By Charlotte Binns
Kerala, nicknamed the ‘land of the coconuts,’ is nestled in the south of India on the Malabar coast. There is incredible diversity to be found in this state, from the palm-lined white beaches to the mountainous vistas boasting tea and coffee plantations. Kerala’s National Parks are home to tigers, elephants and langur monkeys to name but a few. The Western Ghats, rising up to the East of Kerala, are an impressive mountain range and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here is a selection of some of the best places to visit in this enchanting land.
The Backwaters of Kerala
The famous emerald backwaters of Kerala in Alleppy are a sequence of interlocking lagoons and lakes just inland from the Arabian sea. Not only are these meandering waterways ideal for irrigation and serve as a convenient route for transportation, they are also the perfect destination for those seeking true relaxation. Jump aboard a ‘kettuvallam’ - or houseboat - and cruise along the winding waterways, surrounded by little hamlets and rice paddies. Alleppy is known as the ‘Venice of the East’ thanks to these tranquil watery passageways.
Kerala is one of the leading regions for tea and coffee production. The town Munnar sits at 1,600 meters, and has an abundance of plantations and aromatic verdant gardens. It boasts the highest peak in South India, Anamudi or elephant head, named due to its uncanny resemblance to the head of this majestic creature. Towering at over 2,695 meters, the summit offers a mildly challenging trek, but fear not as you will be rewarded with stunning views across lush green tea plantations.
As a port situated on the Silk Route, Kochi (or Cochin) has always had an international buzz. Hailed as the Queen of the Arabian sea, it is a melting pot of different cultures and religions, teeming with churches, temples and mosques with an array of wonderful Dutch architecture.
This diverse town has a fascinating multi-cultural history. The Santa Cruz Cathedral, for example, dates back as far back as 1506 while the Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. As you wander the port’s shores, you will spot traditional Chinese fishing nets which have been used by fishermen for the past 500 years.
Trivandrum is the capital of Kerala, and is a bustling metropolis with a population of around 1.68 million people. The city is arguably most famous for its Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which is one of 108 shrines sacred to the Vaishnavites in India, constructed in the intricate style of Tamil architecture. In Malayaman, the region’s local dialect, Trivandrum translates to ‘The City of Lord Anata’ in reference to the deity of the temple. Mahatma Gandhi referred to Trivandrum once as the “evergreen city of India” due to its undulating terrain of low rolling hills and its verdant green hue.
Theyyam is a religious ritual encompassing the mediums of song, dance and mime, running from December through to April in North Kerala. It is a traditional celebration with a proud 800 year history. Staged in various temples across the area, it is often performed in front of a village shrine. Performers are adorned in extravagant red headgear and costumes, with the dancer metamorphosing to become the deity of the particular shrine. This colourful ritual exalts the spirits of the locals’ ancestors and is a wonderful sight to behold.
Beaches in Kerala
With nearly 600 kilometres of shoreline, Kerala has some spectacular beaches, easily rivalling the pristine white shores of Goa. Kovalam beach is one of the more popular beaches in Kerala and is situated just 40 minutes southeast of the capital Trivandrum. Once a destination on the ‘Hippie Trail’ of the 1970s, Kovalam is now popular among surf enthusiasts due to the favourable conditions. Alternatively, bathe in the medicinal waters and soak up the romantic atmosphere of Varkala, a yoga hotspot bordered by palm-covered red cliffs.
Nature in Kerala
Eravikulam National Park is one the most frequented tourist attractions in Kerala because of Neelakurinji, bell-shaped flowers that bloom only once every 12 years. This incredibly rare phenomenon is due to happen between July and October 2018, when the hills will come alive with a bluish hue. The Nigiri Thar, an endangered mountain goat, can also be found within the National Park on the summit to the top of the hill. The park is home to the Lakkam Waterfalls, which are located amidst dense, unspoilt forest. The falls stand at over 50 feet high with cascading water plunging into a pool at the base.
When is the best time to visit Kerala?
India is a vast and diverse landscape, so it is unsurprising that Kerala’s climate is equally complex. If you wish to avoid the extremes of heat or rainfall, it is advisable to aim for the cooler, drier months of October through to March. The most appealing climate is between November and February, and travelling after the monsoon season (June- August) should ensure the forests will be lush and verdant.
Make it happen
If you would like to visit this incredible land in the south of India, our local experts are on hand to help. Simply send them a few details and they can tailor-make a bespoke trip just for you. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0) 117 325 7898.