Tropical forests, mountains and hill stations, white sandy beaches and boat trips on the backwaters: South India’s Kerala is one of India’s most popular and most unique holiday destinations. Best known for its beaches, Kerala offers much more to the visitor than sunbathing, although you could easily spend weeks relaxing on its palm-fringed beaches.
Located on India’s southwest coast, Kerala has a beautiful coastline along the Arabian Sea, while the Western Ghats Mountains are home to tea and coffee plantations, spice farms, wildlife parks and hill stations. Kerala has fascinating Hindu temples but also several mosques, and there are Christian and Jewish communities along the coastal areas, making Kerala’s population truly diverse.
Kerala’s most famous beach resorts are Kovalam and Varkala in the southern part of the state. Popular with international tourists and package holiday companies, both resorts get very busy especially during the Christmas and New Year holiday season. For quieter beaches, head to North Kerala and spend a few days in a hotel or a homestay around Kannur. Kerala is also the birthplace of the traditional Indian medical system Ayurveda, and you can find an unlimited choice of Ayurvedic spa’s, resorts, clinics and treatment centres for all budgets.
Once you have had enough of sunbathing, take a boat trip on the network of lakes, canals and rivers that is the Kerala backwaters. You can rent a luxurious houseboat with staff (including a cook) for a slow cruise down Kerala’s rivers, or take a shorter day trip along the backwaters. One of the most popular backwater routes is the day trip from Alapuzzha to Kollam, but most Kerala hotels and travel agencies can arrange shorter or longer backwater trips and some hotels have their own boats for sightseeing along the canals. So sit back on the deck and admire the scenery as the boat travels along picturesque canals surrounded by coconut groves, rice plantations and small villages.
In the Western Ghats mountains, the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and the Periyar Tiger Reserve are excellent places to spend a few days in the nature and to join a walking safari. Here you can spot wild animals from Indian elephants to (if you’re lucky) tigers. Also in the mountains, the hill station of Munnar is a popular place to visit especially during the hot season. There are hiking and trekking paths around the mountainous forest and you can visit tea, coffee and spice plantations too.
The best time to travel to Kerala is between the months of October and March, when the weather is pleasant and not too hot, but the monsoon rains have finished and left the nature green and fresh. In April and May the summer heat can be unbearable on the beaches, but this can be one of the best times to visit Kerala’s hill stations. The southwest monsoon brings very heavy rain to the area between June and September, but if you are travelling in Kerala during monsoon you can get excellent discounts in many hotels and spa resorts.