Kerala, aptly called God's Own Country, and undoubtedly the most beautiful state of India, has become one of the prominent tourist destinations in Asia. Blessed with great natural beauty, and diverse ecology, Kerala is a narrow strip wedged between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, on the southern most tip of the Indian Subcontinent.
The marvel called Kerala, which means "The land of coconuts", is well known for its greenery and coconut tree plantations. The moderate and equable climate, calm and serene beaches, beautiful stretches of backwaters, cool and lush hill stations, sprawling plantations and paddy fields, ayurvedic and naturopathy health holidays, as well as striking and exotic wildlife, all make Kerala a destination of a lifetime. Moreover, each of these spell binding destinations are barely two hours apart, an advantage which probably no other destination offers !.
National Geographic's Traveller magazine aptly named Kerala as one of the "Ten Paradises of the World" and "50 Must See Destinations of a Lifetime". Also, Travel and Leisure magazine named Kerala as "One of the 100 Great Trips for the 21st Century".
The most popular tourist attractions in Kerala include the Backwaters, Beaches, Ayurveda, Homestays, Honeymoon Sojourns, Hill Stations, and Wildlife.
Kerala Backwaters Networked by 44 rivers, lakes and inlets from the sea, connecting coastal towns, Kerala Backwaters are one of the major attraction for International as well as Domestic tourists. The over 900 kilometers of this interlinked body of waterways has been used for centuries by the local people for transportation. One can travel the Kerala backwaters on a traditional houseboat to enjoy the scenic beauty of this wonderland.
Kerala Beaches The palm fringed Kerala Beaches, spread along the 550 kilometer Arabian Sea coastline, are another popular destination for tourists. The most pristine and beautiful beaches are at Kovalam, Varkala, Alleppey, Kozhikode and Bekal. The Varkala beach in Thiruvananthapuram (capital city) is rated as "9th best bargain adventures 2013 in the world" by The Guardian, UK, which also referred Varkala as New Goa.
Ayurveda is another attraction for tourists in Kerala. A holiday in Kerala is an opportunity for rejuvenation and relaxation of the Mind, Body and Soul. Some Ayurveda centers in Kerala are for treatment of chronic ailments and diseases, while other Ayurveda resorts mix traditional treatments with hospitality. Popular Ayurveda resorts in Kerala include Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort, Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort, Beach and Lake Ayurveda Resort etc.
Homestays in Kerala yet another fascinating and unique experience of visitors to Kerala is the Homestay, in which they live in the home of the natives, allowing them to know the people and how the community lives in that area. Homestay in Kerala offers the visitors to know about the culture, customs and lifestyle of the land and its people. The Government has classified homestays in three categories – Diamond House, Gold House and Silver House – as per the facilities available.
Kerala Festivals Being a a truly secular state, numerous festivals of all religions fall across the year in Kerala. The main festival of Kerala is Onam, in which 10 days festivities take place between August-September every year. Owing to the large Christian population in the state, Christmas is celebrated with great zest and zeal, specially in the cities of Kochi and Kottayam. Similarly all muslim festivals are celebrated in a grand way. Besides major religious festivals, most of temples hosts annual festivals known for large parade of decorated elephants, temple orchestration and fireworks. The most famous among them is Thrissur Pooram celebrated in the Thrissur town during April-May.
Kerala Tourism other important interests in Kerala include Hill Stations and Wildlife. Popular Hill Stations of Kerala are Munnar, Wayanad, Peermade, Nelliampathi and Ponmudi. Kerala's ecotourism destinations include 14 wildlife sanctuaries and 6 national parks. With its pristine natural beauty, Kerala has also evolved into a major Honeymoon Destination. Moreover, Kerala is India's most advanced society with 100% literacy rate, world class health care system, and safest region in the country. All the above features have catapulted Kerala to a global tourist destination, as a result of which it attracted over 10 million tourists in 2011. The important cities of Kerala include Trivandrum, Alleppey, Kumarakom, Munnar and Cochin.
Trivandrum, now called Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is located near the extreme south of the mainland. Well connected by road, rail and air (international airport), Trivandrum is a major tourist destination, with many attractions in and near the city.
The most popular tourist spot near Trivandrum is the iconic beach resort of Kovalam. Just 15 kilometers from Trivandrum, the astounding beach expanse of Kovalam is highly rated by foreign tourists, and is considered as one of the best beach resorts in the world. The rocky ridge jetting into the sea has created a beautiful bay of calm waters for bathing and swimming. Kovalam consists of three adjacent crescent shaped and palm fringed beaches – the most popular among them being the Lighthouse beach, followed by the Hawah and Samudra beaches.The Shangh umukham Beach, located about 16 kms from Trivandrum, is a favourite place for sunset viewers. The beach is situated near Trivandrum airport and Veli Tourist Village.
Other places of tourist interest in and around Trivandrum include Akkulam Tourist Village, Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple, Kuthiramalika (Puthenmalika) Palace Museum and the Museum complex, Kanakakunnu palace, Thiruvallam, Neyyar Dam, Varkala and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary.
Foreign tourists flock to Thiruvananthapuram for Medical tourism too, as there are more than hundred recognised Ayurveda centres in and around the city. Medical tourism is also promoted by modern medicine hospitals in the city, with recuperation facilities available at five star beach resorts and hill stations nearby.
Alleppey, known as Alappuzha in the local language, is a town in Kerala bestowed by nature with beautiful blue lagoons, backwaters and beaches. To describe the beauty of Alleppey as well its maze of interconnecting waterways in the heart of the city, Lord Curzon, The Governor General and Viceroy of India, gave it the title of "Venice of the East".
The waterways and channels are best explored in country boats as in Venice. No trip to this place is complete without a house boat trip, which are made from ecofriendly material like wood and ropes. The well equipped house boats offer a leisurely cruise along the Punnamada Lake and Alleppey backwaters, besides ensuring a cozy stay amidst the waters. Be it a corporate holiday, honeymoon or a family trip, you would surely enjoy every bit of this memorable house boat trip!
In a city which moves on boats rather than cars, the favourite sport of Alleppey is boat racing. Various boat races are held from July to September every year. The Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the most famous boat race, held in August every year.
There are many other tourist attractions in Alleppey including Alleppey Beach, Krishnapuram Palace, Pathiramanal, Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna temple and the St.Andrew church, founded way back in 1866 by Portuguese missionaries. Alleppey is now the commercial and industrial centre for the coir industry and for cashew nut processing.
Today Alleppy has emerged as an internationally acclaimed backwater tourist centre, which draws scores of tourists each year, who come to explore nature at its best.
Kumarakom is a group of little islands on the Vemband Lake (longest lake of India), in Kottayam district of Kerala. Bestowed by nature with palm fringed backwaters, cloudy hills, dense forests and undisturbed wildlife, nothing can match the charm and natural beauty of Kumarakom. The mangrove forests, paddy fields and coconut plantations add to the intriguing charm of the backwaters, offering you a relaxing and tranquil holiday.
Kumarakom can be best explored and enjoyed through a house boat cruise. You can board a house boat with the comforts of a well furnished modern bedroom and a cozy lounge to relax, and enjoy the brilliance of unspoilt nature. Cruising on a house boat provides the tourists ample scope to understand the local traditions and customs as they make stopovers at ancient religious places, village markets and earteries along the embankments of the Vemband Lake. Various options of the house boats like standard, luxury and premium category are available which allow you to explore the scenic environs at your pace, as well as within your budget.
Kumarakom's other attraction is the Bird Sanctuary, a world famous sanctuary where many species of migratory birds visit, including the Siberian stork. Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls, Pathiramanal and Elaveezha Poonchira, are some places to visit in Kumarakom. Kumarakom enjoys a well balanced tropical climate with temperature ranging between 16 to 38 degree Celsius. The best time to visit this beautiful place and enjoy is innate charm, is from November to March.
One of the most popular hill stations in Kerala, perched at an altitude of 1600 meters, is a breathtakingly picturesque and idyllic tourist destination. Munnar, the favourite summer resort of the erstwhile British rulers, is famous for tea plantations, pristine valleys and lofty mountains. The unending dominance of sprawling tea plantations make Munnar a fascinating holiday destination.
Munnar is bestowed with ample natural beauty, winding lanes, misty hills and exotic forests. Sight seeing options include Anamudi (highest peak of South India), Devikulam Lake, Rajamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Eravikulam National Park, Mattupeety Lake, and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. If you want to just relax, you can try a Homestay at one of the many plantation bungalows.
The most important landmark of Munnar is the mountain flower Neelakkurinji that blooms once in every 12 years.
Various activities tourists can undertake in Munnar include Forest Trekking, Camping, Angling, Paragliding, Golf, Cycling, Boating, besides visiting Tea and Coffee plantation and factories. You can rent a bike, or hire a cab as per your convenience, to explore the enchanting beauty of Munnar.
Located on the western coast of Kerala, Cochin, also known as Kochi, is considered to be the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala, having one of the finest natural harbours in the world. Popularly known as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea", Cochin is a captivating tourist destination, thronged by millions of visitors every year.
Comprising of a group of islands, Cochin was shaped by the Portuguese, the Dutch and later the British. The result of these cultural influences is visible in many examples of Indo European architecture that still exist there. Cochin enjoys a cosmopolitan culture with a secular and varied community.
The major tourist attractions of Cochin include Willingdon Island (named after Lord Willingdon, a British Viceroy to India), Jewish Synagogue, St. Francis Church (one of the oldest European church in the subcontinent), Bolghatty Palace, Chinese fishing nets and Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace). All the above, as well as various ancient buildings like Colonial bungalows, reveal that mariners from Arabia, China, Holland, Britain and Portugal have visited this beautiful island city.
Fort Kochi, also known as the "Gateway to Kerala", is an enchanting city and an ideal place to have a tryst with sun and sand. There are many seafood restaurants and eateries along the beach that serve fresh fish delicacies and other sea food.
All the above factors, coupled with International Airport at Cochin, have made it one of the most sought after destinations of Kerala.