Kerala has been aptly dubbed ‘God’s Own Country’. This picturesque destination is sandwiched between the Western Ghats mountains and the Arabian Sea, dotted with magical backwaters, lush greenery, wildlife, pristine beaches, rich art and culture, spice and tea plantations, Ayurvedic therapies and tantalizing cuisine… Here’s why Kerala should be your next travel destination.
The Kerala backwaters are a beautiful, blissful location. Quaint houseboats glide across palm-fringed emerald waters, you can spot unique flora and fauna, go kayaking, and in between indulge in lip-smacking food cooked by talented on-board chefs. The best places to head to catch a backwater cruise are Alleppey, Kumarakom, Kollam, Kasaragod and Kuttanad.
With more than 25 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, Kerala is a perfect place to spot wild animals, migratory birds and raw nature while on a wildlife safari. Some popular places are the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary , Parambikulam Tiger Reserve , Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary , Mathikettan Shola National Park and Periyar Tiger Reserve.
The spice, coffee and tea plantations in Kerala offer picturesque vistas and delicious tastes. There are many coffee, tea and spice plantations spread across the state, with the best ones at Munnar, Wayanad and Thekkady. You can sample different teas or enjoy a refreshing cup of coffee while soaking in the natural beauty.
Kerala boasts many sprawling, pristine beaches with extraordinary views. Laze around, take a romantic stroll, indulge in water sports, and enjoy the mesmerizing sunsets. It’s all a perfect backdrop for a selfie. The best beaches in Kerala are at Kovalam, Kappad, Kannur, Varkala, Cherai, Marari and Bekal.
If you’re into adventure, you never need to have a dull moment in Kerala. The beautiful beaches offer numerous water sports, plus you can go on a wildlife safari, biking, tree climbing, bamboo rafting, mountain climbing, fishing, and jeep rides in the forest.
There’s more to Kerala than ‘just’ natural beauty, though. Kerala has a well-preserved art and cultural heritage, such as Kalaripayattu (traditional folk art) and Kathakali (17th century classical dance) which can be witnessed at Kerala Kathakali Center, Kerala Kalamandalam, Folklore Museum or Kadathanadan Kalari & Navarasa Kathakali Centre. Chakyarkoothu (comedy satire) can be witnessed at temples in Kerala. Mohiniyattam, a 16th century classical dance, and Theyyam, a thousand year old form of worship, are mostly staged in the temples of North Kerala in front of the village shrine. Greenix Village in Fort Kochi hosts Mohiniyattam dances, Theyyam performances and kalarippayat martial art.
God’s Own Country is brimming with ancient treasures. Highlights include the 1568 Paradesi synagogue in Jew Town, Kochi, known for its spectacular Chinese tiles, Belgian chandeliers and period furnishings; Gothic-style Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi; and the Dutch Palace (also known as Mattancherry Palace) in Kochi, featuring murals and frescoes of scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Kerala is the land of Ayurvedic treatments. ‘Ayur’ literally means ‘life’ and ‘Veda’ means science or knowledge. ‘Ayurveda’ means the ‘science of life’- it is one of the oldest forms of traditional medicine that has been practiced in India for thousands of years. It emphasizes a holistic approach to good health and living. Some Ayurvedic treatments include massage, application of oils, yoga, etc.
After a long tour of Kerala, it’s best to relax and unwind with some soothing Ayurvedic therapies and massages that not only give your body and mind peace and relaxation, but also cure several ailments. Many accommodation options in Kerala have an attached Ayurvedic center or spa.
When you’ve had enough of beaches, head up to the cooler hill stations. In Wayanad you can spot an exotic variety of flora and fauna, plus take a tour of the tea, coffee, rubber and spice plantations. Munnar is famous for its rolling tea gardens, the tea museum that depicts the history of tea plantations in Kerala, and neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once every 12 years. In Athirapally, witness the glory of 80-foot high waterfalls. At Thekkady, go for a nature walk through the varied habitats or take the Jungle Jeep Safari to explore the diverse forest.
The people of Kerala are down-to-earth, amiable and welcoming. Though the mother tongue is Malayalam, English is well spoken and understood. There are numerous homestay options, where you can spend time with the locals and experience their culture and tradition first-hand.
For an authentic rural experience, head to Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village, which is approx 14 kilometres (8.6 miles) from the Ernakulam Railway Station. Several homestays are available in this village. You can explore the paddy cultivation, indulge in farming, fishing, canoeing in mangrove forests, etc.
One of the best ways to experience Kerala’s culture is through its gastronomic delights. The coastal state is known to serve the freshest seafood in the country. Savour a meal served on a green banana leaf, along with refreshing toddy (palm wine). Other must-try items are appam with stew, puttu, ghee roast dosa with sambhar and Karimeen Pollicahthu. Drooling yet?
Kerala is brimming with diverse scenery. Be ready with your DSLR or smart-phone while cruising the backwaters, hiking in the hills, or relaxing on a beach. The sunsets are especially spectacular.
Kerala enjoys festivities and merriment throughout the year. Make sure to witness one of the many festivals that the state holds annually. Highlights include the Kerala boat festival (July-September), which is all about team spirit; Onam (August-September), a 10-day harvest festival celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, who brought prosperity and happiness under his rule; and Theyyam (April-December), an 800 year old ritual dance of the gods, in which the mythological stories and tales of India are depicted. All of these festivals depict the state’s rich culture, tradition and beliefs.
From tree house lodging to romantic beach-side resorts and boutique hotels, Kerala offers plenty of accommodation options that provide the best hospitality. Some popular beach-side resorts are Vivanta by Taj, Bekal; The Leela, Kovalam; Turtle on the Beach, Thiruvananthapuram and The Gateway Hotel, Varkala.
Homestays are also quite popular among tourists in Kerala. Kerala Homestay allows you to stay with the natives and experience the local culture. Some of the best homestay options are Vembanad House Homestay, Vembanad; Ayisha Manzil, Kannur; Marari Dreamz Homestay, Marari Beach; and Hari Vihar, Calicut.