The minute you set foot in God’s country you are enveloped in this warmth – the friendly smiles that feel like you have known them forever, the sweet smell of tea, the gentle sway of coconut trees and the salty air of the backwater…. located at the southern tip India, Kerala is a feeling more than a destination.
Kerala is an amalgamation of the usual noises of India, the pungent smell of spices and chaos of everyday life but there is a sense of calm in all. People are always going places and but they are never in too much of a hurry to stop and smile. There is no big list of monuments you feel the need to check off. There are beautiful beaches and temples to visit and Ayurvedic treatments to try but no hurry, take your time. Once you get a taste for this slice of paradise you will want to visit repeatedly, anyway.
My husband is from Kerala, or so he believes. He was born in Trivandrum and grew about all over India, but Kerala is home. He spent summers there at his grandmother’s home eating jackfruit that grew in their backyard and eating puttu and paniyaram every day. He fondly remembers how fresh the fish was and how his aunty used to spice it perfectly and fry in coconut oil. There was always tea and biscuits for snacks and on special days some jackfruit halwa. When all the cousins came over for their break, the house was filled with laughter. While his grandparents are no more, we still plan a trip to Kerala every time we visit India. Kerala is more of a feeling than a destination!
Here are some of the must-do when visiting Kerala:
Stay in a houseboat in Alleppey, Kerala
Spend a night or day in a houseboat when you are in Kerala. I would spend the day instead of spending the night unless you are on your honeymoon. Alleppey, also known as Venice of the East, is beautiful with lovely lakes, beautiful lagoons, and freshwater rivers. These Backwaters of Kerala is a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes, and inlets formed by more than 900 km of waterways. It is a unique ecosystem where freshwater from the rivers meets the seawater from the Arabian Sea. The houseboat will take you to a cruise through amazing lush greenery.
Visit a spice plantation
There are several spices unique to Kerala and the best way to learn about them is by visit a spice garden or plantation. There are several in the state but if you are in Thekkady, visit the Green Park Ayurvedic and Spices Plantation. It provides a natural and eco friendly and includes a farm, fruit trees, honey bee colony, natural fish aquarium, artificial paddy field, a cardamom processing unit and a greenhouse for vegetables.
Enjoy an Ayurveda treatment
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian science and tradition that has been practiced for over 5,000 years. It is more of a lifestyle and include the practice of yoga and enforces that food is medicine. There are many Ayurvedic resorts and spas in Kerala. Book a treatment or spend a week detoxing in one of the centers, you will feel rejuvenated. My favorite is a full body oil massage called Abhyangam and Shirodhara. During the relaxing treatment, warm oil is dripped onto your forehead which relaxes the hypothalamus in the brain. It can also normalize the hormones that regulate sleep and emotions. It is used to treat many ailments including insomnia, various skin conditions like psoriasis and neurological disorders.
See a Kathakali performance
Kathakali is a unique and ancient form of dance-drama that is traditional to Kerala. The face painting and costumes are elaborate costumes and it tells stories of Hindu mythology. You can visit the Cochin Cultural Center or the Kerala Kathakali Center to see a performance.
Visit a temple
Even if you are not religious visiting a temple in India is a special experience. There are several beautiful temples. Guruvayur temple located in Trissur district is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple is almost more than 5000 years old (I believe non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple but can see from the outside). Strict dress code is followed, men need to wear a dhoti and no shirt and women can enter the temple only in sari or salwar. The temple is always crowded and there are lots of deities from South India that you can see when you visit the temple.