Touring the West Coast of India, the Right Way

April 2, 2018

India's west coast

Traveling in India can be daunting for even the savviest travelers.  Infrastructure is lacking, there are hordes of people to contend with, putrid-smelling trash everywhere, sanitary issues with food and water, and the traffic is pure bedlam beyond anything I’ve ever seen, anywhere in the world.

You’re probably thinking, “why would I want to go there?” right?

Simply put India is one of the most animated and intriguing countries that you’ll ever visit.  Having to put up with some inconveniences doesn’t mean you should pass up seeing some of the incredible sights the country has to offer. The history and architecture are fascinating, the vibrant colors are memorizing, and the locals are engaging.

On my recent trip along India’s west coastline, I mitigated the chaos by (a) taking a cruise with Costa Cruise Line, and (b) booking excellently organized tours with Get Your Guide.

Here are four highlights on the west coast not to be missed.

1.  Mumbai

India's west coast

The harborfront. Photo by Kary Kern.

Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is India’s largest city and financial center  It’s a plethora of things to do and see. We began our exploration by walking around the picturesque harbor dominated by the iconic Gateway of India built in 1924 by British Raj.  Near the harbor are some fine-but-crumbling examples of British Colonial architecture, bustling Colaba with its Causeway market, and of course the iconic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

India's west coast

Gateway of India. Photo by Kary Kern.

Other city sights include Dhobi Ghat – the world’s largest (outdoor) laundry, Bombay University, Town Hall, and Minara Masjid. You can venture out on your own in a taxi, but be prepared to be in hours of traffic. An alternative is to take an all-encompassing city tour.

Another fun place to visit is Bollywood, the heart of India’s film industry. Make sure to take a Bollywood tour to get behind-the-scenes secrets, explanations of special effects, and see the gallery of costumes.

If you’re a foodie, but afraid to experiment with Indian cuisine (trust me, “Delhi-Belly” is a real thing), try a walking food tour for safe sampling among the street food stalls.

Extra time in Mumbai? Visit Elephanta Island – ancient cave temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

India's west coast

Taj Mahal. Photo by Kary Kern.

For the luxury of extra multiple days in Mumbai, I can’t recommend highly enough that you plan a one-day trip to the Taj Mahal.  While this day trip may set you back a few dollars, it’s well worth the expense, especially if you’ll not likely get to India again.  Taj Mahal is India’s most famous love letter and one of the finest examples of architecture in the world.

2.  Goa

India's west coast

Wandering in Goa. Photo by Alebaffa

Goa is India’s most popular beach destination.  Beaches here aren’t the most beautiful in the world but are lively and fun and worth exploring.  If you only have one day, try a tour of three of Goa’s sunny, palm-lined beaches – Kerim Beach, Ashwem Beach, and Anjuna beach.

India's west coast

Dancer on the Sunset Beach. Photo credit Dennis

If beaches aren’t your thing, Goa has other things to do.  There’s a tour of old Goa that has been compared to old Rome along with a spice plantation, where you can see and smell aromatic spices that India is so famous for.  There are also excellent places for yoga.

3.  Mangalore

India's west coast

Statue of Bahubali/Gomateshwara. Photo by Kary Kern.

Mangalore is more than meets the eye.  It was our least anticipated city but ended up being one of our favorites. Mangalore sits on the Arabian Sea port and is a major commercial center in India’s Karnataka region.

We only had one day in Mangalore, so we were up at the crack of dawn to climb a 200-step hill and see the 42’ monolithic statue of Bahubali/Gomateshwara, built in 1432. The statue was magnificent, and the panoramic views from the top made it worth the effort.

Subsequently, we set off in a car to explore the outskirts:

India's west coast

Temple of 1000 Pillars. Photo by Patti Morrow

We sifted through the temple of 1000 Pillars in Moodbidri with pillars carved from granite, each having its own unique stories carved on it.

India's west coast

One of the botanicals at Soans Farm. Photo by Patti Morrow

We ambled through botanical gardens at Soans Farm in Belvai, followed by a delicious picnic in an enchanting bamboo forest.

India's west coast

Temple at Udupi. Photo by Kary Kern

Udupi has unique temples that are visually fascinating, especially gorgeous Shree Amruteshwari Temple.

4.  Kochi

Kochi (also called Cochin) is in India’s Kerala state, arguably the prettiest part of India, and sometimes called “God’s own country.”  It’s a mix of medieval Arab, Chinese, British, Portugal, and Dutch influences. My picks of things to do in Kochi would be to take a leisurely walking tour through Fort Kochin and cruise through the backwaters.

India's west coast

St. Francis Church. Photo by Patti Morrow

Built in 1503, St. Francis Church is reputedly the oldest European church in India.  The church is noteworthy as being the original burial place for explorer Vasco De Gama after his death in 1524, although his remains were transported to Lisbon just 14 years later.

India's west coast

Santa Cruz Basilica. Photo by Kary Kern.

Though not as old as St. Francis, Santa Cruz Basilica’s architecture is much grander, and is listed as a heritage edifice of Kerala.

Princess Street is one of the oldest streets in Fort Kochi with lots of small shops, bookstores, and cafes.  Considered Kochi’s main tourist strip, it’s a great place to find street art or to people-watch.

India's west coast

Chinese fishing nets. Photo by Kary Kern.

Kochi is known for its Chinese fishing nets, cantilevered on the waterfront. Legend has it that the nets were brought from China by Kublai Khan’s court in the 14th century. There seems to be perpetual motion going on with the nets.  In front of the nets are streets stalls where you can buy freshly caught fish and handmade souvenirs.

India's west coast

Strolling on the beach. Photo by Kary Kern.

And not to underestimate siren call of just a simple stroll along the beach.  I can never get enough of that!

India's west coast

Mattancherry/Jew Town. Photo by Patti Morrow.

We spent some time walking and shopping for treasures in Mattancherry/Jew Town, the center of the spice trade in Kochi.  It’s an area brimming with shops and antique stores.  We ducked into courtyards of boutique hotels lining the waterfront which brought us out onto the bay.

India's west coast

Kerala backwater. Photo by Get Your Guide

Unfortunately, I was not able to experience the idyllic and peaceful backwaters of Kerala’s Alleppey district.  I’d pre-booked a houseboat cruise through canals, lakes, and paddy fields, but because a local strike was taking place, all tours were canceled so as not to put tourists in danger.  So disappointing!

If you have more time in Kerala, you might want to try a relaxing weekend in Wayanad.

We recommend cruising with Costa as a great option to see a lot of India.  We thought of it as our “floating hotel,” stress-free, which was saying a lot after we’d already been a week on land in Delhi, Agra, and Mumbai, with hassles everywhere we went.  If you’re looking for a way to see India on a medium budget, give it a try – our cabin was always clean, buffet food was good, and the price was right.

Note: Booking with Get Your Guide…always double check return times to be sure the tour you’re signing up for gets back well before your ship’s departure time from that port.

Here’s how to apply for an Indian E-visa in Australia.

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Disclosure: We’ve included Get Your Guide links for your convenience. Luggage and Lipstick receives a small portion of the sale at no additional cost to you.  

16 comments

  1. Comment by Rose Palmer

    Rose Palmer Reply April 8, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Nice article. Saved for future reference.

  2. Comment by Penny

    Penny Reply April 8, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    The same people who tried to discourage me from traveling to Jordan are trying to do the same with my desire to visit India. I didn’t listen then, and I’m not listening now. Thank you for giving me additional ammunition in the form of your great article and beautiful photos.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply April 8, 2018 at 9:22 pm

      You are invincible, Penny! I look forward to reading about your travels to India! xo

  3. Comment by Marilyn

    Marilyn Reply April 6, 2018 at 11:24 am

    I was in India four years ago and I would go back in a heartbeat! I so enjoyed reading your post and looking at your lovely photos.

  4. Comment by Doreen Pendgracs

    Doreen Pendgracs Reply April 5, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks for this great post about travel in India. I’ve avoided the country for some of the reasons you’ve cited. But now that I’ve read your great post, I may just add it to my bucket list!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply April 5, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      It can be a challenge,for sure, but in our case, the misadventures are what we reminisce about the most!

  5. Comment by Donna Janke

    Donna Janke Reply April 4, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    All four places would be wonderful to visit and appear to give different views of India. The organized tours and the cruise sound like a way to experience some of India. I’ve always imagined that travel there could be chaotic at times.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply April 5, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      I’d definitely recommend trying the tours with Get Your Guide — they do a great job!

  6. Comment by Carol Colborn

    Carol Colborn Reply April 4, 2018 at 10:04 am

    You have made sense out of traveling in India and highlighted the key areas. I wonder why you didn’t talk about Delhi. Taj Mahal is closer there than Mumbai.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply April 5, 2018 at 4:19 pm

      That’s a great question… It’s because Delhi is an entire article unto itself. Stay tuned!

  7. Comment by Debbra Dunning Brouillette

    Debbra Dunning Brouillette Reply April 3, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    Fantastic article with great photos! I would definitely want to visit the Taj Mahal and Goa looks beautiful. I love the featured photo of you with the other Indian woman at the top of the post.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply April 5, 2018 at 4:18 pm

      Yes, those were are great choices!

  8. Comment by Irene S. Levine

    Irene S. Levine Reply April 3, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Sounds like a great tour. OMG, loved that picture of you with all the other women!

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply April 5, 2018 at 4:17 pm

      It was spontaneous, right after I’d toured the 10000 Pillar Temple!

  9. Comment by Carole Terwilliger Meyers

    Carole Terwilliger Meyers Reply April 2, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    A tour of a new place, especially one as exotic and congested as India, is always a good idea. Your colorful attire seems to fit the occasion! I will definitely get one of those vibrant umbrellas when I visit.

    • Comment by luggageandlipstick

      luggageandlipstick Reply April 5, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      The riot of colors is one of the best things about India!

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