Land of beaches and backwaters
Rich with lush greenery, pristine beaches, mesmerising backwaters, and plantations of tea, coffee and spices, Kerala is called ‘God’s Own Country’ with good reason. This state, at the southernmost tip of India, is truly a delightful gem due to its mix of captivating natural beauty, fascinating traditions and culture, and world-class hospitality services.
Despite being a relatively small state, Kerala boasts a plethora of options for entertainment and rejuvenation. You can glide along the famous Alleppey backwaters on a charming houseboat, tour the tea plantations at Munnar and coffee estates at Wayanad, bathe and ride on elephants by the Bharatpuzha River, play frisbee at the delightful Kovalam beach, take in the day’s fresh fish catch, enjoy invigorating Ayurvedic massages and spa treatments, or just explore the old port city of Cochin. There’s something for everyone here!
Backwaters on a Boat
Spanning a huge expanse of about 900 km, Kerala’s backwaters are its most prominent attraction by far. The backwaters are formed by a maze of interconnected rivers, lakes, islets and canals. The backwaters of Alleppey are the most famous, followed by those near Kuttanad, Cochin and Kasargod.
Hop aboard a comfortably furnished ‘kettuvallom’ or houseboat, and set sail to explore a variety of pretty towns and rustic little villages kissing the river banks. Houseboats are a convenient way to soak in the sights, sounds, and smells of the beautiful Kerala countryside. Gaze at verdant paddy fields, tall swaying palms, sprawling banana plantations, along with several freshwater fish and colourful birds as you sail serenely along the waters. Houseboat tours along Kottayam’s Punnamada Lake, Kumarakoram’s Vembanad Lake, and the backwaters of Thiruvananthapuram, Cherai Island, and Kozhikode are also beautiful, thoroughly enjoyable experiences.
Alappuzha to Cochin is just an hour drive. Cochin is a favourite spot of all the tourists. There are so many places to visit in cochin. You can ride a boat in the beautiful Kerala backwaters.
Kathakali is Kerala’s signature dance-drama form and famous the world over because of the entrancing performances and extremely elaborate costumes and makeup. The dancers enact several mythological stories through their performances, and while the actual dance movements are quite restrained, the facial expressions are evocatively unbridled. Kathakali dancers take several hours to get ready for a performance due to the ornate costumes and very detailed makeup which are a prerequisite. Several basic types of makeup are used to paint the dancers’ faces, for example, red for evil characters, green for the heroic warriors, black for forest dwellers, yellow for mendicants and women, white for divine beings, and so on. You can catch some of the best performances at the Cochin Cultural Centre or Kerala Kathakali Centre.
Another famous performance art form in Kerala is Theyyam, native to the northern town of Kannur. Theyyam performances are conducted to invoke the blessings of God and denote the equality between upper and lower castes. The dances are performed in elaborate costumes which sometimes involve colourful masks, and are conducted open air.
Sun, Sand, and Waves
With a coastline of about 580 km, Kerala is home to several stunning beaches, which attract tourists from all over the world. Most popular by far is the Kovalam Beach near capital Thiruvananthapuram. Made up of two primary coves, Hawa and Lighthouse, it’s sandy shores are lined with open-air restaurants and souvenir shops, and is reminiscent of Goa’s popular Baga and Calangute beaches.
Varkala Beach, also by the capital, lies at the bottom of a steep rocky cliff and is a very scenic spot. Although less crowded than Kovalam, it is still a very popular beach with youngsters and foreign tourists. The Bekal Beach to the far north of Kerala is comparatively secluded, and best known for its fort, which is said to be the state’s largest. Other popular beaches in the state are Cherai, Kannur, and Marari, which are perfect for relaxed getaways and some frolicking in the refreshing waves.
Tea, Coffee Plantation Tours
The gorgeous hill station of Munnar and Wayanad have the ideal weather conditions, altitude, and soil conditions for cultivating tea and coffee. You can stay in scenic homestay options as well as cottages on the estates, help pluck tea leaves and watch them being dried and processed, or help pick coffee cherries, see them being washed, ground, and roasted, before sampling the various delicious beverages right then and there.
Popular accommodation options at tea plantations are Royal Mist, Kaivalyam Retreat, Windermere Estate, Gruenberg Tea Plantation House, Green Spaces Bed and Breakfast, the Kokkumalai Tea Estate, and Swiss County at Munnar. Stay options at or near coffee estates are the Coffee Acres Plantation Resort, Wayanad Coffee Trail Resort, Crescent Residency, Coffee County Retreat, Treasure Trove Home Stay, among several others.
Kalaripayattu is the pride and joy of Kerala’s martial arts scene. Believed to date back a whopping 3,000 years, Kalaripayattu is also said to be the origin of Shaolin, China’s ancient martial art form. Even as the art lost much of its active significance, it is staging a comeback of late as more and more people are wising up to its immense benefits both as a fitness and dance routine. You can watch several bouts of Kalaripayattu during your stay as there are over 500 schools dedicated to the art all over the state. The artists’ sheer stamina, agility, strength and gracefulness will surely not fail to enthral you.
Pamper Some Pachyderms
Elephants are highly revered in Kerala’s cultural and religious landscape, found in abundance throughout the state’s several nature reserves, and are a predominant feature of one of its most important festivals, Thrissur Pooram. You can gaze upon these usually gentle mighty beasts in the wild at the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Anamudi Peak, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
There are several places where you can interact closely with domesticated elephants, ride them, and also bathe and play with them! The Tusker Trail, situated in the Periyan Tiger Reserve, Elephant Junction at Thekkady, and the Konni Elephant Training Centre near Pathanamthitta are popular places for such fun-filled activities with the playful, gentle giants.
Ayurveda, which is believed to have originated in India over 5,000 years ago, is said to be the oldest healing science in the world. Its basic principle is holistic healing of the body in the physical, emotional, and spiritual science by balancing its vaata, pitta, and kaapha levels. One simply cannot miss Ayurvedic massage and treatment centres in Kerala as they are all over the state, and most provide a very good experience. Ayurveda centres in Kerala range from providing full-body rubdowns, meditation and yoga sessions at simple, inexpensive places to aromatherapy, hot stone, and exotic massages at luxury resorts in bucolic surroundings.
The Kairali Ayurvedic Healing Village, spread over 50 acres, is very famous for its attractive cottages, streams that weave past each shelter, organic garden, and delicious vegetarian fare.
The Kalari Kovilam and Athreya Ayurvedic Centre are other options for those seeking luxury accommodation and top-notch facilities.
For visitors interested in holistic experiences at comparatively lower prices, the Perumbayil Ayurveda Mana, Shin Shiva Ayurvedic Resort, Ayurveda Yoga Villa, and Ideal Ayurvedic Resort are popular options.
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