Kerala

Kerala, often referred to as “God’s Own Country,” is a paradise for travelers with its lush green landscapes, pristine beaches, serene backwaters, and vibrant culture. Located in the southwestern part of India, Kerala is a land of diverse experiences that cater to every type of traveler. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to traveling in Kerala, covering its major attractions, cultural highlights, cuisine, best travel tips, and much more.

1. Introduction to Kerala

Kerala is bordered by Karnataka to the north, Tamil Nadu to the east and south, and the Arabian Sea to the west. This coastal state is renowned for its high literacy rate, progressive society, and an emphasis on health and wellness. Kerala’s unique geography includes the Western Ghats mountain range and a network of interconnected rivers and lakes, forming its famous backwaters.

2. Major Attractions

a. Backwaters of Kerala

Backwaters of Kerala

The backwaters are an intricate network of brackish lagoons, lakes, and canals that run parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. The most famous backwater destination is Alleppey (Alappuzha), often referred to as the “Venice of the East.” Houseboat cruises on these tranquil waters offer a unique way to explore the region’s natural beauty and local life.

 

b. Hill Stations

Munnar: Located in the Western Ghats, Munnar is a picturesque hill station known for its tea plantations, rolling hills, and cool climate. Key attractions include the Eravikulam National Park, Mattupetty Dam, and the Tea Museum.

Kerala Munnar Hill Station

 

Wayanad: Another gem in the Western Ghats, Wayanad is famous for its dense forests, wildlife sanctuaries, and scenic waterfalls. Highlights include the Edakkal Caves, Soochipara Waterfalls, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.

Kerala Wayanad Hill Station

c. Beaches

Kovalam: Known for its crescent-shaped beaches, Kovalam is a popular destination for sunbathing, swimming, and Ayurvedic treatments. Lighthouse Beach, Hawa Beach, and Samudra Beach are the main attractions here.

kerala kovalam beach

 

Varkala: Varkala Beach, with its dramatic cliffs and natural springs, offers a serene environment. The Papanasam Beach is believed to have holy waters that wash away sins.

kerala Varkala beach

 

d. Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks

kerala Wildlife Sanctuaries

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary: Located in Thekkady, this sanctuary is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can enjoy boat rides on Periyar Lake, offering chances to spot elephants, deer, and various bird species.

Silent Valley National Park: This park is a haven for biodiversity, hosting many endangered species and unique ecosystems. It’s a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers.

 

e. Cultural and Historical Sites

Fort Kochi: A melting pot of cultures, Fort Kochi boasts colonial architecture, vibrant art scenes, and historic sites like the Chinese Fishing Nets, St. Francis Church, and Mattancherry Palace.

Thrissur: Known as the cultural capital of Kerala, Thrissur is famous for its festivals, especially Thrissur Pooram, and landmarks like Vadakkunnathan Temple and Shakthan Thampuran Palace.

 

3. Cultural Highlights

Kerala’s culture is a blend of Indian and Dravidian influences, with a rich tradition of art, music, dance, and festivals.

 

a. Traditional Art Forms

Kathakali: A classical dance-drama known for its elaborate costumes, makeup, and expressive movements. It often depicts stories from Hindu epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Mohiniyattam: Another classical dance form, characterized by graceful movements and feminine attire, often performed by solo female dancers.

Theyam: A ritualistic art form involving elaborate makeup, costumes, and vibrant performances. It’s a part of the worship rituals in North Kerala.

 

b. Festivals

Onam: The most significant festival in Kerala, Onam is a harvest festival celebrated with grand feasts, traditional games, boat races, and flower carpets (Pookalam).

Vishu: Celebrated as the Malayalam New Year, Vishu involves the viewing of Vishukkani, a collection of auspicious items, and bursting of firecrackers.

Thrissur Pooram: Known for its grand elephant processions, percussion music, and fireworks, this festival is a spectacular event that attracts thousands of visitors.

 

4. Culinary Delights

Kerala’s cuisine is a delightful blend of spices, coconut, and seafood, reflecting the state’s diverse culture and history.

a. Popular Dishes

Sadya: A traditional vegetarian feast served on a banana leaf, featuring an array of dishes like rice, sambar, avial, thoran, and payasam.

Appam and Stew: Soft rice pancakes (appam) served with a flavorful stew made of vegetables, chicken, or mutton cooked in coconut milk.

Malabar Parotta and Beef Fry: A flaky layered flatbread served with spicy beef fry, a favorite in the Malabar region.

Karimeen Pollichathu: Pearl spot fish marinated with spices and wrapped in banana leaf, then grilled to perfection.

 

b. Beverages

Toddy: A locally fermented drink made from the sap of coconut palms, enjoyed for its unique taste and mild alcoholic content.

Filter Coffee: A strong, aromatic coffee brewed with finely ground coffee beans and served with milk and sugar.

 

5. Best Time to Visit

Kerala experiences three main seasons: summer (March to May), monsoon (June to September), and winter (October to February).

  • Winter (October to February) is the best time to visit Kerala, with pleasant weather ideal for sightseeing, houseboat cruises, and beach activities.
  • Monsoon (June to September) is perfect for Ayurvedic treatments, as the climate is conducive for therapies. However, heavy rains may disrupt travel plans.
  • Summer (March to May) can be hot and humid, but it’s a good time to explore hill stations like Munnar and Wayanad.

 

6. Travel Tips

  • Accommodation: Kerala offers a range of accommodation options, from luxury resorts and boutique hotels to budget homestays and hostels. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.
  • Local Transport: Public transport in Kerala includes buses, trains, and auto-rickshaws. For a more comfortable journey, consider hiring a private car or using ride-hailing apps like Uber and Ola.
  • Language: Malayalam is the official language, but English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas.
  • Health and Safety: Kerala is generally safe for travelers, but it’s essential to take standard precautions like avoiding isolated areas at night and being cautious with food and water to prevent any health issues.
  • Respect Local Customs: While Kerala is progressive, it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and always seek permission before photographing people.

7. Conclusion

Kerala’s enchanting beauty, rich culture, and warm hospitality make it a must-visit destination for travelers. Whether you’re exploring the serene backwaters, trekking through the lush hills, relaxing on sun-kissed beaches, or indulging in mouth-watering cuisine, Kerala offers an unforgettable experience that stays with you long after you’ve left. So pack your bags and get ready to discover the magic of “God’s Own Country.”