Kerala, also known as ‘God’s Own country’ is an enchantingly beautiful, emerald green land, flanked by the Western Ghats on one side, the Arabian Sea on the other, and strewn with rivers, lagoons, backwaters and rich vegetation. It has a particularly rich heritage of dance and drama (Kathalkali, Koothu, Mohiniattam) and people here are among the most industrious and well educated (100% literacy late) in the country. Kerala is renowned all over the world for its backwaters, natural beauty, health resorts and beaches.
Kerala is divided into 14 districts. The capital city is Thiruvananthapuram situated south of Kerala, however, Kochi considered as the commercial capital is situated in Ernakulam district. One can reach Kochi by air (Kochi International Airport) or train or by road depending on where you are boarding from.
PLACES TO VISIT
There are many places to visit in Kerala, be it the hill stations, beaches, wild life sanctuaries, temples or historical monuments.
HILL STATIONS & WILDLIFE PARKS
Munnar (1600 m above sea level) is a hill station - breathtakingly beautiful - a haven of peace and tranquility - the idyllic tourist destination in God's own country and one of the highest tea-growing areas in the world. This is an area for walking and trekking and en-route Cheeyapara waterfall can be seen. The Tea Factory Museum, Mattupetty Dam, Echo Point, speed boat ride at the artificial lake at Mattupetty are the highlights in Munnar.
2. Eravikulam National Park:
The Eravikulam National Park stands out for the stark beauty of its rolling grasslands and sholas, spread over 97 sq km in the Rajamalai hills. It’s a sanctuary for the endangered mountain goat of South India, the Nilgiri Tahr. Anamudi, the highest peak (2695 m) south of the Himalayas, towers over the sanctuary in majestic pride. The slopes of the hills abound in all kinds of rare flora and fauna. The Atlas moth, the largest of its kind in the world, is a unique inhabitant of the park. The Nilgiri Langur, the lion-tailed macaque, leopards, tigers, etc. are other rare species of fauna found here. The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is under the jurisdiction of and contiguous with Eravikulam National Park to the south. Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary is to the north and Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary is to the east. It forms an integral part of the 1,187 km2 (458 sq mi) block of protected forests straddling the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in the Anaimalai Hills.
Thekkady, one of India's major wildlife sanctuaries, sprawled over an area of 777sq.kms is rich in varied flora and fauna. It is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations of tea, cardamom, pepper, cloves and cinnamon in the High Ranges and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks. The Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area near Thekkady in the district of Idukki, Ernakulam, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta. It is notable as an elephant reserve and a tiger reserve. The park is a repository of rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna and forms the major watershed of two important rivers of Kerala, the Periyar and the Pamba.
Wayanad is a rainforest area in the Western Ghats. It consists of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, which is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere that also incorporates Bandipur National Park in Karnataka and Mudumalai Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
BEACHES & BACKWATERS
1. Fort Kochi
A charming seaside area, Fort Kochi is known for its Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial architecture, and elaborate bamboo fishing nets. The St. Francis Church which is the original burial site of explorer Vasco da Gama is located here. Upscale eateries and chic cafes serve Kerala specialties, and quaint shops sell cotton clothing and handmade souvenirs. Heritage buildings house contemporary art galleries. The Jewish Synagogue, Dutch Palace and Jew Street in Mattancherry are also historical places to visit near Fort Kochi. There is motorboat service from Taj Malabar Jetty and the cruise along the harbour the Cochin Harbour, Port Trust building, Dubai Port, Bolgatty Palace, Marine Drive etc.
2. Cherai Beach
Cherai Beach is located in the Kochi district itself and is about 25kms from Kochi city. It is located on the northern end of the beautiful Vypin Island. This beach is a combination of the Arabian Sea and the Kerala backwaters. The Chinese fishing nets, very famous to Kochi, are also seen from here. Cherai Beach Resort is a well-known resort located close to the beach.
3. Kovalam & Varkala Beaches
Athirappilly is located in Thrissur district in Kerala, India and located 55 km northeast of Cochin International Airport. The Athirappilly Falls is situated 1000 ft above sea level on the Chalakudy River, at the entrance to the Sholayar ranges of the Western Ghats, Athirappally is a scenic combination of forests and little streams. Falling from a height of 80 feet, this is one of the largest waterfalls in the state. Many endangered and endemic species of flora and fauna are found in the forests of the Athirapilly-Vazhachal area. This area is the only place in the Western Ghats where four endangered hornbill species are seen. Environmentalists claim that Athirapally is a one-of its-kind riparian ecosystem in Kerala.
There are two water theme parks (Silver Storm and Dream Word) and many resorts on the way to Athirapilly.
MUSEUMS & HISTORICAL PLACES IN KOCHI
There are museums of interest such as Maritime museum in Cochin and Indo-Portuguese museum, The Hill Palace Museum and The Museum of Kerala History. Fort Kochi, Vasco da Gama Square, Mattancherry Palace and Dutch Palace, Mattancherry are also other places of historical interest.
BOAT RIDES THROUGH THE BACKWATERS OF KERALA
For those who enjoy the backwaters, Alappuzha and Kumarakom offer house boat rides along the long stretch of lagoons while treating you to traditional Kerala meals prepared in the boat itself by the staff. Kuttanad is the most beautiful backwaters region of Kerala. These serene waterways are fringed by palm grove and paddy fields and while navigating these waterways one can appreciate the beauty of countryside.
TRADITION & CUISINE
Kerala is also known for its kind of Martial Arts called Kalarippayattu. Ayurvedic treatments in Kerala are best way to relax and there are many spas offering Ayurvedic massages and treatments that leave you refreshed.
The Kerala cuisine is typical in its own way rich in spices and coconut based. Kerala has a rich and unique flavor of foods especially sea foods, tapioca and banana dishes. The Kerala “Meen Curry” is a Kerala style fish curry which goes well with rice or tapioca. “Karimeen pollicahathu”, which is the pearl spot cooked with spices in banana leaf is another famous delicacy of this region. The “Appam and stew” and “Puttu” are a must try and taste delicious when served piping hot with the right accompaniments.