21st March 2016
This February I had an honour to participate in the Kerala Blog Express. Kerala Blog Express is an initiative by Kerala Tourism that offers travel bloggers a never before opportunity to take part in a two-week road trip through Kerala. Kerala is a state in the South of India along the Malabar coast with nearly 600km of Arabian Sea shoreline.They promised us a trip of a lifetime but its was much more. After 2300 kilometres on the coach bus, some 10 plus hotels later I ended up with the gift of a lifetime: 36 new friends from 25 countries from around the world. I could not ask for more.
Very little I knew about Kerala before my visit. My only clue was, Kerala is an Indian country where Ayurvedic medicine comes from. Not many fellow travellers spoke about Kerala after their trip to India – non of them actually and this surprised it was as if Kerala was a hidden gem waiting to be discovered . I found only one agency in my country, offering trips to Kerala . I did not do any research before my visit and I liked it that way ,no expectations . I simply booked my ticket, applied for my visa and got my travel insurance and that was it.
The last thing I expected Kerala to be is a tropical paradise. And it truly is! I arrived to Trivandrum International Airport very late into the evening so I couldn`t see much on arrival. But the next morning I woke up with the view like this:
The hammocks were swaying among palms trees and I could hear the sound of waves crashing against the rocks and children screaming on the beach. Not bad for the first impression about Kerala, what do you think? Of course our trip wasn´t focused on tropical beaches only but we couldn`t avoid some of them. The second day we boarded romantic houseboats to see the backwaters of Kerala.
The Backwaters of Kerala are a complicated labyrinth of canals, rivers, lakes and inlets where sea water and freshwater are mixed. Houseboats were traditionally used to transport harvested rice from backwaters but today are mostly used for tourism. You can choose from between 2000 houseboats roaming the canals! However, the best way to explore life among canals is by kayak, since huge houseboats cannot sail among smaller canals where you can see wildlife and locals going on with their daily activities. Another experience you shouldn´t miss and one of the last places on the Earth where people still live as they use to live in the past. Who wouldn`t want to travel back in time a few decades or even centuries?
After backwaters experience at the 0 meters of altitude, we headed to the mountains. The Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula and it is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Home for the night was in a camp in the middle of forests and mountains. After morning exercise we went on a light hike with the most rewarding views from the top! I never imagined India to be so diverse and green! It is real paradise for hikers, outdoor and nature lovers.
I would never tought, India is so green, but it is! The mains reason are tea plantations. In Kerala, Munnar, you can find the highest tea plantation in the world! Therefore there are many tea factories around (no photo shooting allowed) where you can buy organic tea for few rupees and make yourself a yearly supply like I did! But it´s not only tea you can find in Kerala. There are many spice plantations where you can see how cinnamon grows and taste the best chocolate on Earth. (Seriously, buy chocolate when in Munnar).
But Kerala is not only green as colour with its lush vegetation and plantations, you can find many eco resorts, adventure activities and locally made products. Opposite to my expectations, you won´t see many stray dogs on the street and the same goes with homeless people. Kerala has the lowest proportion of homeless people in rural India and they have some plans for the future as well: Kerala wants to become first “Zero Homless state” and “Zero Landless stat” in India. They are also very proud of their literacy rate. This January Kerala became first state to achieve 100% primary education through their literacy programme.
Further more, even if you don´t plan any cultural activities you will definitely run into some local festivities during your stay. Over 10 thousand different local festivals are celebrated in Kerala every year!
And lets not forget the people. smiling, always cheering and waving, ready to take photo with you or of you. And they will never forget to ask you how do you like Kerala, because Kerala is not India, its God´s very own country.
And if you are visiting India in the near future and Kerala is not on your schedule, you are making a big mistake. Kerala was placed among the `50 destinations of a lifetime’ by National Geographic Traveler so make sure to put it on your bucket list and make your own trip of a lifetime.
Have you ever been to Kerala? How do you like it? Which places would you recommend in Kerala?