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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.

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.

PS: This was just an imagination, I did not actually do it πŸ˜…

Chilling on a canoe in Alleppey (no there was no sunset)

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.

This is the ultimate travel guide that you will ever need to plan your trip to Alleppey.

How to reach Alleppey?

If you are coming from far, you can take a flight to Kochi (Cochin International Airport), which is around 80 km from Alleppey. From Kochi, you can either take a bus, train, or taxi to Alleppey. You can also rent a two or a four-wheeler and drive to Alleppey.

We were visiting Alleppey from Kottayam, so we first took a bus from Kottayam to the Thirunakkara bus stand. Then we took an auto-rickshaw (or tuk-tuk) to Kanjiram Boat Station from where we caught our ferry to Alleppey.Β 

Ferry from Kanjiram leaves twice a day to Alleppey. You can check the latest timings on the official websiteΒ or confirm from the locals.

The ticket fare is just Rs 15 for the ferry ride, and it drops you at Alleppey boat station, right in the city center.

PS: The ferry ride is pleasant, and you'll get your first backwater experience as well.

Kanjiram boat station
Me and Alex as we set on our ride to Alleppey
Open backwaters as seen from the ferry

Where to stay in Alleppey?

Alleppey is full of backpacker hostels, guesthouses, and BnBs, so you'll not find difficulty in choosing the best place for you.
We were in Alleppey during the off-season, because of which most of the accommodations were empty and also cheaper than the regular rates.

Alex and I stayed at Carpe Diem, located in a residential society at a walkable distance to the Alleppey Beach. The first thing that we noticed when we entered our hostel was its peaceful locality and the white paint on its walls that reflected positivity.
We stayed in a 10-bed mixed dorm, and I was particularly impressed by the clean room and sheets that still smelled of detergent.
Nets were put on each bed to protect from mosquitoes and other insects.
Each room looked onto a balcony with a view of the locality and the green trees.
Paul, who is also the co-owner of the property, helped us with tips on touring the city. He also arranged for the backwater tour for us.

Common area of the hostel
Dorm room where we stayed in
Inside the room
Patio outside the room
View from the patio
With Paul

Things to do in Alleppey

If you are not in a rush and want to spend your time leisurely in the city, here is a list of activities that you can do, and the places that you can visit in 3 days in Alleppey.

Spend a relaxing time at Alleppey Beach

As I mentioned above, Alleppey Beach was within walking distance from our hostel. So the first thing that we did after freshening up was walk to the beach.

Staring into the sea infinity - Alleppey Beach

The beach was less crowded than usual because of the off-season, and it was also cleaner than what I had expected. The waves were fierce at the time and crashed right on the beach. So we avoided playing with the water and instead took a walk along the shore.
The first thing that you will notice at Alleppey beach is an old and broken pier that extends farther into the sea. It is quite a sight!
We spent our first evening at the Alleppey beach and watched the sun go down, reflecting its shimmering golden on the browns of the sand and whites of the waves.

The old broken pier at the Alleppey beach
People walking by the beach as the sun calmly sets down

The next day we decided to sit and read by the beach. We walked to the Alleppey beach, and further towards Pozhiyoram beach. The waves were as fierce as the last evening, so we decided to sit a little farther from the sea.
It was the first time that I just sat down by the beach and did nothing, but only listened to the waves, and quietly pondered.

Sitting by the Alleppey beach on a sunny morning

Watch the sunset at Marari Beach.

If you are looking for a much quieter beach in Alleppey, this one is for you. Mararikulam (or Marari) beach is around 15 km from Alleppey beach, and you can either hitch-hike or take a bus from Alleppey town to the Mararikulam village. Take a 5-minute walk from the Mararikulam bus stop, and the stunning views of the beach and backwaters will astound you.

Backwaters at Marari Beach
View of backwaters by the Marari beach
The quieter side of Marari Beach
Looking eagerly at the fierce waves of Marari Beach
Taking a stroll by the beach
The fierce waves of the Marari Beach

Since it is a little far from the main Alleppey town, the beach is less crowded and even cleaner than the Alleppey beach. One can easily spend an entire evening here watching the waves crash at the shore, and the sun softly go down.

Sun reflecting its light on the golden sands of the beach
Sunset scene at the beach

Take the Alleppey backwater Canoe tour

If you are wondering why didn't I spend a night in a houseboat in Alleppey - houseboat stays tend to be quite expensive for solo budget travelers.

Houseboat on Alleppey backwaters

Although we experienced riding on Alleppey backwaters on our way from Kottayam, Alex was eager to go on a canoe tour that includes riding through narrow canals along with the open waterways.
Paul booked the canoe village tour through Oscar Cruise, and the ride cost us Rs 800 per person (discounted rate due to off-season).

Canoe ready to leave for the backwater tour
View of backwaters from Canoe
Laali, our canoe rider, in the background

The tour starts at 8:30 am when a motor-boat takes you to a nearby village, where you first have Kerala-style breakfast at a local's place. The actual canoe tour starts after that, and it lasts for four hours with a snack-break in between. Post that you have lunch at the same place where you had breakfast in the morning, and get ready to leave for the main town.

Lunch at a local's home after the ride

The canoe takes you through narrow canals and streams, passing through many villages. The most enjoyable part for me throughout the ride was observing the routine village life of the locals - everyone busy in their daily chores, undisturbed by tourist boats passing by their houses, doing laundry, cleaning utensils, and catching fish.

Passing through villages during our canoe tour

Try a Toddy

Toddy is the local alcohol of Kerala made of coconut and palm. If you are doing a canoe tour, you can ask your boat rider to buy you some on the way. We bought a 1-liter bottle of toddy for 200 Rs that 3 of us from the group shared.
PS: Toddy is best consumed fresh when it is prepared in the morning because it gets bitter and stronger with time.

We got Toddy in this bottle from a local shop

Watch the world-famous Snake boat race

Alleppey hosts around 15 snake boat races throughout the year, of which the Nehru Trophy Boat race is most famous. If you are in the city during the time of the race, you can witness one of the most enjoyable boat races. All villages of Alleppey district compete in the race, and you can see a 100 people seated on one boat rowing strenuously in synchronization. It's a captivating sight!
If you are not able to watch the actual race, you can still see the practice, which starts a month before the race.

Snake boat race practice

Visit the revered temples of Alleppey

Right in the city center of Alleppey, you'll find many adorned temples.
The first temple that we visited was the Mullakkal temple. It was hosting a dress-up ceremony of a God's idol for its new home(or temple). Many priests were playing music on the traditional instruments while a few of them were chanting and performing the ceremony. It was glorious.

Inside Mullakkal temple
Priests dressing the idol in Mullakkal Temple
Priest playing traditional musical instruments during the ceremony
Gardens surrounding Mullakkal temple

Next, we went to Kidangamparambu Sree Bhuvaneswari Temple, which was just a 10-minute walk from the Mullakkal temple. This temple was architecturally rich, with many gods carved on the temple walls. There was some function happening here as well, so we left quickly after paying our respects.

Inside Sree Bhuvaneswari Temple
Many idols adorning the walls of the temple

All in all, we were able to cover many places of Alleppey in 3 days, and also spend some quiet leisure time.

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.

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.

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. Read the complete post to know more!

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.
Coimbatore is a big city, and I did not expect a lot from it. But it surprised me with beautiful, majestic views when I drove a little over 10 km from the city center.
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.

How to reach Coimbatore?

I took a direct Tamil Nadu state bus from Ooty to Coimbatore that cost me Rs110 for the ticket and 3.5 hours of the bus journey.
If you are not coming from very far, you can take a train or the state/private bus to Coimbatore. You can also take a flight to Coimbatore from any major city.

On my way to Coimbatore

Where to stay in Coimbatore?

I am not a huge fan of hotels, so I decided to stay in a Bed "n" breakfast property.

The place is owned by Mr. Suresh, who found his calling in the hospitality industry. His love for his work was clearly visible from how the property was maintained.
The moment I entered the room allotted to me, I felt at home. The room was well-lit and extremely neat. The bedsheet was covered with another sheet to prevent dust from soiling it. The bathroom had all the essential toiletries.
My room did not come with a kitchen, but there were basic utensils, tea and coffee sachets, and filtered water to get the day started.

If you are also in Coimbatore for a few days and are looking for a homely stay, this place is just perfect.

PS: Mr. Suresh was really helpful in guiding me about Coimbatore's places to visit and food to try.

A clean comfortable double-bed
The rooms comes with a table to work at
View from room

Things to do in Coimbatore

Eat Tamilian food at Annapurna Restaurant

When in Tamil Nadu, try Tamilian!

If you are a food enthusiast and love spicy food, Annapoorna Restaurant's thaali is a must-have. It is one of the oldest restaurants in Coimbatore, serving South Indian meals for more than 50 years.

Enjoy an authentic Tamilian lunch meal at Annapoorna for just Rs 110.

PS: The service is not the most polite, but the place promises good food.

Tamilian meal

Pray at Maruthamalai Hill Temple and enjoy scenic views

Maruthamalai temple is situated on a hillock, around 10 km from Coimbatore city. Lord Murugan of Hindu mythology has the temple dedicated to him.
The temple is supposedly very crowded during peak hours of prayers. Luckily, when I visited the temple, there weren't many people. I had enough time to look around and appreciate the intricate architecture of the temple. The panoramic views of the city and the hills around are another reason to visit the temple.

PS: The temple was not the cleanest, but if it is for the faith that you are visiting it, this should not matter much.

On the way to the temple
Nestled between the hills, is the Maruthamalai temple

Visit the magnificent Adiyogi statue at the Isha Yoga Center

With a backdrop of the hills, the Adiyogi Shiva statue looks so mesmerizing that it is so difficult to take your eyes off it. It is the world's largest bust sculpture, and will surely leave you spellbound.

In addition to the Adiyogi statue, you can also pay a visit to the other parts of the Isha Yoga center, including the Dhyanalinga and Theerthakunds.

PS: You can rent a vehicle or take a bus to the Isha Yoga Center. It is only 30 km from Coimbatore city.

There are many more places that you can explore if you are in the city for a longer time. Ooty is just a 3-hour drive from Coimbatore. You can visit Kovai Kutralam waterfalls on your way to the Isha Yoga Center if you have sufficient time.

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. So here are the top things to do in Coorg - a 2-day itinerary.

How to reach Coorg?

If like me, you are coming from Mysore, catch a KSRTC bus from the city that takes you to Madikeri in around 4 hours. The ticket cost me around 110 INR.

In case you are coming from Bangalore, you can take an overnight sleeper bus to Madikeri that will take around 6-7 hours to reach the city.
If you are coming from a faraway city, you can take a flight to Bangalore or Mysore, and then take a bus from these cities to Madikeri.

PS: You can also rent a two-wheeler or a car from your city and drive to Madikeri. You'll need to take extra care during monsoons since the roads are a little slippery during that time of the year.

Where to stay?

Coorg is full of tourists all around the year because of its beautiful weather, and especially during the weekends when most of the people from Bangalore visit it.
Coincidentally we were in Coorg on a Friday and a Saturday, and most of the accommodations were full during that time. So we switched our accommodations on these two days, both of which were pleasant and comfortable stays.

Our first stay was at the Mayura Valley View hotel by KSTDC, with literally the view of the green valley right from our wall-length window. The hotel is very close to the market, and yet a little secluded from all the noise. The rooms were spacious, and clean, but the food, however, I think they can improve. So you can have your meals either at some restaurant outside the hotel or just ask the chef their specialty.

The second night, however, we stayed at Kushalnagar (an hour drive from Madikeri) in an Oyo room. The room was basic as opposed to the first day, but I really loved the location of the property. It was situated in a village surrounded by tiny houses, and the market was just a 10-minute walk from here. Breakfast was included as part of the reservation, which they probably got from a restaurant, but it was good though.

View from our second accommodation

Day 1 - Spend time touring the attractions in Madikeri

Abbey Falls

We started the day with the very tourist Abbey Falls. It's a little far from the main town of Madikeri, so you can either rent a two-wheeler from Royal Brothers (the only scooter rental in Coorg) or take an auto that takes you to the falls and bring you back to the town.

Since it was raining that day, we took an auto to the falls, and it cost us around 300 INR for the round trip.
Even on a Friday, the place was crowded with tourists, and you could hardly get enough place to stand. Find a corner for yourself, where you can stand leisurely for some time and enjoy the waters gushing down the rocks.
As a plus, you can also see the coffee plantations on one side as you walk to the falls.

Raja's Tomb

This is my personal favorite for two reasons, one there were not many people here, and second, the view of the city and hills are astounding from this place.
There are three tombs, two of the kings, and one is of the priest of the royal Kodava kingdom. These tombs are surrounded by a garden on all sides that gives it a beautiful aesthetic touch. Climb atop a small cliff at the entrance, and you'll get a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and the city below.

Raja's Seat

Once the leisure spot for the king to spend time at while they enjoyed the beautiful scenery in front, Raja's seat has now become one of the most famous tourist attraction in the town.
With a view of the valley and hills, it is a perfect point to sunset from.
We were there on a clouded day, and although it looked beautiful then, I think it would have been even more stunning on a clear day.

Day 2 - Explore the nearby town of Kushalnagar

The next day we took a bus from Madikeri to Kushalnagar that cost us 33 INR per person. After checking into our stay, we rented a two-wheeler from the Royal Brothers and set off on exploring the place.

Namdroling Monastery

I love visiting peaceful monasteries nestled between the hills with beautiful scenery. The Namdroling monastery is around 5 km from Kushalnagar and located within the Tibetan settlement.Β 

The day we visited, there was some performance happening, which we were lucky to witness - although I am not very sure of the story behind that weekly performance. I asked a few monks, but not many people knew about it.

After visiting the monastery, treat your tastebuds to authentic Tibetan food. We went to a tiny multi-cuisine restaurant in the market just outside the monastery, but if you walk a little further from the monastery, you'll see many small Tibetan restaurants that serve only Tibetan food.

Harangi Reservoir

Located at a distance of around 10 km from Kushalnagar, the roads to the Harangi Dam passes through quaint villages and green pastures. The whole place is well maintained with manicured gardens around the dam. It is a great picnic spot, but if you walk further towards the dam and away from the gardens, you'll see the secluded and the less crowded area, the pathway that leads you to the dam.

Although the dam gates were closed at the time, and there was not much water in the tributary, the whole place was quite scenic.

Apart from these places, you can also visit the Mandalpatti, Elephant Camp, Chiklihole Reservoir, Nisargadhama Deer Park, or trek to Thadiandamol Peak if you have more time in the city.