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2 Days in Varkala – The Cliff Beach of South India

2 Days in Varkala – The Cliff Beach of South India

According to the details shared by locals, Varkala beach got famous around the 70s when many European travelers visited the then unexplored Kovalam beach. These travelers continued to move north of Kovalam and reached Varkala. The city’s sea-facing cliff is what impressed the travelers, and since then, Varkala became a world-famous tourist spot. Although not as many international tourists visit this city now as in the 70s/80s, Varkala has started getting famous among Indian travelers lately!
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Here’s a quick travel guide to help you tour the Cliff Beach of South India!

Mysore in One Day – South India Travel Guide

Mysore in One Day – South India Travel Guide

Having stayed in Bangalore for some time, I had heard a lot about the city of palaces from friends. Mysore had been in my “must-visit” list for a long time, but somehow I never made a deliberate plan to visit it.

I was in Hyderabad when at an impulse, I decided to do a South India tour before I returned home. I planned Mysore to be the first city that I’ll visit as part of the “official” tour. Here’s a complete personalized guide to help you plan your trip to the “City of Palaces”, Mysore.
The top places to see in Mysore.

Kanyakumari Travel Guide

Kanyakumari Travel Guide

A Day At The Southernmost Point of Peninsular India

I was finally at the southernmost tip of India - the much-awaited stop of my two month South India travel journey. There was a sense of achievement - it was my longest-duration solo trip up till then (and even now, because of the coronavirus outbreak). If you are new to my blog, a quick introduction to this series of posts - I toured South India during June and July'19, covering 11 cities across three states. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to complete this 2-month long tour without breaking down, and so when I reached Kanyakumari, I was extremely happy and proud of myself. And despite the exhaustion of a non-stop travel, I was looking forward to the last few days of the trip.

In this Kanyakumari travel guide, you'll find details on how to reach the city, where to stay, and what to see in one day for a complete travel immersion.

kanyakumari travel guide- train from varkala

How To Reach Kanyakumari?

I took a train from Varkala to Kanyakumari, and it cost me Rs 60 for an unreserved ticket*.

If you are coming from far, you can take a flight to Trivandrum, which is around 60 km from Kanyakumari. And from Trivandrum, you can hire a taxi, or take a train, or bus to reach Kanyakumari.

The train journey that I took was one of the most scenic rides, with the backdrop of hills sheltered beneath the bright blue sky and behind the greens glowing under the rays of the sun.

The only thing I knew about Kanyakumari was that it is a pilgrimage site. I did not expect gorgeous scenery from the city, just streets full of people. But I'll admit Kanyakumari's landscapic views left me enchanted. I guess these are the benefits of not doing prior travel research - you get more than you expect!

kanyakumari travel experience - view from the train

Where To Stay In Kanyakumari?

Kanyakumari hosts millions of pilgrims throughout the year. So, finding a decent place to stay is easy, only if you are traveling in a group or traveling with family. Just like any metro city of India, it is hard to find accommodation for bachelors in Kanyakumari too 💁🏽‍♀️

It was July when I reached Kanyakumari. July is one of the hotter months of the year, and the number of tourists/pilgrims who visit the city during this time is not as high as the rest of the year (especially, October-March). So, the hotel rooms were sold at much cheaper rates to accommodate as many guests as possible. 

The city was just like a big fish market - there was bargaining, there was stalking, there was yelling, there was convincing!

I walked around the streets of Kanyakumari for over an hour, trying to find the most suitable accommodation. But because of a 10 kg weight that I was carrying on my shoulders, I was soon dead-tired. Therefore, I decided to settle for a very basic, but airy, and super-cheap room at New Cape hotel.

Things To Do In Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari effectively needs one day to explore different places, including the famous pilgrimage spots.

Sunrise in Kanyakumari

Welcome a beautiful morning in Kanyakumari as you witness the bright yellow ball of fire rise from the waters. The city is known for its picturesque sunrise. Many tourists gather on Kanyakumari beach early in the morning to see the rays of the rising sun illuminate water and the famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue. The view is truly heavenly and magnificent!

I, however, was too tired to wake up at 5:00 am and walk to the beach for sunrise. It was one of the hotel staff, whose incessant knocks on my door woke me up. Instantly realizing that I'll miss the sunrise (one thing that Kanyakumari is most famous for), I hurriedly got up from my bed and rushed outside. There was not enough time to walk to the beach, so I went to the hotel terrace instead**.

I am sure the view was not as crazy as the one you can get from the beach, but it was gorgeous nonetheless.

at the sunrise time in kanyakumari
kanyakumari sunrise from the hotel
sunrise in kanyakumari
As the sun lights up the Our Lady of Ransom Church on the far end!

The Lesser-Known Vattakotai Fort

Kanyakumari is most famous for religious tours and pilgrims. But I was more curious and excited about exploring the other side of the city.

Vattakotai Fort is around 7 km from the city center, and you can take a public transport bus. The bus will drop you on the main road, and it'll take you around 15-20 minutes to walk to the fort from there. This 15-minute walk is amazingly pleasant, with farmlands on one side, and quaint village houses made of mud and straw on the other.

Even more scenic views will await you at the fort. The entry ticket price for an Indian citizen and citizens of other SAARC countries is 25 Rs, and for any other foreign citizen is 300 Rs. The fort structure is itself quite simple, a square defense-fortification by the Bay of Bengal with a backdrop of majestic Marunthuvazh Malai hill range.

With the winds accompanied by the view of multiple blue shades of the water sparkling under the bright sunlight, it was hard to leave the place. If only I had more than one day to explore the rest of Kanyakumari!

Vattakottai fort - kanyakumari travel blog
A quick breakfast stop before walking to the Vattakottai fort
On the way to Vattakottai fort - kanyakumari travel places
On the way to Vattakottai fort
On the way to Vattakottai fort - kanyakumari travel places
Village houses
On the way to Vattakottai fort - kanyakumari travel places
Tranquil scenes on the way to the fort
Inside Vattakottai Fort - kanyakumari travel places
Inside Vattakottai Fort
View of the beach from Vattakottai fort - kanyakumari travel places
View of the beach from Vattakottai fort - kanyakumari travel places
Can walk to the beach by the fort
Beach view from Vattakottai fort in Kanyakumari
The multiple shades of blue

Vivekananda Ashram and Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple 

On my way back from Vattakotai Fort to the city center, I made a stop Vivekananda Ashram, based on the recommendations on a Facebook travel group. Located amidst the forested area, and surrounded by sea on its farther border, Vivekananda Ashram (or Kendra) is primarily used as an accommodation. The campus also exhibits models to promote sustainable living in its Gramodaya Park.  

A quiet place to leisurely stroll while you hear the sounds of birds and the sound of leaves brushing against each other. You may rarely see some sadhus(or monks) and staff workers walking around.

Vivekananda Kendra in Kanyakumari - View of the beach from Vattakottai fort - kanyakumari stay
The temple inside the Ashram
Sustainable life at vivekananda ashram in Kanyakumari - visiting places in kanyakumari
Structure built out of waste plastic bottles
Sustainable life at vivekananda ashram in Kanyakumari - visiting places in kanyakumari
Vivekananda Kendra - kanyakumari places to visit
Serene campus of Vivekananda Kendra

Adjoining the Vivekananda Kendra campus, at a 15-minute walking distance, is the magnificent, white marbled Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple. It is located just by the edge of the sea. From the top of the temple, you can see the bright blue waters on one side and the bustling city on the other. 

It is yet another calm and peaceful place to visit in Kanyakumari!

Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple - kanyakumari travel guide
Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple
Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple - kanyakumari travel guide
View of the hills from the temple
Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple - kanyakumari travel guide
View of the beach from the temple

Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial

The Thiruvalluvar Statue is dedicated to a great poet and philosopher, Saint Thiruvalluvar. And Vivekananda Rock Memorial is dedicated to great Swami Vivekananda, who is believed to have attained enlightenment here on this rock.

Both the statue and the memorial are at about 400-500 meters distance from the Kanyakumari coastline. To reach there, you have to take a ferry that operates between 8 am to 4 pm every day, and costs Rs 20 per person.

Unfortunately, I reached the ferry boarding point, a little after 4pm, so I could not make it to the statue and rock memorial in time.

Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial as seen from a distance - kanyakumari blog
Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial as seen from a distance

Sunset Viewpoint

Kanyakumari offers mesmerizing views of both sunrise and sunset, as the sun peaks out and into the waters. The sunset viewpoint is around 3 km from the city center. You can walk, or take a public bus or tuk-tuk to reach there. Walk to the beach to see the sunset closely, but I must warn you, it is overly crowded. So, it is better if you can find a place to sit a little far away from the beach.

Also, be aware that the view will depend on the weather. When I reached the sunset viewpoint, it was quite windy and cloudy, and the view was not at all clear. So I left the place a little early, and just when I reached the main road, the weather cleared up. Although I missed the sunset from the designated viewpoint, I could see its calmer orange-yellow rays fill up the sky as it readied to set.

I could sense how beautiful it would have looked from the beach -a spectacular landscape as the sun drowns in the water.

sunset viewpoint kanyakumari
Sitting on a rock, a little far from the designated viewpoint
sunset viewpoint kanyakumari
Sun rays brightening the sky as it sets

Although Kanyakumari is most famous amongst pilgrims, the city's picturesque views will not disappoint you if you are more of nature/adventure traveler.

kanyakumari beach, travel guide, view from Vattakottai fort

*A budget travel tip: You can buy an unreserved ticket at the time of travel from the platform. It is the cheapest train ticket and does not guarantee a seat on the train. However, if you are lucky, you'll find one when other passengers get down at a station before yours.

**Many hotels offer a sunrise view from their terraces. So if you cannot make it to the beach in time, you'll have an alternate option to see the sunrise from

Hitchhiking Experience Turned Into A Great Realization

Hitchhiking Experience Turned Into A Great Realization

“Just take care when you are traveling, you are a girl!”
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“Reach back home before it’s dark, you are a girl!”
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“Avoid going to isolated streets, you are a girl!”
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“Don’t trust anyone, you are a girl!”
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..but how could I not trust someone who called me “Chechi (Elder Sister)” when we first met!

3 Days in Alleppey – The Ultimate Travel Guide

3 Days in Alleppey – The Ultimate Travel Guide

You cannot not think of backwaters and houseboats when you talk about Alleppey (also known as Alappuzha). I was very excited to visit Alleppey, the place that I had heard about since I was a kid. I imagined myself relaxing on a houseboat in the tranquility of the backwaters as the sun sets.
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Alleppey was the 8th stop of my South India tour. I toured the city with Alex, who I met at Poornodaya. Alex is a person of faith, so in addition to the backwaters and beaches of Alleppey, we also visited a few temples.
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This is the ultimate travel guide that you will ever need to plan your trip to Alleppey, India.

Kochi in One Day – Top things to do in the Port City

Kochi in One Day – Top things to do in the Port City

Kochi was not a part of my original South India travel itinerary. It was instead an impromptu plan that the volunteers made with the director of Poornodaya Vidyanikethan, Anish, on a Friday evening. If you don't already know, I went to Kottayam after Munnar to volunteer with a school, Poornodaya Vidyanikethan. I worked with the institute for a week and documented the complete experience here.

PS: The experience at the school is very close to my heart. Especially since the last few places I was at before Kottayam, I was touring alone, staying alone, and in desperate need of a good company.
Apart from a beautiful experience with the kids of the school, it was amazing to know other volunteers, the school founders, and the teachers.

Yoga and Fun at Poornodaya

We decided to spend my last weekend with Poornodaya touring together. It took us a little more than an hour to reach Kochi from the village where our school was.
It was a pleasant ride that started with green paddies and ended with water on both sides!

Kochi is most famous for Fort Kochi, the fortification that was built around the city a long time back. You do not see the fort anymore now, but most of the points of interest lie within its plausible boundaries.

We stayed at Anish's parents' house for the day right in the city center and at a walkable distance to the famous Chinese Fishing Net viewpoint. The city itself is not too big, so wherever you plan to stay, it will not be very far from the points of interest.

You can see most of the city in one day on foot! Amazing right?
So if you are on a tight schedule, this is how you can plan your time to explore Kochi.

Kochi Backwaters
Fisherman with his traditional hat on

Walk Walk Walk!

The first step to exploring Kochi, the culturally and artistically vibrant city is by walking on its streets. As you walk around, you'll walls full of murals, some light, and fun, and others motivating and educational.

Kochi is an amalgamation of multiple cultures, which is evident in its art and architecture. In case you don't know already, Kochi being a seaport, was a very convenient stop to enter for explorers, traders, and merchants from around the world.
Kochi was one of the first colonies of colonized India, and the architecture of the city reflects the rule of different cultures and beliefs over time.

One of the most touching words!
Walking men on the wall on top-right
Education art motivating to say no to drugs
Do Not Smoke

Visit the Mattancherry Palace

Kochi was first occupied by the Portuguese during its colonial era. Mattancherry Palace was a gift to the then king of Kochi by the Portuguese to please him after they destroyed a revered temple. Later, when Dutch arrived in Kochi, they took over the palace and renovated it.
The palace is now under and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

PS: Cameras are not allowed inside the palace, so whatever I have written is from bits of my memory and some online research.

There are portraits of kings of Kochi inside the palace halls and a chronological description of the historical events of the city. In other rooms, you'll also find ancient murals depicting Indian mythology. Some of these murals are incomplete, and it creates an unknown sense of curiosity.

Shop in the local market

As you walk around the city, you'll cross many streets selling spices, handicrafts, art pieces, dress pieces, etc. Make a stop at one or more of the shops to take a look at these items. Bazaar road is one such area, where you'll find shopkeepers calling out to tourists to pay a visit to their shops and buy something.

PS: Don't fall into the trap of these calls. You do not necessarily need to entertain them and buy something only if you genuinely like it.
In addition to this, be wary of the auto-drivers (tuk-tuk drivers) who'll request you to visit a shop with them. The drivers get a commission cut for themselves from these shops for bringing in a customer. Although this is a no-gain, no-loss situation for you, visit the shops only if you have ample time in hand.

In the narrow streets of Jew Town
Spice Market

Visit the historic Jew Town

If you continue to walk towards Fort Kochi from Mattancherry, you'll reach the quaint Jew Town. You can do local street shopping here as well.
You can also visit the Jewish Synagogue, which is one of the very few synagogues left in the city.
PS: The Synagogue is open on all days except Saturday from 10 am to 12 noon and from 3 pm to 5 pm.
Unfortunately, it was a Saturday when we were in Kochi, so we could not visit the synagogue.

Jew Town

Make a stop at the Old Syrian Church

St. George Orthodox Koonan Kurish Old Syrian Church is so unlike the churches that we usually see. We were walking from Dharmanath Jain temple (which by the way was closed too) towards Fort Kochi when this church suddenly caught our attention.
The distinguished architecture of the church is so intriguing that you'd want to go inside and take a look. Do spare 5 minutes of your day to admire this ancient beauty.

St George Orthodox Koonan Kurishu Old Syrian Church from outside
Inside the church

Stroll by Mahatma Gandhi beach

Take a stroll by the Mahatma Gandhi beach and watch the giant cargo ships anchored in the sea. Although I must warn you, the water is quite contaminated here. But despite that, you will see many people taking an evening walk by the beach here, so suit yourself.

See the sun go down behind the magnificent Chinese nets

As the evening approaches, walk to the other side of the Mahatma Gandhi beach. When you reach near Fort Kochi, you'll start seeing the traditional fishing nets. The sight of the sun setting down in the waters behind these large fishing nets is overwhelmingly impressive.

Evening by the Chinese fishing nets

PS: When you are in Kochi, do not miss to try some local cuisine and also sit in the cozy western cafes.
You can also watch the traditional Kathakali dance martial arts show at the Kerala Kathakali Centre.

Coimbatore Travel Guide – Top things to do in the city

Coimbatore Travel Guide – Top things to do in the city

The 5th stop of my South India travels was Coimbatore, one of the major cities of Tamil Nadu state. I made a stop here to take a break from a continuous two weeks of travel across tiny villages. Here is a detailed Coimbatore Travel Guide to help you spend your time in the city pleasantly, without worrying about the “big city” noise and pollution.

2 Days in the Nilgiris – Ooty Travel Guide

2 Days in the Nilgiris – Ooty Travel Guide

Ooty was the fourth stop of my South India travel spree in the months of June-July.
Nestled in the Nilgiri hills, Ooty is a famous hill station of South India. And despite it being touristy, the city is a sure treat to the eyes.
Ooty has welcomed tourists from all around the world for leisure and recreation for more than 50 years. And many people say it still looks the same - serene, quaint, and beautiful.
Use this travel guide to make the best of your time in Ooty.

How to reach Ooty?

I was in Wayanad before Ooty, so I had took a from there. Two buses go from Wayanad to Ooty in a day. These buses leave from Sultan Bathery KSRTC bus stand, one at 8:00 am and another one at 12:30 in the noon.

The nearest airport to Ooty is in Coimbatore (~88 km from Ooty). After flying in Coimbatore, you can either self-drive, take a taxi, bus or train to Ooty. You will find many TNSTC buses that commute between the two cities daily.

Where to stay in Ooty?

Ooty shares a border with another beautiful Niligiri town of Coonoor. Some people prefer to stay in Coonoor and drive to Ooty, but many others look for accommodations in Ooty itself.
If you have your vehicle, it doesn't matter where you stay of the two cities, Ooty or Coonoor. But if you don't have one, it is better if you stay in or near the Ooty city centre, since it is closer to the most points of interest, and you can also get a TukTuk(auto-rickshaw) from there conveniently.

I stayed in a BnB, Prabhu's Place, a 2-minute walk to the main road but in a quiet locality. The place was pretty basic but had a cozy and a homely vibe to it. There was a large organic farm as part of the property, which serves as a source of job for many local women.

Things to do in Ooty

Visit a tea factory

Ooty is well known for its tea plantations, and I can swear on the tea I had there. It was one of the best flavored teas I had.
There are two tea factories in Ooty that I know of, one is the Benchmark Tea factory which is famous among the tourists, and which is where I went. It was extremely crowded at that time, and although I was able to see the whole tea making process, there wasn't much guidance. In addition to this, the factory is commercialized so much so that it took its charm away.

The other one is on the way to Dodabetta Peak and seemed less crowded from outside.

PS: Don't miss to taste the tea of Ooty and also get some for home!

Ride through the Nilgiris in the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

If you are a Bollywood fan, you'd know the song "Chaiyan Chaiyan" has been shot on this train.
But if that does not interest you, I believe there are more reasons to take this ride. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is one of the most scenic rides in South India. The train passes through beautiful mountain ranges and inside the caves, that makes you want to take this ride.

PS: The seats get full soon, so buy the ticket from the counter at least 4 hours before the train departure, or book an online ticket in advance.

I missed the train twice, only because all the tickets were sold out.

See all of Ooty from Doddabetta Peak

I was in Ooty in June'19, and at that time the path up the peak was closed due to ongoing construction. The walk to the starting point was very scenic though. On the way, you will also see the tea factory that I mentioned above, so make sure to make a stop there as well.

Dodabetta Peak is not very far from the city center. It will take an hour and a half to reach the starting point of the peak, and another few minutes to climb up.

Spend time walking in the market

End your time in this beautiful touristy city by walking in its crowded yet impressive market. There is so much to see and buy from the market, varying from chocolates, to tea, to intricate craftwork, organic fruits and vegetables, masalas, and so much more.

Two days in Coorg – The Scotland of India

Two days in Coorg – The Scotland of India

I am currently touring across South India, and Coorg (or Kodagu) was the second stop I made after Mysore. Also known as the Scotland of India, Coorg is a perfect stop for nature lovers. It is a hilly district of the Karnataka state, which is why the temperature here is a little more cooler.

I met my friend from college, Ankita here and we spent two days exploring this beautiful town. Read the post to know how our experience was and also get tips to plan your trip to Coorg.