18th December 2018
Kerala is, hands down, my favourite place in India! I have been talking so much about it lately, so I thought it was about time to explain here as well why I love this part of the world so much!
Tip: If you never visited India before, Kerala is the best place to start!
An introduction to Kerala, the paradise of India
So let’s start with the beginning: Kerala is the most southern state of India and it is also called “God’s own country”. Once you get there, you will immediately understand why.
The language spoken in Kerala is called Malayalam and I must say it sounds veeeeery strange. A lot of rolling words! The language inspired also the name of what today represents the 4th movie industry in India, after Bollywood (Mumbai, Maharashtra), Kollywood (Chennai, Tamil Nadu) and Tollywood (Hyderabad, Andra Pradesh). I admit I have never watched a Malayalam movie so I cannot really give an informed opinion here. PS: I watched a lot of bollwywood movies on the other hand ;-), especially when I lived in India.
It has been said many times that Kerala is the only state in India with 100% literacy rate. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t but what I can guarantee you is that Malayali (that’s how people from Kerala are called) are the nicest people I have met in India! And I have met a lot of people! I know I am very subjective here, but it is my blog and therefore I can express my personal opinion (and be a bit cheeky apparently ). And another thing…I certainly prefer the South of India to the North! Not only I find the people from the South nicer, but I also find it “safer” there. And safety is one of the most important factors to take into account everywhere, especially by solo women travellers like myself!
The religion in Kerala, as in most of India, is predominantly Hindu, but here you find the highest percentage of Christians. About 25% I believe.
Geographically, the state of Kerala is a narrow strip of land along the Arabian Sea and bordered by the Western Ghats to the East. Its fortunate geographical location made Kerala a green paradise of coconut groves, paddy fields, a maze of backwaters, coffee and tea plantations, ayurveda and many other.
The capital city of Kerala is Trivandrum. Luckily they shortened the name from the initial Thiruvananthapuram (which by the way I can pronounce very easily and quickly. Come on. Give it a try yourself ). Trivandrum is situated in the southern part of the state and it is one of the aerial gateways to Kerala. The second airport is in Kochi (or Chochin) in the north. Depending on what your plans are when visiting Kerala, you have to take into account that it is a long way between the 2 cities, and I don’t mean only in km which is only 200 in fact.
2018 update: At the beginning of April this year, I did this trip by train and it took me 5 hrs. Not too bad I would say, although it should have been about 4. I was returning from Kerala Blog Express trip that took place in March 2018 and to which I was invited by Kerala Tourism
I usually fly into Trivandrum as it is very close to my usual place: my ayurveda resort next to Kovalam beach.
What you can see and do in Kerala. Part 1- mainly South Kerala
There are so many things to see and do in Kerala, that I actually had to split my article in 2 parts, in order to avoid creating a monster of a guide.
This is actually what brought me to Kerala in the first place, back in 2011.
By the way, do you know where Ayurveda was born? Yes, of course in India…but where in India…. ? Well… right here, in Kerala! So if you ever want to try proper Ayurveda, this is the place to go. In fact, why don’t you just head over to my previous post where you can read more about it and how a usual day goes at an ayurvedic resort?
2. Backwaters (the small ones)
You cannot go to Kerala without doing a tour of the backwaters! period! You can choose from various types of tours starting from a couple of hours to a few days on a boat. There is also a choice on the types of boats, depending on the tour, of course.
I mentioned the “small backwaters” here as I am referring to the narrower ones near Trivandrum. There is a whole other story when you go a bit more north, towards Aleppey and for that you will have to go to “Part II” of Kerala things to do and see.
In my very first visit to Kerala I took a 2 hours bamboo boat tour. The boat (a canoe in fact) had no engine so for 2 hours I could enjoy only the soothing sounds of nature and paddles making way through the maze of canals, rivers and lakes! Pure bliss!
My first time on the backwaters
During my 2 weeks Kerala trip with Kerala Blog Express, I also spent a night on a boat and will write a separate post about it but I also went again on a boat through these small canals. And this is what I found this time!
Any place in India is in fact good for yoga but, for me, Kerala is where I have tried it for the very first time and where I got hooked up to it irremediably! I have already mentioned about the yoga practice in an ayurvedic resort, but Kerala is also the location of a few yoga ashrams. If you are not very familiar with the term, an ashram is a kind of a retreat, where people go to learn and practice yoga and where you can also obtain a certified yoga instructor diploma. As I started with Sivananda form of hatha yoga, I could not miss the opportunity to also visit the Neyyar Dam ashram in Kerala. The ashram is situated in the middle of the forest, just accross from the Park safari, which adds even more to the place, especially when you hear the lions roar!
Have you heard of Amma (the mother) or Amritapuri as she is also known? It’s ok. Most people haven’t. She is also called the hugging mother…’cause that’s what she does: she hugs people! She is one of the most venerated spiritual leaders of India and her ashram is located in Kerala as well. If you want to read more details about her you can do so directly on her website.
The images below are from Neyyar Dam Ashram , except for the last one which is taken during my class at her website…and it was my first headstand ever.
With such a vast coastline (650km!) there is certainly no shortage of beaches in Kerala. However, if laying on the beach with cocktails in your hand all day long is your thing, then I would not choose Kerala. And not because you cannot do that. On the contrary, there are so many luxurious hotels and resorts where you can do that. But what I am saying is that Kerala is and it offers much more than that!
During my Kerala Blog express trip, I have finally visited some of the beaches in the north and they are amazing . By now you know…stay tuned for the next post .
I already mentioned the Lion Safari park across Neyyar Dam ashram. But the most famous is actually the Periyar Tiger reserve situated inside of Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary where various wildlife can be admired, including elephants. The park is situated not too far from Munnar hill station.
6. Local traditions
Kerala has its own form of martial art called Kalaripayattu, which is considered one of the oldest forms of fighting.
Kathakali is a classical dance/drama from Kerala, performed exclusively by men. They are dressed in voluminous dresses and wear huge head ornaments and sometimes frightening masks. The actors never speak, but instead they are using mudras (symbolic hand gestures) and facial expressions to convey the message.
8. Watch the fishermen at work early in the morning
Kerala is very famous for its fishermen and their style of fishing. If you wake up early in the morning you can see them in all their colours on the beach pulling out the catch of the day. A photographer’s dream!
Kerala is also famous for its spices. You know all those strong smelling spices? Kerala has got them all!
Almost all dishes are prepared with coconut here, giving it a milder, sweet, delicious taste. In fact, Kerala has the best coconut chutney in the world! I love it especially in the morning with a steaming idly! Oh and the appam! Soooo delicious! Appam is a steamed rice pancake also typical from Kerala.
And I’m not even going to mention here the Alleppey fish curry, one of my favourite dishes in the world!
Well …I guess you get the gist about the food in God’s own country!
And imagine the smell of cardamom in the air, every day….announcing that dinner was being prepared…Ah I’m going to stop here. I hope I convinced you that if you have plans about visiting that part of the world, you should not give a pass to this wonderful land!
And now as usual you can enjoy the rest of the virtual tour