Thrissur Pooram Festival, Kerala, is one of India’s largest cultural festivals.
My top travel tips for Kerala, recently voted a top destination for 2014
GUIDEBOOK publisher Lonely Planet recently named Kerala one of the top destinations for family travel in 2014. And I agree. Soft, white sand beaches, gentle people, a tropical climate, fresh spices, tea plantations, India’s highest literacy rate, a unique culture … there are so many reasons to love Kerala. When asked, I often recommend starting a first trip to India in Kerala as it provides for a soft landing. Photographer Andrew Adams shares my love of Kerala, and in this photo essay shows us several views of this beloved state, which shares the southern tip of India with Tamil Nadu. For my top Kerala travel tips and recommendations, please keep reading.
Fishing on the Backwaters: a charming scene of daily life in Kerala.
Flying down to Kerala
On my first trip to India, I landed in Delhi in December 2005 and by the end of the month, I was chilly! Delhi can drop to 5 C. at night in winter, and the houses are not heated. I was staying with Indian friends, who were all huddled in layers of warm clothing around room heaters, and I decided enough is enough. I did not leave Canada and travel all the way to India to be cold. I called a travel agent I knew and booked a flight to Trivandrum, Kerala. I flew on December 31, the only flight available, and I cannot tell you how happy I was to arrive in Kerala on a sun-kissed, balmy day. From that day to this, I have had a special place in my heart for this lush, tropical state.
Colourful floral offering at a wedding in Kerala.
God’s Own Country
The motto for Kerala, “God’s Own Country,” refers to the rich heritage, lively culture, lush topography and positive socio-political climate. A Yahoo! answer to the question “Why is Kerala called God’s own country” turned up this: “Nestled between the pristine waters of the Arabian sea on the west and the lush Western Ghat mountains on the east, its intense network of rivers and lagoons, thick forests, exotic wildlife, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters and a long shoreline of serene beaches make it a traveler’s paradise.”
The bride makes her grand entrance on guilded Palanquin, Kerala.
Top travel recommendations in Kerala
I’ve been to Kerala twice, once to stay at an Ayurvedic resort, and once to visit the Backwaters and Cochin. I have also driven along the coast, making several stops along the way — including to get a hug from Amma, “the hugging saint,” whose ashram is in Kerala. Based on my experience and those of others, here are my top suggestions for a trip to Kerala. 1. Take the treatments at an Ayurvedic resort. I stayed at Shinshiva Ayurvedic Resort for two heavenly weeks in 2006 and often dream of returning to relax on the beach, enjoy daily oil massages and eat fresh, healthy food. There are many Ayurvedic resorts and hospitals in Kerala to choose from, from the serious and austere to luxurious resorts on the beach that cater to tourists. 2. Float along the Backwaters. The Backwaters of Kerala are one of the state’s top tourist attractions and for a reason. It’s a unique way to relax and enjoy a traditional culture on board your own boat. 3. Ascend to the tea plantations of Munnar. Recently featured to great affect in Life of Pi, the lush hill station of Munnar is a centre of the coffee, tea and spice gardens of Kerala. A great place to find cooler weather and to commune with the natural beauty of the region. 4. Track wildlife at Peryiyar. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of India’s most popular nature reserves, home to bison, sambar, wild boar, langur, elephants and about 46 tigers, at last count. 5. Visit the old port of Cochin / Kochi. Kerala has long been a seaport, attracting traders from the Middle East and beyond, and Cochin was a major port of call. The old part of the city is fascinating, and features boutique hotels, great restaurants, many cultural attractions, a spice market, the famous Chinese fishing nets and a wonderful atmosphere.
Traditional Chinese fishing nets are still used today in Cochin.
6. Bask on the beach in Varkala. This is Andrew Adams’ favourite spot in Kerala, and perhaps all of India. Dramatic cliffs, gorgeous sunsets and a relaxed vibe combine to make it a great spot to unwind and unplug. 7. Enjoy the festivals. Kerala has its own unique culture, distinct from the other states of India, and many of its own festivals. Onam, for example, is an exuberant festival that takes place in August/September to celebrate the abundance of nature. 8. Celebrate monsoon season. I have been besotted by the idea of being in Kerala when the monsoon arrives since seeing a documentary about it, called Chasing India’s Monsoon. While it is the off-season, and extremely hot and humid, it is considered a special time to be in Kerala. Many festivals take place and apparently Ayurvedic treatments are more effective. 9. Stay at a homestay. Lonely Planet rated Kerala as one of their top family friendly destinations for 2014 and recommended a homestay. 10. Eat fresh food and glorious spices. Kerala is the spice bowl of India, and you can visit, and even stay, at the spice gardens. The local cuisine is rice-based, spiked with fresh spices and often eaten off a large, bright green banana leaf.
Kerala is the spice bowl of India
A wedding couple take a romantic sunset cruise on the Backwaters in Kerala
Colorful painted faces, a tradition you will find in most Kerala festivals
About Andrew Adams
The magic moment is what Canadian photographer Andrew Adams excels at capturing. Working with minimal gear, Andrew gets up-close-and-personal with his subject matter and creates exquisite images that evoke a sense of wonder. He has traveled extensively in India and Sri Lanka, and specializes in South Asian travel and wedding photography. To View Andrew’s Wedding Photos from Kerala To view more of Andrew’s Travel Photos from Kerala
The creative eye behind the images, Andrew enjoying the simple life on the backwaters.
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South India Vacations
South India is an enchanting land of many ancient cultures and heritage, and sun drenched sand and sea, in the southern tip of the country, lapped by Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal. There are many things to do and see here and hence travel to South India for your best family vacation destinations. See the Maps of Southern India
The main states belong to this part of the country are Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Tamilnadu including Pondicherry. (The State of Andhra Pradesh was divided into two states - Andhra Pradesh and Telangana - on 2nd June 2014. )
Since the visitors come all the way here they also visit Goa, which is very nearer to these states.
Even young couple find this place as one of the best places to get married and enjoy their honeymoon here. Whatever age group you belong to, this amazing land has a lot to offer to the visitors who come from abroad or from other parts of the country. Each state is unique in culture, food, festivals, customs and rituals. Kerala, one of the States of South India, won UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organization) Award for excellence in Tourism, which was presented on January 22, 2014 at Madrid. It is the first time India has won such a recognition.
It is not possible to experience everything in one visit, or on few visits. But you can experience at least a flavor of this enchanting land in a single visit. If you want to get to the heart and soul of this fabled land where you can have an unforgettable vacation, come and explore this site, where more and more details will be added frequently. You may bookmark this site for your easy access, to know more about the best family vacation destinations in this part of our country.
Enjoying a vacation in this picturesque land would be an unforgettable experience. When compared to many other countries you can have a cheap family vacation here.
As a native, I will help you learn more about this culture rich land.
Enjoy the Slide Show now