Aaman Temple. The smells of incense and ghee will hit you right away as you explore the many hallways of the ... read morestructure, a holy destination for millions of Hindu pilgrims every year. After you've donated a rupee to the temple's elephant, and received a good-luck tap on the head with its trunk in return, continue on to the inner portion of the temple, built around a large tank of water filled with lotus flowers, to see why this place was one of only two in all of India to be nominated for the "New Seven Wonders of the World" (the Taj Mahal was the other). You'll see enormous murals portraying stories from ancient Hindu texts, sculptures of deities covered (respectfully) in balls of ghee butter (to keep them cool in the heat), and maybe even the procession bringing Meenakshi and Shiva together for the evening. A truly magical place where you could easily lose track of time and spend an entire day.
recommended MaduraiFamous for the massive Meenakshi Temple that attracts hundreds of thousands of pilgrims annually, Madurai has managed to resist the trend towards modernity that has put so many other Indian cities ... read morefirmly on the global map. Although still fairly large at about 2 million people, Madurai is not Delhi or Mumbai or Bangalore. And despite the economic boom those cities have experienced recently, you get the sense that few residents of Madurai would exchange their rich, traditional, uncompromised culture for a chance at a few more rupees. With the exceptions of Coke and Pepsi, still served in heavy glass bottles, you won't find many examples of Western culture creeping in to this area, or at least not too quickly. The phenomenal temple, the warm, welcoming people, and the fantastic local food - perhaps best sampled at the Meenaksi Bhavan chain - will likely keep you in Madurai longer than your guidebook led you to expect.
recommended ThekkadyIt takes a nauseating bus ride to get this high up in the mountains, but the relaxed village of Thekkady is well worth the journey. The town itself is certainly worth exploring, but the real reason to ... read morecome this way is the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can take guided tours to see tons of animals in their natural habitat. We saw about two dozen wild elephants eat and swim across a lake.Evan Roth-Howe
Periyar is stunningly beautiful, although it's also a bit chilly up in the mountains, so be prepared to spend a little more than usual for a hotel with the right blankets and hot water. This route is also a (twisting) alternative to the coastal train that connects Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
recommended The Backwaters, KeralaWhether it's a day trip in something like a canoe or an overnight in a house boat, do not leave Kerala without experiencing the calm beauty of the backwaters. You'll glide through calm channels, past ... read morefriendly fishermen, and towards endless rows of palm trees. The coconut-based food prepared fresh on these tours is delicious. This is about as relaxing as it gets.Evan Roth-Howe
If you have the time and budget, splurge on the full day or overnight tour.
- Fort CochinKochi, Kerala, Indiarecommended Fort CochinIf I were to live in India, Kochi would be a mighty appealing spot to settle down. This small, walkable city is overflowing with great food, impressive Kathakali dance performances, and incredible ... read moresunsets behind the massive Chinese fishing nets along the beaches. Kochi is also home to one of the few synagogues in this part of the world (in Jew Town, on Jew Street... not kidding), and a small Jewish community still lives here. If you can manage to leave, Kochi is also a great place to organize boating trips through the pristine Keralan backwaters.Evan Roth-Howe
You're in for a great time. The South is much more relaxed than the hectic, geared-towards-tourism North.recommended Fort CochinAs Matthew has eloquently observed in his earlier review, the place is like nectar for tourists. What first struck me was how very un-Indian the place felt. I don't just mean the architectural ... read moreinfluences of previous generations of colonial occupiers, it just felt like a playpark for western visitors. I misjudged the length of my stay here: three nights was far too long, as the main sights can comfortably be done in one or two days. Although I found much of interest here, the real highlight was getting the short boat trip across to the new cityy of Ernakulam - immediately I felt like I was back in India. If you're planning just a day trip here, focus your time on the Mattancherry Palace and Jew Town.Recommended for:
- Bamboo CottageEzhupunna Southrecommended Bamboo CottageKeralan teakwood house in the grounds of an Ayurvedic health centre in the lovely village of Ezhupunna South, about 30 kms from Fort Cochin. Basic but comfortable accommodation which serves as an ... read moreideal base for exploring the nearby backwaters, as well as experiencing an Ayurvedic treatment. The health centre is an austere building, but the team who run it all wonderful people. The German-born owner of this cottage can arrange packages comprising a stay, a course of Ayurvedic treatments and tours of the nearby area.Recommended for:Wellness. Troy
If you want to experience Ayuervedic health while you're here, this is the place. Lovely Belgian woman who owns this cottage.
- Marari VillasPollethai PO | Mararikulam, Alappuzha 688567, Indiarecommended Marari VillasProbably the best option in the area for something which gets the right balance between comfort, luxury and location. Marari Villas comprises three 'boutique serviced villa' properties: Orchid Pool ... read moreCottage (sleeps 2); Hibiscus Heritage Cottage (sleeps 2) and Palm Beach Villa (sleeps 6). Both Orchid and Hibiscus come with their own pools, offering welcome respite from the Keralan sun, as well as a chance to swim for those who may find the sea current too strong. The properties are run by an English and Russian couple, with a team of Indian housekeepers and a cook. The cottage interiors are tastefully furnished, offering all the comforts you'd expect of a higher end property. The fridge is stocked with cold wine, beer and soft drinks should you wish to purchase these. About 5 mins walk away is a stretch of beach where the owners have created a private area for guests, with a couple of sun loungers and a hammock. We ate a couple of meals here - both were excellent and inexpensive and, as if by magic, staff appeared to ask us what we wanted to eat just as we were getting hungry. If you're seeking privacy and relaxation, you'll love the place: you'll be left alone but staff will appear if you use the call bell. Free wi-fi throughout.Recommended for:
- The Tower HouseI/320 & 321, Tower Street, Kochi, Indiarecommended The Tower HouseOne of two Neemrana properties in the historic centre of Fort Cochin, slightly set back from the waterfront and Chinese fishing nets, overlooking the bustling Vasco-da-Gama Square and ideally located ... read morefor exploring most of the main sights. It’s a handsome colonial style building, like a smaller version of Singapore’s Raffles Hotel, thoughtfully restored and decorated tastefully to evoke the 1920s feel of when this property was a family home. Both the public areas and rooms are mostly spacious, adorned with art and objects inspired by both the history of the region and its many faiths. There are just 14 rooms / suites, four on the ground floor: one either side of the entrance courtyard and two overlooking the veranda, where meals are served. There are a further 10 on the first floor, though it may be an exaggeration to say that any of these enjoy a sea view, given the thick foliage of the trees in the square. I looked at 12 of the 14 rooms during my three-day stay and chose to avoid all of those on the ground floor, on account of a lack of privacy and damp which was evident in at least one of the rooms. There’s a mid-size pool, shaded by bamboo but with only five deck chairs, so relaxing there could be challenging if the property is at more than a third of its capacity – luckily it wasn’t when I stayed. On to food and service, the poorer points… Breakfast was basic but adequate. We had both lunch and dinner on our first day and although these were reasonably priced (by western standards) the food was unremarkable. Poor management of the hotel is evident in so many respects, from nobody offering to help with luggage on arrival, through to tables on the veranda being left uncleared from dinner the night before even by lunchtime the following day. An error with our reservation meant the suite we’d booked wasn’t available on our day of arrival and although we were offered a suitable alternative, the handling of this could’ve benefitted from a bit more charm and graciousness on the part of the front office team. Although the waiters and housekeepers were all very pleasant, there wasn’t a hint of any pro-activeness (from an extra pillow for the room to clean towels for the pool, everything had to be asked for, often more than once) suggesting poor training and supervision. On a cultural level, this may not be untypical of four-star hotels across India, though I’ve encountered superior service at much more modest places elsewhere in the country. There’s no mistaking, the hotel is a local landmark and the prices aren’t unreasonable. Neemrana’s philosophy of finding distinctive historical properties and ensuring their continuity, while minimising their negative impact on the immediate environment is something to be celebrated and supported. Prices per night here are altogether more reasonable than some of the other higher end properties around Fort Cochin. If you’re seeking superior service, more intimate surroundings and better food, you may prefer to choose Neemrana’s newer, sister property a short walk away, Le Coloniel (see separate review). In summary, the atmosphere, décor and price were huge pluses. Food and service were poorer but not disastrous. We’d stay here again, albeit with revised expectations.Recommended for:History Buffs
- Mattancherry PalacePalace Road, Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala, Indiarecommended Mattancherry PalaceOutstanding murals. Come early or late to avoid the hoardes of coach parties.Recommended for:
commented on this trip
Hi Julia. Excellent choice. I'll post a few places you might enjoy.
recommended PondicherryPondichery is to India what New Orleans is to the US. The old French part of town is all wrought-iron and French architecture, and you can get excellent coffee and food (including pastries that are on ... read morepar with what you'd find in Paris, a near impossibility anywhere else in India). It's also home to the Aurobindo Society and not far from Auroville, an international intentional community that's been self-sustaining for a good 40 years or so. If you've been backpacking for a while and need a little respite from the hustle and bustle, there's nowhere better.Margot B
Don't miss this place. The beaches are lousy, but it's charming and unusual and remarkably clean by local standards.
- Kerala Kathakali CentreKB Jacob Rd, Fort Cochin, Kochi, Kerala