Kerala – An Experience In God’s Own Country
Kerala is a treasure trove of experiential splendor and natural wonders. The western coastline along the Arabian Sea is high on beauty, beaches and culture with a historic past of spice trade on the Malabar Coast. The Western Ghat Mountains in the east, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, are alive with rich flora and fauna, and dotted with lush plantations and quaint hill towns. Surrounded by pristine stretches of backwaters with thriving local culture, it’s hard not to see why Kerala is God’s Own Country. Thanks to such diversity, experiential travel is the way to go here. Watch the sun set through fishing nets, traverse the evergreen Ghats, or kayak along the backwaters. Spot elephants while bamboo rafting, mingle with locals at homestay, or discover exotic food. Immerse in an Ayurvedic massage, or just laze on quiet beaches. Kerala truly is a refreshing escape, revealing the most authentic, eco-friendly and sustainable side of India.
When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.Alexandra Stoddard
- Destination: Kerala
- Nearest City (Airport): Kannur, Kochi, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram
- Nearest City (Railway Station): Ernakulam, Kannur, Kollam, Shoranur, Thiruvananthapuram
- Dates: On request
- Months: October to Feb/June to August
- Level: Easy
- Guide: Available
- Price: On request
HISTORY & HERITAGE
An impressive number of heritage monuments stand as remnants of Kerala’s rich history of dynasty rulers, spice traders, European colonists, and diverse ethnic communities. Some of the magnificent forts, palaces, temples, churches, museums, and ancient sites dating back millennia, are worth a visit.
• The colonial quarter of Cochin, the Fort Kochi, has beautiful impressions of British, Portuguese and Dutch architecture like the Mattancherry Palace or Dutch Palace built by the Portuguese, the Jewish synagogue, St Francis church, and the Hill Palace museum, the largest in Kerala.
• The religious and cultural heritage of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, is reflected in Padmanabha Swamy Temple, a huge temple of Dravidian and Kerala architectural style dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and the museums of Kuthiramalika Palace and Napier.
• Some magnificent relics of the early medieval period are the Bekal Fort of Ikkeri dynasty, the Trikkukkudi Rock-Cut Temple of Pallava dynasty, and the Kanakakunu and Padmanabhapuram palaces of Travancore dynasty.
• The majestic forts of Kannur, Anjengo, Thalassery and Palakkad take you back to various periods of colonialism.
• Ambalavayal Heritage Museum in Wayanad, the largest heritage museums of Kerala, treasures tribal relics and rare artifacts dating back to 2nd century AD.
• The dolmens of the Neolithic era in the Marayur area, and the rock engravings in the Edakkal Caves in Wayanad can be traced back as far as 5000 BCE to 1000 BCE.
Delve into the historical, multi-cultural and coastal ambiance that surrounds Kerala, exploring the best preserved heritage spots, ports and fishing nets, local boutique and shops, street food stalls, and some colorful local stories to go with all of it. The guided heritage walks will take you off the beaten track to discover the hidden and real gems of Kerala. The cities of Cochin and Thiruvananthapuram are best explored on a heritage walk.
Experience life afloat on inland waterways of canals, lagoon, lakes and forty four rivers, known as the backwaters of Kerala. Cruising comfortably on a luxurious Kettuvallam (traditional houseboat), or kayaking or canoeing along the calm waters, you’ll see rice paddies, fishing nets, coconut groves, secluded islands, rich aquatic life, and rare migratory birds. Delve deeper through village visits by cycle or on foot to explore the riverside hamlets, the communities and the cuisine. The backwaters of Vembanad Lake – Ernakulam (Kochi), Alapuzha (Allepepy), and Kumarakom in Kottayam are popular for their natural beauty and large expanse. The less visited are Astamudi in Kollam, and Kannur Valiyaparambu in Kannur and Kasargod.
With 580km of shimmering shores, Kerala’s palm-fringed coastline has some world-famous beaches such as Kovalam, Kollam and Varkala in the south, and the untouched Bekal, Kannur or Neeleshwar in the north. Indulging in surfing, paragliding or dolphin watching, taking a yoga or meditation session at sunrise, meeting the fishing communities, and enjoying freshly cooked seafood are among many ways to experience beach bliss in Kerala.
An indispensible part of Kerala experience is exploring the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a bio-diversity hotspot. The unique landscape with hills, valleys, lakes, waterfalls, spice and tea plantations, and remote hill tribes is a perfecting setting for ramblers, both trekkers and bikers. The exquisite wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and forest reserves offer a rare wildlife experience, and the famous hill towns make for ideal summer retreats.
The Western Ghats are a walker’s paradise taking you through montane rainforests and national parks, along spice and tea trails to hill towns and villages, with breathtaking views all around. Against the backdrop of Kerala’s highest peak Anamudi (2695m) and many smaller peaks, Munnar, a beautiful hill station, is a good starting point for trekking or hiking. Climb the Seven Malai Hills (1900m) in Munnar, Meesapulimala Peak (2630m) in Idukki, and Chembra Peak (2100m) in Wayanad, among others, or traverse high spots like the Silent Valley National Park, the Rhodo Valley and the world’s highest tea plantation, Kolukumalai.
CYCLING & BIKING
Guided cycling or motorbiking is leisurely-paced but an adventure-filled way to discover Kerala. Ride through the plantations and hill stations in the Ghats, pedal along the banks of the River Periyar to spot wildlife or the backwaters to explore village life, and halt at camps, homestays and eco lodges along the way.
Kerala’s beaches and backwaters are idyllic for adventurous water sports, and all the more exciting and rewarding amidst the natural beauty of Kerala. From para sailing, wind surfing, scuba diving and snorkeling to kayaking, canoeing, and catamaran sailing, there are many exciting sports to indulge in.
The spice and tea covered hills rise to more than 2000 metres in the Western Ghats. There are many idyllic spots to hike or simply relax soaking in the greenery and aromatic air on visits to spice gardens and tea museums, and exploring organic shops for variety of spices, and tea flavors. Famous plantations like Munnar, Thekkady, Kumily and Wayanand are pure treats, especially just after the monsoons.
Laden with natural beauty and no snow, the misty towns in the Western Ghats, originally built as summer retreats by the British, are perfect mountain getaways even today with ample adventure, cultural and relaxation pursuits. Munnar, Wayanad, Idukki, and Nelliyampathy are some of the prominent hill towns to visit.
Discover Kerala’s splendid birding and elusive mammals endemic to the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, and many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the Western Ghats. Spot endangered species like the Malabar large-spotted civet and lion-tailed macaque in Silent Valley National Park, the Nilgri tahr in Eravikulam National Park, the Asian Elephants in the most-visited Periyar National Park, and the Malabar Parakeet and Wayanad Laughing Thrush in Thattekad Bird Sanctuary. Other mammals like tiger, sloth bear, leopard, wild boars, sambar, Black Panther, Great Indian Hornbill could be sighted in Mathikettan Shola National Park, Mukurthi National Park, Pampadam Shola National Park, Begur Wildlife Sanctuary and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, among others. The coastline and backwaters are havens for spotting several migratory birds and rich marine life. Hiking, cycling, motorbiking and game drives in the hills, and boating, canoeing, kayaking and bamboo rafting in the waters are some of the amazing ways to explore the wildlife in Kerala.
Village excursions offer a fascinating glimpse into the rural Kerala life, the inland communities of fishermen, coir makers, boat builders and crafts workers, the remote hill tribes, and the beauty of untouched and tranquil villages. Chat to the rice farmers, enjoy traditional music and dance, or cook fresh seafood the local way. For a truly unforgettable experience, visit the villages of Kumarakom, Kovalam, Bekal, Wayanad, or Thekkady.
LUXURY RESORTS & HOMESTAYS
Staying at luxury resorts with magnificent views, ayurvedic spas, and exotic food, whilst the humble homestays, where the hosts makes you feel at home almost instantly with wonderful stories and home-cooked food; either ways you can experience the warmth and hospitality of Kerala and its people.
A kaleidoscope of art, culture, cuisine, and people, the vibrant festivals of Kerala are deeply rooted in its long-preserved traditions. To join and revel in the year-long festive season, here are some of the most celebrated festivals in Kerala.
• Onam – a colorful 10-day festival celebrating the harvest season (Aug-Oct)
• Vishu – New Year for the local Malayali people (Apr)
• Thrissur Pooram – temple festival with fireworks and enthralling elephant parades (Apr)
• Theyyam – 800-year-old festival with 400 types of dances on mythological themes (Dec-Apr)
• Kerala Boat Festivals – thrilling races in backwaters on different sizes of boats with many riders (Jul-Sep). Famous Boat Races – Nehru Trophy Boat Race in Alleppey, Champakulam Moolam Boat Race at Alappuzha, Vallam Kali at Punnamada Lake and PayippadJalotsavam at PayippadLake.
• Attukal Pongala – 10-day festival in Thiruvananthapuram with large gathering of women offering ‘Pongala’ to Attukal Devi (Feb-Mar)
A diverse array of art forms exhibits the centuries-old culture and traditions of Kerala. Among these are, the classical dramatic dance forms like Kathakali and Kuttiyatam, performed by men in elaborate costumes and painted faces where refined gestures and ornate singing convey stories based on mythology themes; the ritual art forms like Theyyam, a trance like worship of heroes and ancestral spirits; the martial art forms like Kalaripayattu, among the world’s oldest and one of its kind; and the traditional folk dances like Thiruvathirakali, a serene dance performed by women for martial bliss. Feast your eyes on a stage show or immerse in performances during festivals.
The influences of bygone era are alive in traditional Kerala cuisine infused with local spices, unique curry blends, coconut and tropical fruits and vegetables. Sample the local dishes like sambar curry with steamed rice idili, vegetable or fish stew with appam, and payasam, a rice pudding. At festive times, you could savor Sadhya, a traditional vegetarian feast of 26 dishes served on a plantain leaf. Marine delicacies made from fresh seafood from the backwaters are always a treat, and a quick cookery lesson will truly complete your culinary experience.
Kerala offers a wide range of beautiful and exquisite handmade creations like the Aranmula Kannadi (metal mirror), mural paintings, kathakali clay masks, items made from coconut shells, wood, clay and cane, and handlooms like traditional Kasavu sari with golden brocade, among others. Head out to a village to see the artisans at work, or shop for souvenirs at local bazaars or high-end emporiums.
Ayurveda, a 5000-years-old science of healing the mind and body, is part of Kerala life and merges philosophy, psychology, spirituality along with herbal medicines. A ‘drop in’ Ayurvedic massage for relaxation or immersive healing treatment at an Ayurveda retreat with experts in yoga, meditation and nutrition is a complete wellness experience for the discerning traveler.
Kerala will inspire the responsible traveler in you. Responsible tourism initiatives in Kerala have allowed the state to effectively respond to the growing demands of the tourism industry, and implement sustainable ecotourism practices that have minimized adverse effects of tourism on the natural environment, preserved its exceptional biodiversity and cultural heritage, and created awareness, bringing economic benefits to the local communities and enhancing their cultural integrity. Kovalam, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Vythiri, Kumbalanghi, Bekal and Ambalavayal are some of the places to experience sustainable travel.
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