Palm-lined beaches, idealistic spice plantations, abounding wildlife, and tranquil backwaters—there’s a reason why Kerala is dubbed ‘Gods own country’. Its beauty is intoxicating and the best company a traveller could ask for. The idea of conquering India alone can feel overwhelming but Kerala is one of the best options for solo travellers. The region is consistently named one of India’s safest regions. Here are our tips on how to tackle Kerala solo.
#1 Skip The Backwaters Trip And Do A Boat Safari
Winding lazy lagoon rivers and inquisitive Bengal tigers grace the front of most Keralan postcards. Sadly, though, there are a few issues with the popular Keralan backwater and safari tours, especially for solo travellers. Most backwater tours are rented out by the boat. We imagine spending the night on a boat alone with a full staff would feel like the wrong kind of extravagant. Not to mention that it’s probably economically out of reach for many. Similarly, the safari tours are priced per vehicle. When two of the states top tourist attractions are out of reach for solo travellers it can leave you scratching a feeling of lack from your bindi clad head. Making the decision to skip the backwater tours is also the more eco-friendly route. The influx of tourism on the backwaters has led to ink-stained water and polluted plastic floating in the once crystal clear river. However, we don’t think you can come to Kerala and not enjoy the beauty of its principal natural treasures. We suggest you opt for a boat safari instead. Most of the boat safaris are public so you can hop on and join a tour. We recommend heading to Periyar National Park near Thekkady. Spend the night in Thekkady town, which is a popular destination for spice and tea plantations, and hop on the 7.30am or 3.30pm boat tour.
#2 Have A Solo-ish Night Out In Kochi
Kerala is notoriously a dry state but Kochi is one of the few places that you can enjoy a beer in the gentle Keralan sun. Only upscale hotels are licensed though, so you’ll pay for the exception. Mattancherry Bar at Vivanta by Taj is a scenic delight. Propped up on the banks of the backwaters, you’ll be in good company with local live music. If you haven’t yet, use this opportunity to try out some Indian wine. Sula Wine is an Indian favourite that is surprisingly decent, especially when you haven’t been graced with a glass in a few weeks. After getting delightfully liquored up with the 1% you might have enough Dutch courage to try your luck at asking an unlicensed venue for ‘special tea’. Yeasty smelling ‘iced tea’ will be astutely served to you in teacups as the beer bottle shaped teapots are placed inconspicuously under the table. You can finish your night at the Sandunes hookah lounge. It’s usually a lively scene and attracts foreigners, so if you haven’t picked up a few other lone wolves by now, this is your chance.
#3 Replenish At An Ayurvedic Resort
Kerala is the home and birthplace of Ayurveda. Therapeutic spices grow from Keralan soil, dance in Keralan curries and are mixed through healing oils used in Ayurvedic treatments. The ancient eastern medicine of Ayurveda is based around the sacred knowledge of ‘panchakarma’ which is a system of purification through therapeutic massage, yoga, a healing diet, and other cleansing practices. Get ready to glow up! Most Ayurvedic resorts are geared towards solo travellers so you’ll be taken care of. There are so many amazing Ayurvedic resorts that offer different options, but here are a few of our favourites. Somatheeram Ayurveda Village is located on the top of a beachfront cliff in Kovalam overlooking the vast ocean and surrounded by sprawling greenery. If you want to explore a spice plantation in between your dreamy Ayurvedic treatments, head to Green Park Ayurvedic & Spices Plantation in Thekkady. Green Park is all about eco-living with an extensive veggie garden, honey bee colony and fruit plantation.
#4 Get Creative With Your Shopping
Kerala has so many unique specialities, so instead of heading home with your hand luggage full of throwaway souvenirs, use your solo time to go on a hunt. In Munnar, walk down the main street smelling all the different spices available. You’ll probably come across many you haven’t heard of before. Be inquisitive and ask the friendly shopkeepers about their different properties. Munnar also has an abundance of different teas. These make great gifts, so spend some time going through all the different combinations on offer.
For antique enthusiasts, make sure you take a break from the museums in Kochi’s Jew Town to scope out the antique shops and warehouses in the area. As with most worthwhile antique quests, it’s all about the hunt here. Spend a bit of time digging through the cluttered shops and you’ll be graced with some really unique knick-knacks for your fireplace ledge.
#5 Treat Yourself To A Night At A Swanky Hotel
If you’ve been travelling India for a while, you’ve most likely been staying at homestays that while homey and warm, lack a certain lustre. Kerala has a wealth of stunning hotels that you deserve to see at least for a night when you’re travelling solo. The rich yellow walls, delicately tiled bathrooms and wooden furniture of the Forte Kochi will make you feel like Keralan royalty. Built in the 1860s by Dutch colonials, it maintains its elegant vestige and is worth a splurge. Another more affordable but equally as indulgent option is The Raviz in Kozhikode. With beautiful views of the Chaliyar River, its decor celebrates the art and culture of Kerala, decked out in Nallukettu architecture. It’ll be hard to spend just one night here.
#6 Eat Your Way Through Kochi
For a truly tantalizing experience head to the fish market next to the Chinese Fishing Nets. Spend time browsing the day’s catch and absorbing the energetic atmosphere. It’s hard to feel solitary when you’re surrounded by the potency of this market. Flag down a salesman when you decide on a fresh fillet, we recommend the snapper, and you’ll be guided to a nearby restaurant where he’ll cook it to blissful perfection.
Kochi is one of the few spots in South India with fine dining options, so save your cheap eats for other locations and take advantage of Kochi’s many upscale Keralan cuisine haunts. By design, Keralan food is rustic and nourishing, but the Rice Boat will show you a more refined side of the Ayurvedic inclined fare. The boat-shaped restaurant, propped on the head of the harbour, is located in the Taj Malabar Resort.
When you’re exploring Jew Town in Kochi stop by Mocha Art Cafe. Put a pause on your historic sightseeing and enjoy this charismatic little cafe’s design and decor. You may or may not be pleased to take a momentary break from a curry lunch. This multi-cuisine cafe is in contrast to the historic area with local contemporary art and trendy exposed brick walls.
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Image credit: Adityan Ramkumar, Taj Hotels, Akhil Chandran and Kerala Tourism