Fringed by the lush rolling hills of the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west, lies a narrow strip of land, the beautiful state of Kerala, India’s smallest southern state. Often referred to as God’s Own Country, this is a fertile land of exotic spices, verdant greenery and tranquil waterways. Uniquely blessed with 41 rivers, Kerala has imbued within itself facets of the several cultures that have arrived at its shores, courtesy its centuries old trading past and its location as the first safe harbour for all east bound travellers. From the merging of these several cultures has arisen a quintessentially singular culture, with spectacular festivals and rituals, unabashedly arcane and magical. With a beautiful coastline, Kerala today has several luxury resorts, health spas, spectacular beaches, the backwaters, plentiful spice gardens and tea plantations, an abundance of natural beauty, flora and fauna making it a the perfect destination for a colourful and intoxicating holiday.
Kochi, or Cochin as it was previously known, has been the commercial capital of Kerala for centuries. The most cosmopolitan city of the state, this ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’ has been a major port along the east-west trade routes since its earliest days, blessed with one of the finest natural harbours in the world. The city itself has grown around the port and seen the influx of the Chinese, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Greeks, British and Portuguese creating a wealth of historical associations which reflect in the colonial churches, Chinese-style pagoda houses, synagogues and mosques of Kochi. The major tourist attractions of Kochi are Mattanchery Palace, the Synagogue and Fort Kochi, resplendent reminders of the city’s fascinating past. A boat cruise around the harbour and taking in a Kathakali dance recital are an essential part of every visitor’s trip to Kochi as well.Read More
Thekkady, located in the heart of the endlessly green, and very suitably named, Cardamom hills, is home to some of Kerala’s biggest spice plantations, growing the finest cardamom, pepper, turmeric and ginger. The crisp, cool air of the region is heady, laden as it is with the spicy aroma of all these exotic spices and a guided tour of one of the plantations is highly recommended. The area is blessed with excellent walking and trekking trails, richly flavoured by the scents of the plantations that are never too far away. Near Thekkady lies Munnar, a quaint colonial hill station set against the backdrop of Anamudi, Kerala’s highest mountain, surrounded by lush tea plantations established in the early 1900’s by pioneering Scottish planters. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is also located in the Thekkady region, nestled in its abundant jungles, around the man-made Periyar Lake. Home to several species like the leopard, Nilgiri langur, bonnet macaque, sambar, porcupines, squirrels, gaur (Indian bison), wild boar and sloth bear, the reserve has huge herds of wild elephants and deer. The flying lizard and the flying snake are amongst the more unusual creatures found here.Read More
Kozhikode, also known as Calicut, on India’s Malabar Coast was the capital of the powerful Zamorin dynasty from the 12th to the 18th centuries. This ‘City of Spices’ was a prominent trading centre along the spice route, conducting business with the Chinese, Africans as well as the Europeans, with the famed Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landing here in 1498 . Still in evidence are the warehouses of old, lining the streets near the port, with the unique multi-tiered mosques in the Mapilla style. The Pazhassiraja Museum has a fine collection of local art and craft, while an excellent collection of Raja Ravi Verma’s paintings are on display at a gallery just adjacent. Today Kozhikode with its scenic beaches, historical sites and lush greenery along with a warm, friendly atmosphere is a popular tourist destination.Read More
Mysore was the capital of Tipu Sultan, the Lion of Mysore, who ruled here from 1782 to 1799. A city of beautiful palaces and gardens, Mysore was later ruled by the Wodeyar dynasty, and became the cultural capital of the south under their patronage. Called the ‘Jewel of Karnataka’, Mysore is home to the fabled Mysore Palace, built in the ornate Indo-Saracenic architectural style. The palace has an astonishing 100,000 light bulbs installed, all of which are lit up on weekends and holidays, casting a far-reaching ethereal glow. The island fortress of Srirangapatnam, where Tipu Sultan made his last stand against the British is easily accessible from Mysore, as are the temples of Somnathpur, built in the Hoysala style.Read More
Kodagu, also called Coorg, is located on the eastern face of the mighty Western Ghats, in Karnataka. This tiny region is abundant with fertile valleys, clear gushing streams, spice and coffee estates, immense natural beauty and extensive flora and birdlife. A walk through a coffee estate is highly educative before heading into the adjacent Dubare forest reserve where wild elephants roam, along with over 300 types of avian species. Visit Bylakuppe, located close to Kodagu, home to the second largest community of Tibetans in India as well as the Nyingmapa monastery, also called the Golden Temple.Read More
The picturesque little town of Udhagamandalam, better known as Ooty, is south India’s most popular hill station. Located in the Nilgiri hills, where the western and eastern ghats meet, Ooty has been bestowed excellent climate, with a profusion of conifers, eucalyptus and pines dotting its hillsides, interspersed with coffee and tea plantations. A favourite spot of the British, the city has a mostly colonial character with beautiful reminders of its British heritage in the St. Stephen’s Church, the enigmatically named Snooty Ooty Club and Nilgiri Library. The Toy Train of the Blue Mountain railway is a charming little train that runs along the periphery of the ghats, offering spectacular views of the vales and hills of Ooty.Read More