Javian's Choice

Recommended Sights - Our Top Pick!

Floating down Kerala’s scenic backwaters and lagoons on a charming houseboat is one of the most relaxing and picturesque experiences in India. The experience is further enhanced with well stocked chilled beer and the on-board chefs that cook up fresh local Kerala delicacies including the classic Kerala Parotta and Meen Pollichathu. The city of Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, is one of main hubs for houseboats. There are many vendors available, so make sure to book a trip early with your trip agent or hotel.

Varkala Beach is a stretch of beautiful sands, white waters, cliff sides and shacks serving up fresh and delicious seafood. Less developed than Kovalam beach, Varkala resort area has attracted a heavy crowd of backpackers. However, the southern portion of the town is very religious, attracting thousands of devout Hindus every year who come to conduct rituals for passed away loved ones.

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a noted elephant reserve and tiger reserve in Thekkady. Though a safari boat ride is usually touted for visitors, unless it’s dry season or summertime (April), it’s unlikely that visitors will spot any leopards or tigers by the river. Rare birds pitching on tree logs or herds of elephants are more common. Better options to truly enjoy the area would be a jungle trek or overnight at a jungle lodge. In addition to the safari and jungle experience, visitors would also be supporting the local Ecotourism program which aims to preserve natural resources and generate income for conservation work.

Though the drive to this hill town is a bit dizzying, visitors are rewarded with a view that looks to be a neverending green carpet – hillsides covered in tea plantations. Munnar is the largest tea-growing area in South India, with abundant tea estates. There are affordable modern hotel options close to the city centre, but for those looking to spend a bit extra, lovely house and villa rentals are available as well. For a more authentic experience, check out the four charming old heritage bungalows at the Tea Sanctuary, operated by the Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company.

The Classics

Recommended Sights - Our Top Pick!

One of the three regions in Kochi city, Fort Kochi (also known as Old Kochi) was the fishing village that fell to Portuguese control for almost 160 years, and then to Dutch control for 112 years. This mixed history has left several remnants including the Chinese Fishing Nets lined on the coast (believed to be introduced by Chinese traders in the 14th century), and European built St Francis Church (the original burial site for Vasco De Gama in 1524). A walk down the beach in Fort Kochi, with the smatterings of structural remains along the coast, feels like a flashback to an older era. The mountainous region of Thekkady, thanks to its higher altitude, is much cooler and less humid than the coastal areas of Alleppey or Kochi. Though many head to this region to visit the tea plantations, there are also numerous spice plantationsthat are worth the visit. Activities vary from tours, treks, and cooking classes. There's also always a plantation store where fresh spices such as cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, or even cocoa powder and coffee would be available for a fraction of western prices. The Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the beautiful 260-year-old seven-story temple in the city of Trivandrum(Thiruvananthapuram), capital of Kerala.  The temple is technically only open to Hindus, and all visitors have to observe strict traditional Kerala attire to enter (the attire is available for purchase at stores near the entrance at marginal prices). Kathakali, the dance-drama that originated in Kerala during the 17th century, is people's theatre at its best - a mix of elaborate costumes, detailed facial expressions, intricate makeup, and folkloric story lines. Visitors are often given a general introduction to the different facial and hand gestures about to be used in the play, in order to help keep pace with the action. The Kerala Kathakali Center in Kochi is a longstanding reputable teaching center that also has wonderful performances for visitors.

Off The Beaten Path

Recommended Sights - Our Top Pick!

At the northern tip of Kerala is the beautiful town of Kasaragod, filled with majestic hills, rivers and delightful beaches. It is a town of many languages, including Tulu, Kannada, Malayalam, Konkani, Tamil and other local languages. The main sight in town, spanning 40 acres, is the Bekal Fort. There are no palaces or residences to view at this fort, only a striking view of the Arabian sea. Its surreal and almost emotional atmosphere has made it an inspired location for many films and music albums.