Kerala, like most Indian States, has so much to offer and as usual, most of it is outside the major cities. While Kochi (Cochin) is a must-see for its historic buildings, many Kerala attractions lay beyond the city walls. Here is a 5-day Kerala road trip itinerary from Kochi you can do either with a rented car and driver or a motorbike like we did.

Here is our 5-day motorbike road trip itinerary:

Day 1: Kerala Motorbike Road Trip from Kochi to Munnar

Depending on how long it takes to sort the rental paperwork, you might only leave town past noon. The traffic is busy in town, but Kochi is a charming town to drive through, calmer compared to some of the crazy towns we drove through in Rajasthan, like Ajmer or Jaipur.

Soon the city is behind you, and you continue on a local two-way one that sneaks along villages, rice fields, and bamboo forests. The road is usually congested with trucks and lorries, given this is the main way to the Central Ghats Mountains and Tamil Nadu beyond that. These conditions make for tricky driving but quite manageable.

About three hours from Kochi, the scenery changes to into a hilly landscape, as the road starts gaining elevations.

While this is not the most spectacular day of the trip, driving through small towns and changing the landscape is quite enjoyable.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Hills after hills of tea gardens around Munnar

Hills after hills of tea gardens around Munnar

After five hours from Kochi, you will arrive in Munnar; a rather touristy town spread along the main road. The hotels tend to be full on weekends and holidays, and on the expensive side – for India. Tea is not the only plant that grows around – cocoa too. Have a try at some of the local chocolate sweets for sale around town. Yummy!

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Munnar Local Chocolate

Munnar Local Chocolate

Kochi to Munnar Travel Tips:

  • Make sure to give yourself time to get the paperwork set at the shop.
  • Have a copy of your ID or driver’s license to hand it to the rental shop to keep the original with you, in the case of a police check.
  • Double-check the bike as rental quality varies greatly
  • Don’t leave later than noon so that you reach Munnar before the nightfall, and don’t have to rush on the road
  • Give yourself time to drive along the road and make stop in the different small towns and overlooks
  • Based on our experience, a Pulsar 150 bike might be more adapted to the hilly road conditions than a Royal Enfield 350, which is heavy and somewhat small for two riders. Of course, this is also a personal preference based on driving the two bikes

Gear & Road Safety

  • Gear rental in India might not meet your usual gear quality standard. Make sure to triple-check the state of your bike, take it for a test around the shop, and make sure to flag for anything that seems off. Ask them to repair or fix before leaving.
    • We rented a motorbike from a local shop – a Royal Enfield from I-One Two Wheeler (also called Rent a Bike Cochin). This trip was our second motorcycle rental in India, and while we highly recommend the Rajasthan Bikes in Jaipur, we would suggest finding another place to rent while in Kochi, as we faced several issues with the old and badly maintained bike and an unhelpful management.
  • Road safety in India is an entire topic in itself. Driving there follows one main rule: there is no rule. I would not recommend driving a car, let alone a motorbike if you are not an experienced driver.  The experience can be scary, as the road sign below testifies. Or you are a very fast learner and ready for a challenge. And because “When in India, Do as Indian Do,” Bruno found that the “safest” way was to drive like a local… This type of driving is not to everyone’s taste or comfort zone though.

 

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Kerala Danger Road Sign.

Kerala Danger Road Sign

Kochi to Munnar Road Trip Details:

  • Distance: 130 km (80 miles)
  • Time: 4 hours driving / 5 hours with break and sightseeing
  • Road Conditions: Good, with the occasional potholes
  • Fuel: Plenty villages and local stands available to buy a refill

Munnar lodging:
We stayed at the Maharajah Country Resort, which lays at the entrance of Munnar, and was somewhat quiet. The rooms were spotless, and the manager very helpful. He gave us good advice for a restaurant, the Rapsy Restaurant in downtown Munnar, and recommended we went to Top Point for sunrise.

Other Munnar lodging we listed as good options, should the Maharajah Country Resort be full:

Day 2: Side Road Trip from Top Point Viewing Platform, Munnar, and the Tea Gardens

One of the highlights of Top Point is to watch the sunrise, which means leaving Munnar a good hour before. While the road is pitch dark, you will be alone, a welcome change from to the regular traffic.

The views from Top Point are stunning, extending deep into Tamil Nadu, and the sunrise worth the early rise. Especially since only a few people are usually present at that hour.

The platform area is home to a few gray lemur monkeys jumping from branches to branches and the occasional giant Malabar squirrels.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Sunrise at Top Point, Munnar

Sunrise at Top Point, Munnar

Drive back from Top Point at a leisurely pace, as the daylight allows you to take in the vast expanse of the tea gardens. Hills after hills of dark green bushes.

A few properties display a “Do not enter sign, ” but many don’t. From talking to the hotel manager, you can hike through the green estates provided one is respectful of the fields.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Munnar Tea Gardens

Munnar Tea Gardens

By mid-morning, the small road gets busier as visitors from Munnar – buses, trucks, motorbikes – start to roll in. The section close to Echo Point is the busiest as it is a popular viewing point around the Mattupatti Dam. A morning early will help you avoid the busy areas, as you leave the different viewpoints when others barely arrive.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Villagers by the Mattupatti Dam

Villagers by the Mattupatti Dam

The return to Munnar most likely coincides with lunch time, and the different outlets available in town make it an obvious place to take a break after the morning ride.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Tea gardens from Munnar to Thekkady

Tea gardens from Munnar to Thekkady

The afternoon trip is spent driving from Munnar to Thekkady, sneaking again through tea plantations and small villages, and by a beautiful valley leading to an impressive vertical cliff.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Hindu temple on the road to Thekkady

Hindu temple on the road to Thekkady

The landscape changes from tea fields to thick forests. The road passes by coffee and cardamom plantations, and small temples, before reaching  Thekkady in the late afternoon.

Munnar Tea Gardens Travel Tips:

  • Wake up early, a good hour before sunrise, to make it to Top Point for a stunning sunrise!
  • Try a cup of local tea at the local shop by Top Point
  • Bring a windproof jacket for the higher elevations around Munnar as it gets chilly, especially early in the morning if you plan on watching the sunrise.
  • Allocate the afternoon for the ride to Thekkady as this is a scenic road and you will make several stops to admire the landscape

Munnar Tea Gardens Travel Details:

  • Distance: 35 km (22 miles)
  • Time: 1 drive / 5 hours with break and sightseeing
  • Road Conditions: Good, but narrow at some points, with several potentially deep potholes
  • Fuel: Very few places to refill, make sure to leave with your full tank

Thekkady Road Trip Details:

  • Distance: 125 km (78 miles)
  • Time: 4 hours drive / 5 hours with break and sightseeing
  • Road Conditions: In good conditions, but narrow at some points, sometimes one-lane only.
  • Fuel: Villages available to refill, though not as many as on the road from Kochi to Munnar

Thekkady Lodging:
We recommend the Wood’s Cottage Homestay. A little house on a quiet street close to local shops and restaurant and a clean room meant for a relaxing night. Beware that the GPS might be wrong, double check the address on Google Maps. The owner can help booking activities at the Periyar National Park.

Other Thekkady accommodations we considered:

Day 3: Thekkady and Periyar National Park

Periyar National Park is reputed for its wildlife, especially tigers. And tigers we were eager to see as we reached the park at sunrise. We hadn’t realized it was a holiday weekend, and the number of visitors high. Unfortunately, most of the hikes must be booked ahead of time. One of the main attractions is a boat ride on Periyar Lake, but tickets can be sold out quickly, and the park entrance – a different management than the boat company – can not guarantee any opening left for the boat ride.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Jungle Forest around Thekkady

Jungle Forest around Thekkady

With no activity booked – be it the boat ride or a guided hike – the only thing you can do with the park entrance is to drive the 4-km paved road to the lake. No stepping aside though.The park entrance is quite an expensive attraction – just to get into the park – and with additional costs for the vehicle and the passengers. Even the self-guided walk requires additional fees.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Jackfruits around Thekkady jungle

Jackfruits around Thekkady jungle

So we hear the park itself is beautiful and worth a visit. On our end, we skipped it as we could not access any other activity besides driving the 4 km road. If you plan to go, make sure to book your tour in advance.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Malabar Grey Hornbill, Thekkady

Malabar Grey Hornbill, Thekkady

If you don’t visit the park, Thekkady’s surroundings are lovely. Drive around on the small roads that skirt the park. Maybe not as thrilling as to what the park, but we did see many exotic birds and watched village life.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Meeting with a local village lady, Thekkady

Meeting with a local village lady, Thekkady

The afternoon ride leads down the mountains and back to the flat terrain of the coast, where you reach Kumarakom in the late afternoon.

Periyar National Park Travel Tips:

  • Book your Periyar National Park activity way ahead. If emails fail or the website doesn’t work (like it did for us), call. Or have your hotel help you reserve. Don’t expect to go and arrange the activities on the spot, unless you have a few days to hang around until there is any availability.
  • The park opens early, around 6 am, so make sure to be there early, even with reservations so you can enjoy the park without the crowd

Thekkady to Kumarakom Road Trip Details:

  • Distance: 125 km (78 miles), same distance as the day before
  • Time: 4-hour drive / 5 hours with break and sightseeing
  • Road Conditions: Good, but narrow at some points
  • Fuel: Villages available to refill

Kumarakom Lodging:
The Lake Palace Family Resort Kumarakom is a simple but clean hotel. The only customers in the hotel, we enjoyed another quiet night after a long day on the bike.

Kumarakom had other accommodation options we considered as well:

Budget: Perumpallil Homestay – Reviews on TripAdvisor
Mid-Range: Saro Lake County – Reviews on TripAdvisor
For a Treat: Vinca Lake House – Reviews on TripAdvisor

Day 4: Birdwatching Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary and Cruising Kerala Backwaters

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Rice fields, Kumarakom

Rice fields, Kumarakom

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is best visited at its opening hours, around 6:30 am, to increase the chances of seeing birds and wildlife. Hire a guide for an hour, who can help identify the different sounds of migratory birds like the Siberian storks, egrets, and gray herons.

The park is quite small, and a visit will last about two hours. If you are around Kumarakom, it can be an excellent add-on activity. One recommendation is to rent a small canoe to watch birds from the water instead of from the park. It could be an attractive option, but the coastal section is quite short, so we opted for the hike instead. The boats can be rented by the small canals right by the park entrance though there are not run by the park.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Purple Heron, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Purple Heron, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

The afternoon is a good time to cruise the small canals around Kumarakom, one of the less touristy Kerala backwaters. Many choose the overnight houseboat option, but a day trip is also a good choice. We opted for a day trip as we were short on time. A smaller boat also allows going deeper into the canals, as it can pass under the many low bridges. The small channels take you by villages, women washing clothes, kids playing in the water, fishermen pulling their nets. Many birds reside in the backwaters, and kingfishers, cormorants, egrets and other birds surround you during the whole journey.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Fisherman in Kumarakom Backwaters

Fisherman in Kumarakom Backwaters

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Kumarakom Backwaters

Kumarakom Backwaters

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Houseboat in Kumarakom Backwaters

Houseboat in Kumarakom Backwaters

Day trips like overnight stays usually finish the cruises at Vembanad Lake at sunset, the end of a very peaceful afternoon cruise.

Kumarakom Backwaters Travel Tips:

  • Visit the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary’s opening hours as birds are most active at dawn
  • Eat at the Kumarakom Toddy Parlour, a local budget family restaurant by the side of the road. The dinner is served in bungalow-like settings, and the food is fantastic. Try the local Karimeen fish – also called Pearl Spot – cooked in banana leaves! You might also try the local
  • Many overnight cruises depart from Alappuzha (also known as Alleppey), so head there if you want to have more cruise options.

Kumarakom Lodging:

We spent the second calm and relaxing night at the Lake Palace Family Resort Kumarakom.

Day 5: Arabic Coast, Sandy Beaches, and Fishing Villages

The last day of the road trip takes you along the Arabian Coast. Take the route the closest to the ocean, which allows for a smooth ride through small fishing villages.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Fishermen, Arabian Coast

Fishermen, Arabian Coast

Watch local fishermen clean their nets; a dad repair his gear together with his daughter, fish dry by the side of the road.

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Boat back from fishing, Arabian Coast

Boat back from fishing, Arabian Coast

The road leads back to Kochi, the end of a great 5-day motorbike trip. Make it a full day by going for a swim in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Coast, and chill on the white-sand beach. Paradise it is!

India. Kerala Motorbike Road Trip. Fishing boats on the Arabian Coast

Fishing boats on the Arabian Coast

Arabic Coast Travel Tips:

  • Make sure to take the less-traveled coastal roads to enjoy the local villages
  • Watch the fishermen at sea or in the villages
  • Chill under ones of the palm trees in one of the sandy beaches

Kumarakom to Kochi Road Trip Details:

  • Distance: 55 km (34 miles)
    • Total distance over the five days: 470 km (292 miles)
  • Time: 1-hour drive / 2 hours with breaks and sightseeing
  • Road Conditions: Good, but narrow at some points, with several potentially deep potholes
  • Fuel: Very few places to refill, make sure to leave with your full tank

Cochin Lodging:
We stayed at the Chackalakkal Home Stay. A clean homestay with only a couple of rooms but in a quiet alley close to the historical monuments of downtown Fort Kochi.

If this homestay is not available, these accommodations in Kochi could be a good alternative:

Budget: Honolulu Homestay – Reviews on TripAdvisor
Mid-Range: FabHotel Blue Orchid Railway Station
For a Treat: Ben Homestay – Reviews on TripAdvisor

This Kerala motorbike road trip was a blast, and we enjoyed every single moment of it. There is a good amount of driving, but the roads are nice enough to enjoy the drive. The scenery is fantastic, the landscape very diverse, the wildlife abundant. Recommended!  Just make sure to get a good bike rental to prevent any mechanical issues.

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A Stunning 5-Day Kerala Motorbike Road Trip Itinerary from Kochi - Munnar Tea Gardens, Thekkady Periyar National Park, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Kerala Backwaters, and Arabic Coast Beaches and Fishing Villages