22nd March 2015
Travelers and explorers from all over the world have been drawn to Kerala for centuries drawn to this slice of tropical South India by spices. Nowadays there are even more reasons to visit enchanting Kerala from luscious landscapes, wildlife, tantalizing cuisine and not forgetting perhaps the most magical ingredient travelers encounter when visiting Kerala – the warmth of the Indian hospitality and smiles that linger long in the memory after leaving Kerala’s tropical shores.
The Kerala backwaters are one of the most amazing waterways in the world and spending a few days cruising the backwaters in a house boat made like a traditional rice barge is simply a must do experience while in Kerala and a real highlight of my visit. While drifting along the backwaters watch the days slip away as you witness life carry on as it has done for centuries under a canopy of a luscious emerald palm trees. Relax as the days slip away, wave as fishermen pass by in small canoes and experience peace, beauty and serenity found no where else in India as you become mesmerized by the nature and beauty of these amazing waterways.
Kochi or Cochin is Kerala’s most historical and interesting city. The spice trade, first with the Arabs and Chinese, and later with the Europeans brought trade, cultural exchange and prosperity to this important Arabian sea port, You can still see the history and multicultural influences here, shop for crafts, spices and souvenirs in the colourful lanes of Jew Town, visit the oldest Synagogue in the Commonwealth and admire the Ramayana murals adorning the walls of the Mattancherry or Dutch Palace. Stroll along the waterfront at sunset and watch the Chinese Fishing Nets in operation, one of Kerala’s most iconic scenes.
Tropical, luscious Kerala is also home to some fine stretches of sand. Some of the best are atKovalam (close to Trivandrum), Varkala and Cherai Beach (close to Kochi). Relax as you watch the days slip into one, sun baking and cooling off swimming in the turquoise waters, dine of fresh seafood and enjoy glorious sunsets over the Arabian Sea.
If the tropical climate is becoming a bit too hot and humid for you then escape to a hill station and be rewarded with fresh, cool air and stunning views. One of the most popular is Munnar and for good reason, the rolling, misty hills are blanketed in a million shades of green and I just couldn’t get enough of the mesmerizing views over the tea plantations. You can also visit the Tata Tea Museum to find out how tea has been made here since colonial times and of course, you need to indulge in a cup or 2 while in Munnar.
Nature has really blessed Kerala from top to toe and the national parks are also sanctuaries home to some incredible wildlife. Perhaps you will be luckily enough to spot some. Try Periyar for tigers and leopards, whilst Wayanad is one of the best places to spot elephants in the wild! It’s also still fantastically unspoilt and some argue it is the most beautiful part of Kerala. All over Kerala keep your eyes open for cheeky monkeys and graceful peacocks.
Kerala’s traditional dance form dates back to the 17th century and is as enchanting as it is unique. Prepare to be amazed by the elaborate and colourful make up, costumes and incredible facial expressions that accompany the spirited music for an unmissable experience. Don’t leave Kerala without seeing a Kathakali show.
Due to the abundant supply of spices and medicinal plants Kerala is the home of Ayurveda, an ancient, natural healing science that has been practised in India for over 5000 years. It’s like the medicinal side to yoga and can involved complex treatments to healing many complex problems. But most visitors just enjoy a relaxing Ayurvedic massage at a spa or hotel.
Food in Kerala certainly take full advantage of the regions bounty of spices and proximity to the coast. Many dishes are spicy and coconutty, you must try a traditional fish molee ( a spicy yellow fish curry) and a traditional vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf – a tantalizing assortment of flavours of rice, curries and chutneys, it’s fun to try eating it in the traditional way too – with your hands! Also try delicious fluffy pancake like Appams and Toddy – a coconut palm wine’, even more fun if you see the guy climbing up the tree doing the toddy tapping.
Kerala was a major port in the Spice Trade and Spices were in huge demand. You will understand why when you visit a Spice Plantation and learn about all the different properties and uses of the plants and spices. Nature really is amazing! Kerala is famous for it’s pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and so many more so don’t forget to leave room in your bag to buy some spices to take home
Despite being blessed by nature, Kerala’s best asset is it’s people. The incredible warmth, welcome and open smiles that I experienced throughout Kerala blew me away. Nothing was ever too much of an effort and people here are so welcoming and helpful, many people even want their photo taken with you – it makes you feel like being a celebrity!
Kerala is very different from India, actually it makes a perfect introduction to India, but you can still fall in love with the exotic culture, be mesmerized by the bright colourful sarees of the women, take a crazy rickshaw ride, gaze at an elaborate Hindu temple and be enchanted by the colour, the beauty and the magic of Incredible India that keeps me coming back again and again!
My trip to Kerala was generously organised and sponsored by Kerala Tourism as part of the Kerala Blog Express but of course all views are my own. For any help organising your own trip of a lifetime don’t hesitate to contact Kerala Tourism and look out for more posts from Kerala and tips for traveling in India.