India is such a large and diverse country and there is so much to see and experience that two weeks gives you only a glimpse of this huge country. We spend a month in India and only saw a few states.
Sometimes, however, you only have 2 weeks holiday.
That is why we set up this 2-week India itinerary that takes you from the highlights of the golden triangle to the deep lush South where you feel like you are in another country.
With this India itinerary, you get a first impression of this gigantic country in 2 weeks and if you like it, you can head back later to discover more.
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Best time to visit India
The best time to visit India depends on which region you want to visit. But in general, for Rajasthan, the best months are from October to March as it is cooler.
We visited Rajasthan in October and it was still quite warm with temperatures higher than 35 degrees. We were very happy that all of our hotels had a swimming pool where we could cool off after a sweaty day.
Read also: 45 Fun and crazy facts about India
The best time to see tigers in Ranthambore is during the summer. It’s hotter and dryer and there are fewer waterholes, that makes it easier to spot the tigers.
For Kerala, the best period to visit is from September to March although it can rain occasionally until December.
We had some daily scattered showers in October. They usually occurred somewhere during the afternoon but not to that degree that it affected our travel plans.
India travel tips
Cheap flights to India
Both are flight aggregators that compare several hundreds of booking sites and give you an overview of the best flights and the cheapest sites to book them.
Those who are always on the lookout for the best deals should join the Dollar Flight Club. Joining is free and once you’ve joined you will get alerts in your mailbox whenever cheap flights out of your home airport have been found.
I recently joined the club and already saw some incredible deals.
The odds are low that you will need a visa to visit India. Only citizens of Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives can enter the country without a visa.
Recently the country started offering e-visas. You can find out if you’re eligible to apply for an e-visa on the government’s e-visa website.
The website also lists the fees which vary by country. (see point 4 of the instructions)
Note that the Indian government charges the fee regardless of your approval status. The fee is seen as a processing fee and therefore non-refundable. It’s always charged, even if your application would be rejected due to an unclear picture or unreadable scan of your passport.
This made us a little uncomfortable and we decided to apply for our e-visa through a visa agency so that our information would be subject to an additional review by the agency before it was finally submitted.
When you want to apply for the e-visa yourself make sure that you use the official government website.
Ignore sites that call themselves official like the one below, they add significant service charges to your application, more than reputable visa agencies like iVisa.
The official e-visa site run by the government is https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/.
Do I need travel insurance for India?
India is a cheap country to travel to and also the costs for healthcare are cheaper compared to many other destinations. This may have you wonder if taking out travel insurance is really necessary for your trip to India.
It is true that you will gladly pay the costs for small treatments out of your pocket but if anything serious would happen you’re better of with private medical care which is much more expensive than the regular public clinics.
Travel insurance also covers more than only medical treatments. You can turn to you travel insurance if your camera, notebook or smartphone gets damaged or stolen. Travel insurance will reimburse you if you can’t leave on your trip because of an emergency at home or if you need to end your trip early.
Drawing up a travel insurance policy may seem expensive at first but it can potentially save you a significant sum, significantly more than the small insurance fee. Good travel insurance, such as the one from World Nomads, covers the things we mentioned above and even more.
Take a car and driver
We first considered traveling around the country by train.
When we were making our planning and looked up the train schedules this brought us different thoughts.
Many trains departed around 10 or 11 PM to arrive at 5 or 6 AM in the morning. Not knowing for certain whether we were going to be able to sleep on these trains, we then opted for a car with driver.
Looking back we are glad that we did this. For one, trains are apparently often late (even more so than what we’re used in Belgium). In one situation we met somebody whose train was 6 hours late…
Moreover, the scams that seem to be common practice in all stations, are scandalous.
We met several people that had been ripped off, sometimes for significant figures. We needed to negotiate the price of a taxi or tuk-tuk just a few times and noticed how the initial asking price is often a twentyfold of the correct price.
This makes it very hard to get the price down to fair levels.
We’re happy that we did not need to negotiate more often, certainly not with a half-sleepy head after a tiring train ride.
That’s why we highly recommend arranging a personal driver. It will make your trip so much more comfortable because you just need to arrange your plans with him and only in very exceptional cases you will need to negotiate the price for a taxi or tuk-tuk.
You also don’t have to worry that much about the location of your hotel, your driver will take you wherever you want to go.
We also found our driver a good and trustworthy source of information to know the local prices for drinks, snacks, and food.
And he could tell us the correct price for the tuk-tuk the few times that we needed one because the streets in the old city were too narrow for our car.
If you have arranged a personal driver he will be waiting for you at the airport in the arrivals hall.
The overall India itinerary is arranged in advance as the price not only depends on the number of days but also the kilometers that you will do.
You can choose whether the company arranges the hotels or you can do this yourself.
You do have all the freedom about how you fill in the days once you’re there. We were well prepared and had a list of things that we wanted to see and do.
Usually, our driver gave us some extra tips about the places that we were going to visit in a few days so we could have a look in advance to see if we wanted to visit them as well.
Each evening we made the final arrangements with him for the next day.
It worked out really well and turned out to be a comfortable way to visit the country in October.
It was still very hot and we were always happy to jump back in the air-conditioned car after we had spent a few hours in the summer heat.
Tourradar is a trustworthy company where you can book a car and driver and plan your own itinerary or you could join one of their organized tours to make it easy on yourself.
Tipping in India
There’s something strange about tipping in India and it took some time before we got a hold about when and how much we should tip.
Tipping, in India known as Baksheesh, is not common and didn’t exist before tourism became popular in India. You will hardly ever see a local give a tip.
Westerners introduced the custom of tipping, maybe because the poverty can be confronting, but our driver was quick to remind us that we didn’t need to be overly generous.
The Baksheesh has already found its way in the culture and staff in restaurants that see a lot of tourists now seem to expect tips from foreigners.
We sometimes noticed how we got treated differently than an Indian couple sitting at the table next to us.
Mostly regarding the bill because the service was equally good regardless of skin color, language or origin.
We usually tipped about 10% in restaurants.
Make sure to check the bill for a service charge before you tip. Some restaurants will add this automatically, others don’t. We did try to hand the tip subtly to our waiter because we often noticed how restaurant managers were quick to collect the tips that were left on the table and they just disappeared in their own pockets.
The tipping policy was not any more clear in hotels. We noticed how luxury hotels seemed to have a no-tipping policy.
We had some small rupees handy (the guideline is 50 rupees per bag) each time we arrived in a hotel but the porters in most luxury hotels were very fast to leave to the room.
We often didn’t have the chance to hand over the tip. On the occasions were we did they were overly grateful. Less luxurious hotels often showed a completely different picture.
Hotel porters in these hotels would put on a whole show and acted like our bags weighed at least 50kg each. They clearly expected a tip and did not make a start to leave the room until we handed them the Baksheesh. We tipped the first group with pleasure, but the 2nd group gave us a bad feeling.
If you have a car with driver it is also expected that you tip your driver for good service.
Our driver was always on time and even acted as a guide whenever he could. He would tell us more about the places that we visited and would always offer suggestions about the places where we could go to.
If you’re happy with the services of your driver the suggested tip is Rs 200. per day per person. If you’re sharing a driver with a larger group you can lower these amounts, a tip of Rs 800 per day/group is very generous.
We encountered various small scams, mainly in Rajasthan. You will be confronted with them in all public and touristic places, even in temples.
Do not accept any free things that are offered to you. Once you have accepted the so-called gift they will ask money in return. A small piece of advice is to not be annoyed too much by these scams. If you allow them to influence your mood it will just ruin your experience.
Let it go and move on. It’s not worth to ruin your trip over it.
Know how much you need to pay
We experienced how Indians shamelessly dared to ask a twentyfold of the official price for snacks or drinks.
A coke in an ordinary Indian supermarket was suddenly more expensive than what we would pay in a fancy bistro along the Champs-Elysée.
Although you clearly know that this cannot be correct it’s hard to negotiate a fair price if you do not know this price.
After this incident, our driver told us how we could find the official price.
All drinks and snacks should have the price printed on them (see pictures below). If the package is not showing the price or the price has been barred just move on and find a trustworthy seller.
We visited most sites with our driver and when we did he told us the entry fees we needed to pay.
Usually, these were also clearly indicated at the ticket offices.
We were slightly disgusted by the fact that foreigners pay the fifteenfold or twentyfold of locals but this is common in India.
The government does this for the various sites it manages and the other touristy places have just taken over the same practice.
When paying cash make sure to check your change, short-changing is not uncommon in India.
The chances are smaller that they will try to pull short-changing tricks on you if you mention how much cash you give them.
Other sites, like the Jama Masjid mosque, are free and have no ticket offices. This doesn’t stop scammers from posing at the entrance pretending to be ticket vendors. As we had verified that the entrance was free we could move on and this saved us Rs 300. There is a camera fee of Rs 300.
If you plan on visiting any monuments look up the price online before you go.
See what the locals do when visiting temples
There’re some rules to follow when you visit a temple. Firstly, you have to remove your shoes. (Funny enough they also demand you to remove your shoes when visiting a church.) Secondly, it is also not allowed to take pictures of the holiest figures in the temple.
Some temples have a very organized shoe storage system comparable to the cloakrooms we know in theaters. When temples have such a system everybody makes use of it.
Other temples that have no such thing usually have some people that have rolled out a carpet and pose as ‘shoe guards’ for tourists.
You will see how they address tourists and impose that they leave their shoes with them despite that all locals just walk inside with their shoes in their hands. You can safely ignore these people.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this a scam, if you want to leave your shoes with them and pay for it you can do so, but there is certainly no rule that you’re not allowed to take your shoes inside.
Some temples have lockers to store your camera. They’re safe to use if you see that the rules apply to everybody.
A good example is the Akshardham temple in Delhi that offers free lockers and nobody is allowed to take any cameras inside.
Unfortunately, there’re also temples were scammers only target tourists. They will tell you that you cannot take your camera inside and will offer to store it for free.
Only, once you come back you will have to pay a, sometimes hefty, fee to get your stuff back.
Ignore the lockers if you see that locals are not using them. We met some people that finally gave in to the scammers because they got really aggressive and really wouldn’t let them in but they lost a lot of money that day.
There’re many temples in India and they all look alike.
Just skip one temple if you think something is fishy.
Adapter for electrical appliances
India uses a mix of electrical plugs type C (also known as Europlug), D and M. The type C plug is similar to what is used in most European countries.
The Type M plug has three round pins in a triangular pattern and looks similar to the Type D plug, the only difference being that its pins are much larger.
Type M pins are used for bigger appliances.
Since we are from Belgium, we did not need an adapter.
If you have problems to use type C plugs in Type D sockets you should try to insert an object with a fine tip into the top hole while inserting the plug.
Although it can be really difficult to completely avoid the famous Delhi belly, here are some tips that should limit the damage.
Avoid drinking any tap water or brushing your teeth with it. Try to steer clear from any food that may have been washed in it like salads and order any soda’s without ice.
Indians have the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world.
India has 500 million vegetarians, that are more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together.
The country offers perhaps the world’s most fabulous choice of vegetarian food so it may be a good choice to go veggie for the duration of your stay in India. Undercooked or rotten meat can do a lot more harm than a badly prepared vegetarian dish.
When paying cash double-check the amount you hand over to the cashier and double-check the notes you get back.
Shortchanging is, unfortunately, a common practice in India, also by officials at monuments like Humayun tomb.
Also, check the quality of the notes you get back.
It doesn’t matter so much for all notes of 100INR or less but do not accept any notes over 100 that are damaged or have been written on.
We had one 500 rupee note with some yellow marks on it and it took us a while before somebody wanted to accept it.
We stayed in both 3, 4 and 5-star hotels.
The level of service in all of them was excellent but we noticed how the cleanliness was significantly lower in 3-star hotels. We found dust on the shelves, old worn towels, raffled carpet in the corridors, sticky tables in the restaurant and pigeon poop all around the pool.
What we didn’t find was toilet paper in the public toilets. 😊 Not what we would expect from a 3-star hotel but you have to keep in mind that the standards for cleanliness are different in India.
Indian cities are often very hectic and noisy and we were often happy that we could relax in a comfortable hotel after a busy day.
We would recommend taking slightly better hotels then you usually take so that you can unwind and relax after a hectic day.
Our 2 weeks in India
Here we share the best places to visit in India in two weeks.
We started our two weeks in India in Delhi to discover the highlights of Rajasthan. In Rajasthan, which is full of beautiful palaces and fortresses, you feel like you are in a fairytale of 1000 and 1 nights.
If you are looking for a golden triangle itinerary, take a look here.
Day 1- Delhi
Things to do in Delhi
You can visit the highlights of Delhi in one day. Below we briefly summarize the sites that you can visit. We suggest that you also have a look at our detailed post about Delhi here.
We visited Chandni Chowk which used to be the largest market in India. Closeby you will find the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid mosque.
We also paid a visit to The Lotus temple, a temple of Bahá’í faith. This temple has received numerous awards for its outstanding architecture and design.
The Akshardham temple, a recently built Hindu temple complex is also quite impressive. Afterward, you can unwind in the Lodhi gardens.
Our favorite sight in Delhi was Humayun’s tomb and Qutab Minar is also absolutely worth a visit.
Full day organized tours
Some of the sights like the Lotus Temple, Qutab Minar, and Humayun’s tomb are far outside the city.
If you have a personal driver you can arrange a tour with him along these sights.
If not you could arrange a tour with a taxi or arrange a private tour in advance.
We selected some of the most recommended tours:
Where to stay in Delhi
Although Delhi is immense most of the city’s tourist attractions are located within walking distance.
To the south of the city are some other places that are worthwhile visiting but to visit these you will need to arrange a driver or other means of transportation.
If you have a driver you don’t need to worry that much about where you stay. If you need to rely on taxis or public transportation you’re better to stay near the old town or to the south of the city near Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb.
Crowne Plaza New Delhi Mayur Vihar Noida
As we had a driver we stayed in the Crowne Plaza New Delhi Mayur Vihar Noida and loved this hotel. We arrived around 7 o’clock in the morning at the hotel and they offered us breakfast while they prepared our room. Around 9 o’clock our room was ready. The rooms are very big and have a comfortable bed. The rooftop pool is excellent to take a refreshing dive in the evening.
The hotel is located close to the Akshardham temple and it’s just a few minutes to the Yamuna Expressway, the fastest route to Agra.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in our where to stay in New Delhi section.
Day 2-3 Agra
The 165km long Yamuna Expressway is probably the best-maintained road in India. The route has shortened the travel time from Delhi to Agra to 2 hours since it opened in 2012.
There’re many toll roads in India but this is one of the few that is not run by the government.
The exceptional high toll fees ensure that almost only tourist buses use the road.
Enjoy this peaceful experience because once you arrive at the end of the toll road you will join the normal Indian traffic.
Driving time: 205 km- approximately 4-5 hours.
Things to do in Agra
Visiting The Taj Mahal at sunrise was one of the highlights of our India trip. The colors of the first sun rays on the white domes of the Taj Mahal are fabulous.
The Taj Mahal is at its best at sunrise
The monument opens at sunrise and people will already be queueing well in advance. Still, these lines are nothing compared to the masses that visit the Taj during the day. We managed to take some nice pictures before it got crowded.
It is very easy to buy tickets for the Taj Mahal online. If you have tickets you no longer have to queue at the ticket office and you can directly join the line at the entrance.
Buy your tickets for the Taj in advance online (Click the link on the left, scroll down and click on ‘online ticket’).
Picture tip: Most people stop as soon as they passed the main entrance and get a first sight of the Taj Mahal. It is indeed tempting to start a complete photoshoot at this point but just hold on a few more minutes and continue straight towards the Taj.
In front of the Taj head to your right and walk to the Eastern Square.
This offers the best views at sunrise and the square is not crowded at all. Most people will follow the normal guided route and it will take them at least an hour to reach this point.
Once you’re pleased with the pictures you have you can leave the square and do the normal tour.
We also visited the Tomb of Itimad Ud Daulah, better known as the Baby Taj, and got a glimpse of the Agra Fort.
Where to stay in Agra
As you have to wake up early to see the Taj Mahal, we recommend this hotel that is relatively close to the entrance.
We loved our stay in the ITC Mughal. Besides, that is only a 10-minute drive to the Taj Mahal we stayed in a very beautiful and comfortable room. The hotel also serves a very tasty breakfast. The hotel’s pool is an excellent place to relax a few hours after an awe-inspiring morning at the Taj.
We really recommend this hotel. It was like a beautiful oasis in a quite dirty city.
Day 4-5: Ranthambore
We continued our India 2 week India itinerary in Ranthambore.
Rajasthan is not all about temples and fortresses.
These beautiful monuments are unlike anything we have ever seen before but our visit to Ranthambore was another highlight of our trip.
The national park of Ranthambore is famous for its tigers, but certainly, in October which is shortly after the monsoon season, a safari in the park is worthwhile in itself.
Driving time: 265 km- approximately 6 hours.
Ranthambore national park is open from October 1 to June 30. In July and August, the park is closed to visitors because of the Monsoon season.
If Ranthambore is closed we would suggest staying 3 days in Jaipur.
Driving time Agra-Jaipur: 240 km- approximately 5 hours
On your way from Agra to Ranthambore or to Jaipur, you can make a stop in Fatehpur Sikri a fortified ancient city which was for a short time the capital of the Mughal empire.
Things to do in Ranthambore
Ranthambore is one of the best national parks to spot tigers in India. Besides tigers, the park is also home to sloth bears, lots of deer, peacocks and plenty of other colorful birds.
We visited the park early in October shortly after the monsoon season and it was a lovely green oasis. We found this park’s scenery to be more beautiful than the arid landscape of Kruger in South Africa.
Kruger Park is a wide stretched-out dull plain with some bushes and low trees.
The park in itself wouldn’t be worth a detour if it weren’t for the animals that live there. Ranthambore is something completely different.
Over the course of our 3 game drives, we visited 3 different regions and saw beautiful lagoons, impressive cliffs, waterfalls, an overgrown palace and, of course, a fortress.
The downside of this season is that the lush green scenery provides many opportunities for the animals to hide. The chances to spot tigers in October are a mere 20 percent.
The best time to visit Ranthambore and spot tigers is during summer from April to June. There is less water in summer and the activity of the animals will be concentrated around the few watering holes that remain. The greenery will also be less dense. Both make it easier for the guides to find the animals.
The park can only be explored with an organized safari. These can be booked through the hotel or a tour organization but by far the cheapest option is to buy your tickets yourself online. You can do this on the official government site.
The booking process will also allow you to choose the zones where you want to do your safari.
You will need a lot of patience as it took us almost a day to complete our order. Here are the instructions on how to do this.
Don’t wait too long to book the tickets because the tour organizations book large packs of tickets in advance to resell and this limits the number of available seats available to regular clients.
Tickets that you book with your hotel or with a tour organization are significantly more expensive and you will not be able to choose the zones.
The park has been subdivided into 10 zones to spread the number of tourists over the park. Each zone only allows a limited number of gypsy and canters. The sightings of tigers are different in the different zones so it is certainly in your advantage to be able to choose your zone yourself.
It seems that over the past years zones 2 to 6 have been the best safari zones but this could change overnight.
We would advise doing some research on the different zones before you book your safari.
Going through the many discussions on the TripAdvisor forums should give you a good idea about the recent sightings.
The safaris are done in either a gypsy (6 seats) or a canter (20 seats). A gypsy is an open jeep.
These have the advantage that they can reach more areas in the park and they can also react very fast when they hear about a tiger sighting somewhere in your zone.
The drivers will rush to the spot in real Paris-Dakar style. In addition to what we stated already, we also found that the canters are less comfortable and it goes without saying that you have less contact with the guide.
We really recommend booking a gypsy whenever you can as we strongly believe that this will increase your chances to see a tiger.
Our tips to spot a tiger
Do as many safaris as you can. Even if you’re lucky enough to see a tiger on your first safari you still can get a better sighting on your subsequent drives in the park.
Chances to spot tigers are higher on the morning safaris. It is still cooler and the tigers will be more active. If you need to skip one safari, make it an evening safari
Book a gypsy for your safaris
Do some research on which zones have the most sightings before you book.
You must collect your tickets for a morning safari the day before. When you have an afternoon safari, you must collect your tickets on the morning of the same day. We are not sure how this works as our hotel took care of this. We paid the hotel 100 rupees per collected ticket.
If you go on a morning safari bring a warm jacket with gloves and a cap or hat.
Where to stay in Ranthambore
Ranthambhore Heritage Haveli
The Ranthambore Heritage Haveli hotel is located very close to one of the Ranthambore park entrances. The hotel has very friendly staff that is keen to help for any request. The location of the hotel is very far from the central area, you will not be able to go outside the hotel without a car. Not that you will miss something. When we drove through the city it looked like a long row of hotels and there didn’t seem to be many restaurants or bars.
Good value for money.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Ranthambore on Booking.com: BOOKING
Day 6-7: Jaipur
We continued our 2 weeks India itinerary to Jaipur, the pink city.
Driving time: 145 km- approximately 4 hours.
Things to do in Jaipur
We felt like a maharaja in the city palace and learned about astronomy at the nearby Jantar Mantar observatory.
We also wandered through the gigantic Amer fort and almost got lost in the maze of winding narrow corridors.
From the Amer fort, we head to the nearby Panna Meena ka Kund medieval stepwell. These medieval stepwells are known for their picturesque symmetrical stairways.
It’s normally not allowed to take your picture on the stairs but you can try to make arrangements with the guards.
From here we made our way back to the city. Be sure to make a photo stop at Sagar Lake on the way back to Jaipur.
In the center of the lake is the Jal Mahal palace which effectively means Water Palace.
The palace is a 5-story building but usually, 3 or 4 of the floors remain underwater.
We also made a photo stop at the Hawa Mahal, commonly known as the palace of the wind.
The exterior can best be described as the honeycomb of a beehive.
It contains hundreds of small windows and each of them is meticulously decorated. These windows, called jharokhas, allowed the royal ladies to follow the festivals that happened on the street without being seen by the public.
The palace is incredibly beautiful from the outside but according to our driver, the inside is not nearly as spectacular. If you do want to visit the palace you could combine it with the nearby city palace.
Photo tip: You can take great pictures of the palace when the sunlight just hits the beehive-like wall in the morning.
The Galwar Bagh, among tourists known as the Monkey temple, is located slightly outside Jaipur in a narrow gap in the mountain range that borders Jaipur.
It’s officially called the Sita Ram ji temple and is part of the Galta-ji pilgrimage site. We visited this temple on the afternoon of our second day in Jaipur.
Pilgrims bathe in the sacred baths that are filled by the river that flows through the temple complex.
There is, of course, a reason that the temple is called the Monkey temple.
Nowadays more monkeys than pilgrims wander through the temple complex and they also enjoy the baths.
At the temple entrance, some people may offer their services to protect you from the monkeys. This is absolutely unnecessary. Nowhere have we met more well-behaved monkeys than here. 🙂 They didn’t bother us at all.
If you go all the way up to the Sun temple you might get a good view of Jaipur if there is not too much haze or smog.
It was a lot of fun to watch them play.
There is no entry fee for the temple but they charge a camera fee of Rs 50.
If you are looking for a detailed Jaipur itinerary, take a look here.
Where to stay in Jaipur
The ITC Rajputana is a very beautiful hotel with clean and spacious rooms. Friendly and wonderful staff. Excellent buffet breakfast.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Jaipur on Booking.com: BOOKING
Day 8-9: Kochi (Cochin)
From Jaipur, we took a direct flight to Kochi. Depending on how late you arrive in Kochi we would recommend staying one or two nights.
We arranged a private chauffeur to take us to the various sights in Kerala. Although the distances that you will cover to visit these Kerala sights are nothing compared to the kilometers traveled in the Northern part of India it is still a much more comfortable way of traveling.
Things to do in Kochi
Kerala cannot be compared with Rajasthan. It could just as well be another country.
It’s a very tropical city with lots of water and palm trees and if somebody would have told us that we were no longer in Indian bu in Thailand instead we could have believed him.
If the use of Cochin and Kochi gets you confused you’re not alone. Both names refer to the same city.
Kochi is the official name but many people still use the unofficial Cochin which was used by the British occupiers.
Kochi is the economic capital of the state of Kerala. It is a big city but the highlights are all located in the same part of the city and can be covered in a half-day.
We visited the Chinese Fishing Nets, the Pardesi Synagogue, and the St. Francis Church. Along the way we walked through Princess street, the place to hunt for souvenirs, snoop around bookstores or relax with a drink and some food.
The Mattancherry Palace, also called the Dutch Palace, is also worth a visit. It cannot be compared to any of the palaces we visited in Rajasthan and showcases many differences in the life of the Maharaja between the north and the south of the country.
We also attended a Kathakali dance show.
This is a story play that originated in Kerala and is still unique to this region.
The show kept us amused for the full hour. Although we lost the storyline somewhere halfway the costumes, make-up and acts alone justify attending the show.
The make-up is done in such a way that you might think that the actors wear a mask.
Depending on your agenda you can attend a Kathakali show in Kochi or Munnar.
Where to stay in Cochin
Le Méridien Cochin
We stayed in Le Meridien Cochin and had a wonderful time. We had a very big comfortable room and enjoyed the delicious breakfast. The staff was so accommodating and even invited us to the miss Kerala election that was held in the hotel. We would definitely stay here again if we would return to Cochin.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Cochin on Booking.com: BOOKING
Day 10-11: Munnar
From Cochin, we continued our India itinerary in two weeks towards the hill station of Munnar.
Driving time: 112 km- approximately 4 hours.
Things to do in Munnar
Munnar is a great location to spend 2 days. Best of all is that the temperature is really enjoyable as it is higher up in the mountains.
It might even feel a little chilly when you’re acclimatized to the temperatures in Rajasthan.
Munnar is famous for its many tea plantations. As you ride between the plantations you have plenty of opportunities to take very Instagram worthy pictures. Several tea plantations are open to visitors. You can see how tea is made in the factories and you can learn more about tea in the tea museum.
For an even more authentic experience, you can book an organized tour that takes you on the unpaved routes deep into the fields.
You will meet some of the tea pickers and see how they still mostly manually pick the leaves.
Did you know that they collect around 100kg of leaves every single day?
We loved the tea plantations so much that we would almost forget the other highlights of Munnar which are the Mattupety Dam, Echo Point and Top Station.
Along the way, you will pass several photogenic waterfalls and if you’re lucky you might even spot elephants.
Hiking is another excellent way to witness the beauty of the region. Several gorgeous hikes can be done ranging from easy to rather difficult but most are unmarked and require a guide.
In the evening you can attend the Kathakali as well as Kalarippayattu shows. The latter is a very energetic martial arts show.
Where to stay in Munnar
Fragrant Nature Munnar
The Fragrant Nature Munnar hotel is gorgeous and beautifully situated on the top of the valley amidst the jungle. It is surrounded by tea and spice plantations. The hotel has comfortable and well-equipped rooms and helpful and accommodating staff. The view from the room is outstanding.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other hotels in Cochin on Booking.com: BOOKING
Day 12-14: Alleppey-Kumarakom-Cochin
These were two fantastic weeks in India with a relatively well-filled agenda. Kumarakom or Alleppey are good places to end your holiday and relax before you head back home.
We compared both places and opted for some quality time in a resort in Kumarakom.
Below is a short comparison between the two.
Driving time: 175 km- approximately 4-5h
Should you go to Alleppey or Kumarakom?
This depends on what you want to do.
If you want to cruise the backwaters and stay a night on a houseboat you can opt for Alleppey.
The boats leave from both locations but Alleppey has by far the widest choice.
You won’t find any resorts in Alleppey, these are all located along the lakeside in Kumarakom.
Kumarakom is the most flexible of the two as it allows you to combine a stay in a resort with an overnight cruise on a houseboat. Some of the resorts have their own houseboats and offer this as a package.
You should know that although an excursion with a houseboat lasts almost a full day the boat will only sail for about 6 hours.
Local regulations reserve the lake for the fishermen at night, all houseboats need to dock by 5:30 PM.
The majority of the 6 hours are also spent on the lake.
The small boats called Shikara offer an alternative way to see the backwaters. You can charter these per hour as a couple or family.
An advantage of these small boats is that they are private and can navigate the narrow channels.
Knowing this we opted for a 2-hour Shikara boat ride.
This cruise was one of the highlights of our trip to Kerala as the backwaters are so peaceful and beautiful. We observed the daily life of the villagers living next to the canals and could see how they were doing their laundry in the river.
We also saw plenty of colorful birds.
If we would go back we would definitely opt for a Shikara again.
The Shikara boats leave from the Kavanattinkara boat jetty in Kumarakom. This is close to the entrance of the bird sanctuary and your boat ride will actually take you along part of the edge of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary is a nice place to enjoy nature but the dense forest will make it difficult to spot birds.
You can combine your boat ride with a visit to the sanctuary, just know that you will probably see more birds during the boat ride than during your forest trek in the sanctuary.
This region in Kerala is also famous for its Ayurveda massages. Ayurveda is a buzzword that’s popping up all over the world. What you may not know is that it originated in India several thousand years ago.
It’s a way of life that revolves around creating peace and harmony in the body by aligning different energy channels, called chakras. The Ayurveda oils that are used have medicinal and detoxing properties.
You should try an Ayurveda massage if you currently suffer from insomnia or high levels of stress. We had our massage at an Ayurveda Massage Center but you will see that most hotels offer these massages as well.
You could also combine a backwater tour and an Ayurveda massage with this excursion.
Where to stay in Alleppey
Angel Queen Houseboat
A lovely boat with a top deck for great viewing and a comfortable bedroom and ensuite. The meals that are served are delicious and the scenery divine.
Relaxing and comfortable trip.
If you aren’t convinced of this houseboat, you will find a lot of other houseboats in Alleppey on Booking.com: BOOKING
Where to stay in Kumarakom?
Park Regis Aveda Kumarakom
Classy resort with beautiful rooms that look out over the pool. Excellent food and service at the restaurant. Very courteous and friendly staff. The hotel offers a complimentary sunset cruise. A beautiful peaceful place on the lake.
If you aren’t convinced of this hotel, you will find a lot of other resorts in Kumarakom on Booking.com: BOOKING
You may have heard what they say about India, you either love it or you hate it. Looking back on our trip I conclude that it’s not just as simple.
On several occasions during our 2 weeks in India, we felt frustrated about the scams and the exorbitant prices for foreigners.
At other times we were completely in awe about the beautiful palaces and tombs.
We were constantly swinging back and forth in a complex love-hate relationship.
It was an intense trip but in hindsight, I can say that it was really worth it.
The Rajasthan part was the most intense but also the most mesmerizing part of the journey.
This doesn’t mean that you should skip Kerala though.
We loved this part of our trip as well but it just reminded us more about earlier trips to Thailand or Malaysia.
Do not let the scams stop you from visiting India, but know that a warned man is worth two. Safe travels to India!
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