The scenic backwaters, expansive beaches, therapeutic Ayurveda medicine and lush tropical greenery are among the major attractions in this relaxed jungle paradise facing the Arabian Sea. The western coastal of Kerala is comparatively level and it is a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes and rivers referred to as the Kerala Backwaters, which are well utilized by its water bound population and for scenic jungle cruises wiith 140 to 160 rainy days per annum. Kerala features a wet and maritime tropical climate influenced by the seasonal heavy rains of the summer and winter monsoons.. Boasting 67 navigable rivers, Kerala is one of the few states in India where waterways are successfully used for personal and commercial inland navigation via small craft under both motor and paddle power. The coastal port of Kochi has great historic significance through its centuries-old settlements established by Portuguese explorers searching for natural resources. Alleppey is a charming seaside community with picturesque canals, backwaters, beaches and lagoons that is often described as “Venice of the East”. Houseboat cruises on the Backwaters of Alleppey are by far the most popular tourist attraction in Kerala. Locally known as a Kettuvallum, a houseboat from this region is a large and spacious craft that contains one to three bedrooms and an open air sitting room for guests as well as an onboard kitchen. Visitors can hire the boats for a day trip around the waterways for either a quiet and peaceful refuge or for a raucous party event. Guests with extra time are sure to elect for the overnight cruise option where the lumbering craft ventures far north into the quieter channels, pulling up to a serene palm covered lagoon to dock for the night. If you are lucky enough to awaken early, you can listen to the silent jungle erupt with activity as the rich amber horizon bursts with the morning sun while you sip tea on the veranda. Kerala’s notable biodiversity holds title to almost one quarter of India’s 10,000 plant species along with 102 species of mammals, 453 species of birds, 202 species of freshwater fishes. Kerala is also famous for Coconuts, Cashews, Tea, coffee, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon — and more than 600 varieties of rice comprise a critical agricultural component for India. Well suited for the guest seeking aquatic appeal, Kerala is one of the highlights of India. If one desires the verdant surroundings of a peaceful river atmosphere Kerala is by far the best place in the world to find it.
Heralded as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea”, Kochi was an important spice trading center as early as the 14thcentury. Located on India’s south western coast, Kochi straddles quaint backwaters and encompasses the northern end of a peninsula with several islands and a portion of the mainland. Although many of these geographic features are connected by various bridges, one of the more fascinating features of the area is the reliance on the many waterways for transportation. Hundreds of small crafts ferry residents and trade goods throughout the periphery of the city on a daily basis. Travelers will find the water-bound transport and the proximity to a jungle environment novel features of this exquisitely beautiful area. Early settlements from the Portuguese and British, from which the alternate name of Cochin came, made the region one of the earliest colonized areas in India and thus added to the abundance of local handcrafts, clothing and foods that contribute to its charm.
Now more a neighborhood of town than an actual fort, this area is a fascinating collection of old buildings built over the past 600 years and showing a myriad of styles from the influences of various settlers and international visitors. Many of the buildings show signs of the Portuguese influence from the 16th century when an actual fort previously protected the valuable harbor entrance. If nothing more than an intriguing place to wander the streets, Fort Kochi can easily fill up a lazy afternoon with relaxing strolls through the narrow cobblestone streets.
Chinese fishing nets:
One of the most iconic images of this area is that of the tall spider-like fishing nets. Lining the banks of the channel out to the Arabian Sea, these ancient styled structures always beg for a stunning photo opportunity in the light of the distant setting sun. Originally built by the Chinese when they arrived in the 14thcentury, they can be seen gracefully tipping back and forth with large nets strung between their spindly arms.
Saint Francis Church:
the Saint Francis Church was constructed in 1503, this is the oldest European church in Kerala and holds great historical significance for the area. Vasco da Gama, the famous Portuguese explorer, discovered the sea route from Europe and landed on the shores of India in 1498. With permission from the Raja of Cochin, the Portuguese built a fort at Kochi as well as a wooden church which was dedicated to St. Bartholomew.
The Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica:
Also one of the oldest churches in Kochi and in all of India, it is one of the eight Basilicas in the country. Built by the Portuguese in the Gothic style, this church is one of the finest and most impressive churches in India. It possesses great historic significance and is endowed with architectural and artistic grandeur.
Mattancherry Palace: Also known as the Dutch Palace, this ordinary structure does not, on first glance, appear to be worthy of the designation of a palace. However, within its humble walls lies an impressive collection of mythological murals executed in the best traditions of Hindu temple art. The murals have been painted in rich warm tempura colors depicting scenes from the epic stories of the Ramayana and Mahabharata legends. The king’s bedchamber is noteworthy with its low wooden ceiling and its walls covered with about 48 paintings dating back to the 16th century.
Kochi is spread out around Vembanad Lake, which is more accurately the convergence of many outflowing channels than a true lake. But this proximity allows many opportunities for boat cruises of various types, varying from small private trips all the way up to large party tours. The harbor does serve as a shipyard for the region but it doesn’t take long to get far enough upstream to see the local fishing fleets bringing in the day’s catch as well as the world famous Chinese fishing nets at the harbor’s entrance.
This highly stylised classical Indian dance and drama from the 16thcentury is noted for the stylise make up of characters, complicated costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in precise synchronization with music and percussion. Although traditional performances can last all night until dawn, most Kathakali dance performances are staged as an introduction for foreign visitors where guests are invited to attend a pre-show demonstration to observe the precise application of the intricate patterns of make-up for the actual characters, followed by a brief performance.
Also known as Alappuzha, this charming seaside community is considered to be the oldest planned town in this region. The lighthouse built on the coast of the town is the first of its kind along the Arabian Sea. it was often described as the one of the places known as “Venice of the East”. With over 900 km of casually twisting waterways varying from 5 to 50 meters across, the Backwaters of Kerala are indeed an unforgettable environment. Located at sea level at the edge of a great watery jungle, the area around the town is a haven for bird watchers and those seeking a green paradise as their surroundings.
A cruise on a houseboat through the Backwaters of Alleppey is by far the most popular tourist attraction in Kerala. Locally known as a Kettuvallum, a houseboat from this region is a spacious craft built from local woods and fibers that contains one to three bedrooms and an open air sitting room for guests as well as an onboard kitchen. Visitors can hire the boats for a peaceful day trip around the waterways or for an overnight cruise where the lumbering craft ventures far north into the quieter channels, pulling up to a serene palm covered pool to dock for the night. The crew prepares fresh meals along the way and stops are often made to allow visitors to stroll into historic buildings and shop at the local markets.
Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary:
This large park is set high in the Cardamom and Pandalam Hills at the southern end of the Western Ghats and is notable as major tiger and elephant reserve. Most of the land is evergreen rain forest with smaller portions consisting of damp leaf forests, eucalyptus plantations and grassland. 62 different kinds of mammals have been recorded in Periyar, including tiger, elephant, gaur, sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, Indian wild dog, mongoose, fox, leopard, langur and the rare lion-tailed macaque as well as 45 different kinds of reptiles and 320 species of birds. The tiger population is estimated at 53 and the elephant population varies between 900 and 1000. Those visitors seeking numerous types of flora will find that the reservation counts nearly 2000 kinds of flowering plants (145 of them orchids) and 170 different species of ferns. The Periyar reserve is considered as one of the best managed reserves in India. Guests are permitted only in specific areas, namely Lake Periyar, allowing the wild animals free reign in much of the sanctuary to encourage natural behavior and breeding. Still, the lake has proven to be full of opportunities to view a multitude of animals from the decks of the sightseeing boats that tour both the open waters and the narrow inlets of the lake.
but most visitors come for the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary located on one of the islands. Although very similar to the features of Allepey, Kumarakom is much more laid back than its more centrally located neighbor. Relaxing stays can be found and houseboat cruises are certainly available
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary:
Located on the shores of Vembanad Lake, this relatively small sanctuary is home to a large number of migratory birds during the high season of November through March. Visitors should make use of a local guide who can help point out many of the species, including some from as far away as Siberia. The sanctuary and the surrounding area both have large expanses of mangrove and coconut trees as well as swaths of banana, mango, pineapple, cocoa and coffee plants. A canoe ride can be arranged for a gentle and relaxing trip along the canals amid the hyacinth blossoms floating on the surface.
Located in the rolling hills of the Western Ghats, this hill station is in one of the prime high altitude tea growing regions of southern India. Its advantageous location at the confluence of the Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers offers a central focus to this idyllic resort area nestled within the surrounding mountain peaks. The serene and mist-filled valleys are also home to the wild orchid locally called Neelakurinchi, which blooms only once in 12 years, whereupon the entire valleys erupts into a vivid shade of violet. Guests are welcome to explore the valley at large including activities such as plantation visits, hillside treks, tea factory visits, cycling, boating and paragliding as well as day trips to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
This beach town on the lower reaches of the Arabian Sea is Kerala’s most developed beach resort and offers many opportunities for travelers wishing for the ultimate beach experience in India. The area can suffer from its own popularity, with large crowds driving up prices during the peak seasons of December and January. Those able to visit off-season will find the same splendid scenery and accommodations for a fraction of the price. The name Kovalum translates to “grove of coconut trees” and the area certainly offers seemingly endless lines of coconuts as far as the eye can see.
The southernmost beach of this community, Lighthouse Beach is the most popular. Its wide expanse of dark brown sand wraps as a gentle crescent with the majestic Vizhinjam Lighthouse located on a rocky promontory to the east. The gentle sweeping beam of the lighthouse casts an ethereal glow over the water and the sands for those taking a nighttime stroll amongst the sounds of the gently crashing waves.
Adjacent to Lighthouse Beach, Hawah Beach is also a popular haunt for those wishing to recline under the warm sun with gentle breezes blowing in over the crashing waves. Previously a topless beach, local codes have limited open sunbathing to private areas at the resorts.
With virtually no beachcombing visitors walking the sands, this northernmost beach is far more of a working beach. Dozens of fishermen launch large wooden boats early each morning to harvest the marine bounty from the rolling seas far beyond the breakers. Visitors can browse the bustling activities as the fishermen return in the afternoon but one should not expect to find ample room to lie out or to have a swim.
Known for its wide expanses of nearly black sand, Kovalum Beach (and its neighbor Ashoka Beach) offers large areas of flat beach on which one can recline for the afternoon with a cool drink.
Fortunately for foreign visitors, this tongue-twister of a name is commonly shortened to Trivandrum. Located near the very southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Trivandrum was called the “Evergreen City of India” by Mahatma Gandhi. Heralding a history as an ancient region with trading traditions dating back to 1000 BCE, it is believed that the ships of King Solomon landed in a the port and found the city to be a trading post of spices, sandalwood and ivory. As a hot-spot for both domestic and international tourists, Trivandrum is often known as “God’s Own Country” and we invite our guests to come explore why.
This Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu was constructed some 1500 years ago with major additions made 500 years ago. This temple is thought to be very sacred and is not open to non-Hindus. Furthermore, the temple contains many sealed vaults that are rumored to contain priceless treasures in the form of gold, jewels and sacred artifacts. Recent inventories have estimated the value of the contents to be in excess of $22 billion USD, apart from the antique value which could multiply that amount as much as ten-fold. This supports the claim that this temple is the richest temple in all of India.
Translated as the “Mansion of Horses”, the palace got name from the 124 horses that are carved into the wooden wall brackets that support the southern roof. A portion of the palace has been converted to a museum, allowing visitors to view some of the contents including Kathakali mannequins, Belgian mirrors, crystal chandeliers, paintings, armaments, musical instruments, royal thrones, traditional furniture and other artifacts.