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7 places you must visit in Kerala

This isolated state on the Malabar coasts is one of the few places in India that where one can find traces of Europeans other than the usual suspects, i.e Britain. Kerala’s economy is dominated by the fishing, forestry, and agriculture which is unsurprising considering most places in the state are packed with lush green landscapes and wildlife reserves. The place has something for every kind of traveler. Join us as we countdown the top experiences in Kerala!

Kerala sits on the southwestern coast of India. This relatively small state is cut off from the inner parts of India by the Western Ghats creating a niche that was open to foreign influences through its coastline and consequently developed a distinctive culture. It serene coastline runs for almost 600 kilometers along the Arabian Sea; white sandy beaches and spice and tea engulfed hill of the Western Ghats and protected wildlife reserves bring visitors from all over the country and abroad. Here we count down the top experiences for you in Kerala.

7. Fort Kochi - before becoming popular with travelers today, Kochi’s ports brought in the old days brought in traders - Dutch, French, Portuguese, British! Now Fort Kochi also referred to as Old Kochi or West Kochi, is not a literal fort but the name given to the part of water-bound regions in the southwest of mainland Kochi. Visitors can see the cheena vala (Chinese fishing nets) that may have been set up when Chinese Voyagers journeyed to the coast in the 14th century. Other attractions include the Vasco da Gama square and the ruins of Fort Emmanuel, the first Portuguese fort in Asia.

6. Varkala - The coastal town of Varkala sits on the edge of the red laterite cliffs northwest of Trivandrum. A sliver of golden beaches that run along the northern cliffs is charged with restaurants, little shops that sell silver jewelry, cloth bags, and yoga mats, and surf gear. The central attraction of the town is the Papanasham Beach with the Janardhana Temple looking onto it. The beach is a holy site for Hindus - papanasam means ‘Destroyer of Sins’ and the waters are considered to have medicinal properties.

5. Kannur - Another coastal city on the list, Kannur or Cannanore was once an important trading port built by the colonial masters. This sleepy town lies 80 kilometers north of Calicut and is recognized for its cashew trade and weaving industry.  Visit the 16th century St Angelo Fort, explore the spice trade - Marco Polo called it a ‘great emporium of spice trade’, and stroll the Arakkial Museum that stands in the former palace of one of Kerala’s Muslim dynasties. The city’s theyyam rituals and clean beaches have enchanted tourists and locals alike for decades.

4. Wayanad - Wayanad is packed with waterfalls, caves of historical significance, spice plantations, and its wildlife. Visitors can trek the largest dam in India, the Earth Dam or explore the petroglyphs in the neolithic Edakkal Caves. Hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, and mountaineering are some popular tourist activities. The city is also home to a host of ancient temples like the Karinthadan temple and has several national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and reserves dedicated to protecting the endemic species in the forest.

3. Periyar Tiger Reserve - Kerala’s first tiger reserve was established as a wildlife sanctuary by the British in 1934. It stretches over 777 square kilometers and holds a 26 square kilometer lake artificially built by the British. The reserve today is home to 2000 elephants, wild boars, sambars, langurs, bison, and over 40 tigers. Periyar offers tourists a lake cruise, several trekking trails, and the opportunity to stay in the Bamboo Grove Eco Lodge complete with 15 bamboo huts. Adventures can skip the lake cruise and opt for Bamboo Rafting instead!

2. Munnar - Remember when we mentioned tea engulfed hills? We were not kidding. Munnar is Kerala’s paradisal hill station settled on the Western Ghats. Elysian visions of the lush green carpeting the tea estates with rugged peaks in the backdrop are bound to etch themselves in one’s mind. The Atukkad waterfalls, Echo Point, and Pothamedu View Point are some of the most picturesque spots in India. Hues of green and blue are all the eye can see here. If you fell in love with Tolkien’s Shire you will love Munnar.

1. Backwaters - We know ‘backwaters’ does not sound like an inviting spot. However, this inland network of saline lagoons, bayous, rivers and lake runs parallel to Kerala’s coastline and stretches beyond 900 kilometers. This UNESCO World Heritage place is a favorite for tourists and locals on a daily basis to travel and fish, and the annual snake boat races are fun to watch. Hiring a kettuvallam - a Kerala-style houseboat is a great way to experience a slice of the Keralan culture. The houseboats are equipped with the region's traditional foods and can be hired for an overnight stay. The village tours are another way to explore the backwaters with most tours lasting up to 10 hours and cost between ₹500 to ₹1000 ahead. Visitors can observe fish farming, traditional boat-building practices, and core-making. Alternately, travelers can access the public ferries from Alleppey to Kottayam for 15 bucks and most are solar-powered. The route navigates the Vembanad lake which is known for its motley landscape. Having said that we feel the responsibility to suggest taking the public ferries considering a lot of private houseboats have cropped up along the channels over the last decade and almost half operate with proper registration. They contaminate the waters with fuel, food, and plastic waste causing major environmental and health problems for the local villagers. If you still wish to hire a houseboat many of the resorts (and private operators) located within the backwaters have ones that are legally registered and equipped with bio-toilets too!

 

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