Kerala is the jewel of India. Known as Gods Own Country, Kerala is full of natural beauty, wildlife, food and culture! It is small but it feels like it could be its own country with its unique landscapes and cultural customs.
Kerala is a truly tropical paradise and should not be missed!
The best times to visit Kerala are in the winter months between September and April when the climate is most comfortable and the rains have stopped.
There are so many things to do and see in Kerala but here are 7 of the best!
1. Take A Canoe Ride Through The Backwaters In Allepey
Kerala is famous for its backwaters. It is home to a vast network of lagoons, lakes, canals and rivers parallel to the Arabian Sea. It forms a labyrinth made by more than 900 kilometres of waterways.
The best place to visit the backwaters is in Allepey just south of Kochi. The best way to see the backwaters is to take a day-long canoe tour. You will spend the day leisurely cruising along the waters in a small boat with your guide.
Going on a canoe means you are able to go through the large canals as well as small canals and get an intimate glimpse into how the locals live on the waters. The tours also provide an amazing traditional Keralan lunch for your group to enjoy.
Don’t forget to ask your guide to stop and pick you up some local toddy! Toddy is a homemade fermented coconut drink from Kerala. It is similar to kombucha and will be sure to give you a buzz.
2. Catch The Kerala Express
Or any train in Kerala for that matter! There are trains that run from Kochi all the way to Trivandrum back and forth all day long.
This is the best way to get around the coastline of the state, to see the beautiful scenery and experience the famous Indian Railway.
If you are heading to Kerala from Delhi or to Delhi from Kerala and you want the train experience of a lifetime to catch the Kerala Express from Delhi to Trivandrum.
Over 50 or more hours you will see the length of the country and have incredible experiences with strangers which you will never forget. The 3AC class or above on the trains are clean, safe and comfortable. Just bring a pack of cards!
3. Go Surfing In Varkala
Varkala is a stunning cliffside beach south of Kochi. It is an exposed coastline with long stretches of sand making it perfect for swells big enough to surf during the winter months.
Most people who visit Varkala plan to stay for a few days and end up staying for weeks. It is a really special place! There is the surfing but there is also amazing clifftop cafes with sweeping ocean views, incredible food, fancy resorts as well as an amazing selection of hostels. Plus the beach is kept very clean! There is a temple on the beach where the waters are considered sacred.
Varkala is a great place to get in touch with nature and with your soul by connecting with other travellers, getting into the ocean, eating amazing food and getting on your yoga mat. An amazing place to do this is at the Soul and Surf retreat centre. They offer surfing and yoga packages with an incredible cafe right on the cliff!
Not to mention Varkala is home to some of the most spectacular sunsets in India, where you can actually see the sun dip below the horizon from high on the cliff.
4. Indulge In Keralan Cuisine
Keralan food is to die for! The cuisine in Kerala uses more rice, coconut and fragrant spices so it is lighter and more easy to digest than the food in North India.
The most famous staple is the Keralan Thali which you can get from a local restaurant for lunch, go early because they will run out! Keralan Thali is a full meal of big grains of rice, dhal, pickle, various veggie curries and papadoms. You can also get refills as many times as you like until you are well and truly stuffed!
Thalis that you get from local restaurants will usually set you back less than 100 rupees (£1). For all that fresh, homecooked, amazing food it is the best value food possibly in India!
Other Keralan favourites that shouldn’t be missed are:
- Thoran: This is a dry coconut curry made with vegetables like beetroot, beans or carrots.
- Keralan Parantha: This is a crispy, flaky naan bread similar to Laacha Parantha in North India. It is absolutely to die for to slurp up a curry with or have it on its own with some pickle and curd.
- Masala Dosa & Idli: This is a thin, crispy rice and lentil pancake stuffed with spiced potatoes. It is served with coconut chutney and sambar, a spicy watery curry. Dosa is traditional breakfast food. Idli are small rice cakes and are also served with chutney and sambar for breakfast. There are a number of other unique Keralan breakfast specialities to try. So delicious!
- Casava Crisps: These are a real addiction and can only be found in South India! They are crisps made from cassava. This is a root vegetable (similar to sweet potato) that is a staple to Keralans. They come in a variety of flavours from plain salted, to chilly and garnished with fried curry leaves.
5. Explore The Streets Of Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi is a famous area in Kochi that is full of vibrant culture, architecture and nightlife. Stepping into Fort Kochi feels like stepping into Europe! Itis not actually a fort but it used to be a fortified city.
It is full of the cultural remanent and architecture of the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British who dominated Kochi until India’s independence in 1947. Fort Kochi is a mix of trade and high-end tourism with a hip laid back vibe.
You can find lots of cool cafes, churches and shops to explore in this quaint place.
Walk around the pavement on the beach and check out the famous old Chinese fishing nets. Enjoy the sunset and fresh coconuts from the street vendors.
6. Take A Tuk Tuk Ride Through The Tea Plantations In Munnar
Munnar is a beautiful place in the mountains of Kerala, surrounded by pristine jungle. Munnar is famous for its tea plantations. You can see the plantations in all their glory by going to the top hill station viewpoint.
Hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day to take you all the way up to the top stopping at the best viewpoints along the way. The beauty of the landscape will blow you away! If you are lucky you might even spot a wild elephant. Don’t forget to stop and buy some chocolate, tea and produce from the vendors on the street. Munnar is full of unique food which you cannot buy anywhere else!
Once you get to the top hill station take your time to enjoy sweeping views of huge mountains with many giant waterfalls in eyesight. You can stay in a guesthouse like Flutterby which is away from the main town and tucked in the jungle.
Keep in mind that tourists are banned from hiring scooters and bikes in Munnar to protect the livelihood of the tuk-tuk drivers.
The best way to get to Munnar is to catch a bus from Kochi. This journey is full of spectacular scenery as you ascend into these majestic mountains.
7. Experience Authentic Ayurvedic Treatments
Kerala is most famous for the authentic Ayurvedic treatment and retreat centres across the whole state. Varkala is a beautiful setting to have some serious ayurvedic treatments done!
You can start off by having a (usually free) consultation with an ayurvedic doctor. They will determine your body's constitution and discuss what your health issues and concerns are.
From there they will prescribe you treatments such as marma massage, Shirodhara (where they pour oil on your head), custom dietary recommendations and recommended natural medications.
If you have a serious health problem or want a full cleanse you can opt for a panchakarma treatment. This releases stored toxins and restores the body's innate healing ability. These treatments involve daily treatments and dietary requirements and can last from 7-60 days.
Kerala, particularly during the monsoon season, is the best place in the world to receive a panchakarma treatment.
There You Have It!
7 of the best things to do in Kerala, which barely scratch the surface of what's waiting to be discovered in this beautiful state. So book those tickets and get yourself to Kerala for an epic adventure.
These lucky talismans will bring you luck and good fortune on your journey and be something you can have to cherish your precious travel memories for life.