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
The best part of Kerala's Climate is that, its neither too Hot nor too Cold, with temperatures always range inbetween 25 C to maximum of 33 C. However its almost rains throughout the year, with heavy rains during June, July, August season.
Kerala has three distinct seasons. The Summer, Monsoon and Winter. March to late May is summer. It's very hot and isn't the best time to visit. Late May to mid October is the Monsoon or Rainy Season. Mid October to late February counts as Kerala's rather mild winter.
When in Kerala, carry an umbrella no matter what time of the year it is. You can be caught in a sudden shower in summer which will leave you drenched if you are unprepared. The Kerala sun coupled with the humidity can be unforgiving in the summer months.
Recently summers are becoming more hotter than eariler. Though the maximum temperature on summers till now never crossed beyond 33 C, the rising humidity has made summers really a hot time. The intensiveness of Kerala summer normally is between March-mid of May, when showers starts by 3rd week of May. Consider only light loose cotton clothes for the season. Consider a trip to hill areas on Summer season, as temperatures in Hill areas never cross beyond 26 c till this date
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
Mohiniyattom:- A classical artform of Kerala, this is a subtle-gentle, yet graceful dance performed by ladies in traditional Kerala costume. Most of the themes are generally poems, unlike other classical dances which emphasis on Hindu Mythology. This dance is generally considered as poetic expression in a dance form. Very famous for its slow and gentle soft music and rhythmatic movements and seducing expression.
Koodiyattom:- This is one of the oldest theatre forms of Mankind, with more than 2000 year old legacy. This is a very stylized Sanskrit Theatre and recorded by UNESCO as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This is an Internationally recognized Heritage Art-form and researched in several international Art-Universities. Most of the characters are noted for its heavy use of Sanskrit recitations and highly stylized movement, particularly eye expressions. Some parts of the stories are just expressed using eyes. Currently only in few large temple do have this performance and mostly limited to International festivals and while at temple festivals.
Theyyam:- is a ritualistic rite performed in Temples of Malabar, where people while in Theyyam costume are considered as Gods and Goddess. Its an ancient cult and a tradition, where worship is done as a performance, rather than temple worship. There are nearly 41 various types of Theyyams, each noted for its different legend and stories and done in various temples of North Kerala. Most of them are oracles, hence they are considered to be sacred. A visit to any Malabar temples during Theyyam season (Dec-Mar), helps one to see this unique rite.
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
Melam:- This is one of the most famous Kerala Percussion Ensemble, consisting of various bands and types. There are nearly 5 types of Melams, each differ in number of percussions used as well as style of playing it. Melam is extremely popular and passion in Kerala. Its mostly used during temple festivals, when more than 6 hours of continuous playing. Today its used for many ceremonies and functions. Melam attracts a large number of crowds and creates wonderful notes, which makes people craze with rhythms and sound beats. The Thrissur Pooram has the largest Melam in Kerala, with more than 300 musicians on ensemble.
Sopanam:- Its called as Kerala's own classical Music. Very famous for its slow, yet graceful music and its rhythms. Most of the original versions are traditionally poems and hence its coupled with lot of poetic expressions and style. Sopanam is now limited to temple events, though regular solo performances are held inside Temple. The language used while for Sopanam is Manipravalini- a Mixture of Sanskrit with Malayalam.
Mappila Songs:- This is a signature music belonging to Muslim community. Traditionally it was sung in Mappila Malayalam which is a mixture of Arabic and Malayalam and most of them depicts social systems and customs. Today Mappila songs is extremely popular among youngsters, after rebranding with Malayalam lyrics. Mappila songs have a charm of their own as their tunes sound a mix of the ethos and culture of Kerala as well as West Asia. They deal with diverse themes such as religion, love, satire and heroism.
Film Music:- Like elsewhere in India, Film music is extremely popular in Kerala. Malayalam songs are very popular among all class of people and regularly played in most of public places thro' FM Radios and playback players.
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.
Kerala is a state in the Union of India. The state has a cabinet of ministers headed by the Chief Minister. A Governor appointed by the Central Government of India has a titular role as head of State. Kerala's governing body is called the Legislative Assembly and the law makers are called Members of the Legislative Assembly (shortened as MLA).
Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the state, which houses The Secretariat, the legislature house called Niyama Sabha and offices of various Ministers and officials.
The State of Kerala is divided into 14 districts and the districts are further divided into Taluks. Each district has a Central Government of India appointed District Collector to oversee administrative activities. Each Taluk is headed by a Tahsildhar. Again a Taluk is divided into Villages, which are the smallest revenue division.
Any foreigners, for any kind of official work that related to their visa or passport, such as extending visas etc do need to meet City Police Commissioners of either Kochi or Thiruvananthapuram or Kozhikode. Foreigner Registration Office, that overseas all these activities are available in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram
The Judicial capital of Kerala is at Kochi with High court of Kerala located there. Civil and Criminal courts are located in every place and the next higher court is District courts at each District Headquaters. Try to avoid getting into any legal tussle, as Indian Judiciary is one of the most complicated systems, with various bottlenecks and slow process.
Kerala's Growth rates are 9.2% in 2004–2005 and 7.4% in fiscal year 2003–2004.
Most households have family members working somewhere outside Kerala, typically the Middle East. Their remittances make up for around 20% percentage of the economy.
Most of the people are economically advanced with poverty just at 16%. It won't be a surprise to luxury villas and two storied well maintained buildings are in plenty in Kerala more than anywhere else.
During recent years, Kerala has undergone an image makeover. There is now a growing IT and ITES industry, which in turn has led to a spurt in construction activity in big cities.
Tourism is now a booming industry in Kerala, and accounts for a significant part of the State's economy.
Kerala is the first state, that has 100% bankized. Every place in Kerala, one can easily find Banks and Money Exchange. Kerala itself has 5 to 6 banks to its origin. The largest Kerala bank is Federal Bank with its headquarters in Aluva-Kochi. The Imperial Bank of Travancore was the first Large scale native bank started by Kingdom of Travancore, which was renamed as State Bank of Travancore- an associate Bank of SBI with branches all over India. Kerala has the largest number of ATMS everywhere. Some of the popular Kerala Banks are South Indian Bank, Dhanalakshmi Bank etc. National banks like ICICI, SBI, PNB etc operates all over Kerala. International Banks like HSBC, Standard Charted, Citi Bank etc operates mainly in Kochi and Trivandrum.
One can find ATMS on highways and even remote areas, perhaps one of the few places in the world having ATMS on water, with a full fledged Backwater ATMS. Most of the shops in Kerala are Credit Card friendly and do accept it. Money Exchanges and foreign swift transfer like Western Union etc are more commonly seen, hence it won't be any difficult to change foreign currency or receive/send money while in Kerala.
Kerala has its own traditional private banks like Muthoot, Manapuram etc, offering varied financial services
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) — the capital and largest city of Kerala famous for its beaches, monuments and parks. Also called the Evergreen Capital of India by Mahatma Gandhi, considering the level of greenery across a bustling city. The city is now home of India's largest IT park, Technopark, and thus is a major IT city in the country. Also it houses several high end academic and research houses as well as a major military center with Southern Air Force Command.
Alapuzha (Alleppey) — network of canals criss-cross the city, leading to it being called the Venice of the East. The biggest boat race, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, in India happens here every August. The most scenic place in the state, never to miss the backwater ride on houseboat, making a mesmerizing experience. Also famous for it Kuttanadu farms (only place where farming is done below sea-level), Alapuzha beach, Marrari beach, Pathiramanal (midnight island), Thannermukkom. Never to miss this city at all.
Kochi (Cochin) — the commercial capital of Kerala with unlimited shopping options, the major city in South India. It houses dozens of industries and strategic military command. The largest shipyard in South Asia is located here as well as the headquarters of Southern Naval Command. It is a major commercial port and soon the first Container Transhipment Terminal will be opened this year, making Kochi the 4th major Asian city to have ICT. In addition to it, Kochi is the only major city from India that is a cruiser port, with almost all the world's leading luxury cruisers visiting the port.
Kannur — prominent city in Malabar, famous for its strong heritage and past. Very famous for its beaches, the only Drive-In Beach in India is located here. In addition it is famous for its forts, British Legacy. The city is a strategic military base with the headquaters of Indian Territorial Army and South Asia's largest Naval Academy, Ezhimala Naval Academy.
Kollam (Quilon) — the backwaters, and the former Portugese settlement at Tangasseri close by. Very famous for large scale cashew industries as well as coir plants. The Kerala's official calendar, Kolla Varsham, is believed to have started along with the formation of this city in 846 AD, thus making the name as Kollam (meaning year).
Kottayam — proud for its latex, literacy and letters. Called the most literate city in India, it houses a dozen of publications and headquaters of many newspapers. It is a major educational centre. It is famous for its rubber trading centre and is a major trading city for most of the commercial crops like rubber, spices and coffee. Most interestingly, it is the centre of Kerala's Syrian Christian community. Its also a city of churches.
Kozhikode (Calicut) — where Vasco da Gamma landed for the first time in India. Third largest city of Kerala. It is one of the world's oldest thriving trade center. Even today the city is famous for its timber, spices, cotton and fabric trading. The city was a celebrated port between Arabs and European world. The Arab influence is seen everywhere, making it an important Muslim city in India. Very famous for its cuisine, thus also called the Food Capital of Kerala.
Munnar — one of the most untouched hill stations in India. Called as Honeymoon capital of Kerala, this is a prefect romantic city with misty blue mountains and colonial bungalows, with nature in its very best that pampers you
Athirapilly Waterfalls — famous its Milky Waterfalls and pristine rain forests and a series of waterfalls and rapids near to it.
Bekal Fort — a massive Portuguese fort in north Kerala (Kasargod), on the sea shore
Kerala backwaters — stretching across central Kerala, a must-try experience
Kovalam Beach — a popular beach near Trivandrum
Kumarakom — bird sanctuary near Kottayam, famous for its backwater cruise and lagoon spas.
Palakkad — Famous for its rural lifestyle, large rice farms, Mountains, Rain forests and prefect for enjoying the best of Kerala rural life.
Silent Valley National Park — rain forest with several endangered protected varieties of fauna.
Thekkady — Periyar Tiger Reserve and Natural Elephant forests. Famous for its boating.
Wayanad — caves, waterfalls and pristine forests
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.
Backwaters of Kerala, is as fascinating sight to see never ending maze of lagoons criss-crossed with rivers and its tributaries, shallow pools and canals, all separated from sea water just with a narrow strip of sand bank. Though backwaters are common throughout Kerala, Alapuzha (Alleppey) and Kottayam districts top in this. Kollam, Kochi, Kannur, Trivandrum, Malapuram are some of the other districts having this phenomenon.
There are many back-water lakes along the coast making it an ideal location for water games. Time your arrival for the 'Vallam kali', annual boat races with Snake Boats (a very large wooden canoe that can accommodate 60 to 100 rowers, who row the boat with maximum speed to win the race). The most famous Boat race is the Nehru Trophy Vallam Kalli, held on 2nd Saturday of August, as a tribute to former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's keen interest in this sport and a trophy gifted by him for the winner. There are many other traditional races. The most famous traditional Boat race is Aranmula Vallam Kalli held in Aranmula Village in Pathanamtitta district, which is part of the annual offering to the Lord of the village- Aranmula Parthasarthy.
See the Blue Mountains of Western Ghats, popularly known as Nilgiris, which covers from Kasargod District in North till Trivandrum in South on the western side, thus isolating Kerala from other states. There are numerous of Hill Stations in these areas, the most popular is Munnar, which is called as Honeymoon Capital of Kerala. The highest peak of Western Ghats is located at Anamudi which is of 2,695 metres, making it a trekker's paradise. There are numerous of small and big peaks here. Western Ghats is known internationally for being listed in Top 10 Hottest Biodiversity spots, with numerous of rare flora and fauna. Home to several sancturaries and forest reserve area.
Take a trip to Hill areas mainly many in Iddukki districts. The most celebrated Hill Station is Munnar, which is a quite sleepy Hill Town with lots of plantations and British Era- colonial Guest houses and camps. However during tourist season, it loses its sleepy nature with thousands of tourists flock from elsewhere. Take options of going Wayanad or Palakkad hill Areas, particularly Nelliyampatty which are not commericalized and unspoilt hill areas. Many of them are unexplored. Catch hold of some local and explore the best of Hill areas
If u wish to golf or roam in natural greenery, Vagamon is a good option. A natural golf-course like settings, created by Mother Nature, with intense greenery, small peakpoints, mountainous terrain though the area is located in plains, makes a prefect romantic holiday. This area has lots of springs and Natural water falls, making it a thrilling experience.
Waterfalls is something, which surely must not be missed while in Kerala. There are more than two dozens of small and big Waterfalls, with numerous of rapids and springs throughout Kerala. The largest fallwaters is at Athirampally, blessed with 3 milky waterfalls, falling down at great speed. The nearby areas have more than 5 to 7 waterfalls as well as small whirlpools and rapids.
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.
A visit to world famous Kovalam Beach near Trivandrum is sure fun for anybody, due to its vast beachline, blessed with numerous of good bathing area, clean environment and presence of many accomodations of various range. A center of Hippy culture in sixties, this beach entered into Top 10 global beaches of Tourist interest recently. Very famous for the beach parties, the New Year Eve party is the biggest and attracts large crowd through-out the world
The overcrowding at Kovalam, pushed for searching new beaches, thus more than a dozen of them became popular within last decade. Some of the famous new generation beaches are Cherai Beach near Kochi city (famous for its large area and golden sand akin to river sand), Varkala Beach near Trivandrum which is both religious and fun center. The Varkala Beach is the only beach in India adjacent to a cliff, offering some wonderful sights and presence of natural springs near to the beach itself
Alapuzha Beach and Kollam beaches are well known for its beach sports and regular beach tournaments. Its a god countryside beaches. Also presence of old ports within the beach, helped to have Sea bridges in the beach, which makes a good walk over the sea to nearly 1 km.
There are some historic beaches like The Kozhikode beach where Portuguese sailor Vasco-Da-Gama landed in India first, marking the start of European colonization and Age of Discovery, is a good evening beach to enjoy with a small garden and a belt of greenery nearby. Most of the events, particularly the larger ones like Malabar Festival etc is staged in this beach. The small beach at Ponnani where the famous War between Malabar and Portuguese forces staged etc, is good for evening walk as well as Fort Cochin Beach (reduced terribly after the Tsunami 2005) famous for its Chinese Fishing Nets and tourist spots nearby
Numerous beaches in Malabar are identifying its commercial prospects and fastly developing. Some of the upcoming beach are Kannur Payyambalam beach is a family oriented beach with lot of sporting activities and camel rides, Muzhapillangad Beach which is the only Drive-In Beach in India, Bekal Fort Beach etc. Payyambalam is a good option for family tourists, as its a very safe beach and has good bathing area. A small garden is nearby
Shangumugham Beach in Trivandrum city is a good evening beach for a regular evening walk and beach games.
For a Historical interested person, a 1000 year old civilization like Kerala, would be a Historian's natural choice.
The Palaces at Sree Padmanabhapuram located just 30 Kms from Trivandrum city makes a prefect choice, being the largest Palace ever made out of Wood and Granite in India, which was the Royal Headquarters of Travancore untill early 20th century. Or a visit to Hill Palace in Kochi, the largest archeological palace in South India with more than 200 artifacts including a multi-billion worth Cochin Crown as well as other rare Crown Jewels on display.
The ongoing Kerala-Holland-Spain archeological investigations at Chertala and Koduganallor regarding lost Dutch Treasure ships as well as Chinese Treasure ships, also prove interesting for historians, though prior permission from Archeological Survey of India is required to enter into investigation sites.
The Forts at Bekal, Palakkad and Thalassery are worth for a detailed study, built extensively for fighting both Army and Navy during pre-British Raj era. World's Second Oldest Mosque and First Mosque outside Arabia is located in Kerala at Kodungallor. Bulit in 626 AD, the Cherman Perumal Mosque houses the many rare artifacts.
The Seven and Half churches established by St.Thomas in AD 56 to AD 62 can be seen across Kerala, making a prefect study of early Christianity, much before Europe embraced it. The Jewish Town in Fort Cochin and its last inhabitants of Cochin Jews is worth for a study about Kerala's extensive ties with Judaism and Jew Culture along with the oldest Jewish Synagogue in the Commonwealth. Numerous of left-over Buddhist stupas and small temples are located many parts of Kerala, established during Buddhist Era, much before it disappeared mysteriously from Kerala. All these make Kerala, a historian's paradise
Kerala is also famous for its spice shopping at Kochi and Kozhikode. Do see and try shopping some of the best Spices in the world, as the spice markets.
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.
Akkalum Tourist Village in Trivandrum is one of the popular options for tourists, to experience best of Kerala's tourist options in a very clean. green environment. There is a floating bridge and beautiful landscaped gardens. Many famous statues and sculptures dot the entire area. Many tourist recreation options exist there, including an open air auditorium as well as restaurant.
Thenmala Eco-Tourist Village:- India's first Eco-tourist Village, with intense focus on natural environment and settings. This is located in Kollam district and dam exists near to this eco-tourist village. The highlight of these village is extreme care given to protect its natural environment. 27 rare trees, each dotting each Zodiac sign is the one of the star attraction. A butterfly garden, Nature's trail, a deer park, lotus garden, jasmine garden, garden of sculptures, a large musical fountain, creeper plaza etc exist here. Lot of adventure sporting such as rock climbing, trekking, soft trekking, mountain biking etc. Boating, fishing and tour to nearby waterfalls are some of other options.
Kumbalangi Model Village for Sustainable tourism:- Once a sleepy fishing village near Kochi city, today Kumbalangi is center of tourist attraction, after declaration of Model Village project. Its the first planned tourist village with focus on its ecology sustainability as well as protecting natural live-hood of the villagers. Today Kumbalangi has many small homestays, where tourists can interact with locals, understand their lifestyle, catch fish fresh from the backwaters, learn native recipes, go for fishing, have a drink at Govt approved toddy shop and many more things to explore.
Rural Visit:- Kerala's soul remains in its agrarian lifestyle. The best part for tourist is to explore this natural lifestyle of a Malayalee. A visit to Kuttanadu in Alleppey is a tourist's delight. Its the only place where rice farming is done below sea level in the world. The entire villages of Kuttanadu is criss-crossed by canals and lagoons making boats more easier mode of transport than motor cars. Canoeing on these canals, experience paddy cultivation in paddy fields, exercising on natural rice threadmills installed right amount of canal water to enter into farms for irrigation etc are some of the good options. Similar experience can be enjoyed in Ottapalam in Palakkad and many other villages in North Kerala.
A must see Kathakali, the Kerala's most famed Dance ballad at any Kathakali Theatres of Kochi. The most famed one is See India Kathakali Theatre located in Heart of the city. There are numerous of Big and small theaters across Kerala.
A visit during Nov-Mar means, you shall encounter a temple festival in any part of your Kerala visit. Do visit and watch the parade and performances. Something surely going to make you awestruck. Most of the temple festivals have 3 to 15 caparisoned elephants with decorated fanfare and heavy temple percussion ensemble, along with splendid fireworks and illuminations.
A visit to any Sunday Mass in Kerala church is a good option, to experience the best of Kerala's own unique Christianity. For Christian believers, an experience in Meditation or Spiritual centers like Chittor Dayana Kendram or Malayatoor is worth for trying
A visit to Kerala Kalamandalam in Ottapalam-Shonour Route is must for those who loves arts and dance. Kalamandalam is the largest Art-University in Kerala and one of the most popular Dance center. The Kathakali is most famous among them, though it has classes almost in all areas of Indian Arts and culture. A walk thro' the campus, can help you see the rigorous training associated with the Kathakali and Mohiniyattom. Need to contact University Administrator to get permission for a campus visit. Short term courses are available for those who wish to take a glimpse of Indian Arts.
A visit to any Kalari school in Kottayam or Trivandrum or in Northern Kerala is a good option, to experience the rigourous Kalari strikes and gravity defying movements.
There are more than 50 to 60 Museums and historical places around Kerala. Large Palaces, Mural galleries etc are some of the popular options. Thrissur, Kochi, Trivandrum, Kozhikode etc are the major centers of these options.
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.
Sabarimala (in Pathanamthitta) - Hindu holy site. is very famous for its diety Lord Dharmasatha, son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Very famous for its annual Pilgrimage from 1st of Malayalam month of Vrischikam (Nov-16th or 17th) till last week of December
Guruvayoor in Thrissur - have one of the most celebrated Sree Krishna temple here is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in India. An important Hindu pligrimage centre, though entry of Non-Hindus is denied. But a visit to this temple town has lots to see, including the famous Elephant Fortress housing 65 Elephants.
Sree Padmanabha Temple (Trivandrum):- is a popular sacred temple, located in the heart of the city. The city of Thiruvanathapuram gots its name from the Temple and one of the 108 Great Vishnu temples. The Lord, Sree Padmanabha is an unique form of Lord Vishnu, in a sleeping posture which is rarely seen else.This temple belongs to Travancore Royal Family.
Ettumanoor-Vaikom-Kaduthurthy Temple:- The Trio Temples located at Ettumanoor, Vaikom, Kaduthurthy towns (all located in same road with a distance of 20 to 30 Kms between each), located in Kottayam district, are popular Shiva temples. .
Lokanarkavu Temple- Perithalmana, Malapuram - very famous temple in Malabar side, having associated with famous Kerala Ballards (Vakkum Pattu), is associated with heroic deeds of Thacholi Family (A knight family during Feudal era).
Thirunavaya Banks:- is a large river bank on shores of River Nila. This river bank hold stories of Biggest Hindu Festival of south India- Mamankam (similar to Kumbh Mela of North), which got extinct in 18th century after annexation of Malabar by British. Thirunavaya has the only 2nd Brahma Temple in India, after Pushkar in Rajasthan.
Sree Parassinikadu Muttappan Temple- Kannur, is an extremely unique temple to whole of India, where there is NO IDOL to worship, rather a Ritualistic art-form (Muttappan theyam) to worship.
Seven and Half Churches- Ezharapallikal:- St Thomas the Apostle, after landing at Kodungallur in AD 52, established seven and half churches for Christian communities. These churches are known as Seven and Half Churches or Ezharappallikal. The seven churches are located in different parts of Kerala and the Half Church at Thiruvithamkode (Thiruvamkode) in Kanyakumari district of Tamilnadu
Malayattoor Mountain Top church; is an important Christanity pilgrimage center near Angamaly. It is believed that St. Thomas held his first sole prayer and Golden Cross emerged out. Most holiest site of Christians in India.
The Synod of Diamper:- Udayamperoor- 19 Kms from Kochi city; is a historic church that made Kerala Syrian Christians to declare the affirmity and to the Roman Catholic Church.
St.Mary's Forane Church- Kuravilangadu, 22 Kms from Kottayam; One of the oldest churches of Kerala is the St Mary’s Church Kuravilangadu, which was supposed to have been established in 105 A. D. It is believed that Mother Mary's first appearance in the world, was in Kuravilangad.
Kadamattom Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, 35 Kms from Kochi; is a very famous Church, built in 6th century AD. Famed for its traditional unique rites, many mixed with Hindu Tantric practices.
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.
Islam Some of the important, must visit mosques are
Cheraman Palli (Cherman Juma Masjid), Kodungallor:- India's oldest mosque and World's 2nd mosque built in 629 AD soon after Medina Mosque in Saudi Arabia. A white block of Marble blessed by Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) brought here from Makkah.
Kanjiramattom Mosque; Situated at Kaniramattom, 20 Kms from Kochi. This mosque is the right example of antique beauty of mazhars and dargahs. This was an official temple classified by Kochi Maharajas and most of the Imams (Priests) are chief scholars at Kochi Raja's court.
Palayam Pally , located in heart of Trivandrum, is the principal mosque of Trivandrum. It is a Juma Masjid (Friday Mosque).
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid, Kottayam:- is a mosque situated in Thazhathangady, one of the Heritage Zones of Kerala near the town of Kummanam. It is one of the oldest mosques in India and is more than 1000 years old.
Chempittapally; West Kochi:- The name "Chempittapally" is derived from the Malayalam word "chemp" (means bronze) and "palli" (means mosque). The roof of this famous mosque was decorated with bronze tiles, hence chempitta pally.
Odathil Palli (Odathil Mosque) Thalassery; is a famous 300 year old Mosque. This was the first mosque to have a Dome and Minaret, which was laid by Hindu Zamorin Ruler, marking the great tolerance. This is famous among tourists to visit, as its historic tradition and a mosque in pure typical Kerala Hindu style and a golden dome covering over its original sugarcane dome.
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.
Other 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
Kottakkal Ayurvedic Center is the largest Ayurvedic Hospital in South Asia, offering serious medications for various kinds of diseases and aliments. The Main hospital is located in Kottakkal in Malapuram district. However it has a new hospital in Thrikkakara in Kochi as well as Out-Patient hospitals in Ernakulam, Kottayam and many other districts
Thaikattu Moss Ayurveda is very famous in Thrissur, particularly for their medicines and Arthritis treatments.
Kerala Ayurvedics is also a good hospital chain across Kerala mainly limited for general medicine and more into pleasure treatment and spa.
Agyastya Ashram in Thripunithara is famous for its Bone-Neurology treatments and only for serious treatments.
Government Ayurveda College in Thripunithara and Government Ayurveda Hospital in Trivandrum
There are many popular Ayurvedic theme resorts which mixes both treatment and pleasure. Some of the popular options are
Somatheertham Ayurvedic Resort in Trivandrum
Astamudi Ayurvedic treatments in Kollam
Kadavu Resort in Kozhikode
Apart from this, there are many spas and Massage centers offering light treatments. Check for Government rating, displayed before the reception. Similar to Star Rating for hotels, Kerala Govt introduced Green Leaf ratings for the massage and ayurvedic centers. More the better, but expensive. Donot go for any unauthorized massage centers, which are mainly sex centers in disguise. However no large scale hospitals are given Green Leaf, as hospitals are classified under Medical center, not Pleasure treatment. Donot trust massage palours near Kovalam Beach and other popular beaches, as they are mainly into sex centers in disguise.
Check with locals or Local DTPC before choosing a Ayurvedic spas. Most of 3 star and above hotels have inhouse Ayurvedic spas, which is more better than outside ones, which is not known.
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.
Its complusory any tourists to spend some time at Backwaters of Kerala. Try getting a houseboat either from Kumarakom or Alleppy. There houseboats plying between Kumarakom to Alleppy as well as to Kollam. An individual houseboat is available for 24 hours as well as 12 hours rate. Rates differ on basis of seasons and time. Also Houseboats for a group is also available. Backwaters cruise is also available in Vaikom, Kollam, Cherthala, Kuttanad etc. A cruise in backwaters is surely going to mesmerize you. If staying in any hotel in Alleppy or Kottayam district, surely most of them help you to get one. Else DTPC in Alleppy or Kottayam arranges such facilities.
Apart from Houseboat cruises, Boating in Akkalum tourist village in Veli (Near Trivandrum) as well as in Kochi Harbour, Kallai River of Kozhikode, Malampuzha Reservoir in Palakkad, Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, Neyyar Dam (Adventure because of its crocodile infested area) in Trivandrum, Thenmala Eco-Village in Kollam and Astamudi Lake in Kollam; offers some good sightings in these areas as well as offers a good pleasure trip worth for an experience
Try using village canoe yourself in Canals of Kuttanad, Pathiramanal island, Changaserry, over Nila river in Ottapalam in Palakkad, Kallayi river in Kozhikode and Periyar river in Aluva. Its surely going to make you try again and again.
Speed cruise in Akkulam Tourist Village in Trivandrum as well as Sasthamkotta Lake in Kollam or Kochi backwaters is a good choice. Akkulam has a wide range of speed cruise from Jet ski to Water Scooters and Speed Boats as well as Banana Boats.
If you love adventure, try boarding any Fishing vessel, for a trip to High seas. Its something really adventurous. For more extreme adventurous person, a trip using traditional Fishing boat, is more thrilling due to use of narrow body boats without any machines, used by fishermen in coastal areas. You can experience the thrills of High seas.
Kerala Shipping Corporation has introduced Kochi Cruise, that have 2 type of cruises covering both Kochi Harbour Backwaters and nearby High seas. The evening cruise is the most interesting, due to the experience of cruising while at sunset and sightings of several dolphins in the Kochi Highseas.
Trekking is a good option. Lot of Trekking options prevails in Palakkad and Kottayam districts, which are more safer. Trekking in Idukki as well as Wayanad is also good, but will be too adventurous and not so safe. Do contact DTPC of these districts available at district capitals to know more about it. Kottayam mountains are the best for anybody to trek, whereas Trekking at Iddukki is surely for the experts. Vagamon and nearby areas have lot of shor trekking options.
Rock Climbing:- Popular in Munnar mountains, which is more rocky in nature and presence of cliff areas, add extreme adventure to it. Areas near Poojnar in Kottayam also have options of Rock Climbing.
Mountain Biking:- This is a popular sports in Hill station areas, especially if Racing is associated with it. Ponmudi in Trivandrum, Munnar, Thekkady, Vagamon, Nelliyampatty etc are main centers of Mountain Biking and race.
Mountain Hiking:- is also emerging as a popular sport, to conquer the largest peak of Western Ghats- Anamudi in Iddukki district. Many Mountain hikers go in search of tall peak points, for hiking options. Need to check at Iddukki, Palakkad and Kottayam districts.
Para gliding: Para gilding are available at Munnar and Varkala. A try is surely something you going to cherish, due to the natural beauty and the extreme thrill associated with it. Recently Vagamon has emerged as one of the popular center for Para gilding, due to its less mountainous terrain and vast expanse of open space, coupled with scenic beauty. Recently it was chosen as permanent center for Kerala Para-gliding Prix. ASSTA Kochi is one of the premier sporting agency in Kerala ((91)94472-88252, 98470-59735)
Canoeing: Canoeing is a favorite sport among the tourists of Kerala and among the local inhabitants of the state. A canoe is a small 2-3 seater boat which is rowed by the sailors. Canoeing expeditions are undertaken in Kerala by groups of tourists and such sashays are often arranged by tourist operators on request. One can find many canoe races among tourists in Backwaters of Alleppey.
Catamaran Sailing: A catamaran is small often wooden vessel with twin hulls joined together. Catamarans are usually set sail across the backwaters of Kerala nowadays motorized catamarans are in vogue along with traditional oar propelled ones giving the tourists of the state more variety to indulge in. Catamaran sailing can be seen in Alleppey and Kollam Beaches and limited usage in Kozhikode Barbour. The government discourages this, due to absence of safety measures, hence such sporting options must be done under personal risk.
Kayaking: Kayaking requires high levels of physical fitness. A Kayak is a small one or two man boat which the rowers actuate with twin paddled oars. Kayaking can be undertaken on rocky rapids (similar to white water rafting) or on calm sea waters. The backwaters of Kerala are extremely conducive to such sea kayaking. Kottayam and Alleppey Backwaters, particularly Vaikom has many good areas for Kayaking. Small rapids near Vagamon and Pala and Thenmala Eco-tourism village are centers of Kayaking.
Para Sailing: Parasailing is a water sport commonly indulged in Kerala's beaches and sea side resorts. This highly recreational sport is one of the primary adventure sports in Kerala's many beaches. Commonly seen in Varkala, Kovalam, Cherai beaches. Recently started in Kannur beach too.
Scuba Diving: Scuba diving is deep sea diving with an oxygen pack fitted to the diving suit so that the diver does not need to depend on any surface supplied equipment. The deep Arabian Sea off Kerala shores makes scuba diving a veritable pleasure sport. The rich underwater flora and fauna attracts the diver over the risks involved in the sport. Mainly done in Kochi Backwaters and Highseas area. This yet has not emerged as a popular sporting in Kerala, though its popular in nearby Lakshadweep seas, from the Kochi Cruisers.
Snorkeling: Snorkeling is a major tourist recreation at the beaches of Alappuzha, Kovalam and Varkala. It involved swimming at the surface of the deep sea equipped with a snorkel or a breathing tube and mask. It allows the diver to view the natural underwater bounties and the diversity of marine life.
Wind Surfing: Windsurfing is skimming the water face on a surfboard with a revolving sail. The skill of the surfer is tested in maneuvering the craft amidst the high waves and tearing winds. Windsurfing is a sport that rouses much interest in the numerous beaches that fringe coastal Kerala. This is not as popular as other sports, though at Kovalam and Varkala, one can find some wind surfers.
Jungle Safari:- Kerala has many natural rain forests, with lots of unique flora and fauna. A roam in Kerala forests, is an unique experience. Many forests are protected and to enter in any forest area, you require permission from Forest Office, to roam inside. In some forests, like Periyar Tiger Reserve, Malayatoor Forest Division or Slient Valley Rain forest in Thrissur, Wayanad forest division, Nilambur Teak forests etc; guards from Forest Office are required to accompany with you, due to presence of wild animals and tribes. Must make a request at Forest Headquarters in Trivandrum or Range Offices at entrance of each Forest division. Entering forests without permission is an offence and punishable with charges of Trespassing, Hunting (even if you didn't hunt) and environmental disturbances. However you don't require Forest Guard protection to enter Chalakudy Forest division (very popular for as movie locations), Agastyakoodam in Trivandrum (famous for its flora having high medical value), Nelliyampatty Forest division in Palakkad etc. You need to check up with local Range office or Forest office before proceeding. In any case, you need Forest permit to enter any forest region and must assure that you donot offer anything to local tribes or hurt them. Kerala tourism, in association Forest Office have some deep jungle safaris organized. Wayanad has many unique jungle lodges in outer areas of forests, making a jungle feel. Check with KTDC or DTPC for more details
Elephant Safari:- If you are in Kerala, elephants safaris are one of the best way to keep amused. Riding on top of a 8 foot animal, will surely make you excited and sometimes lot of thrills. Elephant safaris are common in many tourist places like Thenmala Eco-tourist Village and at Kodanadu Elephant Training center near Kochi as well as in Periyar Tiger reserve area.
Bullock Cart Safari:- An experience of being in olden days in this modern era. A must try option while visiting any village in Palakkad or in Kuttanad in Alleppey or any Malabar side village, can surely make you feel the common man's mode of transport of bygone era.
Nilgiri Safari:- A safari by foot over deep forests, mountainous terrain, plains at Nilgiris, to enjoy the sightings and sound of lonely Nilgiris mountains, enjoy the company of protected Tahrs and deers, mesmerized with the beauty of golden plains. Surely Nilgiri safari has all these to offer.
Shopping is a national hobby in Kerala, with vast options in all metros. Do shop during Onam or Christmas seasons. Its going to be amazing rock bottom discounts, that make you mad with shopping. The best shopping during Onam is white goods and electronics, whereas its more of dress and jewelery shopping during Christmas, though you get discounts for all in these seasons.
U have wide range of Coconut shell products to shop while in Alleppey, which are good souvenirs. Most of them are hand-made and highlight Kerala's love towards Coconuts
While visiting Aranmula, a small town in Pattanamtitta, don't forget to buy the world famous Aranmula Mirror- the only Mirror in the world made out of Metal instead of glass, using a very secret unique metallurgic formula of local blacksmiths, which is a closely guarded secret. Very expensive option, yet its a unique souvenir for tourists.
Kerala's traditional Handloom cloth- the Famous Mundu and Neriyathu is a good shopping, You can buy directly from weavers mainly in Chendamangalam near Kochi and Balaramapuram near Trivandrum. Alternatively two famous brands selling Kerala's famed Mundu-Neriyathu is Karalkada and Kasavukada, both located in heart of Kochi and Trivandrum city.
A must try while in Kerala, is to have Malabar Cuisine in Kozhikode. You shall be pampered with unique Malabar foods and die of eating while in this place. Very famous for its sweets, the most famous is absolutely the Kozhikode Halwa.
Some of the Kerala temples do have a unique secret specialities which is worth to try. The Sweet Rice Dumpling (Called Unniappams) of Kottarakara Ganapati Temple in Kollam is the most famous in Kerala. You can't stop with one. Likewise the Milk Dessert called Pal Payasam made at Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna Temple near Alleppy is something that u wish to drink all the time. Check with the locals, to know the celebrated offerings of each temple
While in Kerala, if you are a Non Veg, must try the special Karimeen (A SPECIAL KERALA RIVER BASED FISH)Recipe. Karimeens are extremely famous in Kerala and considered as a Rich Man delicacy. The Karimeen Fry as well as Steamed Karimeen are the most famous among them.
A visit to any Toddy shop between Changaserry-Alleppy route is worth trying for the most famous unique Toddy food in chicken, fish and mutton along with Kappa (Cassava-Tapioca)along with Kerala's own Coconut brew. The night special Sweet Brew is most famous, available only after 7 pm.
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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.
Southern Travancore style emphasis more on Vegetarian foods due to the strong influence of Hindu Nairs and Kshyatriya customs. Southern Travancore foods are mainly Vegetarian, with limited Non-Veg options restricting mainly into poultry.
Central Travancore style is purely a Non-Vegetarian's delight with lot of strong emphasis on Chicken, Beef, Mutton and Pork. The domination of Kerala Christianity (Nasarani) culture, has effectively created many unique dishes, which many are assimilated dishes from West Asia and European culture. Being located within spice belt, most of the dishes are extremely spicy and absolutely tasty.
Central Kerala style (Kochi) is a mixture of several world cuisines, due to its strong trading relations with other countries. Sea-Food gets a strong share in popularity in this region. Whereas Fresh water fishes caught in Kerala's rivers and backwaters make intense popularity in these region, Salt water fishes from seas also makes its domination in daily lives. Some sea caught varieties like Prawns, squids etc is essential for most of the celebrations and festive occasions. Most of the dishes in Central Kerala are balanced with Veg and Non-Veg options, though Sea-food remains as a top priority. Essence of European cultures, particularly Portuguese, English as well as influences of Chinese and Japanese cuisines, is seen most of the dishes of this region. Uses of fiery spices are moderate, though chilly and coriander is widely used to garnish.
Malabar Style, which is one of the most tastiest varieties of Kerala cuisine, which always stands out, mainly due to its distinctive style of preparation and special recipes which are not commonly used elsewhere. Though traditional Malabar cuisine is purely Non-Veg in nature, influence of Palakkad Iyers (Brahmins) and Zamorins of Kozhikode as well as Chirakkal Royals of North helped to regain a distinctive Veg options too. Malabar Cuisine is primarily influenced by Arabs, due to extensive relations with Arab world coupled with native Muslim culture. Though almost all types of Non-Veg options have place in Malabar cuisine, poultry, Mutton, Lamb gets the major share of preference. Malabar is famous for its distinctive special Dum Biryani. Many special Biryanis and rice options like Ghee Rice, Saffron Rice, Fried Rice dominates the main course. Malabar also is famous for its rice-breads like Pathiri as well as a special kind of Paratha called Malabar Paratha which is very fluffy and soft. The most interesting part is that, it has most number of traditional snacks options, than regular food, as Malabar people to eat snacks a lot.
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.
Water is usually safe to drink, but mineral water is available at almost all shops and is the safest bet.
Tender coconut water (Karikku) are available in even the smallest towns. Tender Coconut water is extremely popular and along with this the sweet creamy pulp is a ice-cream like cream which can be eaten.
Coffee (Kapi) and Tea (Chaya) Unlike other parts of South India, in Kerala, tea is more popular than Coffee. Its virtually impossible, not to find a Tea Stall selling tea. The famous tea of Kerala is the Kannan Devan Brand. In Kerala one can find Milma (a milk brand) booth selling tea with milk and snack eateries. Coffee is more popular in urban areas particularly in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram as a Cafe drink. Popularly National brands like Cafe Coffee Day and many local cafes offer various flavours of coffees with western/oriental snacks. Kerala's own traditional Cafe is Indian Coffee House, which is an old-fashioned pre-1970s styled coffee shops, offering Kerala Coffee along with regular Kerala foods. Among new generation Cafe from Kerala is Coffee Beanz now opened in many parts of Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram offering various innovative coffee flavours and traditional Kerala snacks along with lite burgers.
Juices and Shakes:- Kerala being a tropical state, tropical juices and juice cocktails are very popular. Almost everywhere, small juice stalls selling Mango, Orange, Pineapple, Lemon, Water Melon and other juices etc can be found. Milk Shakes mixed with Ice-creams is very popular and one of the best way to beat the Kerala summer heat. Sharja Shake and Chikoos are popular Milk shakes mixed with various fruits and fruit flavour ice-creams.
Alcohol. Kerala tops in per capita alcohol consumption in India, despite the high rate of government taxation. You'll find a bar in most hotels serving anything from 'Kallu' (Kerala traditional Palm Toddy) to Scotch Whisky. Alcohol consumption in public is frowned upon, and the bars in everything except the most expensive hotels tend to be seedy. Bars in urban areas now a days are bit more upscale and hence bit more expensive or carry additional service charge. For budget travellers, who wish to have liquors in private, can buy most of the liquor brands along with Beer from Government-run Kerala State Beverage Corporations Limited (popularly known as Beverages or Beverageco)stores and use it in private. However being a government's store, the credibility of liquor brand as well as slight discount, makes a very large que in front of it and you have wait a long time to get the item. Metros like Kochi and Trivandrum, have many posh Bars and Pubs to drink, which is one of the popular hang outs for adults. Several Restaurants in cities like Kochi, Trivandrum, Kottayam, Kollam etc serve Alcohol along with regular menu food. Cocktails are extremely popular in metros.
Locally made Palm Toddy called as Kallu is tempting to try, but be aware that some people become sick due to bad Brews. If you do try it, make sure you stick to the license-made brew, and not local moonshine. However many local toddy shows in Alapuzha-Changaserry route, you can find a number of good toddy shops, which offers authorized toddy as well as very good tasty unique Kerala specialties like Seafood, Chicken, Mutton, Beef. Even if you don't try Toddy, having food from these toddy shops is a good idea, to taste some of the best distinctive food styles.
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.
Though Kerala is far more than safe than other parts of India, it doesn't mean that it is the world's safest place. Kerala has its share of criminals. Pick pockets are quite common in heavily crowded areas like buses, festival grounds and city shopping areas. Don't trust your hotel cleaning staff with your costly belongings. Also women are advised not to walk in swimsuits or too revealing costumes. It also isn't safe for a woman to walk alone in the night, particularly after 10 pm even in big cities. However recently Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram has introduced Night shopping after 10:00 pm till 3:00 am on certain months or occasions. On these occasions, its safe to roam in shopping areas as families are seen on these hours. However on being safer side, prefer day shopping.
Another important fact to note while in Kerala is that, the state is notorious for regular strikes, protest processions and hartals (Total closure of all activities). As the state has one of the highest political awareness society in India with leftist leanings, strikes, right-protection processions, curfew like hartals are common, which often happen unexpected. Though there is a considerable reduction in number of strikes and hartals in the state due to public consensus against it, still it happens often. On Hartal days most of the shops gets closed and rarely you can get any public transport. Most of the private transport also will be staying away from roads. However Railways will continue to operate and few police protected transports do operate. Recently on hartal days, Kerala police operates Free Police Bus for public transport to main areas, but limited only metro areas
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.
Foreigners to be on safe side, are requested to register and submit their itinerary at Foreigners Registration Office- FRO. Likewise its absolutely important to carry passport copies all the time, as after Mumbai attacks, police security has stepped up
While in trains or buses, donot interact with lone strangers. Donot interact more than normal with them and its absolutely important, not to consume or eat anything which they offer. However interactions with families are considered to be safer.
While boating insist for giving you Life Jackets. Many boat operators, ignore Government regulation of statutory issuance of life jacketing while boating, which could prove risky, as most of the Kerala's water bodies are deep and hence insists on life jacket. If any boat operator not giving life jacket, do call the police. Recently, after a Boat accident, the government is very strict implementing the rule and police will surely help you
Though Kerala donot has much of touts or so called Guides, a few outside state people do possess this problem at some tourist centers especially Hill stations like Munnar etc. Do avoid them them completely as many now a days are small time thieves and crooks from other states who look for preys. Hence avoid them completely and say a firm NO.
Beware of broken slabs and hidden drainages in cities. Due to untimely maintenance of pedestrian slabs on a regular basis, many slabs do are in worst condition, which can prove very serious if not walk careful, especially during nights
Nudity in anyform is frowned upon. Hence there should be absolutely no nudity in beaches or outside. Men can be bare chested at beaches or during public bath areas like ponds etc. However must wear trousers or short pants or towels while bathing. Women must not be topless or even semi nude in beaches. In some beaches like Kovalam etc, beach suits are okay, but on safer side it must be avoided and prefer wearing loose sleeveless clothing while bathing. In some temples, where bathing is permitted, ladies have separate bathing ghat area, where they can bath wearing towel, which must be wrapped around breast.
Though Kerala ranks highest in alcohol consumption, consuming alcohol in public is frowned upon. Even Wine or beer consumption is also considered as liquor in Kerala, which too is frowned in public. However privately it can be consumed. Women consuming alcohol is socially frowned upon, hence women entering into bars etc results too much glaring. However the recently opened public pubs / lounge and posh bars in premium hotels is a natural choice for women to consume liquor openly. However this choice is limited only in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.
Use bottled water as tap water is not so safe, though its purified and stay in decent hotels even if you have to shell out some extra money. However recently homestays are safe and well suited for budget travellers
Kerala Police is one of the most efficient police force in India. Most of the police officials are well versed in English and Malayalam and 90% of police stations are computerized. Most of the cities do have strong police network and its not difficult to find a police station.
Normal Law and Order police force do wear Khaki colour dress as uniforms. Traffic Police wear White shirt with Khaki Pants as uniforms.
From 2004 onwards, there is a specialized police for Tourist protection called Tourist Police. This force is located at prominent tourist places, beaches, monuments, trekking areas and other tourist attraction. They wear a light blue shirt with a Khaki pants and do have special Aid Post marking Tourist Police. In event of any assistance while at any tourist places, do intimate them, as they are extremely helpful. Tourist Police recently opened India's first fully dedicated Exclusive International Tourist Police Station (ITPS) for a wide range of assistance to Foreign tourists. The International Tourist Police Station is located in Mattancherry-Fort Kochi, a Primary Tourist Enclave in Kochi City. The Police station also houses a small Police Museum and a Recreation center. The ITPS will be the primary tourist assistance area, in regard to any tourist complaints, grievances. Also it can be nodal point for any Immigration and Passport-Visa assistance.
Kerala's highways are safeguarded by special police called Highway police. In event of any distress at any highway, do call the police at their toll free number- 9846100100
Kerala is well reputed for its high medical assistance. Many hospitals, first aid centers, Primary Health Centres and Super Speciality Hospitals are spread across the state.
For any urgent medical attention or ambulance services, call 102. Kerala is the first state in India to have Rapid Medical Action Force with a strong network of Medical ambulances and Medical hospitals across the state. Most of Ambulances are white in colour with Red Cross mark. Members of Rapid Medical Action Force (RMAF) do have a Yellow and Green Livery Ambulance with a Red Cross Sign. Recently 1298, a prominent International Medical Emergency Services have started their services in select districts like Cochin, Alleppey, Kottayam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam etc. 1298 also uses Yellow and Green livery Ambulances.
In event of an accident, use only Hospitals marked "CASUALTY" outside, as they do have licence to admit a road accident case. Its common to see such hospitals. In event of any accident on Road, call 100, for police as many times individuals won't come to rescue especially in large cities, fearing going behind police case etc. Police do maintains fast and effective accident identification and recovery service, thus in event of any accident, even a distress call from ur mobile, can help them to identify your position and rush for medical attention.
Taluk Hospitals, First Aid Centers and select Primary Health Care Centers across the state are all Accident-Casualty equipped hospitals.
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