Kerala, a state in Southern part of India is known as the tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It is a narrow strip of coastal territory in Southern India that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation, and reaches up to the Arabian sea. Kerala borders the states of Tamil Nadu to the east and Karnataka to the north. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohini Attam. The most literate state in India, it is also a land of great religiosity, where you can find Hindu temples, mosques, churches and even synagogues. With world class tourist sporting options, world class ayurvedic spas and treatments, a large number of visit options ranging from beautiful high altitude blue mountains to pristine rain forests to golden sun-sand beaches and an enormous range of accommodation, Kerala is truely a Tourist's delight and such smiles has brought in various international accolades and prestigious awards for the state's unique eco-tourism initiatives.
The tourism department of Kerala boasts that the state is God's Own Country. Once you visit, you will realize that this is not false advertising. The state really is blessed with great natural beauty and diverse ecology making it a paradise like experience. Also Kerala is famed for one of the most advanced society in India, almost on par with any First world countries in terms of Health, Education, Hospitality, Lifestyle and Politically. The State is considered to be one of the most safest states in the country, with continuous ranking as numero one in Law and Order as well as Security. Abundant rainfall means that you can find lush greenery pretty much throughout the year. A vacation here is an opportunity for rejuvenation. You can get an Ayurvedic oil massage, spend a day or two on a houseboat with nothing to do but watch palm trees pass by, or just laze around on Kovalam or Varkala beaches.
Kerala was named as one of the "ten paradises of the world" and "50 places of a lifetime" by the National Geographic Traveler magazine. The uniqueness of Kerala is that, its a state wedged between Western Ghats on western side and Arabian Sea on East, thus having almost every kind of topography that ranges from High altitude mountains to golden beaches with heavily criss crossed by 41 rivers and its tributaries and formation of unique backwaters and lagoons as well as well as numerous small islands.
Myth has it that Kerala was created by Parasuraman (an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu) when he tossed his axe dripping with the blood of his mother, over the Western Ghats Mountain into the sea. He was asked to decapitate his mother by his father over an allegation of adultery. Parasurama chopped off his mother's head and this pleased his father so much that he granted him any wish he wanted. He promptly asked for his mother to be brought back to life and it was granted. However Parasurama felt so bad after this that he tossed his favorite weapon to the sea and renounced violence once and for all. However the sea which is depicted as a Goddess didn't want to receive the spooky axe and receded creating the land of Kerala. Thus its believed the land belongs to Parasurama and hence also known as Parasuramakshetram (The temple of Parasurama)
Kerala is one of the few places in India that was not subject to direct British rule. Large parts of Kerala, The Tiruvithamkoor (Travancore) and Kochi (Cochin) regions were ruled by Maharajas (local kings) during the period of the British rule in India and were popularly known for their extreme progressive attitude which resulted in various welfare reforms particularly in area of education and health care, making the state one of the most advanced civilization. People here live largely the same way they have lived traditionally and much of its rich culture and heritage is well-preserved.
It would be the most surprising fact that Kerala was the first place in India, where the European colonization started. Portuguese was the first to discover a direct sea route between Lisbon to Kozhikode in Kerala, marking the European Colonization in India. Soon Dutch, French, Italians, English etc all lured by the vast wealth of spices and silk, came to Kerala, with intentions of forming colonies. However with the defeat of Dutch by Travancore Army in Battle of Colachel and decline of Portugal Empire as well as defeat of French in Europe, resulted in Britishers gaining the full influence in country and annexation of Malabar Kingdom into Madras Presidency of English. However the Kingdoms of Cochin and Travancore remained independent with least interference from British, though they remained as allies of Great Britain
Hinduism is the largest Religion in the state. Unlike other parts of the country, the Hinduism in Kerala is bit different, due to assimilations with the traditional Dravidian culture and later due to the unique practice of Marumakathyam which made cross caste marriages common. Kerala's Islam much like Hinduism is unique. Its believed that Islam reached shores of Kerala during 600 AD, soon after its formation in Arabia, due to strong trading relations between Kerala and Arabia that time. This also resulted in Kerala adopting Shafi'i School of Islam like many Arab countries such as Oman, Yemen etc unlike Hanfi school elsewhere. Much like Islam, Christianity too has made a unique mark in Kerala's History, when St.Thomas, the Apostle came in 52 AD and spread the message of Christ. This resulted in large influx of Syrian Immigrants and soon assimilated with Kerala, becoming Syrian Christians or Nasaranis as popularly known. Kerala has the largest number of Churches, out of which many are considered extremely sacred, in the country.
For thousands of years Buddhism was the most influential religion in Kerala. It was only in the 11th and 12th centuries that Brahmanism took hold in the state and Buddhism waned. Judaism have also existed in Kerala for around a couple thousand years and even today a minority number of Jews live around Kochi, after a mass migration to Israel in 1950s. A strong, distinct Muslim culture in the North of Kerala also stands out. The local language (Malayalam), the cuisine, the practice of Ayurveda (a traditional health system), the widely prevalent use of traditional clothing, all reflect this diversity.
Kerala has a sizable number of atheists due to a strong Communist movement. While Hindus constitute about three fifth of the population, Muslims and Christians account for about one fifth each. Irrespective of religion, people are religious when compared to other cultures in India and communal and sectarian tensions are very minimal.
Unique to Kerala, the Malayalee culture is a derivation of Ancient Tamil-Dravidian culture synthesized equally with Arya-Indian culture with heavy influences of Chinese, Japanese, Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch and in a limited the English culture, due to its extensive trading relations and colonial adventurism. The Malayalee culture has lot of Tamil-Sanskrit elements, equally blended and resulted in many unique practices and customs. Unlike elsewhere, the Malayalee culture is traditional Matriarchal, thus women enjoy special status in the society. The Buddhist influence brought in Ayurveda into a prominent position as well as Kalaripattu (Kerala's traditional Marital art), an important discipline. While religion beliefs and its associated myths & legends are well rooted in Malayalee Psyche, the influence of Communism and Kerala renaissance has resulted in separation of religion from daily work routine and avoidance of social taboos.
Kerala Architecture has lot of Tibetan-Chinese influence, due to its seclusion from other parts of India in olden days as huge Western Ghats prevented Tamil colonization and influence of Buddhism. Most of the buildings do have gabled tiled roofs and heavy use of wood with prominent slanting windows and ornamental flora designs. The Sree Padmanabhapuram Palace near Trivandrum, is one of the classic example for this style.
Regarding Artforms such as Dance, Music, Drama, Kerala has stamp-marked a distinctive style and has many artforms derived from various parts of Kerala. Kerala dances and Music often attract large number of patrons, due to its larger-than-life style mixed with social realities. Some of the popular Art forms are
There are more than 14 to 15 various Dance forms, all indigenous to Kerala. A detailed check with locals or web search, may help you to identify some others.
Kerala has its own indigenous music and orchestration, many of them are international reputed
Kalarippayattu ,one of the celebrated Martial art, which is believed to be one of the oldest in world. Influenced by Tibetan Buddhists who settled in Kerala during 3rd Century AD, this soon became a major powerful warfare method. One of the gravity-defying martial style, this has lot of meaning, associated with Kerala's powerful warrior caste, the Nairs and subsequently into Kerala History. Kalaripayattu has many styles, the most famous are Northern Style and Southern Style. While former is focused on usage of various weapons, the Southern style focused on powerful strokes using bare hands. The knowledge of vital spots (Marma) on human body helped Kalaripayattu Warriors, to make deadly blows that can freeze or kill a person even without any weapons, making this a deadly spot.
Kalaripayattu has elements of keeping body extremely flexible in a rigid framework and mind with utmost concentration and healthy means of lifestyle. The British Government passed legislations banning Kalari, considering its potential danger to rule of British in Malabar, which resulted in its decline. Today is a popular sport and exercise option with lot of international attention. There are many cultural centers, showcasing some kalari techniques, whereas regular Kalari Schools do operate in Thiruvanathapuram as well as Kottayam and many places in north Malabar.
Dramas was once a very popular medium in Kerala and played a great role in spread of Communist ideology and social renaissance. Due to the popularity of Television soaps as well as revival of Cinema Industry, popularity of dramas have considerably reduced. However some high-end dramas involving technology and innovative themes are gaining popularity in major metros. Thrissur is the Hub of Kerala Drama, with many theatres having dramas on regular basis. Thrissur also hosts, the annual International Drama Festival of Kerala, attracting prominent dramatists, across the world. JT Pac- a prominent new age Theatre in Kochi offers drama once in every month. Most of Kerala dramas are in Malayalam and based on social realities. Some temples offer dramas as part of their Temple festival programs.
Malayalam Cinema is a popular entertainment option. Considered as one of the best movie industry in the country, with leading technicians, artistes etc, Malayalam Cinema is the only movie industry that focus much of social realities and avoid glitz & glamour unlike Bollywood or Tamil Industry. Watching a Malayalam movie in a local theatre is a good option, however there is no system of subtitling for movie, except those which are nominated for International festivals as well as for National Award nominations. Trivandrum hosts the Annual International Film Festival of Kerala, which is rated as one of the premium Film Festivals dedicated for Asian and Latin American movies.
The best place to experience the entire Arts and culture of Kerala in a nutshell is the Annual Kerala State School Youth Festival, held normally in December or January. The location changes to various district headquarters on a rotation basis. This was constituted by Government as a Mega Competition among School children to promote Kerala arts and culture and became extremely popular. School Youth Festival is Asia's largest Festival, as recorded by Guinness Book of records with more than 82 art forms show-cased on a 10 days festival at various venues. Check on web, for each year's correct location and dates.
The traditional costumes of Kerala are ‘mundu’ and ‘neriyathu’, for both men and women. Saree and blouse also form the traditional costume of Kerala women. The traditional ‘kasavu’ mundu and sarees is a rich cultural specimen whose simple yet glamorous look has coveted the hearts of many. Kerala Mundu is very popular in the state, worn by many men. Its a special white/ off cream colour dhoti worn across the waist. The dhothi has a golden thread work as a strip running down from waist to bottom. The widthness of the gold thread determines the cost. Its an elegant costume, mostly used for ceremonial purposes as well as during festive days. Similar only Lady's Mundu Neriyathu, which as a upper shawl of same material. Today different versions of Mundu and Neriyathu with different colours and motiffs is available. Do try buying some.
Today modern costumes are in vogue but traditional dress codes in festivities and functions enliven the Kerala costume. Kerala Men and women mostly prefer modern Western dress as causal dresswear. Most of the men prefer half-sleeve shirt with pants whereas Ladies prefer either Indian Cotton Sarees or Churidars as regular dress. Denims and T-shirts as well as Short-tops with flocks etc are preferred by young boys and girls. Shopping is a passion in Kerala and shopping dress and fabrics is considered as one of the favourite past time in Kerala.
Evening wear in Kerala is mostly Lungi/kailee/mundu for men as well as Nighties for women. Lungies are colourful dhotis which is basically a tamil costume, extremely popular among Kerala men at home. Most of them prefer wear lungi without shirt or sleeveless baniyan at home. Ladies prefer a long stitched loose gown like cotton dress called Nighties.
Ladies prefer heavily worked silk sarees for ceremonial functions, especially marriages as well as for parties. Kanchipuram sarees, (a special silk sarees designed from Kanchipuram in nearby Tamil Nadu State) is extremely popular costume. Do buy a few such sarees, which is extremely rich and beautiful with fabulous designs and elobrate work.
Jayalakshmi's, Seematti's, Kalyan's etc are considered as one of the popular dress stores in Kochi for various kind of dress.
Malayaless also spend lot of time for Hair-dressing. Most of the ladies in metros are extremely fashion conscious and spend lot of time various new trends in hair styles. However generally Malayalee ladies prefer long hair, tied with white flowers. Malayalee Gents are also equally fashion conscious. Normally most of men prefer having moustaches and prefer short hair. However youngsters in metros now-a-days prefer long hair and clean shave (inspired from popular bollywood actors). While in Kerala, a try at Beauty saloon is a good option. In Metros, up-scale saloons are normally referred as Beauty Palours and normally it will be sex-segregated, though recently Uni-Sex palours are getting popular. (Its against social norm for Men entering into Women's palour, though nothing prevents women to enter into Gent's palour)
Ornaments:- Malayalees have a special liking towards Gold, making Kerala-the largest consumer of Gold Ornaments in South Asia. One can understand this, when seeing Jewelers of various range, located almost every nook and corner. Kerala has more than 172 special ornaments, each type special to each social caste (though now all type of ornaments are wore by everyone). Silver is popular among youngsters and Diamonds have emerged as one of the new option, but limited only in Metros. A visit to Kerala's most popular Jewellers like Alukkas, Alappat, Bhima etc is worth to understand Kerala's secret love with this yellow metal.
Flowers:- Malayalee ladies also have passion to white flowers like Jasmine, White lily and many other small flowers. Most of them wear adore flowers normally. Other flowers are not adorned in Kerala and limited as garden flowers.
There are three airports in Kerala, with flights to domestic and international destinations. The airports are at Kozhikode, Kochi(Nedumbassery) and Thiruvananthapuram. The airports have several carriers operating international flights around the world. Kochi International Airport (COK) is currently the largest Airport in Kerala, with regular flight connections to most of Middle East countries as well as Far East countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Europe and US bound passengers mostly need to have a transit either that any Middle Eastern countries like UAE, Qatar or Kuwait or otherwise need to transit via Mumbai. Regular chartered flights from London, New York and Moscow operates to Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (TRV) is the oldest Non-Metro International Airport in India with regular connections to most of parts to the country as well as to Middle East and Far East. During tourist season, regular chartered connections from Europe and America, do connect to Trivandrum. Kozhikode International Airport (CCJ) is a new airport with limited International connectivity. However regular flights to Middle East, exists from Kozhikode.
There are nearly 20 to 25 international carriers offer connection flights to the airports in Kerala. Apart from International carriers, Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher offers international connections from Kochi. Domestic destinations accessible by direct flights from these airports include Chennai , Bangalore, Mumbai , Agatti, Hyderabad,Mangalore,Goa and Delhi. There are daily, some bi-daily flights to most of the Indian cities from airports in Kochi and Trivandrum.
Helicopter services are available from Kochi Airport by Pawn Hans Helicopter. Pawn Hans operates Air Taxis. Recently Confident Air started operating private Jet services from Kochi Airport. Trivandrum Airport has a flying club nearby, which offers regular private aircrafts for short flights.
Most of the Kerala's districts has Helipads in their district capitals and few places do have small air strips. Check at Airport, to know more details
Transit passengers mainly come at Kochi Airport. They do have option of using Airport Rooms for 750 Rs per 4 hours rate or have to wait at Lounge room. Airport immigration now issues transit visas for some nationalities. Do check at Aiport immigration for details
Indian Railways operates several trains to and from (and within) Kerala. Trains into Kerala start from all the neighbouring states like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc. Long-haul direct train services from cities like Delhi and Mumbai are also available.
Log on to the Indian Railways booking site to book tickets online or you can walk up to any railway station to book tickets between any two destinations in India .
Be aware that trains are the most popular method of transport and almost all trains in Kerala originate or terminate in Thiruvananthapuram or Ernakulam and are usually heavily booked. Buy your tickets as early as possible. Another option is using Tatkal at Major station's reservation areas. You need to pay double, but do have chance of getting a seat. Tatkal is an emergency service, hence its booking is open just 48 hours before departure and please need to use it fast, as it may too get finished. Some travel agents do have authorized booking quota in certain trains. One need to interact with locals to more about it.
Most of the trains operating in Kerala are basically long distance trains, hence are normally busy. Need to plan carefully, when using railways as an option to book. The major Railway stations of Kerala are Ernakulam South, Trivandrum Central, Shonour Station, Kottayam Station and Kozhikode
Recently, the super luxury Tourist train- The Golden Chariot (A luxury train sponsored by Indian Rail and Karnataka tourism) have introduced South Indian Rail Tour, which includes many parts of Kerala. This is a good option for those, who prefer to visit South Indian states short-tour. The train starts from Bangalore and covers Chennai, Pondicherry, Trichy, Madurai, Trivandrum, Alapuzha, Kochi and back to Bangalore. The 7 night/8 day package tour, costs inbetween USD 3000 to USD 7000, depending upon the type of class taken.
Inter-state private and government buses operates between neighboring states. Usually the journey is performed in the night so that you can escape the heat of the day. The most common inter-state bus is Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC-Karnataka) with daily bus from most of Major cities of Kerala to Bangalore, Mysore and Mangalore. Tamil Nadu State Bus like SETC also operates regularly from Kerala. Kerala's State bus- KRSTC-Kerala do have regular Ordinary bus to most of nearby places in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. KRSTC-Kerala also operates a few Volvo AC bus to Bangalore and Coimbatore.
However Private bus players to operate more buses than Govt options. Most of them are well maintained. Kallada, Shama, KPN are the major Bus players, though recently Raj National and few others have entered with Pan India operations. Kallada, KPN, Shama etc have regular buses to Bangalore, Chennai and many other places in Tamil Nadu as well as Karnataka on various times
It is recommended that you consider booking long distance bus tickets on "Air Conditioned Volvo buses" operated by all operators as the quality of the other buses vary significantly. Using websites like makemytrip.com as well as Redbus.in is a better option.
Kerala is well connected by National Highways. Inter-state National Highways are mainly NH 17 (Connecting Mumbai to Cochin via Western coastal side of Goa, Karnataka and almost all towns of Malabar like Kannur, Kozhikode etc), NH 47 (Connecting Coimbatore with Trivandrum via Palakkad, [[Thrissur, Alapuzha, Kollam), NH 212 (Connecting Kozhikode to Mysore via Wayanad), NH 49 (Connecting Kochi to Ramaeswaram via Munnar, Madurai). Its a great pleasure to travel by road, with lot of scenic beauty and wet-lands.
Most of the NH are bi-lane carriageway. NH 47 is on process of doubling from Trivandrum to Cochin route with a 6 lane Dual carriageway and most of the parts from Thrissur to Cochin side of NH 47 has been doubled to 4 lane dual carriageway. NH 47 is one of the most busiest route.
NH 212 that connects Mysore to Kozhikode, transverses thro' the famous Thamaraserry Churam (Mountain Pass in Wayanad) which is a breath-taking steep mountain with lot of hair-pin turns and cliffs. Really enjoyable for those who love adventure.
As Kerala is one of the most heavily densely populated states, most the NH passes thro' numerous of villages and small towns. Unlike other parts of the country, there is little or no area where NH passes, as uninhabited. Due to this reason, one can't expect to ride on NH at faster speeds, unlike other parts of the country, due to regular road crossings as well as bus-stops etc. Please note, only a few sections of NH do have lighting arrangements, hence you must require good headlights while driving at night. Night-driving is the best option to travel at faster speed, though day driving helps you to enjoy the scenic beauty of Kerala.
CAUTION:- As road driving density is very high in Kerala, accidents are common even in National Highways. You must be extra vigilant while driving in Kerala Highways, considering the regular fast plying of Freight carriages as well as reckless private bus and small fast motor-scooters regularly over-taking while in roads. The better option, is to keep an expert local driver having typical Kerala road sensibilities, to drive for you.
Limited Ferry options exists now. Kochi is a major Cruise port, with most of the large cruisers having a stop-over call here and cruiser guest making short trips. A large International Cruise terminal is under construction. Once completed, regular cruises will be operated from Kochi. A regular luxury Cruise between Colombo and Male is now operational, to Kochi (its heard that ferry service is temporarily suspended till October 2010). Some private players do have regular cruises from Mumbai and Goa to Kochi, included in their package. All Lakshadweep bound cruises originate and ends from Kochi Wharf. Private yachts and other sea going boats do regularly call at Kochi Port. Some do have limited call at Trivandrum Vizhijnam harbour as well as Old Alapuzha & Kollam ports. Recent proposals for expansion of Medival port of Beypore in Kozhikode as well as Kollam Port has been planned. However no exact dates are currently available.
Trains, buses and taxis provide the easiest way to get around Kerala. Trains are good for long distance travel, say from the north to the south. Kerala is one of the few states in India, that is well connected through various Travel options. The Roads remain the primary popular options. Kerala has the highest road connectivity in India. Almost each nook and corner of the state is connected by the road and the road density is almost 4 times more than national average. The primary Roads is NH 47, NH 49, NH 17 and NH 212 which all National Highways. The NH 47 is one of the most busiest and commonly used as it connects between Cochin and Trivandrum. The traditional primary road is MC Road, build by Kingdom of Travancore, which covers on the most scenic places in south Kerala. However NH 49 cut shorts the distance time atleast by 1 hour when compared to MC Road, for a travel between Cochin to Trivandrum. State Highways connect to almost all parts of Kerala. Most of the SH are Bi-lane roads.
Due to heavy rains, its common to see potholes in most of roads. Some of the wettest areas like Alleppey, Kottayam, Iddukki etc have extremely damaged roads, as its very difficult to maintain. The government however spends regularly in maintaining most of the roads.
Due to heavy road density in National Highways, a new expressway is proposed which will connect Mangalore to Trivandrum and a Hill Highway covering Ooty to Munnar. Proposals are half-way and construction for these two are yet to start.
Taxis are good but expensive way to get around for short distances. Do negotiate the price before you get into the taxi. There are mainly 2 type taxis in Kerala. Ambassador/Indica Taxi as well as AC Other car Taxis and Jeeps. Ambassador Taxis are rarely Air Conditioned and are more commonly used in Trivandrum, being State capital as well as in other cities. Indica is more commonly in Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kottayam areas. Most of Indicas are Airconditioned and do change the taxi slab when A/C is switched on. Normal rate is 50 Rs as minimum rate for 2 Kms and 20 Rs per Km later. A/C cabs charge normally 10 to 15% more. In Cochin, Trivandrum, day Cabs are available that charge 450 Rs for 4 hour trip anywhere within City limits or 850 Rs for 8 hour trip within city limits. Most these will be Indica or other premium cars available
Jeeps and 4 wheel SUVs are more common taxi form in Hill Areas. Its more popular as a Shared Jeep than individual jeep, though you can avail at extra rates. One cannot expect an air-conditioned Jeeps/SUVs in these areas, as these are mostly cold areas, hence A/Cs are rare.
Buses are good for very short travel. Both government and private buses travel between and within cities. Buses within cities are very crowded and if you travel on them, please take care of your belongings (wallet, passport) as pickpockets are not rare. Intercity buses are of 3 types- Ordinary buses with bare minimum facility, however highly recommended for Budget travel. Super Fast/Limited Stop Bus offers fast travel options, though they are moderately more better than ordinary buses Premium buses are not much, but covers mainly major metros are normally A/C buses with full facilities. KSRTC also offers A/C superfast services between cities, though private players rarely do offer. A/C services is not required in Kerala much, as cool breeze always a strong feature throughout the year in Kerala due to its tropical climate and humidity.
City Buses are normally non-A/C and very cheap option, though it will be crowded at peak times. One can get very easily and most of city buses connect each and every area. In Trivandrum, city bus is completely owned by KSRTC which is marked as "Ananthapuri". These buses will be using a White and Light blue livery. The Ernakulam city buses are normally owned by private players and most of them do have individual names on it. However all city buses of Cochin requires to use a RED based livery, though most of them appear either Plain red or some reddish designs. City buses in Kozhikode are mostly private owned and requires to have a Green Livery, though most are plain green or greenish livery. The minimum charge throughout Kerala for any City/Rural buses is Rs 3.50 for first 5 Kms and 60paise for every KM later.
Recently Trivandrum and Kochi has now Low Floor A/C City Bus offering slightly premium services. Though these buses donot cover the entire city, as other city bus, soon more will be added, which shall. Low Floor City Buses literary covers 3/4 of Trivandrum city areas, whereas in Kochi, it mainly connects Fort-Kochi to Airport and Suburbs of Cochin City.
Auto-rickshaws (also called auto) are another convenient mode of transport for very short travel - not too expensive and fast. By law the auto driver has to start a meter for every journey. However at times this law tends to be overlooked. It is wise to ask the driver, politely, to ensure he starts the meter at the start of your journey , to avoid unecessary arguments at the end of the trip. The best way not to get tricked would be to ask a helpful Samaritan how much it would cost to your destination and check it up with your driver before you get into the auto.
Most of the larger railway stations and all the airports have "pre-paid" auto-rickshaw and/or taxi stands. Just tell them where you want to go and you will get a slip of paper with the destination and amount written on it. Pay only that amount of money and nothing more.
There is no Intra-City Train/Metro services now in any Kerala city, though Kochi is going to start a Metro Service soon, likewise Trivandrum is proposing a Skybus and Rapid BRT option. A proposal for Intra City Rail for Kochi is also proposed
Among the 10 must see destinations of the world identified by the National geographic magazine "traveler", Kerala is known for its glorious sights and surprising sounds. Mesmerizing greenery, enchanting backwaters, verdant forests, vibrant wildlife, sun-kissed beaches, cascading waterfalls, scintillating valleys with abundant coconut and areca nut palm groves, unending rice fields and mist-capped mountains make Kerala a land of nonstop magic. A land like no other.Populated with the most advanced society in India, Kerala has a 100% literacy rate. Its physical quality of life index is the highest in the country and the culture of hospitality is well known.
Due to its unique geography, Kerala gets rain for at least 8 months of the year and the forests are classified as 'rain forests' just like those in the Amazon. You'll be spoiled by the number of opportunities to trek, camp and see wildlife.
Kerala 650 km of coastal-line, means presence of numerous beaches throughout the state. The sun-kissed golden beaches of Kerala, is really a fun and frolic place to enjoy.
Kerala was the first state, to adopt Eco-tourism in South Asia and made wonderful strives in this aspect. Most of the tourist spots evolve around this concept.
Kerala is the only place in the world, to offer Natural Radiation as Tourist interest area. The Karunagapally Beach is listed as the World's hottest Spot in Natural Radiation is caused by monazite sands containing highly radioactive thorium, at the Karunagapally beach results in higher radioactive exposure on the locals, though its not a health concern as it has changed their genetic stucture adaptable to such higher radiations. Sites offering radiation exposure experience without much harm are very rare in the world. The sands of Karunagapally is constitute 1/3rd of India's nuclear fuel need. Its estimated that 28% of global thorium deposits are located in this beach of Kerala, making it an interest area for global nuclear scientists and researchers.
See Religious destinations of Kerala for further detail.
Kerala is very famous for its religious harmony and co-existence of several religions in all its peaceful brotherhood. Keralites are very religious people and religious functions dominates all walks of life. However religion donot make the final word in anybody's life here, thus its an very open society for debate and discussions about religions. Many religious conferences regularly conduct, enabling cross-religious discussions.
Kerala's is very famous for its pilgrimage options. Most of the religious sites are deep-rooted with shades of strong myths, legends and many do have long historical tales of more than 1000 years to tell.
Finding a temple, church or mosque is not a difficult thing, as its almost present in every nook and corner.
There are numerous of other historic churches across Kerala. Check with the Locals to identify some of the best Churches to visit. Kottayam, particularly Pala is extremely famous of Churches. Numerous of Churches dots elsewhere. Kerala has many world-famous Cathedrals, Basilicas, which are primary religious places, though the above are some of best for tourist visit due to its Historic reasons.
Some of the important, must visit mosques are
There are many big and small mosques all over Kerala. Other than a few, most of the mosques are of no value for any tourists to see, as its purely worship areas. However if you are a Muslim tourist and looking for visiting religions sites, do check with locals, to identify other popular options in the locality.
There are other religious shrines dedicated for Jews, Buddhists as well as Jains.
See some of the best highlights that Kerala has to offer: experience bustling Kochi (Cochin)and Thiruvananthapuram, relax in the Backwaters, hike in the mountains and enjoy the beaches.
Suggested Itinerary (This is an indicative itinerary, Sequence of the activities may vary and depend on prevailing weather condition and guest preferences)
Arrive at Kochi Airport/ Railway station and spend a day in the city. Consider option of going city tour (excluding Fort Cochin, which can toured on while on return) and enjoy shopping experience of Kochi. Take evening rest either in Hotel or visit for a evening walk in Marine Drive or shopping malls. Prepare for an early morning drive to Munnar and en route there are couple of good places worth a visit,if you have time. Spend a day in Munnar and enjoy the scenic beauty. Make a visit to Tea gardens and spend idle time looking at the blue mountains or flora & Fauna. Visit several protected sanctuaries and national parks or make a stroll in the evening bazaars etc. From Munnar a scenic road leads to Thekkady, famous for its Periyar Tiger Reserve and lovely boating experience around the tiger island. Also you can have a Jungle safari in this area and stay in Princely KTDC's Arya Nivas or other Colonial bungalows. While on your return, a short trip to Idukki Dam and Aruvi is interesting. If you wish, make your stay for the night at Wagamon in Kottayam and spend the next morning in the beauty valley. From Wagamon, KK Road will take you to Kottayam from where you can move on to the backwater haven of Kumarakom. You can book a Houseboat for 24 hours and board the boat by evening, which helps to spend the night amidst of Backwater with all facilities. Morning spend the day cruising across the backwaters and watching the sanctuary. End the trip by afternoon and you can proceed to Alapuzha either thro' road or Waterways. It's most ideal to go to Allapuzha for its famed inland waterways and sandy beaches, thro' MC Road and take a return at Changassery that leads to Alapuzha, famous for its scenic beauty, canals and Kuttanad. If you consume brew, take a toddy from any of the Toddy shops on the way, which all are authorized and have wonderful native food from there. The road takes you Alapuzha. Spend a day at Alleppey, either in its backwater cruise or do canoeing at its lagoons or make fun at its golden beaches. The National Highway 47 (NH47) will be your best option to go further south. You can stop at Kollam (cashew nut hub...pick them up for cheap here) en route and its better to keep Paalaruvi, Thenmala (Dam site and good for treks) both near the Tamil Nadu border while NH47 is in the coastal region. During the return trip you can also visit Kourtyalam in neighboring Tamil Nadu, famous for its waterfalls. After Kollam proceed to Thiruvanathapuram. The Padmanabhapuram Temple, Kovalam beach. If time permits proceed to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. Taking a taxi for the entire trip will be the most hassle-free option, though its slightly expensive, but really worth for it. Else a mixture of public transport, taxis, trains and autos are good option to keep your budget secure. You can either terminate your journey at Trivandrum by catching a flight or train. Else the best option is to take a bus or train towards Cochin and terminate from Cochin, after spending a day at Fort Cochin.
This suggested itinerary covers almost all parts of Malabar and Northern Canara Districts of Karnataka (Kozhikode-Wayanad-Madikeri-Mangalore-Nilaeswaram-Bekal-Kannur-Mahe-Kozhikode)- Additional option-(Ooty-Mysore for extra 3 days)
Suggested Itinerary (This is an indicative itinerary, Sequence of the activities may vary and depend on prevailing weather condition and guest preferences)
Arrive at Calicut Airport/ Railway station and stay in a local hotel or city. Enjoy a half-city tour. Next day proceed to Wayanad District thro' travel at NH212. Take a refreshing drive to Vythri (65 kms) or Kalpetta (80 kms) or Sultan Battery(100 kms). Any town in this area, provides equal refreshing option. Relax for rest of the day. After Breakfast on next day and go local sightseeing around Wayanad. Evening visit Tea plantation / Nature Trail. Next day, after Breakfast Leave for One of the Jungle Lodges around forest region. Do a Jungle Safari. Proceed to Coorg for an early morning drive and reach at Madikeri by morning. Check in any local hotel and start a misty Morning Park Safari or an Elephant ride before breakfast. Think of evening Park Safari and Boat Ride or prefer a relaxing evening with a camp-fire. Next day, after breakfast, visit Tibetan Monastery and Dubare Elephant Camp. Make a walk in the Kodagu Bazaar and think of some purchases. End the Coorg tour and say a bye to Mountains. Return to Kerala, by taking a drive to Nilaeswaram. You can think of adding Mangalore before driving towards Nilaeswaram and if you wish spend a city tour there and halt for evening stay there. Else proceed to Kasargod and end the trip at Bekal Beach (70 - 90 kms) by around afternoon. Spend noon at Bekal fort and evening at Bekal beach. Relax and do local sightseeing. You can either return back to Calicut to terminate your trip thro' Calicut Airport or proceed to Mangalore Airport. If returning to Calicut, make a small stopover at Mahe', a former French colony and enclave belonging to Pondicherry State, famous for its French colonial culture and french lifestyle.
Additional 2 nights stay at Calicut (either at Kadavu Ayurvedic Resort or Beaches nearby Calicut (Kappad or Payyambalam in Kannur) also can be considered for relaxation.
You can add additional 3 days (if time and weather permits) at Ooty by taking a small divert from Wayanad towards Ooty direction and return back to Coorg road via Mysore can be added in between Wayanad.
|Enjoying an Ayurveda Massage while in Kerala, is always a priority for Tourists. There can be two types of Ayurvedic centers. Ayurvedic Hospitals and Ayurveda centers. While the former is for treatment of serious aliments and diseases & disorders, the latter is for pleasure treatment and spas. Some of the recommended Ayurvedic Hospitals are|
Kerala is one of the few places which caters to all kinds of tourists. It has hill stations, virgin beaches, lazy backwaters, rain forests, historical and cultural destinations. If you are interested in culture, surely you should visit Thrissur (Trichur) the city of culture where you can visit different Hindu temples, churches especially St.Thomas church at Palayoor and the Mosque in Kodungallore, that is the first Mosque in India.
See Festivals of Kerala for further details.
Kerala is considered as land of festivals, with numerous festivals falling across the year. The State has numerous holidays due to Festivals.
Onam is the most biggest festival in Kerala. It is the National Festival of Kerala with State holidays on 4 days starting from Onam Eve (Uthardom) to the 4rd Onam Day. Its also one of the most secular festival. Onam Festival falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the homecoming of mythical King Mahabali who Malayalees consider as their King. Onam is a reminiscent of Kerala's agrarian past, as its considered to be harvest festival.
Onam festivities last for ten days and brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam (floral carpets), the mammoth Onasadya (the festival feast), breathtaking Snake Boat Race and the exotic Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam, Kerala's harvest festival. Though the festive mood is spread everywhere in Kerala, the focal point of Onam celebrations happens in Kochi. Though the myth behind Onam is a Hindu tradition, the festival is equally celebrated in all its zest and glitz by all communities like Christians, Muslims etc. There are special Masses for Onam day in churches and get-together among Muslim families
The second most important festival in Kerala is Vishu. Vishu falls on Malayalam Month of Medam 1st (normally 14th or 15th or 16th day of April). Its considered as Astronomic New Year, as its the day when Sun enters into Tropic of Cancer. Its considered to be the most auspicious day to start anything new. Though it doesn't have as much as glitz that Onam has, still Vishu is an important day in Kerala, more famous for its Vishu Sadhya (Vishu Feast), Kainettam (First Gift by elders to young on start of New Year) and ofcourse shopping, due Vishu's legend of getting new on this day.
Christmas is one of the Biggest festival in Kerala, thanks to strong Christian community. Today X'mas has moved more a secular festival than a religious festival. The days starting from 23rd of Dec till 2nd of Jan is considered as most festive days in a year, with terrific shopping, parties, parades and the entire air is filled with festivities organized by many. Parades on X'mas Eves in major Churches are worth to watch and special masses in churches as well as X'mas feast are something that anybody wish for. Today most of the large hotels in the state offer Gala X'mas Buffet feasts, which must be a sure try for any tourists, a good opportunity to taste unique Kerala Nasarani (Christian) food specialties
New Year Eve on Dec 31st is a major festival in many Kerala cities, as anywhere else. The highlight of New Year festival is at Kochi, with the famous Cochin Carnival and Lighting of Papanai (a tradition inherited from Portuguese).
Muslim festivals like Eid Al Fithur (popularily known in Kerala as Cheriya Perunal ) and Eid Al Adha (Valiya Perunal) is also celebrated. Its public holidays on these days and special Id Prayers are held in large grounds in morning, followed by public fest. The major celebration happens in Malabar side, particularly Kozhikode which is extremely famous for its Muslim festivals.
Kerala's festivals gained more fame, thro' its Temple festivals. Most of the temples do have an Annual festival starting from November end to Mid of May, which varies according to each temple's annual calendar. Most of the temple festivals is celebrated as part of temple's anniversary or presiding deity's birthday or any other major event associated with the temple. Kerala's temple festivals are very interesting to see, with regular procession of decorated elephants, temple orchestra and other festivities. Most of the temples do have 9 days of festivals and normally on 8th night, its marked with heavy fireworks and special orchestration of temple orchestra and parade of normally 3 to 9 decorated elephants
The most famous temple festival, that one should not miss is Thrissur Pooram at city of Thrissur happening between last week of April- mid of May. Thrissur Pooram is called Festivals of Festivals, marking the biggest and most gala temple festival. Its actually a competition of festivities between two temples and nearly parades of 30 to 50 decorated elephants along with huge temple orchestration normally associated by 150 to 200 musicians happen, making it a visual treat.
Another major festivals, worth for a watch is Navarathiri during Sept-Oct time as well as Sree Padmanabha's Arattu held twice in a Year. Both are celebrated in Thiruvananthapuram and its focal point is at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. Both festivals are true legacy of Travancore Royalty and a must watch event.
Kerala cuisine is distinctly different from food elsewhere in India. Rice is a staple here, unlike the wheat-eating north of India. Seafood is also a big part of the diet. Kerala cuisine stands unique because of popularity of its Non-Vegetarian dishes unlike vegetarian based Indian foods. Due to abundance of coconuts, it is uses in various forms in almost all dishes. Most of the curries carries Coconut paste. Some Curries are enriched with Coconut Milk. Scrapped Coconut powder is massively used while marinating most of vegetables as well as meat. The oil used for cooking is also often coconut oil. Unlike much of India, beef is also popular in Kerala, particularly with the Muslim and Christian communities, though majority of Hindus do use it. Perhaps might be because of separation of religion from daily life, not much religious taboos are affected in Kerala cuisine. Even pork is also extremely popular in Kerala, thanks to Portuguese influence. Food in Kerala tends to include a variety of spices and most of them are extremely fiery.
Kerala Cuisines are divided mainly into 4 styles.
Palakkad has maintained a slight distance from Malabar cuisine, due to its traditional Tamil-Brahmin culture. It has more focused on Vegetarian Tamil foods. Extreme North of Malabar has lots of Konkani influence, thus again has slight distinctive food recipes with more focus on sea-food. However today most of the style varities are available through out Kerala and though unique food specialties needed to be tasted at its own place.
However one of the favourite for any connoisseur of food would be the sadhya served especially during festive occasion on a plaintain leaf. It generally has up to 24 items served in it. The snap shown is just a sample sadhya. It usually includes olan(a dish of pumpkin), avial(an assorted mix of all vegetable) , injipulee (a ginger & tamarind flavoring), kaalan (made of yam and yogurt), thoran (deep fried vegetables sprinkled with grated coconut) etc. In some sadhyas, options like Potato Stew, Masala curry etc are served. However Sambar (a watery all-Vegetable curry), Parippu (Lentils, either Mashed or Curry form) along with Ghee is served. Pappadam (Fried Lentil-flour bread), along with Banana chips and Jaggery Sweet is served. Towards the end of Sadhya, Rasam (similar to Mulligatawny soup made out of pepper and tomato water is served, which is good for digestion) as well as Mooru or Sambharam (Spiced buttermilk) along with curd is served. The desserts includes Payasam (a sweet porridge-like, made of jaggery or sugar along with rice, cereals, fruits depending on what type of Payasam) as well as Boli (a sweet flour bread, which look similar to an omelet) along with a Banana and sometimes Unniappam (sweet fried rice flour dumpling). Normally Sadyas are served on Lunch time.
Kerala cuisine varies with the regions. The southernmost parts serve the most traditional sadya (or so they believe). Central Kerala cuisine is enriched with non-vegetarian dishes of all kinds. In Northern Kerala cuisine, you can see the influence of Arabian cuisine on the food. Sea food is available all over. In regions bordering the backwaters and lakes, traditional cuisine includes fresh-water fish like Karimeen, Prawn, Shrimps, Kanava[Squid], and many other delicacies served along with 'Kappa'[Tapioca] or rice. Steamed and Mashed Tapioca flavored with Turmeric served along with spicy Fish Curry or Mashed Chilly gravy is hot favorite among Malayalees, particularly those in rural areas.
Kerala is very famous for its elobrate breakfast food. Some of the popular breakfast items, do hail from other Southern states like Idli (Steamed rice pancake), a soft fluffy cake consumed along with Chutney (Spicy paste, either made of Chilly or Coconut or Green chillies) as well as with Sambar; Dosas (Crispy fried Ricebread) having flavorings of Butter or Ghee or Masala or Plain.
However Kerala's famed Breakfast lies in its unique breakfast items, many are not popularly known to outside world, though remaining extremely popular within the state. These include Puttu (made of rice powder and grated coconut, steamed in a metal or bamboo holder) taken along with Kadala (a curry made of black garbanzo beans chana), Pidiyan (Dumplings made of Rice and Jaggery), Idiyappam (string hoppers - also known as Noolputtu and Nool-Appam), Paal-Appam, a circular, fluffy, crisp-edged pancake made of rice flour fermented with a small amount of toddy or wine, etc. Idiyapam and Paalappam are accompanied by mutton, chicken or vegetable stew or a curry of beef or fish moli (the most common dish is black pomfret in a coconut based sauce).
Dinner traditionally used to similar to Lunch in Kerala, though instead of rice, Congee or Kanzhi (Rice Porridge) used along with spicy Raw Chillies and Roasted Pappadams. However today dinner is more like North Indian style, with chappathis and Parathas dominating the main course along with some Vegetable or non vegetable curries.
Sweets:- Due to limited influence of Arab & Central Asian food on Kerala, the use of sweets is not as widespread as in North India. Kerala does not have any indigenous cold desserts, but hot/warm desserts are popular. The most popular example is undoubtedly the payasam: a preparation of milk, coconut extract, sugar, cashews, dry grapes, etc. Payasam can be made with many base constituents, including Paal payasam (made from rice), Ada payasam (with Ada, a flat form of rice), Paripu payasam (made from dal), Pazham pradhamam (made from banana), Gothambu payasam (made from wheat) etc. Ada payasam is especially popular during the festival of Onam. Most payasams can also be consumed chilled. Jaggery or molasses is a common sweetening ingredient, although white sugar is gaining ground. Fruit, especially the small yellow bananas, are often eaten after a meal or at any time of the day. Plantains, uncooked or steamed, are popularly eaten for breakfast or tea.
Other popular sweets include Unniappam (a fried banana bread), pazham-pori (plantain slices covered with a fried crust made of sweetened flour), and kozhukkatta (rice dumplings stuffed with a sweet mixture of molasses, coconut etc.). Kozhikode Halwa is one of the most famous sweet in Kerala. Cakes, ice-creams, cookies and puddings are equally common. Generally, except for payasam, most sweets are not eaten as dessert but as a tea-time snack.
The road connecting Alappuzha to Changanasery known as AC Road is a wonderful place for foodies as there are a plethora of 'Toddy Shops' which serve the fresh catch of the day from the nearby water bodies cooked deliciously along with Toddy, a type of liquor obtained from coconut/palm trees which is sour-sweet in taste. You will love the ambience, when you are sitting in a toddy shop in the middle of a water logged green field nibbling on spicy fish and sipping toddy.
Kerala was one of the first states in India to pioneer the concept of Homestays and make it a successful industry, providing a much needed source of extra income to the locals, while at the same time giving travelers more than a peek at the real Kerala. Under this Homestay concept, you get to stay with a family who can show you around and also help you to find what makes Kerala tick. Your accommodation and food is taken care of at a nominal cost.
You will in all probability be staying with a family whose members are well versed in English or at the least can speak decent English. All the people offering homestays are vetted by the Government and will have to register themselves as such.
Rs 322.50(~7 US$) and Rs 700(~15 US$) are magic numbers when you are looking for budget Non-AC and AC rooms respectively. Most budget hotels in Kerala will have a room in this price. You can expect basic facilities with a bed, TV and an attached bath-room.
For a more comfortable stay, you need to shell out above 500 Indian Rupees(~11 US$) for a Non AC room or More than 1200(~26 US$) for an AC Room. This category would include many 3 star hotels. You could expect to have more spacious rooms, English proficient concierges, Airport/Railway Station Pick-Up and Drop. However if you are expecting a cheap extended stay hotel, with attached kitchenette, not much options are available in Kerala much. However in major metros like Cochin, Trivandrum, Kozhikode etc serviced apartments are available for extended stay. Though not cheap, still its considerable lower than taking rooms in hotels for those equivalent days. Another option is that taking a small lodge in these cities on a monthly basis, which is quite cheap. Though its suited only for bachelors, some well maintained good lodgings are available in Cochin and Trivandrum. Though lodges donot have attached Kitchenette, you can make a makeshift kitchenette inside your room without any objection.
If you are in one of those yet to develop tourist spots like Munnar, you can find hotels only in this range.
Themed resorts also would fall in the category. Prepare to shell anywhere above Rs 2000 and you could rent out a whole cottage in an idyllic location and they do come with kitchens.
Five Star hotels in India don't come cheap. If you are willing to stay in these hotels, most of them throw in a guided tour or a packaged tour as a compliment. Most Five star hotels provide attached kitchenette and if you are sick of Indian food, this is an option.
The people of Kerala speak Malayalam (a palindrome when written in English). However, most educated people speak Hindi and English as well. As Malayalam is similar to Tamil, locals may understand spoken Tamil with some difficulty. Almost all bus routes and other important signs including name boards are written in Malayalam and some in English. However most of City Bus are prominently written in Malayalam with some has English signage in small fonts which is often difficult to read. However most of the bus conductors/ticket checkers do understand English and can speak broken English. Most of them are helpful, hence talking to them would be helpful. Long Distance bus as well as Inter-state bus do carry English signage. Railways and other central government establishments also carry signs in Hindi, Malayalam and English.
90% of Road signs, establishment boards, Billboards, Ad boards etc are written in English, making it easy for tourists to read. Highway signs are normally in Malayalam, Hindi and English. However most of Kerala Government offices uses only Malayalam signages and most of Kerala Govt documents such as receipts, bills will be only in Malayalam
Kerala is one of the places where multiple religions exist in great harmony. This is achieved by one respecting the customs and rituals of other religions. A visit to these shrines is necessary to understand the breadth of cultural influences in the state.
In some Hindu temples non-Hindus are not allowed enter the shrines. It is best to ask someone at the temple. Many are happy to let you in as long as the usual rules of the temple are observed. However, photography inside the temple is a strict no-no.
Also for male visitors at many places inside a temple, dress code is traditional mundu without a shirt - the no-shirt rule will be enforced even if the mundu rule is not. The best thing to do is to watch what others are doing and follow. You are also expected to take off your footwear outside the temple. Usually there are no locker facilities, cheap footwear is best.
For females any non exposed dress, preferably not shirts and trousers.
There are exceptions to these rules. For example everybody is welcome at Adhi Shankaracharya's temple. At Shabarimala any male that has performed a set of pre-defined rituals is welcome, but females are not.
At a Muslim mosque females have some restrictions.
At Christian churches usually men sit to the left of the aisle and women to the right. Some of the more traditional churches don't even have pews...you'll have to stand.
The synagogue at Kochi is not open to non-Jews on Saturdays.
Currently most of Hartals and Public transport strikes happens only with atleast one day notice in advance, though most of them do issue notices atleast 1 to 2 weeks before the strike. Do check English dailies on a regular basis while in Kerala, to know the current scenario.
|Kerala Police Contact|
* Flying Squad Emergency- 100(Toll Free from all devices)
No reviews yet! Be the first to add a review:
This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at View full credits
Arun Mohan, Claus Hansen, Call Me Snapps , Neil Shaw, S Sulfi, Rohith Mathews, HarryRaj, Sylvain Pelissier, D. Guillaime, Ahana Kaur, Ravikiran Rao, Stefan Ertmann, Colin Jensen, Sumesh Narmath, Mark Sheffield, rajith, David, Philipp Sch., Stacy Hall, Nikhil, Praveen, Tom Holland, Anil Kumar, lans, Jani Patokallio, Nitin Raghavan, Sumith C Nair, Gobbler, Yogendra Vasupal, Hariharasudhan Chinnan, Ryan Holliday, Todd VerBeek, Gopikrishnan, Michele Ann Jenkins, Evan Prodromou, Mohammed Zulfekhar Majid, Thomas Stofer, Yann Forget and Srijith, Burmesedays, Texugo, Roundtheworld, Inas, Tatatabot, AHeneen, Cacahuate, WindHorse, Jishnua, Episteme, Pashley, Bijee, Nils, Huttite, Tiles and Dhum Dhum
This text is available to you under the terms ofthe Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic Licence