Kerala in South India is situated along the Malabar Coast and the Western Ghats. Geographically, the state has beaches, mountains, islands, river banks, backwaters and lagoons. The scenic beauty and serene, unpolluted environment provides travelers a rejuvenating holiday. On your travel to Kerala you can enjoy an Ayurvedic massage in a houseboat on the picturesque backwaters, unwind by a beach, experience a sense of enchantment while strolling around a wildlife reserve, connect with your spiritual side at a magnificent temple, church, synagogue or mosque, embark on an adventure across rivers and high rise terrain or even feel inspired by the intricate designs on heritage buildings and artifacts in museums. You can feel God around you in such an awe inspiring place. It is no wonder that Kerala was adjudged one of the 10 paradises in the world and 50 must visit places of a lifetime by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Kerala is also home to several art forms including dances Kathakali, Koodiyattom, Mohiniyattam, Margam Kali, Theyyam and Chavittu Nadakam, music Melam and Sopanam and martial arts Kalari. Know more about the state in the Kerala Travel Guide.
How to Reach Kerala
By Air: Kerala has three international airports in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. Kochi and Calicut are other two airports connected from air to other cities in India. You can avail trains, ferries, buses and cars to reach other Kerala destinations.
By Rail: This is a better way to travel to Kerala. Major tourist destinations in the state have a railway station. Long distance trains from cities like Delhi and Mumbai are also available. Here is a list of railway stations and their cities or towns in Kerala:
|Alappuzha Railway Station||Alappuzha or Alleppey|
|Thrissur Railway Station||Thrissur or Trichur|
|Kozhikode Railway Station||Kozhikode|
By Road: The national highways that pass through Kerala are NH - 17, 47, 49, 208, 212, 213, 220.
Travel to Kerala by Water
From Cochin (Kochi), there are regular ships venturing towards the Lakshadweep Islands. Inside, backwaters of Kerala act not only as a popular transportation medium but are tourist attractions in themselves. These internal water navigation systems are today the single most popular travel product of Kerala.
|India Travel Destinations|
|Jammu and Kashmir||Himachal Pradesh|
|Uttar Pradesh||Madhya Pradesh|
|Chhattisgarh||Andaman & Nicobar|
Tourist Attractions in Kerala: Places to Go
The state's topographical features provide major attractions for Kerala tourism. Alappuzha, Vembanad Lake and Kovalam offer relaxation near or on a water body like backwaters, lagoons and sea, whereas Munnar, Ponmudi and Wayanad are notable honeymoon destinations in Kerala. Alappuzha is in fact named the "Venice of the East" for its location on the backwaters and Ayurvedic tourism in Kerala is popular in such destinations where travelers can unwind and enjoy the heavenly beauty of the surroundings. Historical enthusiasts can head to Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kochi and Kannur for visiting the architecturally brilliant palaces, temples, churches, forts and mosques. According to a tourism survey, destinations preferred by tourists on their travel to Kerala are Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kovalam.
Heritage Buildings in Kerala
Padmanabhapuram Palace - Located inside the fort of the same name and about 50 km from Thiruvananthapuram, this palace is noted for its traditional interiors. Built in the early 17th century by the ruler of Travancore, Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal, it is a good example of the architecture of Kerala. The palace complex comprises the King's Council Chamber, Hall of Performing Arts and the Mother's Palace, of which the latter is believed to have been constructed before 1550.
Mattancherry Synagogue - Built in the year 1568 by the Portuguese, the Cochin Jewish Synagogue as it is also called, is the oldest functioning Jewish religious site in all the countries under the Commonwealth of Nations. It is also called Paradesi Synagogue as only the Paradesi or White Jews are allowed full membership here. Located at Jew Town, an old Kochi locality, beside the Mattencherry Palace, it is known for a clock tower built as an extension to the synagogue in the 18th century, and the synagogue's stunning interiors that has Belgian chandeliers, golden crowns, hand painted porcelain tiles and the Jewish Scrolls of Law.
Cheruman Perumal Mosque - Also known as the Cheruman Juma Masjid, it is believed to be the first mosque in India. Built in the 7th century in a traditional Hindu temple architectural style, the mosque is noted for its history, unconventional rituals and an oil lamp that is considered to have been burning for thousands of years. The mosque is situated in Methala in the Kodungallur district.
Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple - A Hindu Temple in Thiruvananthapuram dedicated to Lord Vishnu, its imposing architecture represents Dravidian style. This 18th century monument is known for being the world's richest among all temples. Visit the temple to marvel at its musical pillars, murals in the corridors, interesting details in the sculptures and a golden mandapam.
Santacruz Basilica - Built initially by the Portuguese in 1552 and later rebuilt by the British in 1558, this cathedral in Kochi is under the Roman Catholics. It is noted for its Gothic style interiors, stained glass and canvas paintings, murals and frescoes. Notable paintings include the Last Supper and scenes depicting the Via Crucis of Christ.
Museums in Kerala
Indo-Portuguese Museum - This museum in Fort Kochi, displays artifacts that belong to the era when the Portuguese lived in Kerala.
Napier Museum - Located at Thiruvananthapuram, this museum displays antiques like carvings on ivory, wood and bronze, Tanjore paintings and ornaments. There is a zoo here as well that is considered the oldest in India. You can also visit another museum that stands on its opposite road, Keralan Museum, which is known for being the first to have interactive technology in India.
Pareekshith Thampuran Durbar Hall Art Gallery - Featuring sculptures, oil paintings, models of monuments in Kerala and coins, this art gallery is a well known attraction in Kochi.
Priyadarshini Space Planetarium - Considered one of the largest planetaria in the country and rated among the best horizontal planetaria in the world, this Thiruvananthapuram museum and planetarium has impressive exhibits related to astronomical science and cosmology. You can also watch shows to explore the space in the Sky Theater.
Wildlife and Bird Sanctuaries in Kerala
Silent Valley National Park - Famous for endangered primate species, the Lion Tailed Macaque, this national park offers nature lovers brilliant views of the Nilgiri Mountains and Valleys. Situated in the Palakkad district, it is home to 16 bird species, 34 mammalian species including 9 types of bats and about 730 insect species. The park includes 1000 flowering plant species, 200 algae species and 108 species of orchids, many of which are endemic.
Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary - Popular as the Periyar Tiger Reserve, it is noted for its elephant and tiger population. Located amidst the Cardomam Hills and at a distance of 120 km from Kochi, the area is a rain forest and has about 350 medicinal plant species. You can also spot dholes, turtle species, sambar, mouse deer, leopard, Bonnet Macaque, Lion Tailed Macaque, darter, cormorant and the Malabar Pied Hornbill.
Eravikulam National Park - Situated in the Idukki district, this national park is noted for its Nilgiri Tahr, Sambar, Golden Jackal, Small Clawed Otter, Nilgiri Marten and about 132 species of birds including Nilgiri Pipit, White Bellied Shortwing and Laughing Thrush. It is also famous for several endemic butterfly species and a new and critically endangered frog species named locally as Resplendent Shrubfrog.
Thattekad Bird Sanctuary - This is a bird lovers' paradise having both migratory and native birds. Situated in the north east of Kochi about 60 km away, it is famous for the Yellow Browed Bulbul, Ground Thrush, Cormorants, Collared Scops Owl, Indian and Large Hawk Cuckoos, Large Billed Leaf Warbler and the Pompadour Green Pigeon.
Fairs and Festivals of Kerala
Vallam Kali - These are boat races of Kerala held at various places in the state. Owing to its water bodies like backwaters, lakes and lagoons, boat races are much awaited events in the state. Your Kerala travel is incomplete without witnessing the excitement of watching well-built rowers cutting through the waters to reach the finishing point. These rowing competitions use several boat shapes including the snake boats or Chundan Vallams. Popular boat race events include Indira Gandhi Boat Race at Kochi in December, Aranmula Boat Race at Aranmula in August or September and Nehru Trophy Boat Race at Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha district in August.
Annual Kerala State School Festival - Held in the month of December or January at a different location each year, this 10 day long festival comprises competitions in 82 art forms amongst school children. Owing to the vastness of the art forms, this festival has entered the Guinness Book of Records.
Cochin Carnival - Held in the last week of December in Fort Kochi, this carnival brings out the fervor of Keralites and the enthusiasm of the viewers. Attended by both locals and travelers from far and wide, this carnival features processions, impromptu competitions, folk dances, music, fairs, fireworks and colorful lights all around. It is believed to have been started by the Portuguese to celebrate New Year.
History of Kerala
The earliest records in Kerala are in the Edakkal Caves that have inscriptions made years before 5000 BC. The state was a well known spice trading hub all around the world since 3000 BC. It was because of this that Europeans planned trade route missions to India. Vasco da Gama, a famous Portuguese explorer was the first to find the trade route and he landed at Kochi in the year 1498. Prior to his arrival and the subsequent Portuguese rule, Kerala was ruled by several indigenous empires including the Cheras, Ays and Pandyans. Several temples and palaces give a glimpse of their glory. Many foreign communities also settled in Kerala during this time including the Jews (721 BC), Christians (52 AD) and Muslims (7th century). Arabs, till the early 15th century, had major control over the spice trade. But after the Portuguese arrived, dynamics gradually changed through struggles and treaties, and Kerala soon became a Dutch colony. 18th century onwards, history again took a turn and the British with the help of neighboring native rulers captured over Dutch settlements in Kerala and drove them away, bringing many parts of the state under the control of British India. After India gained her independence, the provinces where Malayalam speaking people dominated were brought together and thus Kerala was formed in 1950.