We flew from Cochin airport to Jaipur with a stop in Chennai which was a relatively cheap flight considering the distance. Jaipur was somewhere I was most excited about coming to in India as I had seen so many photos online of the pink hues and grand palaces and it didn’t disappoint. The traffic is CRAZY here but it has a charm, it’s bustling everywhere with so many things to see. I did find it more expensive than I thought it would be, entrances to the palaces can be around 500 rupees each and more if you want guides. We did pay for a driver to take us around for the day which was around 1500 rupees which is expensive but we managed to do all the sights in one day with no hassle. It was an expensive day but again worth seeing everything whilst your there! I wasn’t that impressed with City Palace as for 500 rupees you can only see the outside grounds it costs 2,500 to enter the palace itself. Amber fort lived up to expectations which was very big and beautiful would advise about 3 hours here. We did walk up Nahagrah Fort for sunset which is beautiful, a hard climb but well worth it at the top! We also did Monkey Temple which was such an experience! They are everywhere! This was the only place we opted for a guide as the monkeys can be aggressive and the local guide looks after you and shows you around for 200 rupees. This was such an experience not to be missed!
WHERE TO STAY
Named one of the most romantic hotels in India it really did live up to its reviews. The decor is unreal and each room is themed to different states from across India using artists and pieces from the the states. We stayed in Jaisalmer room which included a breath taking stone carving interior, a swing seat and the comfiest bed. It really did take my breath away and was visually stunning inside the room and outside the room. Every little detail – the staircase, the lobby, the floors, the ceiling the intricate designs brought the beauty of India inside the building it was a really great experience staying there. They also have a great cheap breakfast menu which you can have in your room, we had cheese toasties which were really yummy! They offer free shuttles between the hotels aswell so if your staying there and want to eat and the peacock restaurant they will take you free or charge. It was the perfect haven after driving around jaipur to come back and relax I really could not fault this place!
The sister hotel for Pearl Palace Heritage and down the road it has similar feel decor wise and a great clean room with a TV and really comfy bed. Lots of very tasteful local decor on each floor, beautiful paintings and a nice outside courtyard to chill in a very nice vibe. This is the cheaper option of the 2 and is a popular hit in lonely planet for travellers. It also has a shop inside which has good printed cotton pieces to buy at good prices. It also boasts the Peacock Rooftop restaurant which was one of our favourite places we have eaten in india. We ate there both nights for dinner and had breakfast there! The menu is huge with both Indian and continental, something for everyone! The paneer curry was really great and has such a nice vibe, I advise booking a table here as it was busy both nights and they had local live music! The decor is also really great a really bohemian feel to the whole place. Both hotels made our 2 days in Jaipur so special and it was so nice after driving around the crazy city to come back to really special places to stay.
We got a taxi from Jaipur to Pushkar which took around 2 and a half hours. I was really excited to visit Pushkar as a lot of friends had recommended it and it lived up to its expectations. Pushkar is a very holy place, they don’t serve meat or beer here and you should cover your shoulders and legs whilst walking around. The lake is very beautiful we watched sunset there watching people pray. The market is amazing and take up pretty much the whole of the town so If your looking for clothes, jewellery and things to buy this is the place! There is also courier places everywhere if you want to send items home. Pushkar has a really magical feel to it, everyone is super friendly and we met some characters we certainly won’t forget!
Our first stop was Prem Villas which was in a good location only a short walk from the market and the lake. A great budget option for travellers, clean spacious rooms with nice decor inside and out. The outside is really colourful and bright with lots of paintings around and the staff were really friendly. A nice place to stay if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the markets in the evenings.
Our last night before flying to Thailand we headed back to Mumbai and stayed at Abode Mumbai for one night which is in a great location and was absolutely stunning. A very modern, clean feel with quirky touches. We stayed in the superior luxury room which was spacious with high ceilings, beautiful decor and the comfiest bed. All the little touches throughout the hotel were so well thought about it made it such a pleasant stay.
They have a really nice cafe area to sit and chill in with endless amounts of books to read and downstairs is a really cute cafe so you don’t have to go far to eat. They really think about every detail – they have a mobile with a local sim in to use while you are there, a memory stick with new films on and a map with what’s in the area and where to eat. Every detail is really thought about and makes the stay so easy.
The breakfast was also great offering a spread of cereals, toast, fresh juices and eggs just how you like. I would definitely recommend abode if your stopping in Mumbai it’s the perfect hub to escape the crazy city and the bath was the perfect touch to relax too!
Onto our next stop Thailand!
After a 22 hour journey from Goa including a 15 hour overnight train and 5 hour taxi ride up the mountains we made it to our first stop in Kerala, Munnar, which is famous for the beautiful tea plantations. We then headed to Alleppey to experience the backwaters on a houseboat and finally onto Cochin city to visit Fort Cochin. Again we spent a fair bit on taxis here but we did get a bus from Alleppey to Cochin which was super cheap around 75 rupees so the transport options cater to any budget. We did find you could probably do a couple of days in Munnar, couple of days in Alleppey and then a day or 2 is good in Cochin to see everything you need.
WHERE TO STAY
Windermere Estate in Munnar is right at the top of the mountains and a tranquil retreat. With beautiful grounds, an infinity pool overlooking the tea plantations and super comfy rooms, it offers the perfect escape and quietness you need sometimes when travelling. The staff were extremely helpful and the food was great, offering continental breakfast and a set evening Indian menu which offers meat and vegetarian which was both flavoursome and filling. The whole place had a very chilled and relaxed environment. One of my favourite things was afternoon tea outside which has homemade cakes and local tea! On the first day we chilled by the pool and relaxed and on the second day we went on an organised walk around the local area which was extremely beautiful through the jungle and explored the tea plantations. They have a amazing viewpoint which is great for sunrise and sunsets! Munnar is like another world and a definite must see when visiting India a complete opposite to Goa which is what I love about India most.
After a very bumpy taxi ride down the mountains we arrived in a little village by the backwaters and were greeted by a small boat to take us across to a big beautiful white house overlooking the water. The owner Gopal was sat at the front waiting to greet us at the homestay and blessed us at the doorway. He made us feel so welcome with chai and biscuits and he sat and told us about the homestay, his family and the local area. The room was comfy and everything we needed. We chilled the first evening and watched the beautiful sunset over the water. Dinner was traditional Kerala Indian Thali with lots of different home cooked dishes to try both vegetarian and meat. Desert of local rice pudding was also very yummy! Breakfast was local cuisine with again lots of new flavours to pick and try from and the chai was the best I have had! On the second day we got a rickshaw to Alleppey beach, the beach itself wasn’t that great compared to Goa but it was pleasant and there was a really nice restaurant called Harbour restaurant in which we chilled for most of the afternoon. We then headed back for another yummy dinner. Gopal helped us so much organising transport, calling the houseboat for us for the next day and anything we needed he really looked after us. The homestay offered something very different for us on our trip and it was so refreshing to stay with a family, have home cooked cuisine and get a different perspective on Kerala entirely, would definitely recommend.
Everyone recommends getting a houseboat in Kerala so this was an opportunity we had to splash out on. It cost around £85 for the boat which is from 11am-4pm and includes freshly made lunch and snacks in the afternoon. There are cheaper options if you go on group tours or go amongst more friends and you can also stay overnight on a houseboat which I’m sure is a great experience! It was so fun and relaxing sitting on the upper deck watching the other boats go by and seeing the local life in the sun. A definite highlight of our India trip and something which you shouldn’t miss!
Not in our original plan but something I am so happy we did was spend a few days in Cochin. Fort Cochin is famous for its Chinese fishing nets, Kerala traditional kathakali dancing and Jew Town.Fort Cochin was one of my favourite days in India so far – the area is so beautiful boasting lots of European style cafes and places to eat. We visited the local churches which were really beautiful and a must do is stop at Kashi Art Cafe for cake, we had the biggest bit of cake and great coffee, with a very chilled and relaxing atmosphere. We then went to see sunset by the Chinese fishing nets which is really beautiful. The whole area has lots of things to take photos of, painted walls and cute little details. We then went to the Kerala Kathakali Centre which was a great experience to see the local dancing. The show is from 6-7.30pm and you can watch them do the make up first which is an art in itself! The costumes and dancing was such a good experience and something very different! We then headed for dinner at the Italian down the road called Upstairs, a good photo spot as it has rainbow stairs leading up to it. The Italian menu is great with deliciois pizza and a rooftop style vibe, they also had a guy playing guitar which was very nice! An amazing day and no hassle. Kerala was such a contrast from beach life in Goa and offered a completely different experience which was very special, we are now heading up to Jaipur for a few days which I am really excited about!
Our first stop in India was beautiful Goa, famous for its beautiful beaches and chilled out vibes compared to the north and it definitely didn’t disappoint. We spent 6 days in sunny Goa and moved around every 2 days which is easy enough by taxi or by local buses. We did find that taxis in Goa were pretty expensive compared to everything else but it’s the most convenient way of getting around and the price of food and drink evened everything out.
WHERE TO STAY
We arrived here straight from our flight and after missing our connecting flight we were so happy when we walked through the grand doors to find a pure heaven. Casa Da Graca means House Of Grace and it should be in the dictionary as the meaning of this. From its beautiful interior to its stunning pool it really did offer everything. The staff also make you feel so welcome and special. We had dinner here both nights and they customised our dinner to our tastes (I’m veggie and Ben’s very fussy!). The first night we had continental and the second night we felt more brave and had an amazing curry which was unreal, the flavours could not be faulted. We hoped the food would be as good for the rest of the trip but we think this is wishful thinking! The rooms are all named Creation, Peace, Compassion & Devotion. We stayed in Compassion which is a poolside room with beautiful bohemian details. Tiled floor, four posted bed, rain shower and lots of little touches that make it such a tranquil haven. The first day at Casa Da Graca we chilled by the pool as it was too nice not to lay and enjoy it and the second day we went out in the morning to see the old Portuguese churches in Old Goa and to Mapusa Friday market which was lively and bustling, the staff made us an itinerary for the day including a lunch stop at Cafe Bodego which was beautiful and arranged our driver. We did not want to leave this place, from watching the sunset over the lake with Freshly made biscuits and Chai tea to our candlelight dinners by the pool we left feeling like we had no cares in the world thanks to Anara and the team at Casa Da Graca for the most perfect few days.
An hours taxi ride from Casa Da Graca was our second stop Vivenda Dos Palhacos which was in an area called Majorda. It’s quite a small place but with long white beaches and a lot of places to eat. We were greeted by the 3 dogs at the entrance who we fell in love with, and the house was so beautiful decorated and grand with only a handful of individual rooms to suit your taste. The beds were super comfy and the air con was a dream after a long day at the beach. The pool always looks very inviting with the grand white structure and palms blowing in the background. The bar area is so nice in the evenings, although we didn’t eat here the menu looked great every night if you don’t fancy wandering out and the staff were always friendly. Breakfast has something for everyone continental and Indian, the coffee is very good! If you get to chat to the owner Simon he is full of wisdom about India if you have any questions.
They have a list of recommendations to eat in the booklet so we chose Martins Corner on the first night which was a multicuisine menu, we walked there which was pretty scary in the dark along the side of the road so would advise a taxi although it was an adventure! We both had curry, the paneer and vegetable fried rice was particularly good! Overall we had a great few days in Majorda, it was nice and chilled and no hassle and could not fault the hotel!
I was so excited to go to Palolem as I had heard about the beautiful beaches and colourful beach huts. Our final place in Goa Bhatki Kutur is a health and nature resort with daily yoga and meditation. It was so beautiful walking through the jungle to your individual wooden hut with al fresco shower and toilet which we really enjoyed after checking for bugs first! The huts are beautiful with a cute porch area which have comfy chairs, hammocks, swinging chairs and everything you need to be totally zen. If you like being at one with nature this is your place as we slept in our mosquito net we saw all the critters around and heard all the sounds at night which was a great experience and one that hopefully might cure my fear of bugs… for now! Everyone staying there seemed super chilled and when we’re leaving they were having a communal dinner, so a great place to meet new people if you’re travelling alone or in pairs! Palolem Beach is incredibly stunning and full of life, we ate at the beach front everyday which has something for everyone and is so nice to enjoy a cold beer watching sunset.
When planning our trip to India I didn’t realise how big India is and how long it takes to get around. I would of loved to have had longer in Goa as we have been recommended Agonda, Arombal and the market at Anjuna so you really have to do your research before you go and know the areas you want to visit and how long it takes to get there. Currently writing this on our 15 hour train journey to Kerala which is our next stop before we head up north to Rajasthan. Goa was everything I expected and more, they say everyone comes to Goa in the south as it’s so chilled and no hassle and it really was that. A perfect start to India with incredible beaches, friendly people and good food. We will definitely be back!