A small introduction:
Both me and my wife Shwetha plan one trip per year compulsorily with our family & it has been a great addition to our bonding by spending some quality time with all of us amidst all our busy corporate lives. Family trips are fun & the joy is multiplied by several folds when the both parties are equally enthusiastic about the trip. Kerala had been on my cards for a very long time, while I have visited the border cities in Kerala quite often owing to my multiple trips to Madikeri unfortunately till this trip I could not get the best of what Kerala had to offer. This trip was majorly a family trip & I had planned out almost every detail of the trip in advance including things like places of interest, where to eat & places to avoid also. Honestly if you are an Indian I doubt if I would be required to introduce you to this paradise called Kerala which goes by the tagline of God’s own country. But for others Kerala is one of southernmost states of India. It offers mystical mountains to pristine beaches along with some serene back waters to any traveler planning on landing up here. The climate is pretty tropical – hence you can expect super humid summers & borderline pleasant winters out here. While people avoid Kerala during monsoons, I believe on a personal level that Kerala takes up its own charm during rains with those lush green mountains & overcast skies. Over a series of blog posts I would like to give you a day by day travelogue about our journey to take you on a virtual tour of our moments. But before I start off , I would like to post some details I went through before planning my trip.
How do I reach God’s own country:
Given the fact that we stay in Pune,Maharashtra which is approximately 1400 kms from Cochin – there were quite a few connectivity options to Kerala.
Flights – Now this is the most convenient mode of travel but it comes at a reasonable trade off i.e high travel cost. Pre-booking your flights at least 2-3 months in advance along with a few credit/debit card deals can give you a very reasonable deals for the amount of time you would save in case you choose to travel via flight. We booked our tickets quite a few days in advance directly on Indigo website & it costed us around Rs.17,000 for multi city return flights i.e approximately Rs.4250 per ticket.
Trains – There is Mumbai – Kanyakumari express ( 16381) which runs all days , Mumbai – Trivandrum express (16331) which runs on Mondays , Pune – Ernakulam ( 22150 ) which runs on Tuesday’s, Pune – Ernakulam Poorna Express ( 11097 ) which runs on Saturday’s. Most of these trains being long distant one’s require prior booking & journey time can range from 24-30 hrs on an average depending upon the type of train. Apart from this get even more options if you travel around 2 hours to Panvel where in you can hop on many more options off the Konkan railway. Do check out IRCTC website for details. Approximate costs per ticket are Rs.700 for sleeper class , Rs.1800 for 3-tier AC , Rs.2500 for 2-tier AC.
Bus – Yes if you are adventurous enough, you can also travel via Bus. Although there no direct route to Kerala, you can hop on a bus to Mangalore/Bangalore from Pune & then take further journey to Kochi/Ernakulum/Trivandrum accordingly. I believe it would leave a dent of at least Rs.3000 for a one way journey all the way to Kerala on AC Volvo bus & Rs.1500 – Rs.1800 if you opt for non AC state transport buses.
Drive – Now if you are a drive enthusiast then you are in for a real treat since there are multiple scenic road options to drive by. While you can choose to go via the scenic coastal roads from Pune to Cochin via Mangalore, beware of the fact that NH66/17 is one of the busiest roads in the country and it will take a good amount of time, effort & money to reach your destination. But if you want to reach your destination in the safest & the most sensible way via roads your best option would be to take NH4 all the way till Bengaluru & then enter Kerala either through multiple options available further like Bengaluru – Coimbatore – Palakkad – Cochin etc.
Places To Stay:
While our tickets were sorted out much early – this particular part of the trip took quite a lot of time. I am not very choosy when it comes to pit stops while travelling, however given the fact that I was with my family it was important that I pre-booked places for my own peace of mind. I have had mixed experiences while booking for places online & I am honestly a type of the guy who would place his bet after looking whats on offer. Booking.com for that reason gave me great flexibility when it comes to booking because majorly I did not have to do any kind of pre-payment & cancellations were also super easy to handle. I have been using it for quite a while & I am quite satisfied with their services. Although you need to keep in mind a few things like ,
1.) Don’t just go by what is written on Booking.com – do refer to Google/Tripadvisor reviews for more information about the hotels.
2.) Always call the hotel at least a week in advance to confirm about your booking – although 99% of them will honor the booking there are quite a few instances when people have reached the destination only to find that the hotel had overbooked themselves, so always call & confirm your booking a week in advance.
I looked majorly for value for money properties which offered some of the best views, good location & clean rooms for affordable prices. My approximate budget was Rs.1500 per day / room & I did get to stay at some amazing properties which you will see in further posts. Also another thing to note is, at few places which are heavily tourist oriented, the prices are jacked up all year long & the probability of you landing up a good VFM deal is very low in such cases.In such cases I did have to splurge a little bit on my options but I made double sure that it was worth my money. I will add more details about places I stayed in my day to day logs.
Travelling Inside Kerala:
While Kerala has excellent public transport options I had to choose for a dedicated transport for my self . We had a chauffeur driven car with us all the time from the moment we came out of arrivals in Kochi. I researched online for the best operators & opted for the one which had good reviews on Google & Tripadvisor — Kottayam Taxi. I opted for a Toyota Innova for all 4 of us since it was the most comfortable vehicle keeping all the vehicle aesthetics in place. The costing was decided as follows – Rs.18,900 for 9 days 1000 kms & extra kms were charged at Rs.15/km there on. This included all fuel, tolls, parking & driver allowance except interstate permit in case you wish to travel to Tamil Nadu which costed me another Rs.500. Overall the end of the trip the odo read approximately 1500 kms after all the sight seeing. So it costed me approximately Rs.28,000 with a gracious tip of Rs.1500 to the driver apart from that bottle of rum that I bought for him in Munnar 😉
Places To Cover:
Kerala is quite huge & honestly it was impossible for me to cover it from length to breadth with the time available on hand. I decided to stick mostly to the southern part of Kerala . Our itinerary looked something like this
Oct 27 – Travel from Pune to Cochin via flight
Oct 28 – Cochin local sight seeing & Athirapally falls.
Oct 29 – Cochin to Munnar drive covering places en route.
Oct 30 – Munnar local sight seeing – day 01
Oct 31 – Munnar local sight seeing – day 02
Nov 01 – Munar to Allepey drive.
Nov 02 – Allepey local sight seeing
Nov 03 – Allepey to Kanyakumari drive
Nov 04 – Kanyakumari sight seeing & drive back to Trivandrum
Nov 05 – Fly back to Pune from Trivandrum
It was an amazing trip for me & I enjoyed the best of what Kerala had to offer in terms of travel & food. I would love to post detailed logs for each day going forward & I do hope this keeps your entertained. Do let me know your views in the comments below & please feel free to contact me for any help regarding planning out your trip – currently I do not charge a dime so its free !