Kerala is India’s most southern state, a magical paradise so beautiful to the eye that locals know it as “God’s own country.” Considered to be a “soft-landing” onto the Indian subcontinent, it’s the perfect place to ease you into the culture and chaos of this world-renowned travel destination. Put simply, stepping foot in Kerala is an easy way to discover why so many travellers love India.
Kerala owes much of its appeal to its gloriously layered landscape. This includes almost 373 miles of Arabian Sea coast and beaches, vibrant rainforests and tropical jungles, a tranquil network of glistening backwaters, spice and tea plantations, and fiercely protected wildlife reserves.
If the introduction to this blog hasn’t convinced you to visit Kerala already, read on to find out the top six reasons why it must feature on your India travel itinerary!
The palm-fringed backwaters of Kerala are nothing less than one of the most beautiful and laid-back places in all of India. Life is more gentle here and moves at a slower pace. At the edges of the labyrinth of lagoons, lakes and canals, fishermen can be seen pulling in their nets, while women wash pots in the calm water and children travel to school via slender canoes.
Furthermore, the backwaters are a haven for wildlife, including birds such as kingfishers and fish eagles. The most famous thing here, perhaps, are the traditional rice barges. These wooden vessels are specifically designed to effortlessly negotiate the backwaters, and gliding elegantly along on one of these boats is the perfect way to explore the area.
Moreover, many of the barges have been converted into houseboats. These are a great choice for a more unique style of accommodation, which will really allow you to soak up the local life and culture here. In fact, the interiors are often extremely comfortable and luxurious, with many having onboard chefs cooking up local specialities for the guests. What a treat!
Kerala is situated on India’s tropical south-western Malabar Coast. Many of the beaches are long, sprawling, and relatively deserted. Consequently, this makes them an attractive alternative to the ones found in Goa, which are more well-known and much busier.
Each beach in Kerala has its own distinctive personality. Kovalam has a famous striped lighthouse and is the most lively one of the lot, the closest you’ll get to the typical ‘Goan’ beach experience. Meanwhile, Varkala is less crowded with a more chilled-out vibe, and Marari is ideal for those seeking serenity, courtesy of its resort specialising in Ayurveda treatments. Kannur, Kappad, Cherai, and Bekal beaches are all worthy contenders too!
The wildlife in Kerala is yet another reason why this place is so paradisiacal. Birdwatchers descend upon the region to catch a glimpse of the different species here, from Indian Koel and Loten’s Sunbird, to Shikra and, if they’re lucky, the Ceylon Frogmouth, a rare kind of owl. The Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary is worth a visit too, providing a more intensive avian environment to enjoy.
Additionally, Kerala has more than 25 wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, so there are plenty of opportunities to see different kinds of wildlife during your visit. You’ll be spoilt for choice, but the best option has to be a visit to one of Kerala’s two tiger sanctuaries. Here you can go on a jeep safari in search of the Bengal Tiger.
Alternatively, go to any one of Kerala’s six national parks and you’ll be in with a shot of finding various endangered species such as the Indian sloth bear, lion-tailed macaque, Indian bison, and Nilgiri tahr too.
The hill stations
Many visitors are surprised to discover that Kerala is also home to some of India’s loveliest hill stations. These emerald green retreats are tucked high in the east of the region, close to the Western Ghats ranges. Often sitting 1,600m above sea level, this area is a welcome cool respite in comparison to Kerala’s coastal heat.
Undoubtedly, Munnar is the most popular. Nestled at the confluence of three rivers, it’s famous for its rolling tea gardens and interesting tea museum. In addition, it’s the best place to spot a neelakurinji, a flower that only blooms every 12 years. Alternatively, Athirapally is famous for beautiful waterfalls, while Thekkady is a great base for trekking.
Keralan cuisine is hugely influenced by its geography, being a delicious blend of fresh seafood, exotic spices, and tropical ingredients.
Coconut milk is a vital commodity here and people travel here specifically to sample its distinctive flavours. Food is often served on banana leaves, a charming experience that somehow enhances the flavours in a dish, particularly when accompanied by a refreshing toddy (palm wine).
Must-try dishes include appam with stew, puttu, ghee roast dosa with sambhar, and karimeen pollichathu. However, it’s simply a tried and tested fact that anything you order in Kerala will tantalise your tastebuds.
Kerala’s culture is as distinctive as its cuisine, resulting from the blending of influences brought about by the people and religions that have passed through here. In fact, the culture is a unique combination of both Indian and Dravidian ways of life and is reflected in Kerala’s buildings, clothing, cuisine, and martial arts.
Additionally, the performing arts are a massive part of the region’s well-preserved cultural heritage. Performances are popular with both locals and tourists alike. You can watch Kathakali, a classical dance from the 17th century, or Chakyarkoothu, a kind of comedy satire.
Information about upcoming performances can be checked at the Kerala Kathakali Centre, Kerala Kalamandalam, Folklore Museum, or Kadathanadan Kalari and Navarasa Kathakali Centre. Fort Kochi also hosts Mohiniyattam dances, Theyyam shows, and kalaripayattu martial arts too.
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