Wing it! I did... I promise you'll meet other solo travelers along the way and it's well worth the satisfaction of navigating your own path. I met a guy in a train station outside Gokarna nearly 5 years ago who is one of my very best friends today. Don't worry about booking accommodations either. I haven't ever had trouble, even in the midst of peak season.
Dan Oko knows what's up, definitely go to Periyar National Park! Kumily is a hill station so you'll get a little break from the heat and please, please take the early boat ride though the wildlife reserve, I think it's 7 am. Take your camera, it's one of my favorite places to remember. To warn you, if you take the public buses to Kumily (I recommend it!) it'll be an adventure... I got yelled at by some random guy on the opposite end of the bus for hanging out the window to take a picture. Then the bus driver drove the entire bus to the closest police station and had the guy arrested. I had no idea what was going on or how I offended him but it makes for an interesting story...
In all honesty, I thought the house boat ride was really boring. We spent 3 days straight playing Mafia and drinking old monk. I think, because it's on so many tourist's check list for south India, it's been overly saturated and a lot of the charm has faded. If you're intent on going, I recommend the 6 hour ride or even hiring a smaller boat with just one guide so you have a more personal tour of the backwaters. We left from Allepey.
If you can make it over to Pondicherry and Auroville, give it a shot... Style in Pondicherry is amazing! And, it's one of the only places where you can flag down nearly anyone on a motorbike and hitch a ride (always side-saddle).
I am filled with advise on India. It's my own, personal flytrap. If you'd like any tips, let me know where you're headed and how long you'll be traveling...
Posted Dec 17, 2010