My Ultimate Travel Guide to Kerala | Solo Female Travel

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Some people are complete water babies; they love beaches, lakes and everything aqua. Others love the land; hills, peaks and vast expanse of greenery. And others like me love both. And the best place to visit for the best of both worlds is Kerala. To make it even more exciting, you can travel solo to Kerala!

As a solo female traveller, what better place to explore than Kerala? Kerala is called God’s Own Country for good reason. It has repeatedly topped India’s HDI or Human Development Index for years now. It has the best literacy rate in the country and ranks very high on the education and health fronts. 

And due to its picturesque locations, Kerala is a major tourist attraction as well. Solo female travellers like me prefer to go to Kerala because it is one of the safest places to visit in India. It even won the award for best governed state along with Tamil Nadu and Goa recently. Read the blog if India is a safe place for solo female travellers to know more.

The people of Kerala are SO friendly and welcoming. The locals are used to having tourists around, and will go out of the way to help you. Here’s a pro tip: try to talk to the locals in Malayalam (the local language) , and see the bewilderment on their faces! Look up a translator app on your phone. Even a few words like Namaskaaram (hello), Nanni (thank you) and Kshemikku (Sorry) will do. Many people are comfortable with English, but a little Malayalam will not hurt. If you’re travelling solo for the first time, here’s a blog on how to beat all awkwardness and just kill it!

A land of Cleaner roads and denser forests

Apart from this, what I really love about Kerala is its general cleanliness. The state takes its commitment to the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Mission seriously. The cities, towns and even the small villages are well-planned here. So if you are a solo female traveller who is a cleanliness freak, worry not. Kerala is the place for you. Ah, and I cannot stop raving about the drainage system. Even on the worst of rainy days, this system ensures that the roads are not flooded. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that most of Kerala – even the habitable lands – resemble dense forests. I had to count the number of barren lands I encountered and trust me, they were very few. 

When should you visit Kerala?

The best time to visit Kerala is the monsoons (June-September). The green expanse of land adorned with glorious showers make for great viewing. The fragrance of the earth as the first drop of rain falls on it – called petrichor – is incomparable to anything. I liked stepping out on rainy days (with a raincoat on – OBVIOUSLY). But I also loved sitting in my room, looking out my window and marvelling at nature’s beauty. Of course, with a steaming hot cup of chaaya (milk tea) in my hand. Such was my Kerala experience, and being an introvert did not stop me from enjoying every bit of it. Are introverts good at solo tripping?

There are many wonderful places in God’s Own Country, no doubt. But these are my picks for top five cities to visit in Kerala for solo female travellers: 

 1. Alappuzha

Alappuzha is a must-visit in Kerala!

Hear the word ‘Alappuzha’, and what immediately comes to mind is the backwaters. The backwaters are an intricate system of lakes, canals and other waterways that eventually meet the Arabian sea, the backwaters are a must-visit place in Alappuzha. 

You can take a relaxing ferry ride, or better even, rent a houseboat across the backwaters. The houseboats in Alappuzha are a tad expensive to rent, but totally worth it. It is literally a house in a boat – with wonderfully furnished rooms and bathrooms, and even air conditioning! 

On my solo trip to the Alappuzha backwaters, I rented an entire houseboat for myself. The staff of the houseboat were friendly and made me feel comfortable. They served me the local cuisine – complete with hot favourites such as the Karimeen pollichathu (Baked pearl spot), Pepper duck and Spicy fish curry. 

I absolutely enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Kuttanadan landscape! Each of the homes are like little islands and you need to row yourself to get to them. I could not believe my eyes when I saw this – I did not know that such a thing was even possible!

If you take a trip to Alappuzha as a solo female traveller, then you should surely go to Vembanad Lake. Fishing is the main source of livelihood here. If you are up for it, accompany the local fishermen on a fishing trip like I did. The precision and skill with which they catch the fish is just mind-blowing!

A non-touristy thing I did in Alappuzha is observe the coir-making process and even be a part of it. You must be wondering what coir is. It is a type of fibre made using the husk of the coconut. Not many tourists are drawn to Alappuzha’s rich coir industry. You may just get an opportunity to witness something unique after all. The entire process – from defibering to extraction is marvellous!

 2. Kumbalangi

Before the release of the 2019 Malayalam movie Kumbalangi Nights (which was even critically reviewed by the BBC), Kumbalangi was not well-known. Kumbalangi is a small island-type of-village in Kochi. If you like small, quiet hamlets teeming with life, then Kumbalangi should be on your travel list as a solo female travelling to Kerala. 

Kumbalangi’s highlight is its fishermen and their fishing. they do not use normal fishing nets for this, but rather Chinese fishing nets. They are called Cheena Vala in the local language, Malayalam. They are fixed for some time on the edges of the water body instead of being thrown at the time of fishing. Dozens of Chinese fishing nets adorn Kumbalangi’s shoreline and they are a sight to behold. 

The mangrove forests in Kumbalangi are another crowd-puller. As a solo female traveller, you will need a guide or a local to take you inside these thick forests. I suggest you do not go alone even for the sake of adventure because of wild animals. Mangroves also have a lot of leeches and other small insects, so better cover up! Wear boots and full-length clothes if you can. Many organisations do ‘mangrove walks’ in Kumbalangi now, so you can just sign up for them easily. 

As a solo female traveller on a trip to Kumbalangi, you may not find fancy places to stay here. However, you can always bet on good homestays in the region. Always look for Google reviews before you book a homestay. Enquire about the availability of services such as laundry and steam iron beforehand. If they are not available, you may have to look for other local options. 

If you like finger food, the thattukada (small eateries) in Kumbalangi are the right place for you. They serve tasty seafood with local catch from the sea. Fried fish with local masala, crab roast, deep-fried squid and prawn curry are some must-try dishes here. 

An exciting non-touristy thing I did in Kumbalangi is enjoy the ‘sea sparkle’ in the waters there. The sea waters emanate a unique fluorescent light due to the presence of bioluminescent algae. This is nothing unusual for the locals in Kumbalangi, but it was a never-seen-before sight for me! I waded through the shiny waters all by myself and enjoyed some ‘me time’. 

 3. Cherai

A lot of sand, coconut trees, dolphins, and a very few tourists!

Cherai is the ultimate destination for beach lovers in Kerala. It is unlike the busy, always-so-crowded Marina beach in Kochi city. You will love Cherai especially if you are a solo female traveller because of the serene and calm atmosphere. 

Cherai does not have any touristy monuments or buildings to visit. What makes it special is the vast beach surrounded by rocks. It is one of the cleanest beaches in Kerala which follows a strict no-plastic policy. Why? Because of dolphins! Who does not love dolphins? Dolphin-sighting is a common pastime in Cherai. 

If you love taking photographs or love sketching picturesque locations, then you should go to Cherai. The sunrise and sunset, with fishing boats on the horizon, are just perfect for this purpose. If you wake up early enough, you can catch the sight of the fishermen loading the fresh catch into piles to sell them. 

I expected a lot from the Cherai cuisine, but was a little disappointed to find out that most dishes lacked salt in them. Especially in the dishes made of fish. I asked the proprietor of the property I was staying in about his and he said people use less salt in general in the area. I wonder why, to this day. If you are from the area or know anybody from Cherai, could you let me know why? 

I also noticed that there is saltness that lingers in the air at Cherai so I suggest you carry a scarf with you. Or else the wind might ruin your hair. And a bad hair day is not a good start to anybody’s trip, right? 

A non-touristy thing I did at Cherai was to give someone’s pet dog a walk! A tourist was looking for some help with walking her dog as she was carrying fresh fish from the Munnambam harbour. I offered to help her out (for selfish reasons as I love animals). I felt right at home in a strange land. A little kindness does not hurt anyone.

4. Thrissur

Elephants in Kerala are adorned with jewels, flowers, bells, and it is such a sight to behold!

Elephants, temples, celebrations. These are what the cultural capital of Kerala, Thrissur, embodies. If you want a slice of the Kerala festive spirit, then you should visit Thrissur around May. This is when the famous Thrissur Pooram, the annual festival of the Thrissurkar (People of Thrissur) happens. Mighty tuskers adorned in silks sway in unison to the traditional percussion instruments. People get immersed in the music and forget themselves. Bazaars are put up in the famous Sakthan ground, and everybody – from children to elders rejoice. It is nothing like anything you have seen before, mark my words. As a solo female traveller on a trip to Kerala, the Thrissur Pooram has to be on your must-visit list. 

The sites where the Pooram happens – the Vadakkumnathan Temple and the Paramekkavu Temple – are tourist attractions in themselves, even on a regular day. They are two of the oldest temples in all of Kerala. Getting up before dawn and taking a trip to the temple fields will give you a sense of inner peace. You could also chat up with the locals to understand the meaning behind the rituals. They can also give you a brief history of each temple and why they came to be built on that particular piece of land. 

Thrissur is nothing without the world-famous Swaraj Round or Thrissur Round. It is the second-largest roundabout in the whole world and the second in South Asia. It is 2 km long and connects all the major commercial hubs in Thrissur. The Thrissur Round is also special because it is the spot where the famous Puli Kali (Tiger Show) happens. It takes place during the Thrissur Pooram. 

Thrissur has some of the most iconic restaurants in Kerala. If you are a die-hard foodie like me, you should head to Bharath Hotel in Thrissur. Though it is called a ‘hotel’, it is not one. It is a restaurant. It is an Indian habit to call a restaurant hotel. Bharath Hotel is undoubtedly the best vegetarian restaurant in Thrissur. Fluffy pooris, crispy dosas and smooth thayir vadai (curd vada) are its specialties. If you love Biryani as much as I do, you should go to Sapphire Hotel (again a restaurant, not a hotel). The meat is deep-fried before being baked with rice and spices. Simply irresistible!

I did an exciting non-touristy thing in Thrissur. As I was passing through Swaraj Maidan, where elephants usually stop before their next festival or event, I got an opportunity to give a bath to a big elephant. I casually asked the mahout if I could pat the elephant. That is when he told me that he was going to bathe the tusker. I asked if I could join in and what followed was great fun. It was kind of scary at first, but I understood what a majestic creature the elephant is! Well, there is a first-time for everything I guess.

5. Munnar

Travelling to Kerala as a solo female, but Munnar is not there on your list? Then there is something awfully wrong with your list! Hills stations are popular for their pleasant weather and erstwhile British charm, and Munnar is no different. It is the crown on the head of the beautiful district of Kerala that is Idukki. Temperatures never extend or go below 20 degrees in Munnar and that is why it is an evergreen place to visit. Suppose you want a place to relax and rewind during the unforgiving Indian summers – go to Munnar! 

If you like a hot cuppa, then the tea gardens at Munnar should be the place to go first. You could wear the hat of a fine tea sommelier for a couple of hours and taste the finest teas. the local tea pickers could show you how a typical day is for them, and you could do some picking too. Trekking around the hilly areas is a great option too, especially for solo female travellers to explore places on their own. 

Water falling with a rush of intensity has always fascinated me. And I love water bodies like dams. If water makes you happy too, then you should head to Munnar’s very own Mattupetty Dam. You could take a walk along the top of the dam or do some boating. The locals are very friendly at the dam and may even teach you a boating trick or two. If birdwatching is of any interest to you, you may be pleased to know that the dam is home to many indigenous birds and animals. Some of the wildlife is also endangered, so make sure you do not overstep boundaries while interacting with them. 

If you cannot get enough of wildlife, then the Eravikulam National Park is just the place for you. It has a bit of history attached to it as it is Kerala’s first national park. It is home to the very famous Lion-tailed macaque and the Indian Gaur. You can also personalise your tour to the park with your very own tour guide for a truly unique experience. 

Some tips to keep in mind

Travelling to Kerala as a solo female tripper can be very exciting. However, adhering to a few pointers can make the difference between a good journey and a great journey. Note the following before embarking on the ultimate journey to Kerala:

  • Always be on your guard. If you are feeling ‘meh’ about your first solo trip, here’s a blog on my first solo travel experience. As a solo female traveller on her way to Kerala, you need to know the local helpline numbers in Kerala. Dial 1090 for the Crime Stopper Helpline and 1961 for general inquiries.
  • Kerala is very humid – whether it is pouring heavily or it is burning hot. So do not choose synthetic fabrics. Go for natural ones like cotton, soft silk or linen. 
  • You need special permission to enter certain places. So enquire about the place you are visiting beforehand. 
kerala solo female

This cream and gold 6 yards piece of cloth is referred to as ‘Onam saree’. It is worn during a famous harvest festival (Onam) in Kerala. You can find this in almost every saree shop around Kerala!

  • Culturally, people are averse to revealing clothing in the state. So being a little modest will not do you any harm. 
  • Always watch your step in Kerala. I mean this literally. As much as we love dense vegetation and forests, we should also be wary of poisonous snakes. Do not walk in dark spots without a flashlight in hand. Do not forget to carry these important things too.
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Swagachi

An introverted solo female traveller on an adventure around the world.

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