If you have never visited South India, Kerala is probably the perfect place to start. A million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the major cities in the northern states, Kerala is a haven of natural beauty and geographical uniqueness. Nicknamed ‘God’s own country’ and highly regarded as one of the top 50 countries to visit in the world, the diversity of the landscape in Kerala is mesmerising. Enjoy mountain views from lush rainforests, only a stone’s throw from the white sandy shores of the Arabian Sea.
With so much to see and do, you could absolutely lose yourself in the majesty of Kerala. Indulge mind and body in a therapeutic spa retreat, explore the mysterious backwaters from the comfort of a house boat or hop in a 4x4 and discover the local wildlife in one of the regions sanctuaries. Elephants in particular are a common fixture in this part of India, and Kerala remains one of the only places you can see them in their natural habitat.
Rich in culture and tradition, Kerala is one of the most progressive states in India. The local hospitality is second to none and although the region boasts a number of luxury hotels, home sharing or cottage rentals are the most common forms of accommodation. If adventure is what you seek, look no further, Kerala is the perfect destination for you. So what are you waiting for?
Located on the Malabar Coast, the bay of Kovalam, with its calm waters and secluded location is the epitome of beach paradise, and is often listed among the top 10 beaches in Asia. You’re more likely to find masseuses wandering the beaches here than touts selling banana boat rides, but for a sophisticated spot of sunbathing, Kovalam is idyllic.
Stretching inland from the sea, a network of canals and rivers known as the ‘backwaters’ wind their way across southern India, dividing the land into tiny islands. The best way to discover this bizarre landscape is by house boat. Kettuvallam boats which have been used for centuries to transport goods from the sea ports have been refitted to provide tours of the backwaters to curious tourists, complete with all of the comforts of home.
If you prefer dry land however, why not take a trip to Wayanad wildlife sanctuary? Spanning a colossal 345 km², the reserve is home to a number of endangered species including tigers and Indian elephants. Allowed to roam free across the landscape, this is one of the only places you can see these imposing creatures in the wild.
Elephants generally are considered to be sacred in India. In Kerala, elephants are donated to the temples, who use them in festivals of worship. The most spectacular Keralan religious festival, Thrissur Pooram takes place between mid-April and May, and literally translates as “Elephant Festival”.
The Temple elephants are decorated with golden head dresses, decorative paintings, bells and peacock feathers and form the centre piece of the parade where the Priests ride to the Vadakkunnathan Temple to pay respects to the deity Shiva. If you’re travelling through Kerala during these dates, the festival is a visual spectacular not to be missed!
The cuisine in Kerala is as varied as the landscape. The lush vegetation and abundance of water ensures that there is always plenty of fresh ingredients at hand to turn into delicious authentic dishes! Heavily characterised depending on which region you’re in, Kerala or Malabar cuisine is very similar to traditional Indian food, marinated meat and fish dishes are extremely popular, as are curries and stews.
The quintessential flavour of Kerala is Coconut. Widely used as a garnish or as a thickening agent in curries and gravies, you will struggle to find a dish without coconut in it somewhere in Kerala! The use of spice is quite liberal as in most Indian cooking, so the sweetness provided by the coconut gives lovely balance to the heat of the dishes.
Laid back Kerala channels an almost-Caribbean attitude towards alcohol with rum or brandy generally being the tipple of choice. Largely considered the booziest state in India, you will never have to work hard to find a bar in Kerala. Locally brewed ‘Kallu’, made with palm toddy (sap from a palm tree) is a popular alternative liquor, but make sure you only drink it from reputable vendors as the moonshine variations can be lethal!