Palm trees. Sandy beaches. Vibrant culture. You'll find all of these things in Kerala, India. Located in the south of the country, Kerala is known as one of the top ten paradises in the world.
This area is covered in a beautiful, natural ecosystem including backwaters, mountains, coconuts and spices. The heavy, yearlong rains provide lush and gorgeous vegetation, and earn the area a spot on the list of the wettest spots on earth.
Kerala is very different from the rest of India. For one, this area is the most literate and diverse area in in the country with churches, mosques, Hindu temples and even synagogues. This states' education and healthcare are far beyond the rest of the country- putting them on par with many Western areas of the world. However, even though this area is incredibly diverse and progressive, do not expect everyone to speak or understand English.
The best part is that this area is by far the safest in all of India. There is almost no incidence of tourists being cheated or taken for granted.
Houseboats on the Backwaters of Kerala
As the home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, you'll find plenty of natural wonders to see in Kerala. From backwaters to mountains, forest parks to beaches, there really is something for everyone.
But be sure to add plenty of religious attractions to your list. This area has gorgeous temples, churches, mosques and more to gaze at all in one state.
There are also dozens of museums and historical places worth a visit. The Hill Palaces, for example, hold more than 200 artifacts including the Crown Jewels.
Then, of course, if you're more interested in a relaxing wander through the local culture, there's Munnar. This sleepy little town is right in the middle of the tea plantations. Wander the streets and then visit an actual tea factory in operation.
The state of Kerala is split into five different regions. Malabar is known for its spices, textiles and food. Central Kerala is the home to the largest urban area, known as Kochi. It's the cultural heart of Kerala. Central Travancore is the land of backwaters, churches and high literacy, while Northern Travancore is covered in mountains, hill stations and plantations know for growing spices, tea and coffee. Lastly, the capital city and many sporting events can be found in Southern Travancore.
There are adventures designed for every visiting traveler. You can canoe the backwaters of Kollom, climb the rocks of the Munnar Mountains or go snorkeling in the beaches of Alappuzha, Kovalam and Varkala.
Kerala is perhaps most famous for houseboat
trips through the "backwaters" (the rivers and lakes of the region). On such a trip, visitors can relax and unwind, take in the natural beauty, eat amazing local food, and learn about the history of the region. Houseboats come in all shapes, sizes, and budget ranges to fit any type of traveler. If the idea of staying on a boat does not interest you, various hotels and resorts can be found along the waterways.
For a truly unique experience, though, take a safari. Not just any safari, however. Take a safari on the back of an eight-foot elephant. This activity is completely available in areas like the eco-tourist village of Thenmala.
The most relaxing experience you can have on your to-do list is to try out the famous Ayurvedic hospitals. This world famous healing art is 5,000 years old. In recent years, many Ayurveda spas have sprung up due to tourist popularity offering light massages and pleasure treatments. It is still recommended that you go to the hospitals for the real deal.
Food and Dining
Don't expect traditional Indian cuisine in Kerala. The food here is starkly different than from the rest of the country. One of he staples of their diet is rice and non-vegetarian dishes are very popular. Because you're I such a tropical area, you will not want to miss out on the delicious array of seafood available.
While the food is different it still very spicy. It's not meant for beginners. The cuisines is divided by regional styles: Malabar, Central Travancore, Southern Travancore and Central Kerala.
One of the most traditional dishes you won't want to miss is the buffet style Sadhya. This dish typically consists of 24 different items served up on a plantain leaf.
One word of warning: you may want to avoid drinking the tap water. Mineral/bottled water is available everywhere.
All modes of transportation are available within Kerala. Trains are your best bet for traveling across the state, while taxi is a great option for traveling within regions.
Renting and driving your own car is really not advised. Not only is the rental process for Westerners nearly impossible, but also the roads are narrow, filled with bustling traffic and very little attention is paid to the rules of the road.