by Katie Heller
Katie is the coauthor of Postcards from Yonder, a super awesome, not-your-typical-travel-blog publication. She and blog partner Kevin conjure up travel tips and guides, while also producing some amazingly unique, artsy, savvi material. This duo's blog also allows you to request a postcard from them, wherever they may be! How savvi is that? You guys rock!
Most people who have traveled to India describe an intense love-hate relationship with a country that’s beauty is only matched by the amount of trash you’ll find on the streets. Indeed, India’s culture, food, fashion, and people create a sensory overload that is both wonderful and exhausting, and truth be told, by the end of our time there, we became pretty calculated in our consumption — joking that we needed “Half India – Half Hotel” to keep our energy and spirits high. We couldn’t get enough of the bright colors, the pure veg food, and the cultural traditions, but being a foreigner in India (or gora, as they’re called) attaches a price tag to your head, meaning it’s a pretty constant barrage of photo-taking, begging, peddling, and traffic-dashing, necessitating some requisite daily down-time. To be clear! We love, love LOVED India (and I don’t even mean love-hate!). It’s just not a particularly easy place to travel.
But! India has a BIG secret.
Below the trash heaps, the cows, the smog, and the chaos, there’s a part of the country that more closely resemble California than some of it’s neighboring Indian states. Where the traffic isn’t the only sound you hear, where the ocean meets beautiful cliffed coasts, and foreigners can walk around for whole MINUTES without a service being offered.
Enter: Kerala, the most relaxed state in India…
One of the most beautiful, peaceful, and spiritual places you’ll find…not just in India, but the world. It’s the perfect first dip into India OR a great final respite if you’ve already been in the north. It should be on everyone’s travel list because quite simply, it is so damn chill and awesome with varied activities and landscapes galore. Of course, OF COURSE, go to the rest of India, too (more posts on that coming!), but for the inner hippie in all of you — get thee to Kerala straight away.
FOR THE URBAN HIPPIE: Kochi
Kochi is for culture and thrifting junkies. The old town (Fort Kochi) is full of antique shops with some of the coolest trinkets, furniture, and art you’ll find in India, and if you wander along Bazaar Road, you’ll even find some modern and hipster cafes to balance the Old. Also well known for it’s chinese fishing nets, the coastal waters make for some fascinating people watching. It’s also worth noting that this is where we got be extras in an Indian film, which made for a VERY exciting day.
How long to stay: 2 night/3 days
Where to stay: Aaron’s — a comfortable and cheap airbnb with air-conditioning and the most adorable family to accommodate you.
FOR THE MOUNTAIN HIPPIE: Munnar
India has many “hill stations” which are towns in the mountains that were created so that Indians could escape the inevitable city heat. You can find these all over India, and there are a few noteworthy ones in Kerala. We chose Munnar for a couple of logistic reasons, but it surely didn’t disappoint. With acres and acres of tea plantations and views for days, you’ll feel more like you’re in Sonoma than India.
How long to stay: 2 nights/1 full day
Where to stay: We didn’t love our place there, so no official recs, but I’d suggest finding a place outside of the city center, which is gross and congested.
Pro-tip: Skip the package day-tours and call Vijay – 09495187553. We did an amazing and totally affordable private day hike with him through the tea fields which were breathtaking. Also, you’ll find him in our India video, dancing in the background, which just shows how fucking awesome he is.
FOR THE BEACH HIPPIE: Varkala
Okay, so I LOVED this little beach town, but in the interest of being extra transparent: this is NOT a sunbathing kind of beach. The red cliffs reminded me of the California coast lines, and with hipster cafes and yoga classes galore, this doesn’t represent India culture as much as it’s just a kick-ass place to hang out and eat great food while looking at the ocean.
How long to stay: 3 nights/3 days (at least!)
Where to stay: We loved the couple who ran this place — the rooms were comfy, and the location was awesome.
Pro-tip: Very randomly, our time there become dominated by getting custom clothing made. There are tailors all along the coast, and they can make anything…VERY fast. Much like Hoi An in Vietnam, this is a great place to get some custom threads.
FOR THE WATER HIPPIE: Alleppey
The “backwaters” of Kerala are known for their beauty, and many opt to take old house boats to cruise the water. We opted to stay on land, and take daily cruises since the houseboats are pretty well-known to pollute, but you can also kayak, swim, or just enjoy the views of the beautiful interconnected waterways. There’s not much else to do in Alleppey, so this is about enjoying the distinct scenery.
How long to stay: 2 nights/2 days
Where to stay: Ayana’s is a bit further south than the more popular backwaters, but that means it’s less crowded (which is nice). Plus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the family and staff that runs this house. They are AMAZING, and cooked the best food we had in ALL of India — and it was significantly cheaper than all the other accommodations we found. We talk about this place, and Goepel — the father who runs it year-round — all the time because it was such a special experience.
FOR THE SPIRITUAL HIPPIE: Amritapuri
We stopped at Amma’s— one of the most famous gurus in India — ashram to simply check it out for one day. Never having been to an ashram, I didn’t know what to expect — I imagined it being a bit cult-y and was anxious to find out just how hippie-dippy it could get. To my surprise, I really, really liked the ashram, and the energy and environment it created. I wrote a whole post about it, so I won’t go on here, but for anyone interested in an ashram experience, this is certainly a worthwhile one to look into.
How long to stay: 2 nights/2 days
Where to stay: You stay at the ashram in their basic dorm set-up. If you’re a couple, they try to get you in a private room together, which is what we had. It was not comfy, but it was totally tolerable.
Pro-tip: Call/email to make sure Amma is actually there when you plan to go — part of the experience is getting a hug — or “darshan” from Amma. I think I still would’ve liked it sans hug, but it is kinda THE reason you go there.
FOR THE PAMPERED HIPPIE: An Aryuvedic Resort
We didn’t actually get to an aryuvedic spa, but Kerala is very well-known for these. You go to a resort for a period of time (as in, a few weeks) to detox through diet, yoga, massage, and other aryuvedic techniques. As I mentioned, I can’t speak directly to this experience, but I’ve met quite a few people who have attended them, and speak wonders, which is why it’s on my list for the nearish future.
One of the ones recommended to us was Nattika Aryuvedic Resort, but best to do your own research!
Okay, that’s all I’ve got.