India has preserved its ancient culture and traditions, which instils a sense of spirituality and awe in the air. The southwestern state of Kerala holds a diverse range of nature and activities, ranging from its sun-kissed beaches to the lush elevated tea plantations along some of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats. Well known for the beauty of its backwaters and the birth of Ayurveda, Kerala offers the perfect range of sites and actives, with some of the best traditional food India has to offer – what better way to spice up your holiday!
1.Climb Chembra Peak, Wayanad
Ever wondered what life would be like in the clouds, perhaps on one of the tallest ranges of the Western Ghats? Then look no further than the rolling green peaks of Wayanad. Located in the north-east region of Kerala, Wayanad is set high in the sky amongst an abundance of wildlife and forests, ancient temples and scenic tea and coffee plantations traversing the mountainside as far as the eye can see. Boasting the largest tribal population in Kerala, what better place to explore and learn about the ancient histories of India. And with this much fresh air, it’s hard to miss the opportunity to climb Chembra Peak, the highest peak formation in the Western Ghats at 2100m above sea level. Taking the average hiker approximately 1-2 hours each way, it is well worth the steep terrain to catch a glimpse of one of the best views in Kerala.
Athirapilly falls is possibly one of the wildest falls in India, and it’s right here in the heart of Kerala. A pleasant detour through the forests on your way to Munnar, you can spend the day with panoramic views, and taking the short trek under the canopies of the dense flora as you make your way down to the foot of the fall. Here you will have in full view all of its natural glory, and enjoy your packed lunch perch on a rock in the sun. And If the falls weren’t impressive enough (they are!), some local residence includes the Asiatic elephant, tiger and bison just to name a few.
.Watch the traditional Theyyam dance in Kochi
Coming further along the southwestern coast of Kerala lies the major port city of Kochi (aka Cochin). A culturally diverse city, Kochi was once occupied by the Portuguese, making Kochi the first European colony in India. The colonial aspect of Kochi is still prevalent in the historic Fort Kochi, the architectural structures of the Portuguese, and later Dutch and British settlements. Amongst these colonial structures, you’ll find some of Kerala’s favourite cultural activities and sites, including the iconic Chinese fishing nets, and abundance of galleries and museums, and the world famous Theyyam, the Keralan native and tradition dance-drama performances, which, in my opinion, was one of the highlights visiting Kerala.
.Enjoy the wildlife and nature in abundance
Kerala is known for its scenic backwaters, rolling tea plantations and sun-kissed beaches; it also has an immensely diverse wildlife population, which in our current state of overdevelopment is sadly declining. Poaching for tourism is steadily on the rise, so selecting and supporting ethical wildlife sanctuary and tourism is essential to the survival and development of India’s unique wildlife. Choosing to hike routes and guides that don’t disrupt protected areas is also advised. Supporting revenues that are there to help preserve its surrounding can make all the difference. Arm yourself with knowledge before visiting a sanctuary, or better yet – go wild!
5.Relax in a homestay in Cherthala
Nothing brings you closer to an authentic Indian experience than a family home-stay. Live life with the locals, eat traditional and nourishing home-cooked dishes and get all the local goss at a fraction of the price than the average hotel. Cherthala, about a 30 minute drive north-west of the tourist favourite Alappuzha, is a great way to get off the beaten track (but not too far off for those on a time-frame), and a great way to immerse yourself in the local way of life, did we mention it was next to the beach? The perfect place to kick off your sandals, and enjoy a home-cooked meal among the serenity with your new Cherthala family. As a traveller, you might expect a couple of looks of intrigue; however, each one is always followed by the warmest smile, and welcoming conversations, just like any true local.
6.Cruise the backwaters of Alappuzha (formerly known as Alleppey)
Undoubtedly one of
.Visit the Munnar tea plantation
If a green mountainous view while sipping some of the world’s finest tea sounds like your thing, then look no further than the Munnar. Famous for its scenic railway through the rolling hills and tea plantations, Munnar has an abundance to offer for the outdoor folk from rock climbing, mountain bike riding, and a multitude of camping and trekking routes for all fitness levels. For the tea lovers, you won’t get much closer than life on the plantation itself, swaying high in a tree house, with literally a bird-eye view and access to all of the tea your heart could desire.
8.Traverse the holy cliffs of Varkala
With the air full of salt and spirituality, Varkala is well known for its beautiful beaches, yoga retreats and tourist cliff-top market. To the locals Varkala is known for its sacred Sivagiri pilgrimage and is home to the ancient Janardana Swami Temple, an ode to Lord Vishnu, standing near the shores of Varkala for more than 2000 years. Since 2015 even the cliffs have been declared a geo-heritage site, making the walk along its edges not only breathtaking in view, but also a once in a lifetime cultural experience, which many may not have even been aware of!
9.Nourish your soul at an Ayurvedic and yoga retreat
What better way to rejuvenate than in the birthplace of the ancient science of Ayurveda and yoga methods? Boasting more than 5000 years of practice, Kerala is home to a plethora of healing retreats to suit anyone’s taste or budget.
Using a holistic approach to detoxify and regenerate body tissue through an array of roots, oils, massage, and dietary treatment, which are applied through an individualised plan, Ayurveda is an essential element of Keralan culture and wellbeing. Many retreats practice yoga in conjunction with an Ayurvedic wellness plan, giving you the best tools to nourish your mind, body and soul
10.Spice up your life at a Thiruvananthapuram market
Down towards the south-west tip of Kerala lies the hustle bustle of Thiruvananthapuram; formerly known as Trivandrum, which is still commonly used by those not so good at a tongue twister.
With major supermarkets out of site, we recommend shopping like a resident at a local food market. Chalai Market is an open street market for the locals, by the locals, which makes Chalai a favourite for an authentic experience. No tied-dyed shirts here, I’m afraid! With an array of spices, fresh fish, and day-to-day needs of a typical resident, you will also find freshly cooked street food, and can even grab a cup of coffee at the local roaster. You may need all the caffeine you can find, alongside its great local markets, Thiruvananthapuram has many cultural museums and temples meaning you could wander around for days on end.