I helped a friend plan her honeymoon in India and I thought it would make the perfect topic for a blog post. While I have helped plan honeymoons in the past, this experience is particular unusual because the couple want to go off the beaten path, on their honeymoon – go figure!
One could argue that a honeymoon is one of the most important holidays for a couple and so it deserves to be well planned. This post is meant to provide some tips on how I helped to plan this off beat honeymoon in India. I suggest you can take away the process or simply see the destinations I considered for my friends.
Getting to know the couple
When I start to help a couple to plan their honeymoon, I take the time to get to know the couple individually and then together as a couple. This might sound obvious, you’ll be surprised how many times I discover that couples do not always have a clear understanding of their partner’s travel wishes.
In most cases because I am helping friends, I know at least one of the persons well. But all the same, I still meet for coffee with a very clear agenda around the honeymoon – trying to understand what they absolutely love and what they absolutely hate. The intention is to understand the type of things each of them would like to do or not. At this stage, I simply try to understand the types of activities or locations, rather than specific destinations. I also like to understand about previous holidays they have had which they really enjoyed or are particularly memorable.
Then I meet the couple together for a coffee to understand the things they enjoy together as a couple. Most of the times the individual preferences tend to get adapted as a couple. This stage is crucial to establish some basic understanding of what kind of places the couple is likely to enjoy together while respecting individual preferences.
Making an Initial Plan
With a clear understanding of the couple’s preferences for places and a sense of the type of things they like to do, I then do some initial planning for the type of honeymoon for the couple.
For my friend, it turned out that the couple both wanted to do something unusual and off beat. Their personalities were different, but what they agreed upon was that they’d like to not be sitting on a beach sipping coconut water. Phew, that made life a lot easier for me because it meant that I can focus on the destination rather than trying to get them to agree on common ground 🙂
Since they are getting married in India, I thought of starting with India as a honeymoon destination. I broadly broke down the country’s regions into 4 parts,
- North India: Cooler, Mountains, Nature, Activities
- West India: Warmer, Palaces, Historic
- South India: Green, Cultural, Relaxation
- East India: “Rugged”, Nature, Un-explored
Narrowing down options
This very broad brush classification is just that, a generalisation for me to start thinking (and tell them) about the locations and activities in each of these parts. I did this classification to structure the thinking for everyone rather than stereo-type any region.
- West India (Rajasthan, Gujarat, etc.) is usually the first stop for tourists because they usually like to see the palaces and forts in the region, I thought that it was not off-beat enough for my friends
- North India is great for indulging in nature and even for outdoor activities and sports, but they had already spent a lot of time in North India in the past, so this was a no go
Narrowed down my selection to South and East India for their honeymoon.
- East India is fascinating because it is relatively un-explored compared to other parts of India. In particular, I was thinking of the state of Assam because of the off-beat things that they could do there – Rhino safari, boat rides, nature walks, etc.
- South India was equally fascinating because of the mix of nature, relaxation and great food
My friends wanted off-beat but also wanted luxury. They wanted to enjoy hotels that they stayed in and indulge a little. This seemed to be a problem in some parts of East India as far as I could tell because luxury properties are not as extensive as they are in South India. It seemed to me that South India was ticking all the boxes for my friends, so I decided to focus on this region.
From Options to a Plan
Now that I had a region in mind, I could focus on the fun stuff and make a plan. I usually start with standard tourist itineraries and then customise them for the specific couple.
I started by looking for Honeymoon destinations in South India. I don’t have a favourite source, but I almost always read Quora and Tripadvisor because they give me a real person’s perspective rather than a marketing message. The long list of destinations I initially found and the ones that looked interest are,
I did very quick google searches for these places, and I usually tend to look at Images first as a quick way of getting a sense of the place. Not the most accurate, but very good for an initial shortlist.
What I liked: Authentic Kerala experience, house boats, local sightseeing options
What I didn’t like: Connectivity is not the best, Might get monotonous after some days (what can you do on a houseboat? take a walk?), loads of tourists
What I liked: Indulge in nature, spice farms, trek options, good food, excellent accommodation options
What I didn’t like: Connectivity to other places not the best, loads of tourists
What I liked: Indulge in nature, spice farms, trek options, quaint town
What I didn’t like: Connectivity, limited local tourism options
What I liked: Old world charm, local sightseeing options, connectivity
What I didn’t like: Limited chances to indulge in nature/treks, loads of tourists
What I liked: Loads of options for local tourism, elephants
What I didn’t like: Connectivity, limited accommodation options locally, loads of tourists
What I liked: Indulge in nature, spice farms, trek options
What I didn’t like: Connectivity, limited local tourism options, loads of tourists
What I liked: Indulge in nature, trek options, animal safari
What I didn’t like: Connectivity, limited local tourism options
What I liked: Quaint town, accommodation options, local tourism
What I didn’t like: Beaches do not seem the best for sun bathing, might get monotonous after a few days, loads of tourists
What I liked: Authentic Kerala experience, ayurvedic spas, accommodation options
What I didn’t like: Limited local tourism options, loads of tourists
What I liked: Historic, cultural, accommodation options, connectivity
What I didn’t like: Medium sized city
What I liked: Indulge in nature, trek options
What I didn’t like: Accommodation options, connectivity
What I liked: Indulge in nature, spice farms, trek options, not as many tourists
What I didn’t like: Connectivity, limited local tourism options, limited accommodation options
The Final Plan
It took me a good part of a week to do the research above. And now I was ready to make some travel plans!
Most of the options above had loads of green areas to relax and explore. So for me, it was a matter of selecting places that complement each other and can work together as a coherent holiday. I considered these 3 alternative plans,
- Munnar – Alleppey – Kumarakom: This is a standard triangle tour and provides a good mix of different things including nature treks and house boats that are traditional to Kerala
- Kabini – Munnar: Kabini is great for a safari and Munnar is perfect to relax. You can even stay in hotels that are part of a tea plantation!
- Wayanad: Relatively un-explored area with options for nature treks and safari at Bandipur Tiger Reserve (some hours away)
In the end, I have suggested Wayanad as the ideal destination for them because I saw some very cool accommodation options in the region, and it gave my friends the flexibility of either chilling out at their hotel or heading out and exploring the area.
Hotel Picks for Wayanad
I liked 2 hotels in Wayanad – these seem like ideal honeymoon hotels to me because of their locations, service levels / reviews and generally good connectivity to the key attractions in the region.
My friends picked Wayanad CGH Earth and will be spending a week there this year. I am super excited for them and cannot wait to see pictures!
Have you been there or have any other suggestions for south Indian honeymoon destinations? Please do share in the comments!