Kerala is one of the most beautiful states in India. It is also one of the most prosperous and boasts of living standards comparable to those in the west.
When to visit
The official tourist season in Kerala runs from September to March. Pleasant weather awaits tourists who visit God’s Own Country during this period. Kerala has mild winters (November – February) and hot summers (March – May), so summer is not exactly a great time to visit this south-Indian state. That said, if you are keen on watching the famous elephant festivals of Kerala, you need to be here in March or April. The festival season starts in February, but some of the most famous festivals like Thrissur Pooram are held in March or April.
Visiting Kerala during the rainy season
Kerala has a well-defined rainy season which runs from June to September. Monsoon is the best time to visit Kerala if you are looking to savor its scenic beauty. The state has numerous rivers, backwaters and waterfalls and they look their mightiest during the rainy season. The majestic Western Ghats are to the east of Kerala. The Ghats house several hill stations, spice gardens and wildlife sanctuaries. Those interested in getting Ayurvedic treatment should also visit during the rains.
Travelling in Kerala is a rewarding experience. The state has well-developed infrastructure. The people are warm and polite. Better still, the vast majority of them understand English. While you can’t expect them to converse fluently in English, they know enough English to help a traveller.
Must-see locations in Kerala
If you are visiting Kerala sometime soon, here are some places you need to include in your itinerary.
Head to Kovalam
Kerala is a coastal state. While the state has several beautiful beaches, the one at Kovalam is the most famous. The clifftop palace at Kovalam was built for the erstwhile kings and queens of Travancore. They used to stay here during the rainy season. Kovalam eventually became a popular tourist destination. Now numerous paths run through coconut palm groves to tourist homes. The beachfront restaurants serve lip smacking fish recipes. Hawa Beach near the lighthouse is the most vibrant.
Alappuzha: best for backwaters
Alappuzha is the epicenter of Kerala’s backwaters tourism. The district is famous for its rice fields and numerous interconnected backwater rivers, lagoons and canals. Little wonder, Alappuzha is called the Venice of the East.
Hire a houseboat and cruise through the backwaters while you are at Alappuzha. The houseboats (kettuvallams) were originally rice barges used to bring rice and spices to Kochi via rivers and canals. When roads were built, these barges became obsolete. Years later they made a fantastic comeback as houseboats. Now these are stately carriers with five star facilities and private chefs. Alappuzha has changed significantly over the years; still when you cruise through the canals, you will find local women washing laundry by the edge of the water and men anchoring their fishing boats. A houseboat ride gives the visitor an opportunity to observe rural life from close quarters. The ride itself is a pleasant experience. What’s more, the boats have all the facilities you need to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable.
Kochi: best for history
Your Kerala tour is incomplete without a visit to Kochi, the Queen of Arabian Sea. Kochi is a major port on the west coast of India. The coast of Kochi has always been famous all over the world. The traders who arrived here centuries ago brought back home stories of bazaars overflowing with silk, gold and spices. The affluence of Kochi attracted many more visitors to this coast. The rest as they say is history. Foreign traders who arrived here eventually became the rulers of the land and India lost its riches.
Kochi is no longer a major international trading center, but its air is thick with history. There are still plenty of shops selling gold, silk and spices. You will also find the remnants of the European era. There are several European bungalows with their mint-green facades. India’s oldest European Church, St Francis CSI Church is at Kochi. Mattancherry Palace and Paradesi Synagogue are the other attractions for history buffs. At least a handful of Jews still live in Kochi. The Jewish streets of Mattancherry are quite popular with tourists.
Munnar: best for tea
Munnar is a lovely hill station lying in the lap of the Western Ghats. It is famous for its tea plantations, rushing waterfalls, green hills and cool weather. Unlike the plains of Kerala which receive plenty of sunlight, Munnar remains wrapped in a misty envelope throughout the year. About 10 percent of the total tea produced in India comes from Munnar. Munnar tea has a subtle flavor. During the British era, Munnar was their summer retreat. The British later realized that the weather and terrain of Munnar was ideal for cultivating tea. They brought people from Tamil Nadu to work in their tea estates. They also laid a mountain rail in Munnar. Today, most tea plantations in Munnar are owned by the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations. It is a co-operative of 12,000 worker-shareholders.
Wayanad: best for wildlife
Wayanad is more or less an unexplored territory. Development is yet to reach many parts of this district. The tribal population of Wayanad hasn’t joined the mainstream either. Nonetheless, tourists are heading to this place with great enthusiasm. Wayanad’s biggest draw is its untainted natural beauty.
Wayanad is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Its forests abound in teak, sandalwood and eucalyptus. It is also home to several endangered species such as the Royal Bengal Tiger, grey mongooses, spotted deer, wild boar and numerous colourful birds. The reserve has thousands of elephants. Peacocks are a common sight here. And if you are really lucky, you will be able to spot even a tiger or a leopard.