6 reasons to add Kerala to your bucket list
The state of Kerala in South India is popularly called as 'Gods own country’, and rightly so! It has in fact been ranked seventh in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2020. Palm trees swaying across the beaches, backwaters with their reflections in the water & a beautiful sunset watched from a houseboat/shikara, are reasons enough to visit it, but let me tell you more.
Kerala has a huge coastline with beautiful beaches...some touristy, others untouched and serene. But it's the backwaters that distinguish Kerala from other places.
Lagoons & lakes interconnected, with village life by its sides, boats running like buses between villages- no wonder Alleppey is called the ‘Venice of the East'.
It is also a land of temples & Elephants are the State animal; they can be found everywhere in Kerala. They are regarded as a symbol of pride & an integral part of all celebrations & temple processions, which are a sight by themselves!
‘Land of spices’ is also a very common term used for Kerala as its wonderful spice markets & spice plantations will leave you mesmerized. Make it a point to buy these spices on your trip: black pepper, cardamom & cloves.
Kerala has something for every kind of traveler. But most importantly, it is one of the safest destinations in India!
Let me list out the most famous must include destinations in your itinerary :
1. Alleppey/ Kumarakom - The famous Kerala backwaters
Known for their backwaters, both places are extremely beautiful & worth a visit. Alleppey has the advantage of a lovely beach as well. Houseboats & shikaras are plenty & easy to book; they can be 1 bhk, 2 bhk, premium, with balcony...various types. They are generally booked for an overnight stay & the experience is rich.
Be thorough in your research about houseboats before booking them. Shikaras are decorated motorboats & another good way to explore the Kerala backwaters. These are rented by the hour. You can also do kayaking to access the narrower canals & have a different experience.
Eat a traditional lunch on a banana leaf, cycle your way around and stay in a hotel/homestay across the backwaters. Kumarakom has more luxurious resorts & Alleppey has a better range of homestays & hostels, so you could plan accordingly.
2. Munnar - The land of tea estates
The picturesque tea gardens of Munnar are a treat to the eyes. Still uncommercialized despite its popularity, it is a must visit on your Kerala trip. You can drive or trek through the tea estates & watch the tea pickers in action.
You could also visit the tea museum to understand the tea journey & its grading.
Enjoy the flora & fauna, specially the Nilgiri Tahr at Eravikulam National park. Or visit Kolukkumalai tea estate - the highest one, accessible by jeep only. There are waterfalls too like Lakkam & Attukal. Shout out at the Echo point or visit an elephant park where you can bathe/ride elephants- there’s lots to do! :D
Read more about Munnar here.
3. Kochi - The cultural cocktail
This major entry point to Kerala is a destination in itself. Fort Kochi is the cultural capital - The famous Chinese fishing nets, Jew Synagogue and an historical circuit in Fort Kochi are some must do things.
Go the local way & take a ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi for just Rs 4! Walk along Marine Drive & Subhash Park and buy some spices, sarees & lovely gold ornaments if you wish.
Make sure to eat a sadya (lunch on banana leaf) & desserts. The cakes here are awesome, especially plum cake! Watch a Kathakali performance- the local dance. Cycles are plenty & so are tuk tuks. Homestays are all around, and so are cooking classes. Buy spices. Have banana chips fresh off an oil cauldron.
Read more about Kochi here.
4. Thekkady - The tiger trail
Welcome to the Tiger Sanctuary, where you take a boat to see the animals in their natural habitat. You can also do bamboo rafting or trek up with a forest guard in tow. Visit the spice plantations, bathe the elephants and buy some spices & banana chips.
Read more about Thekkady here.
5. Kovalam/ Varkala -The famous beach belt
The crescent beach with the most luxurious properties, Kovalam, is popular among foreigners & locals. Some of the most luxurious Kerala resorts are in fact in Kovalam. Trivandrum is the nearest airport & a trip to Kanyakumari & Poovar can also be easily done.
Varkala has a cliffside beach & is known as a backpacker’s delight. You’ll find lots of restaurants on the cliff overlooking the sea, quaint cafes & a thriving local market. With many budget options & beautiful beaches- you will find more foreigners than locals here.
Enjoy a variety of watersports - including surfing , at both beaches.
6. Athirapally Falls
Located on the edge of the Sholayar forest ranges, this famous waterfall is a popular spot for all travelers. You have to descend about 100 steps to reach here but it’s totally worth it! Featured in many movies for its breathtaking vistas, enjoy the spray & the greenery around.
Local experiences not to be missed
● Houseboat ride along the backwaters
● Shikara/Kayak on the backwaters
● Sadya lunch- food served on banana leaf
● Kathakali dance
● Ayurvedic massage
● Visit a spice plantation
● Visit a temple & attend aarti
● Yoga by the sea
● Local cooking classes
● Elephant bathing or ride
● Tuk tuk rides
● Local ferry
Food in Kerala
Being a coastal state, it is famous for its variety of seafood- Kerala Prawn Curry & Kerala Style Fish Molee to be had with Kerala parotta.
Also try the Nadan Kozhi Varuthathu (Spicy Chicken Fry) here.
Among the vegetarian dishes- Appam with Stew & Puttu with Kadala Curry should not be missed.
Do remember to have Sadya here- food served on a banana leaf. It is an experience to relish!
Shopping in Kerala
Spices top the list. Cotton dresses & scarves are excellent too!
The typical Kerala cream & gold saree (called Kasavu) is a great buy as well. Gold here is certified & available in eye catching designs. Handicrafts are exquisite & a great souvenir to take back home.
Where to stay in Kerala
Kerala has the most varied ranging options available, right from luxurious 5 star hotels to hostels & homestays. In fact, a home stay is highly recommended for experiencing the local culture. English is widely spoken & understood, so language will not be a problem here.
Best time to visit Kerala
Winter season between September to February is the best time to visit Kerala. The climate is comfortable and pleasant.
How to reach Kerala
Kerala has three international airports. The most popular arrival airport is Kochi International airport. All major cities are well connected by road & rail. The government- run KSRTC AC buses are also a very safe & practical way of touring the state.
Distances from Kochi airport
● Kochi- Alleppey -- 84 kms
● Kochi-Munnar --110 kms
● Kochi-Thekkady -- 145 kms
● Kochi- Kovalam -- 211 kms
● Kochi-Athirapally -- 39 kms
Kerala really is a gem and is loved by travelers and tourists alike. See you there!
I am Nilima Gautam, also known as The Traveling CA. A Chartered Accountant and Banker by profession but a traveler by passion.
I’m always cooking up plans for my next trip or reading about a new place to eventually plan my next trip. :) Find me on Instagram @thetravelingca for more!