Kerala often referred to as Gods Own country, undoubtedly makes the list of Best Places to visit in India. There are many reasons to visit Kerala, the State is rich in Wildlife, Mountains, Backwaters, Spices, Ayurveda and Culture. Your reason could be one or all of these combined and Kerala would not disappoint you.

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Entry Point Kochi / Cochin

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A Journey into Kerala is best Started either in Kochi (Cochin) or in Thiruvanthapuram (Trivandrum) the two Major gateways into Kerala. For the purpose of this Article I would be starting the Journey from Kochi.

Called the “Queen of the Arabian Sea”, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the west coast of India from the 14th century onward, and maintained a trade network with Arab merchants from the pre-Islamic era.

In 1505, the Portuguese established trading ports in Cochin. There are still buildings like the Old Harbour House from this period, some of which have been renovated in more recent times. The Kingdom of Cochin allied with the Ming Dynasty, Portuguese, and Dutch and became a princely state of the British.

With regards to your Sightseeing, I recommend staying here for 2 Nights as a lot of what you can do depends on what time your flight arrives. The main areas to cover in Kochi are mentioned below.

Cochin, which comprises of a cluster of islands and towns. Fort Cochin is believed to be the oldest European settlement in India, with the Portuguese flag first hoisted here in 1500. St Francis Church, built in 1510 by friars brought to India by Vasco da Gama, is the first European church built in India and is the site where da Gama was buried.

The “Dutch Palace” was built in the 1550s by the Portuguese and taken over by the Dutch, who later presented it to the Rajas of Cochin. The palace contains excellent mythological murals and a rare example of traditional Keralite flooring.

The Chinese fishing nets are used for a very unique and unusual method of fishing. Operated from the shore, these nets are set up on bamboo and teak poles and held horizontally by huge mechanisms, which lower them into the sea. They look somewhat like hammocks and are counter-weighed by large stones tied to ropes.

You should plan time to wander around Mattancherri or Jew Town. Jew Street is full of antique shops selling genuine and pseudo objects d’art. The Jewish Synagogue (CLOSED ON FRIDAYS AND SATURDAYS) was built in 1568 and considerably embellished in the mid 18th century. It contains Grand Scroll of the Old Testament and the copper plates giving privileges to the Jew settlers by the rulers of Kochi.

In the evening plan to witness a Kathakali dance performance. This is the most developed dance drama art of India. Drums beckon an audience to a performance most magnificent – actors depict characters from the Puranas and the Mahabharata, the great Indian epics – demons, superhuman beings and ordinary men and women. The dancers, all male, adorn themselves in huge skirts and elaborate head-dress, wearing what must surely be the most intricate make up known to any dance style in the world. Dialogue is combined with dance to bring myth and legend to life in the temple courtyards of Kerala.

Kochi would be an excellent introduction to Kerala when starting out on this Journey.

Add Experiences – Elephant Festival

Most Itineraries you look at online usually focus on key destinations in Kerala however there is more to see here and it would really add on to your experience and take it from Good to WOW.

One such experience to add is to visit a Festival in Kerala. Festivals happen around the year and it is always good to check where a festival is happening and how you can be a part of it while planning an Itinerary. You would be surprised how many festivals happen in Kerala and this would add to your Kerala experience.

If you have found a Festival chances are that this could be in Thrissur or Pallakad District both of which are to the North of Kochi. So it needs to be planned accordingly and built in.

Munnar – Hills and Tea Plantations

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From Kochi your Itinerary would otherwise move West to Munnar. Munnar is a hill station in Kerala, at around 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above mean sea level, in the Western Ghats mountain range. Munnar is also called the “Kashmir of South India” due to its Natural Beauty.

Munnar Should ideally be a 2 Night halt for you, The drive from Kochi takes around 4 hours and you would be crossing a lot of Tea estates as you get in Munnar. Tea was introduced in India by the British and they experimented in all the hills to see if the soil was conducive for the growth of Tea. In Munnar the soil was good for Tea plants and Tea was planted here in 1880.

Munnar is a perfect for people who like to go on Short hikes and treks. I recommend building a Short hike into your first day to explore the Hills around you.

In the evening you should absolutely visit the Town Market which comes to life later in the day. There are small and medium shops lining the streets, and stalls selling everything from tea, coffee, spices, aromatic oils, handicrafts, home-made chocolates, wooden items, fabrics, garments and more.

Start the next day with a visit to Christ Church which was built in 1910 and has fine stained glass windows, As mentioned earlier, Munnar is famous for its flavored teas. If you are a tea connoisseur, then you must visit Kanan Devan Hills Plantations. It produces high-quality tea in its estates, processes it in factories, and sells them in sales outlets across Munnar at reasonable rates.

Their museum, still called Tata Tea Museum, has centuries-old memorabilia and imparts knowledge about processes of tea making. You can take back souvenirs of scented tea sachets and packaged tea, some of which are not available outside in the local markets.

Continue on to tthe Munnar Supply Association, the oldest department store in the area that has been a feature of the town now for over one hundred years.

Take the afternoon and enjoy the Surroundings and the Natural beauty of Kerala.

Thekkady – Spice Plantations and Wildlife

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The Next day you will be heading to Thekkady, another hill Station but famous for its Spice Plantations and a Wildlife Park. Kerala has always been known as the Spice Garden of India and had trade routes with many countries going back centuries on account of the Black Pepper and other Spices it exported. Black pepper was also referred to as Black gold in those days.

Thekkady is also located in the hills of Western Ghats, one of attractions here is to visit the Periyar Tiger reserve , spread across 777 km2 (300 sq mi), of which 360 km2 (140 sq mi) is thick evergreen forest. It is home to herds of elephants, sambar, tigers, gaur, lion-tailed macaques and Nilgiri langurs.

However due to the density of the forest sightings of elephants and in particular, tigers are highly unlikely, I have ever only seen a few herds of Elephants from a Distance. All Safaris are done in a Boat and the proximity to the animals depends on the level of water in the Lake.

If you are inclined to visit a wildlife reserve then it may be an enjoyable experience, however if you are not big into the wildlife then by skipping Periyar Tiger reserve you are not missing much. I would rather recommend that you spend that extra time in a Spice Plantation.

Kerala has always been known as the Spice Garden of India and had trade routes with many countries going back centuries on account of the Black Pepper and other Spices it exported. Black pepper was also referred to as Black gold in those days.

Thekkady and the area surrounding it are famous for its spice plantations with hundreds of them all around and hence you see so many shops selling Spices in the city. You should visit one of the many Spice plantations where you can see Vanilla, Cardamom, Black Pepper and various other spices being grown

1 Night is sufficient for Thekkady.

The Backwaters

Kerala

Kerala is often referred to as God own Country on account of its Natural beauty and is also known for its Backwaters, as a matter of fact the backwaters are the lifeline of the State and were used in the past to transport goods on traditional boats known as Kettuvallams.

The backwaters are a network of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast (known as the Malabar Coast) of Kerala, as well as interconnected canals, rivers, and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 kilometres (560 mi) of waterways, and sometimes compared to American bayous.

The network includes five large lakes linked by canals, both man made and natural, fed by 38 rivers, and extending virtually half the length of Kerala state.

From Thekkady you should be heading to Alappuzha / Alleppey and experience the Backwaters aboard a converted Kettuvallam or a Houseboat. These houseboats can be basic or be absolute luxury from 1 bedroom to 3 bedrooms (any larger and it would not be able to steer across smaller canals) My recommendation is to be extremely careful before you book one, make sure that if you are booking it yourself you have checked the credentials and reviews thoroughly and have the name of the boat booked in writing along with the Images / Video.

You will board this Houseboat around lunch time and sail the back waters, the lunch, Dinner and next morning Breakfast would all be made on-board. Sailing on a Houseboat would take you up close and personal to the region and offer you deeper insights into the people, their culture and their lifes. The Houseboats usually drop anchor around 6 pm. You should ensure before hand that they would do so in the middle of the lake and not parked on a Canal. The Middle of the Vemaband lake is calm and serene and gives you amazing sunset experience.

Since this is just a night halt the next morning the Houseboats would after breakfast drop you to the Jetty Point / Your Hotel (I will explain this next)

Kumarakom – Ayurveda and more

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Located along the Vemaband lake is Kumarakom, which is famous for its Hotels / resorts offering you an opportunity to relax in the lush surroundings and experience Ayurveda. Kerala is also home to some of the best Ayurveda Treatment resorts and the same can be experienced in Luxury here.

If you choose to do so then you can pre inform your Houseboats and they will park accordingly the next before to drop you straight to your resort the next day.

You can choose to spend a night or two experiencing Ayurveda in Kumarakom (I have even built in week long stays for my travelers here, one has to know what resort would be the right fit for whom)

Extend your Stay – Understanding Ayurveda

From here on you i.e. Kumarakom you could choose if you are looking to extend your stay for Ayurveda or a Beach Stay of which Kerala has a couple of good options one close to Kumarakom a Place called Marari or you could head South towards Thiruvanthapuram and enjoy a Beach stay at Kovalam.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda is the oldest healing science. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means “The Science of Life.” Ayurvedic knowledge has existed in for more than 5,000 years and is often referred to as “Mother of All Healing.” 

Ayurveda has its origions in the ancient Vedic culture and was taught for many thousands of years in an oral tradition from accomplished masters to their disciples. Most of this knowledge was never printed but a lot of it is now being rediscovered.

Where the Western Medicine treats the disease, Ayurveda works to treat the cause of the disease. That is why any Ayurvedic Treatment needs around 14 days for it to start working on the root of the disease / the cause and eradicate the same. 

If you are serious about Ayurveda (I have worked with Guests who had been coming every year for the past 10 years pre Covid and have made it a way of their life) then it has to become ingrained in your daily life. Any Ayurvedic treatment you book here would only serve as the Starting point, after that it would be upto you. 

A Typical stay starts with a visit to the Ayurvedic Doctor who would  then based on his interaction with you work out a Schedult to start going for the cause and this is achieved with a mix of Diet, Yoga and Therapies.

How Can I help?

Leverage my 3 decades plus of expeience as a Traveller and let me help you craft the perfect Itinerary for your Trip. This would be made in Consultation with you and would help you maximise your time in India. 

If after that you wish to have it booked, I would get it booked for you locally which would 

A) give you a Huge price advantage 15-20% cheaper than what you would pay in your Country.
B) You will benefit from last minute upgrade deals that are made available locally.  

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