Kerala – God’s Own Country
The land of kera or coconut, Kerala is blessed abundantly with everything required to live a magical dream on earth. A land rich in legend, tradition and culture, Kerala shows off her unparalleled beauty through lush green fields, coconut palm, spices, tea and coffee plantations, sunny beaches, boathouses over enchanting backwaters, magical monsoons, silent valleys vibrant with flora and fauna, misty mountains and the reverberating rhythm of a thousand art forms. It is not surprising that Kerala is known as God’s own country!
Kerala lies along the coastline in the south west of India, flanked by the Arabian Sea on the west and the Western Ghat mountains on the east. The backwaters are a unique feature of the state and houseboats docked there, a huge attraction for tourists.
Places to See:
Also known as Alleppey, Allapuzha was called ‘Venice of the East’ by Lord Curzon due to its vast backwaters. It is considered to be the oldest planned city in this region. Allapuzha is famous for its picturesque canals, beaches, lagoons and coir industry.
Attractions: The backwaters of Alappuzha are the most popular tourist attraction in Kerala. A houseboat cruise in these backwaters is a delightful experience. A wide range of cruise options are available, from small country boats to luxury houseboats. Enjoy the sights of vast stretches of paddy fields, coconut lagoons, fisherfolks engaged in their fishing activities and kingfishers hurtling down to catch the fish as you are ferried across the backwaters. Don’t miss kettuvallams, the majestic rice barges, gliding over the canals. Alappuzha is also the access point for the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held on the second Saturday of August every year, the most competitive and popular of the boat races in India.
Other attractions are the Alappuzha Beach, Sri Krishna Temple, Arthunkal Basilica, CSI Christ Church (oldest Anglican church in Kerala,) Krishnapuram Palace and temples dedicated to the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Try the tasty ambalappuzha pudding, a popular dessert.
Shopping: Coir products, pepper, coconut oil, areca nut, cardamom, sugar, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Accessibility: Easily accessible from all Indian cities by rail, bus and air. Trivandrum International Airport (151 km) and Cochin International Airport (75 km) are the nearest airports.
Best time to visit: Alleppey, being a coastal area, is humid all through the year. The best time to visit is between September to March, to avoid the monsoon rain as well as peak summer.
Bekal is a small beach town in the Kasaragod district on the West coast. This district is renowned as the land of gods, forts, rivers, hills and beautiful beaches. The largest and best-preserved Bekal fort in Kerala is a favorite film shooting spot in South India.
Attractions: The historic, giant keyhole-shaped Bekal Fort surrounded by the golden expanse of a beautiful beach offers a superb view of the Arabian Sea from its tall observation towers. Murals, sculptures and trees showcase the area. Bekal also has backwaters, hill destinations and water sport facilities nearby. The state of Kerala is reviewing a plan to start sea plane services connecting Bekal with nearby towns. The Bekal trek is a great way to experiencing the coastal areas by foot. You could also choose to just unwind and relax by the sea and do nothing!
Shopping: Local vegetables and food, coir and shell articles, local market visits.
Accessibility: Easily accessible from all Indian cities. The nearest railway station is Kasaragod and the nearest airport is Mangalore (50 km.) Buses also ply from nearby towns and neighboring states.
Best time to visit: October to March is a pleasant time to visit. Mild winter commences from December to February which makes it ideal for a beach vacation.
Cochin or Kochi, known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, is one of the main port cities in India and the commercial capital of Kerala. The beauty of Kochi lies in a mix of cosmopolitan outlook coupled with an old-world charm from its local Kings, Portuguese and Dutch legacies. The Portuguese, under the command of Vasco da Gama, arrived in Cochin in the 15th century. In 1553, the Maharaja of Cochin granted the Portuguese the permission to build the first European style fort. Thus, Cochin became the site of the first European settlement in India.
Kochi’s growth owes a lot to its strategic position, an indiscriminate mix of hilly areas, estuaries and backwaters, small islands, coastal cities like Fort Kochi and Mattancherry and plain terrain like Ernakulam city. Its interesting monuments, geographic peculiarities and emerging cosmopolitan nature can keep a tourist absorbed for days!
Attractions: Fort Kochi, the historical part of the city houses the Jewish synagogue, built in 1568. Adjacent to this is the Mattancherry (Dutch) Palace with temples of deities of the royal family, art, murals and exhibits of the Kings of Kochi. Fort Kochi also boasts of the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that you could see up-close during a boat ride, and the magnificent Santa Cruz Basilica.
The quaint Dutch Bolgatty palace built in 1744, now a heritage hotel, is one of the oldest existing Dutch palaces outside Holland. Romantic backwater boat rides in Cochin are a must as they take you through a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes, a unique experience of the Malabar Coast of Kerala.
Various forts, museums, churches, palaces and temples are part of the fabric of life in Cochin. For shopping lovers, the malls along the picturesque marine drive offer the required spending experience! See the colorful traditional dance form at the Kathakali dance institute. 60 km away from Cochin, you could visit the Athirappally falls and the Anaimudi Mountains, the latter being home to the Asiatic elephant, tiger, leopard, bison and lion-tailed macaque.
Shopping: Fabrics, garments, jewelry, antiques, paintings, spices, wooden artifacts.
Accessibility: Easily accessible from all Indian cities and airports abroad with Ernakulam being the landing train and bus stations. The Cochin International Airport is also well connected.
Best time to visit: Winter months October to February are the best time to visit Cochin as the weather is pleasant. The monsoon season, July – September is another great time to visit to see the city in its rain-washed splendor. March to June is summer with high temperatures of 37 degrees centigrade however you might get good deals on hotels.
There is a saying, Once you see Kollam, you will not need your home any more. Kollam or Quilon is an ancient industrial establishment that had trade links with Romans, Chinese and Arabs. It has been mentioned in historical citations dating back to Biblical times. Today, it is a prominent seaport trading city in Kerala. Kollam is known as the cashew capital of the world, with an average of 130,000 tons of processed cashews exported to countries worldwide.
Attractions: The city borders the Ashtamudi lake, famous for boat rides and sightseeing. The Kollam beach, clock tower, lighthouse, thirumullavaram beach and ashramam picnic village are popular with tourists. Lovely architectural buildings like the British Residency and the Thevally Palace, once the home of the Travancore kings are worth visiting. Thangassery, of historical importance has old churches as it was an enclave of the Portuguese, Dutch and British in succession. Remnants of the Portuguese and Dutch forts still exist here.
Shopping: Spices, marine products, cashew, coir products, textiles, jewelry. Accessibility: Easily accessible from all Indian cities by road, rail and air with the nearest airport being Thiruvananthapuram (74 km.)
Best time to visit: October to March is a pleasant time to visit. Mild winter commences from December to February which makes it ideal for an enjoyable vacation.
Situated 16 km from Thiruvananthapuram the capital of Kerala, is the exotic Kovalam beach. An internationally renowned beachside with three adjacent crescent beaches, it has been the favorite leisure destination of tourists, especially Europeans, since the 1930s. A massive rocky promontory on the beach has created a beautiful bay of calm waters ideal for sea bathing.
Attractions: Sunbathing, swimming, beach walks, herbal massages, special cultural programs and catamaran cruising are some of the activities to indulge in on Kovalam beach. You could also relax completely by doing nothing or reading a book. Life on the beach begins late in the day and carries on into the night. Plan a day trip to Thiruvananthapuram to see the temples and museums if you want a mix of relaxation and sight-seeing.
Shopping: Teakwood and rosewood statues, souvenirs, handicrafts, trinkets, beachwear, batik sarongs, seashell jewelry, spices, paintings and hand-woven saris.
Accessibility: Easily accessible from all cities in India by rail, road and air. The nearest airport and railway station is at Thiruvananthapuram.
Best time to visit: September to March is excellent in terms of weather. Many tourists also plan a vacation around Christmas time to enjoy the beach carnivals.
Kumarakom is probably the most popular leisure resort in Kerala due to its famous backwater houseboats and luxury hotels. The name Kumarakom was derived from Kumaran, the deity of its oldest temple. The town is situated on fertile, man-made land reclaimed from the Vembanad Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Kerala.
Kumarakom is the first destination in India to implement and win awards for its responsible tourism practices. The initiatives successfully link the local community with the hospitality industry and government departments, thereby creating a model for empowerment and development of the people in the area while sustaining eco-friendly tourism.
Attractions: Luxury and standard houseboat stays on the backwaters of Vembanad lake, yachting, boating, the Kumarakom birds sanctuary where you could spot waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron, cormorant, brahmini kite and the duck, as well as the migratory siberian crane, parrot, teal, lark and flycatcher. Relaxation and detox therapy in spas and Ayurveda centers are appealing relaxation options in Kumarakom.
Shopping: Handcrafted merchandise, antique items, jewelry, readymade garments, fresh and aromatic spices, metal ware, wood carvings, articles made of coconut shell, bamboo and cane, embroidered palm and grass mats.
Accessibility: Easily connected by road, rail and air, the nearest railway station being Kottayam and the nearest airport at Cochin (80 km.) State run buses and private taxis could also be booked.
Best time to visit: Through the year, November – February being the best time to visit Kumarakom.
Munnar is by all measures, the most beautiful hill station in Kerala. A former resort for the British in India, it retains an old-world charm, unaffected by the hustle and bustle of towns and cities. Tea, coffee and spice plantations abound here, creating a lush green blanket over the undulating topography. The refreshingly healthy climate and natural surroundings make Munnar a perfect holiday destination for individual travelers, families, honeymooners and nature lovers.
Attractions: Eravikulam National Park, home to the endangered mountain goat Nilgiri tahr is a seasonal trekking destination encompassing the Lakkam Waterfalls and 2,695m tall Anamudi peak. Visit small hill stations like Mattupetty to see over 100 varieties of high-yielding cattle on the Indo-Swiss livestock project, the Mattupetty lake and dam which are favorite picnic spots. Pothamedu, Lock Heart gap and Devikulam are famous for breathtaking views of the plantations and ideal for long mountain walks, trekking and adventure. Shopping: Local vegetables and food, tea, coffee, spices.
Accessibility: Munnar is best driven to by road to enjoy the scenic beauty. The nearest railway station is Aluva (108 km) and the closest airports are at Cochin (110 km) or Madurai (140 km.)
Best time to visit: October – November and January – May when weather is pleasant with occasional showers.
Thekkady is in the Idukki district of Kerala, famous for its dense evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist, deciduous forests and savannah grass lands. 2800 m above mean sea level, it is best known for the Periyar wildlife sanctuary, that is home to herds of elephant, sambar, tiger, gaur, lion-tailed macaques and nilgiri langurs. The sanctuary is spread across 777 sq km and was declared a tiger reserve in 1978.
The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar dam across the Periyar river adds to the charm of the park. The greatest attractions are the herds of wild animals that come to drink in the lake. Tourists could spot wildlife while trekking, boating or on a jeep safari.
Attractions: Thekkady lake, Periyar tiger reserve, Murikkady for its spice and coffee plantations, Chellar temple with picturesque waterfalls and cascades, Mangala devi temple that offers spectacular views of the mountains and nearby villages.
Shopping: Local vegetables and fruit, natural spices such as black pepper, cardamon, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
Accessibility: Thekkady is best accessed by road, to enjoy the scenic beauty. The nearest railhead is at Kottayam (114 km) and Cochin (190 km) is the nearest airport. Private-run buses also ply on this route.
Best time to visit: September to March is the best time to visit Thekkady. Thekkady also attracts substantial tourists from April to June. Tourists who are not too fond of rain should avoid visiting Thekkady during the peak monsoon months.
Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of Kerala. Named after Lord Anantha Padmanabha, the city is home to many ancient temples. A long shoreline with internationally renowned beaches, historic monuments, backwaters and a rich cultural heritage make this district a much sought-after tourist destination. Clean and green, Thiruvananthapuram is one of the most beautiful cities in the country.
Attractions: Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple is the landmark, around which the city has been built on seven low hills. In this temple of mystery and secret vaults with treasures and gems, Lord Vishnu, the deity of the royal family of Travancore is enshrined in the eternal yogic sleep posture. A strict dress code applies to devotees at the temple.
The city is also famous for the ancient martial art form, Kalaripayattu. Other places to see are the Agastya peak (6,129 feet) within a wildlife sanctuary, the Chitra art gallery, zoo, planetarium, Poovar island and a number of temples dedicated to the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Kovalam and Varkala beaches are popular beach destinations frequented by tourists from India and abroad. Spas that offer Ayurvedic treatment or relaxation massages are definitely worth a try on your holiday! Shopping: Handicrafts, beautiful sculptures, coir products, carved brass and metal souvenirs, coconut shell art, miniature Kathakali dance masks.
Accessibility: Trivandrum is well connected by road, rail and air from all major cities in India, the Middle East and South-East Asia.
Best time to visit: Winter months October to March are the best time to visit as the weather is pleasant. The monsoon season, July – September is another good time to visit to see the city in its rain-washed splendor though it can be humid.
Amid misty mountain, filled with the aroma of tea, exists the Sleeping beauty of Kerala – VAGAMON. Fog , green meadows, enchanting mountains… this small city has everything to allure you.
Discovered by the British who found the city perfect for tea plantations. Vagamon is a very calm and serene town where people live in complete harmony from with nature. It is also the house of large varity of the Orchids. And it is nestled between 3 beautiful hills name Thangal, Murugan and Kurisumala. National Geographic Traveler has listed Vagamon as one of the ’50 most attractive places to visit in India’.
The roads journey to Vagamon is amazing with scenic beauty and bit adventurous. It offers facilities for trekking, paragliding, mountaineering and rock climbing.
Attractions:There are many eye catching places to visit like Kurisumala Thangal and Murugun hill, Beautiful Pine forest, a V-shaped canyon Mooppanpara. Indo-Swiss dairy project’s dairy farm managed by monks. This stunning beautiful location has also attracted many renounced film makers in the recent time.
Shopping: Tea, dairy products and some craft.
Accessibility:Vagamon is roughly 100 kms from Cochin, the commercial capital of the State. It is also 60 kms from Kottayam -the nearest railway station. It is easily accessible by road from Kottayam and Cochin.
Best time to visit: September to May.
Wayanad is a quiet but popular tourist destination in the north-east of Kerala with headquarters at Kalpetta town. Wayanad means ‘land of paddy fields.’ A beautiful town set high on the mountains with altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 m, Wayanad is home to many indigenous tribals and is the least populated district in Kerala.
Historians believe that human settlement existed in these parts for at least ten centuries Before Christ. Much evidence of the new Stone Age civilization can be seen in the hills and caves of Wayanad.
Attractions: Edakkal Caves with ancient pictures and writings on their walls and Heritage Museum which showcases relics/mementos of Wayanad’s heritage take you on a journey through the past. Trekkers and adventure enthusiasts could test their physical resilience by climbing up the towering Chembra Peak (2100 m,) and the Neelimala, that offer breathtaking views. Camping is permitted with prior permission. Visit Meenmutty waterfalls and the deep caves at Pakshipathalam (1700 m,) a naturalist’s paradise. The Banasure Sagar Dam, the largest earth dam in India is also worth a visit, an interesting feature is the set of islands that were formed when the reservoir submerged the surrounding areas.
Shopping: Spices, coffee, tea, bamboo products, honey and forest produce
Accessibility: Easily accessible by road, rail and air, the nearest railway station and airport being Calicut (65 km.)
Best time to visit: October to February are the best months to visit Wayanad.