Kerala has been a favourite haunt of travellers for nearly 600 years; exhilarating, enchanting and enthralling with its top-notch beauty and culture. Here are our favourite 10 activities that get under the surface of this incredible state.
Cruise the backwaters
No trip to Kerala is complete without a languid boat ride on its idyllic
backwaters. Lined by emerald coconut plantations and interspersed with turquoise
lakes, these placid lagoons are the perfect place to shake off pent-up urban
stress. For an extra-special experience, spend the night on board a houseboat,
and witness a dreamy sunrise break over the serene bayous at dawn. Houseboats
can be chartered through the District
Tourism Promotion Councils in Kollam
or Alleppey, or a multitude of
Live it up in Munnar
Green is the colour that swathes the lush mountain slopes of Munnar, Kerala’s
answer to the fabled hill stations of north India. The crisp air and clement
weather in this scenic hill town are perfectly engineered to give you the most
restful experience possible. Order a steaming cup of tea from a nearby
plantation to go with the breathtaking views.
Top among Kerala’s iconic photo opportunities are the cantilevered Chinese
fishing nets – dating back to the 1400s – that line the harbour at Kochi.
Crafted out of teakwood beams and resembling giant alien arachnids poised to
sting, they form unreal silhouettes against the seascape and provide some
dramatic camera fodder, especially at dusk.
Get beached in
You will wish you were an Alex Garland character the moment you set foot in
picturesque Varkala. Perched on a precipitous cliff and overlooking the
sapphire waters of the Arabian Sea, this beachy paradise boasts some dazzling
and pristine sands to relax on.
Centuries of Indian therapeutic wisdom and practices, perfected to soothe the body,
mind and soul, can now be accessed at the many ayurvedic spas across the state.
Feel your senses come alive with an invigorating panchakarma session, or
pamper those knotty sinews with a revitalising aromatherapy or herbal massage.
Try the Kannur
Ayurvedic Centre, a small, government-certified, family-run clinic in
Watch a Kathakali
If you thought Kabuki was spectacular, think again. Kathakali, Kerala’s very
own classical dance tradition dating back to the 17th Century, is a highly-celebrated
performance art known for its colourful make-up, elaborate costumes and
graceful movements, not to mention the trance-inducing music that accompanies
each spirited performance. If you are inspired to give it a go, head to the Margi
Kathakali School for courses in kathakali and kootiattam (traditional
Sanskrit drama) for beginner and advanced students.
Know your spices
You will find a huge range of spices in this state, such as pepper, cardamom,
cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, mace, fennel, turmeric, cumin, coriander, aniseed,
tamarind, allspice, saffron, poppy and mustard. Ambush your senses at the spice
markets of Mattancherry in Kochi, and pack an extra bag for the inevitable
Meet Periyar’s tigers
Some 50 of India’s fabled Royal Bengal tigers can still be found in the virgin
forests of the Periyar
Tiger Reserve in inland Kerala. Keeping them company are elephants,
leopards, Indian bison and myriad species of snakes, deer and monkeys. Head out
for a wild day with the beasts.
The basics of this acrobatic and flamboyant 12th-century martial art are based
on the science of attacking pressure points in the human body, Kalarippayat is
known to be the fount of other revered martial arts such as kung fu and karate.
If you want to see real professionals have a go at it, it is best to travel out
Kalari, a renowned Kalarippayat learning centre eight kilometres southeast
Get a taste for
Fiery pothu (beef), fluffy appams (rice hoppers), aviyal (vegetables in
aromatic coconut gravy), fish molee (spicy yellow curry) and payasam (semolina
in caramelised milk) -- these are just a few of the delectable dishes that
emerge from Kerala’s kitchens day after day. Pair a platter with a glass of the
locally-tapped and deliciously refreshing toddy (coconut palm wine). Try Suprabhatham
in Kovalam or Sreepadman
in Varkala for cheap and truly authentic Keralan fare.
The article 'Top 10 activities in Kerala, India’s deep south' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.