Famous for its beaches, hills and valleys, Kerala is the ideal destination for lovers of nature and the outdoors. If you’ve never been to Kerala, here is a guide to the five most epic things to do in the most picturesque of India’s states.
Kerala, popularly known as God’s Own Country, is a state of over 35 million people, spanning the south-western coast of India. It is surrounded by Karnataka in the north, Tamil Nadu in the east and south, and the Arabian Sea in the west.
Anyone who’s been to Kerala, walked its streets and hills, navigated the backwaters, experienced the culture, the food, the warmth of the Keralan people will tell you: there is something special about this place. After spending a week in Kerala in 2015, I completely fell in love with this corner of India and I can’t wait to return.
A new campaign by Kerala Tourism aims to portray the interplay of humans and nature in this fascinating and diverse land. To celebrate this campaign, I was asked to share my thoughts, experiences, and perspectives on what makes Kerala “human by nature”.
What Makes Kerala Human by Nature?
From my experience, Kerala is a place where you can truly see the power of nature. Nature flourishes everywhere: verdant hills, lush forests, spectacular waterfalls, palm-fringed backwaters, sandy beaches, and steep cliffs. The natural beauty of this state in evident anywhere you go.
Then, there are the people of Kerala. Friendly, welcoming, ready for you with a smile on their faces, curious, funny, warm.
Humanity and nature have co-existed in Kerala since the beginnings of this green land and will continue to do so forever.
Five unmissable Kerala experiences
I decided to compile a list of the five best activities to do in Kerala, these are particularly great ones if you enjoy being in the nature or learn about new cultures.
1. Trekking in Munnar
One of the most memorable hikes I have ever done in my life was in Munnar. It takes around 3-4 hours to reach Munnar from Kochi Airport driving through rich vegetation along a steep and winding road. Situated at 1,600 metres above sea level, at the confluence of three mountain streams.
While the city centre is congested with people and cars, it takes just 15 minutes to get out of the crowds and be surrounded by nature. Most of the land around Munnar is used to grow tea, coffee and other spices such as pepper, vanilla, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric.
Munnar is an ideal destination for trekking. My trek was a short one of half a day, but if you are looking for a more full-on experience, I recommend the Meesapulimala Trek near Munnar. It is a destination for the highly adventurous is the second highest peak in the Western Ghats and a trekking trail via Rhodo Valley. There are several trekking trails to follow there and even a base camps to spend the night. Another option is the Top Station Valley trek which takes you past the rolling green tea fields, shola forests and offers amazing views.
Make sure you organise your treks with a local tour company and always travel with an experienced guide.
2. Cruise the Backwaters
Nothing I will ever say or write can describe the feeling of waking up on a houseboat on the backwaters in Kerala. You have to trust me when I say this is one of the most incredible experiences on earth!
Alappuzha (or Alleppey) is surrounded by a large network of lakes, lagoons and fresh water rivers known as the backwaters. This is the starting point of different cruises (half day or overnight). The houseboats are a modern version of the kettuvallams boats that in the old times were used to carry rice and spices. Cruising past palm trees, water lilies, lush paddy fields, coir villages, ancient temples, churches and coconut groves is the ultimate Kerala experience!
3. Experience the Melting Pot of Fort Kochi
Kerala’s history of trade and seafaring led to it being a melting pot where the most diverse ideologies, faiths and cultures co-exist. This becomes more evident when you visit Fort Kochi.
The history of Fort Kochi begins as a small fishing village but over the centuries the city grew and changed under different rulers. It was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, and the region still bears a European influence. You will notice this in the names of streets, in the Christian churches and in the buildings’ architecture.
St. Francis Church is a must see in Fort Kochi. Built in 1503, it is the oldest European church in India and the place where Vasco da Gama was originally buried.
At the heart of Mattancherry, you will find Jew Town, which once was an important Jewish settlement in India. Today it is a narrow street famous for shopping spices, handicrafts, and antiques, and also for the Paradesi Synagogue that was built here in 1568 and is still open today.
4. Visit a Wildlife Sanctuary
Are you a nature and animal lover? Then, visiting a wildlife sanctuary to observe exotic and rare flora and fauna is one of the most epic things you can do in Kerala.
There are many wildlife sanctuaries to choose from such as Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, an area of 77 square kilometres of evergreen forest surrounding the Idukki Arch Dam. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as Thekkady Wildlife Sanctuary) is one of the most popular wildlife destinations. Nestled in the hills of the Western Ghats, it is very famous among tourists as elephant and tiger reserve. Kerala also has six national parks that are home to protected and endangered species. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the Great Grizzled Squirrel of India, one of the most endangered species on the planet.
5. Watch a traditional Kathakali show
Kathakali is Kerala’s best known art form, a unique blend of dance, drama, music and literature. The actors wear elaborate make up and costumes, and tell the story through intricate gestures and facial expressions, to the sound of drums playing live.
There are several places in Fort Kochi organising daily or weekly kathakali shows. We attended the one at the Greenix cultural art centre. I recommend arriving at the centre one hour before the show to watch the performers getting ready as the make up is skilfully applied to their faces.
Have you been to Kerala yet? If so, what was your most epic experience there? Let me know in the comments!
Disclaimer: Post sponsored by Kerala Tourism. All opinions are my own.