Nicknamed "The God's Own Country", Kerala, one of India's most successful states in terms of tourism, has a lot to offer for any curious and culture-hungry traveller. This is where coconuts, tea and various spices are grown. Beaches, unique wildlife and ex-colonial trading towns can also be found there. Once you arrive, there's plenty to do and see! Below are some of the top attractions, in random order.
1. Watch Kathakali performance
Kathakali is an intriguing art form consisting of dance, music, fascinating costumes and strong facial expressions exaggerated by heavy makeup. Interestingly dramatic performances can be watched all over the state in major tourist spots such as Calicut, Cochi or Varkala. For a more authentic experience, try to catch a glimpse of the show near the temple grounds and simply join the local spectators. This is the way it's been done for centuries.
Consume, indulge, taste ... Keralan cuisine is as diverse as any in India. It features fresh and aromatic spices, coconut oil and other south Indian ingredients. Tastebud satisfaction is guaranteed. Rice pancakes, tasty curries, red rice, deliciously thick chutneys, sticky sweets, they all await you. All you can eat meals served on banana leaves and various street food snacks are highly popular. Idlis are one of my favourite South Indian specialities. These steamed cakes, made of fermented rice flour are served with a fragrant lentil-vegetable stew called sambhar and deliciously creamy and spicy coconut chutney.
3. Cruise the backwaters
Where? You can access Keralan backwaters from many places, including Allapuram ("The Venice Of The East"), Kottayam and Quilon. You can choose the posh option and book yourself an overnight houseboat cruise. Comfortable private rooms with air conditioning, TV and food are available. If you're on a budget, pick a day cruise for equivalent of seven Dollars. And, if you're super cheap (like me), hop on a ferry with the locals. This is their mode of tanspotration, because there are no roads where they live, just hundreds of rivers and canals. Relax, observe and enjoy.
4. See the old Chinese fishing nets in action
These shore operated fishing lift nets are huge structures that are slow, but impressive and have been in use for the last 500 years. Uniquely engineered, made of bamboo and teak poles suspended above the sea, they make for an interesting and rather unusual sight, even if you're not really into fishing. They can be admired in Fort Kochin, a short ferry or bus trip away from Ernakulam.
5. Visit tea plantations
All around the tiny hill station of Munnar, an array of lush green valleys can be found. The mountain scenery with its tea plantations makes for a splendid sight. The views are spectacular and you can witness the whole process of tea preparation, visit a wildlife sanctuary, check out the beautiful waterfalls and cute little villages. This gem of a place has to be seen to be fully apprehended.
Whether on a backpacking trip, Indian honeymoon or a lazy family vacation, make sure you experience some of the indisputable highlights of Kerala. I guarantee you won't be disappointed and you will bring home some wonderful memories.