Wedged between the Western Ghats on the East and the Arabian Sea on the West, the narrow strip of land known as Kerala is the destination of a lifetime. It is the land of 44 rivers, innumerable lakes, languid network of glistening backwaters, the spice- and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats, exotic wildlife, traditional art forms and rituals, sprawling paddy fields, and 600 km of glorious Arabian Sea coast and beaches. Its diverse culture is influenced by three main religions: Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Kerala’s rich culture can be best witnessed by experiencing its festivals that are celebrated year round. Kerala has a tropical climate and remains pleasant for most part of the year. April to June is the summer time, with the maximum temperature remaining around 33 degrees centigrade. The monsoon season begins in the month of June and continues till September
Even a casual stroll through Fort Kochi, located in the port city of Kochi, is enough to make you feel transcended to another world and time. Fort Kochi has been drawing traders and explorers to its shores for over 600 years. Nowhere else in India can you find such an intriguing mix: giant fishing nets from China, a 400-year-old synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese houses, and the crumbling remains of the British Raj. The result is an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal, Holland, and an English village grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast. It’s a delightful place to unwind in some of India’s finest homestays and heritage accommodation. Kochi is also a center for Keralan arts and one of the best places to watch Kathakali and Kalarippayattu.
Backwaters in Kerala is a 1500-km network of canals both manmade and natural, 38 rivers, and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. Meandering through the coastal areas of Kerala, it is a long intricate network of lagoons, lakes, canals, estuaries, and deltas of several rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea. The backwaters of Kerala can be best experienced at Kollam, Alleppey, Kumarakom, Vaikom, Valiyaparamba, and Kavvayi backwaters. The unique and perfect way to explore Kerala backwaters is through an overnight stay in a houseboat, a canoe cruise, a public ferry, or a backwater resort amidst lush greenery.
The Marari beach, an hour drive from Cochin is among one of the five Hammock beaches in the world rated by National Geographic survey. Mararikulam is a fishing hamlet where small wooden boats rest on the sea shore. The beach is relatively undiscovered, hence does not have too many resorts. The beach is quiet – only the local fishermen, their traditional colorful wooden boats, and the abundant wildlife share the beach. So you are virtually alone to enjoy the endless crisp white sand under your bare feet, the vibrant green coconut palms, the cool sea breeze, and the azure ocean.
What was established as a game reserve by the British, after independence became a wildlife sanctuary, and later, the Periyar Tiger Reserve. While the area where the reserve is located is well known as Thekkady, the town is named Kumily, located on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Thekkady in Kerala recently bagged the “Top Emerging Destination” award from Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). The wildlife and the rarest of the rarest beings, flora, and fauna is what Thekkady is all about. Apart from the nature beings of this place, the plantations of spices like cardamom and pepper are the other new things you get to learn about from Thekkady. This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The forest department that takes care of the Periyar National Park has an array of activities for adventure and nature enthusiasts such as boat safari for game viewing, nature trek, night patrol, and bamboo rafting.
Located at an altitude of 1600 m above the sea level, Munnar offers an ideal escape from the heated and buzzing urban life into the tranquil lap of nature. It refreshes, rejuvenates, and relaxes every visitor. The mist covered rolling hills, sprawling tea plantations, colonial remnants, panoramic views, and pristine wilderness, all add to the exquisite beauty of this hill station. The idyllic, picture postcard hill station of Munnar was once the summer resort of the erstwhile British Raj. There is a lot that Munnar has to offer – a visit to the tea museum, a guided trek to the Chokkanmudi peak, a jeep safari to Kolukkumalai tea estate, where the world’s highest grown tea is cultivated at an altitude of 8000 ft, a visit to Eravikulam National Park to spot Nilgiri Tahr at close quarters.
The land of resonant past, myths, and legends abound, Kannur is said to be the ancient port of Naura, from whose shores King Solomon’s ships collected timber to build the great temple of Jerusalem. Known even to the Greeks, Romans, and the Arabs, Kannur’s trade links go back a long way. The little known Kannur in the tourism circuit remains rustic and beautiful with it pristine backwaters and long stretches of virgin beaches. Theyyam, the ritual dance, has acquired a cult status in the region, with traditions dating back a thousand years, and is a colorful mélange of ethnic costumes, face paintings, antique weapons, gaudy masks, folk music, ancient rituals, and theatrical art, best experienced in traditional village homes and Kavus (sacred space).
Placed in the backdrop of the majestic Western Ghats, colorful deciduous and semi-evergreen forests are interspersed with plantations of coffee, rubber, banana, coconut, and jackfruit, sprinkled with rice paddies and lush tea estates. It is tucked away in a corner of the state, bordering the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In a land known for its coastline, it has no connection whatsoever with the coast, nestling instead the mountains. Comprising an area of 2126 sq. km and at a height of 700 to 2100 m above sea level, Wayanad has a powerful history. Relics and edicts found in various parts of Wayanad speak of an important prehistoric era. Historians are of the view that organized human life existed in these parts, at least 10 centuries before Christ.
There are quite a few things to be done at Wayanad – a trek to Chembra peak, a visit to Edakkal Caves, believed to date back to at least 6,000 BC, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilization or settlement in this region; a jeep safari into the wilderness of Muthanga wildlife sanctuary; a visit to pakshipathalam bird sanctuary if you are a bird watcher; or simply experience lazing in the lap of nature amidst the rainforest.