Kerala travel guide: Visit the jewel of South India

Jade Crasto
Kerala is home to endless palm groves, immaculate beaches, vast tea plantations, rolling hills, tranquil backwaters, delectable cuisine and so much more. This is the best time to visit God’s Own Country, and we’re here for it! It is amazing in and of itself how this tiny sliver of land can harbor such sublime natural beauty and cultural richness. In case you’re planning a trip this year, we have chalked out an itinerary for you.
Photo Courtesy: Gaurav Kumar / Unsplash
The urban face of Kerala is Kochi, also referred to as Cochin. Flights to the state’s capital is frequent from domestic and international destinations. It’s great as the starting point of your trip, but Kochi has much more to offer than just a layover.
This coastal, international metropolis is located in Kerala’s Ernakulam district on the Arabian and Laccadive Seas. It was historically a significant spice trading hub on India’s west coast and is renowned as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea.’ It will be a unique experience to see the historical cities of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, and explore its complicated colonial past. A few of the many sights one must not miss include the Jewish Synagogue, Santa Cruz Basilica, Vasco House, Dutch Palace, Pallippuram Fort, and more. One of Kochi’s most gorgeous sites is the city’s Chinese Fishing Nets. According to a legend, these nets were first brought to Kochi in the 14th century by a Chinese adventurer named Zheng. He came from the royal palaces of the great Chinese emperor Kublai Khan.
Don’t miss having a meal at the classy waterfront restaurant in Kochi called The Ginger House which serves some of the most heart-warming Indian appetizers and meals, including ginger ice cream, ginger prawns, and ginger lassi. The restaurant is said to be the best in Kochi because of its distinctive setting.
Photo Courtesy: Brunton Boatyard
Where to stay
When in Kochi, you can stay at the Brunton Boatyard. Air-conditioned accommodations with stunning sea views are available at this Victorian shipyard that has been rebuilt on the lovely Cochin Harbour. The Fort Kochi-Vypeen Ferry Terminal is a 1-minute stroll away. The hotel also has an outdoor pool and offers Ayurvedic massage therapies. Another option is Fragrant Nature, Kochi. Nestled in Cochin’s Fort Kochi neighborhood, it’s  just 800 meters from the Kochi Biennale. The hotel features a garden, a sun terrace, an outdoor pool, and a fitness center. The facility has a front desk staffed 24 hours a day in both English and Hindi,  currency exchange and concierge services. The hotel has wardrobes, seating areas, and private bathrooms with showers in each of its guest rooms. And every morning, the lodging offers a continental breakfast to its visitors.
Photo Courtesy: Ravin Rau / Unsplash
Travel upcountry next, to the rolling hills of Munnar. A seasoned traveler does not require an introduction to Munnar. Munnar, the most popular vacation spot in Kerala, is located at a height of 1600 meters above sea level, at a distance of 126 km from Kochi. It is a small piece of heaven with infinite tea gardens, meandering narrow paths amid mist-covered mountains, and pure air fragrant with spices. It is situated in the Idukki area. All year long, travellers from all over the world come to this small town. Just a few of its attractions include the tea farms, Mattuppetty Dam, Eravikulam National Park. One leaves Munnar with a commitment to return because, above all else, this place has a serene and relaxed quality that draws you into its arms and leaves you wanting to learn more about it.
Tea Plantations and Muthirappuzhayar River Munnar
Tea Plantations and Muthirappuzhayar River Munnar
Munnar is a beautiful place with stunning scenery. India’s tea industry has benefited from its favourable climate and topography. One of the top tourist destinations in Kerala for families is the state’s numerous plantations, which provide scenic landscapes and endless cups of tea. You will be enchanted by the expansive tea plantation’s old-world beauty at Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation in Idukki. A historic tea factory and a two-story building constructed in 1930, adds to the ensemble. While you tour the plantation and marvel at the old-fashioned techniques of making tea, inhale the aroma of a variety of flavors from the plantation’s tea kinds.
Photo Courtesy: Snehal Krishna / Unsplash
Athirapally, a village close to Chalakudy, is well-known for its waterfalls. It is located on the Chalakudy River at a height of 1,000 feet above sea level, and the falls themselves are 80 feet tall. These are the biggest waterfalls in Kerala and are also known as the Niagara of India. Asiatic elephants, bison, tigers, leopards, sambars, and other rare and indigenous species of flora and fauna can be found in the nearby Sholayar ranges of the Western Ghats, which are well-liked by tourists.
Where to stay
Consider visiting Namami Spa and Wellness Center while you are in Athirapally. The biggest attraction near the Athirapally waterfalls is this spa center. Namami can be thought of as a refuge for people who are unable to escape their hectic city lives and a wellness sanctuary. The Periyar River banks are located near the ayurvedic therapeutic center, which is 10 km from the Athirapally waterfalls.
Photo Courtesy: The Rainforest Resort
Head over to Athirappilly’s Rainforest Resort which offers adult-only lodging with a restaurant, a shared lounge, and a garden. A 24-hour front desk, room service, and free WiFi are just a few of the amenities offered at this establishment. The resort also has balconies with a view of the river in several of the property’s suites. The resort is 300 meters from Athirappilly Water Falls, and 29 kilometers from Adlux International Convention & Exhibition Center, and the Cochin International Airport is located 40 kilometers from the lodging.
Photo Courtesy: Unsplash
Next up is Alleppey on the coast, a drive of about 5 hours from Munnar. Alternatively, one can stop at Kochi, and take the train to Alleppey, enjoying the sights on the way.
Alleppey is the ideal location if you want to relax away from the hustle and bustle. Also referred to as the Venice of the East, it lies at the centre of Kerala’s backwaters. It is a region of water-y marvels with its picture-perfect lagoons, mirror-still backwaters, and serene beaches. Its complex system of canals and how closely the local way of life is entwined with its waterways is truly wonderful to witness.
Alleppey, which is home to thousands of houseboats, is the ideal place to spend the weekend drifting in its waterways while admiring the breath-taking beauty that this area has to offer. Indulge in freshly prepared fish and duck in the traditional manner. The Vembanad Lake, Kerala’s largest backwater, contains the Alleppey Backwaters.
Simply arrange a tour on one of the magnificent houseboats, which are essentially modernized replicas of the ‘Kettuvallams’ that cruised down this stretch in earlier times. Travel through Kerala’s gorgeous waterscapes in a little house furnished with a bedroom, bathroom, dining area, and more!
Photo Courtesy: Abhishek Prasad / Unsplash
An hour’s ride from Alleppey, Kumarakom is a haven for nature lovers, set against the picturesque backdrop of Vembanad Lake, Kerala’s largest lake. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, located in this location and covering 14 acres, is one of Kerala’s most renowned bird sanctuaries. Waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron, cormorant, moorhen, darter, brahminy kite and the migratory Siberian crane are some of the local and migratory birds spotted here. During their respective migratory seasons, you can see parrots, teals, larks, flycatchers, and other species.
Photo Courtesy: The Zuri Kumarakom Kerala Resort & Spa
Where to stay
The Zuri Kumarakom, Kerala Resort & Spa is located on the beaches of the Vembanad Lake, and offers stunning views of the tranquil backwaters. Numerous miles of tranquil backwaters, a cool sea air, and swaying coconut trees all welcome you to an amazing experience of luxury and tranquilly. Experience the vibrant local culture, delectable local cuisine, and the vast collection of flora and animals found here while surrounded by luxury at the Zuri Kumarakom.
Kumarakom Lake Resort
Photo Courtesy: Kumarakom Lake Resort
The Kumarakom Lake Resort’s rooms, villas, and suites are the ideal fusion of Kerala’s traditional architectural charm and opulent modern conveniences. Each is a meticulous recreation of a mana, a traditional Keralan homestead from the 16th century, which was painstakingly moved from its original places and reassembled by hand, board by plank, and tile by tile, to form the opulent residences at Kumarakom Lake Resort. The villas and suites all have historically designed, luxuriously modern, open-roofed baths that are situated in compact, aesthetically pleasing courtyards.
King Charles III celebrated his 65th Birthday at Kumarakom Lake Resort. The then heir apparent along with Camilla Duchess of Cornwall chose Kumarakom Lake Resort for this special occasion primarily because of his love for traditional architecture and his desire to experience a destination unique to Kerala. Thirty cottages had been booked for the couple and their entourage, and the royal couple stayed at the regal Presidential Suite of the resort.
Poovar Island
Poovar Beach
Poovar Island is a haven for individuals seeking solitude. Backwaters and the Neyyar River, which flows into the Arabian Sea nearby, surround this tiny island. It is situated around 30 km south of Trivandrum. One can only reach the island by water. It is only 12 kilometers from Kovalam Beach. The island stands out for its unspoiled natural beauty. Its a combination of beach, island, backwater, river, and sea casts a special spell that is all it’s own. The area is a beautiful mixture of green due to the dense development of spices and floral plants amid coconut and banana orchards.
Photo Courtesy: Poovar Island Resort
Stay at the Poovar Island Resort which is literally a window into heaven. It is unspoiled and undiscovered, encircled by the most tranquil backwaters, and opens out to the Arabian Sea and a dreamy golden sand beach. Built on 25 acres of lush, green coconut gardens next to the beach, the resort consists of opulent land-based superior rooms built around the swimming pool on a naturally occurring lily pond and is exceptional in India for the floating cottages and villas that are afloat on the backwaters and face the sea. Only a 10-minute riverboat trip will get you to the resort, which is located 30 kilometers from Trivandrum International Airport.
Delicacies to enjoy:
Coconut, rice, tapioca, and spices like black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger are abundant in Kerala’s cuisine. Cassava was introduced by the Portuguese and is now a staple food in Kerala. Additionally, the area is well-known for its Sadhya, a feast served during the Hindu holiday of Onam that includes boiling rice and a variety of vegetarian dishes on a banana leaf. Due to its extensive coastline, Kerala cuisine also uses a lot of seafood, including fish, prawns, mussels, and crabs. You must try these delicacies when in Kerala!
Puttu & Kadala
Puttu Kadala
Puttu, one of the many meals from Kerala, is a well-known breakfast food that is made of steamed rice cooked in a mould with grated coconut. It can be eaten with kadala curry (the Keralite equivalent of “Kala Chana”), grated coconut, and ripe bananas. Though it may look plain or boring in appearance, this dish is filled with wonderful flavors.
Malabar Parotta with Kerala beef curry
Malabar Parotta with Kerala beef curry
Parotta, a layered flatbread of Malabar origins, is created by kneading maida, water, an egg (in certain recipes), oil or ghee, and other ingredients. After being beaten, the dough is later formed into a spiral with thin layers. The ball is flattened before being baked in ghee as a parotta. After that, it is served with beef curry, which is comprised of beef pieces cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices like bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns, and star anise.
Chemmeen curry
Prawn Curry
A Malabar-style prawn curry cooked with fenugreek, black mustard, fennel seeds, coconut milk, and green chilies is the state’s hallmark cuisine. Additionally, it contains marinated prawns, drumsticks, and raw mango to give it a spicy, tangy flavor. Kudampuli, a rare ingredient that is also known as brindleberry, is also used.
Ethakka Appam
Photo Courtesy: Pexels
Banana fritters are a common afternoon snack in Keralan homes, and two different but equally excellent types are Pazham Pori and Ethakka Appam. Ripe bananas are simply dredged in plain flour, fried in oil, and served as a staple of Keralan cuisine. Don’t leave Kerala without trying some of these alongside your evening cup of tea or coffee.
Palada Payasam
Palada Payasam
Palada Payasam is a sweet rice kheer that is made with palada, and it is a delicacy among the main foods of Kerala that has now captured the hearts of foodies across the nation. Usually, festivals like Onam and other auspicious events call for the preparation and serving of the dish. The most well-known payasam among the many types is called Palada Payasam and is created with simple components like rice ada, milk, sugar, and ghee.
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