Kerala is where India slips down into second gear, stops to smell the roses and always talks to strangers. A strip of land between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, its perfect climate flirts unabashedly with the fertile soil, and everything glows. An easy-going and successful socialist state, Kerala has a liberal hospitality that stands out as its most laudable achievement.
Resting on low hills in Southern Kerala, is the capital Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), used as a gateway to nearby resorts by many but boasting some of its very own attractions and dreadlocked faithfuls. North of the capital is Varkala with its stunning cliffs; but the real emerald jewel in South India’s crown are the backwaters that meander throughout Kerala. Here, spindly networks of rivers, canals and lagoons nourish a seemingly infinite number of rice paddies and coconut groves, while sleek houseboats cruise the water highways from one bucolic village to another – try stopping at Kollam (Quilon). Along the coast, slices of perfect, sandy beach beckon the sun-worshipping crowd, and far inland the mountainous Ghats are covered in vast plantations of spices and tea. Exotic wildlife also thrives in the hills, for those who need more than just the smell of cardamom growing to get their juices flowing.
This flourishing land isn’t good at keeping its secret: adventurers and traders have been in on it for years. The serene Fort Cochin pays homage to its colonial past, each building whispering a tale of Chinese visitors, Portuguese traders, Jewish settlers, Syrian Christians and Muslim merchants. Yet even with its colonial distractions, Kerala manages to cling to its vibrant traditions: Kathakali – a blend of religious play and dance; kalarippayat – a gravity-defying martial art; and theyyam – a trance-induced ritual. Combine this with some of the most tastebud-tingling cuisine in India, and you can imagine how hard it will be to leave before you even get here.
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Best places to stay in Kerala
South India & Kerala travel guide
South India’s long coastline frames fertile plains and curvaceous hills: thick coconut groves, luminescent rice paddies, fragrant spice gardens and picturesque tea plantations all kept glisteningly green by the double-barrelled monsoon.
A perfect trip to Kerala
Travelling in Kerala is as easy and rewarding as a glide through its backwaters. In this excerpt from an article first published in Lonely Planet Magazine, we give you the highlights from coconut palm-lined coasts to elephant and tiger reserves. Kovalam: best for beaches All good Indian stories start with a queen...
South India & Kerala - Andhra Pradesh (Chapter)
Andhra Pradesh doesn’t have the flashiness of Rajasthan, but be prepared to dig for the jew-els; to wend through paddy fields and 500-year-old urban markets, to climb towering smooth-granite hills, and to feel the liberating uncertainty of...
When in Kerala: 10 must-dos in India's deep south
Kerala has been a favourite haunt of travellers from around the world for nearly 600 years; it's been known to exhilarate, enchant and enthral. Here's a cherry-picked list of 10 activities to get you under the skin of this incredible state...
South India & Kerala - Mumbai (Bombay) (Chapter)
Mumbai is big. It’s full of dreamers and hard-labourers. It has the most prolific film industry, some of Asia’s biggest slums (and the world’s most expensive home) and the largest tropical for-est in an urban zone.
Lush and tropical, southern India is inspiring and delightful. Beneath the green shade of a coastal paradise, meet with locals in their fishing villages and tribal homes. Join them in the bazaars, on buses and boats or even on pilgrimage in Madurai.
Classic South India
Travel to India and embark on this classic southern Indian tour through Kerala from Chennai to Kovalam Beach. Discover a thousand shades of green, indulge in some of the continent’s freshest food and share smiles with the friendly local people in this lush, tropical part of the country.
Mini guide to Kerala, India
Squeezed between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, Kerala is one of India’s most beautiful states. The rivers that make up the region’s backwaters are the star attractions. Further south are the beaches of Kovalam, while inland the mountainous Ghats are covered in a blanket of spices and tea plantations...
South India & Kerala - Kerala (Chapter)
A sliver of a state in India’s deep south, Kerala is shaped by its landscape – almost 600km of glorious Arabian Sea coast and beaches, a languid network of backwaters and the spice and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats.