Kerala, a state so beautiful it's often referred to as 'God's own Country', so beautiful that its said to be one of the 50 destinations of a lifetime' by National Geographic Traveler, in a special collector issue released just before the turn of the millennium!! But what makes this state so unique and unlike any other in India are its wonderful and serene backwaters made up of waterways, lagoons, estuaries, lakes, canals, rivers etc.
Attractions of Kerala
One of the most popular tourist attractions of Kerala as well as of India, the backwaters here are often compared to Milan, and said to be more beautiful than the canals of Thailand, where one can enjoy nature and its exquisite avifauna such as darters, colourful kingfishers, eye-catching cormorants, bee-eaters, even turtles and otters.
Traditionally used as grain barges, to transport the rice harvested in the fertile fields, today the Kettuvallam or houseboats are one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Kerala, and definitely one of the best ways to enjoy Kerala's backwaters! It is also said that at some point in time these boats were used as living quarters by the royalty.
Eco-friendly these houseboats comprise of coconut fiber, ropes, bamboo poles, etc., it is also said that during the entire assembling work of the boat, not a single nail is used. As they are tied together with coir ropes, they are often referred to as the 'boat with knots'. Floating cottages as they are called today, spending a night or two on them is what most tourists visiting Kerala opt for!
While Kerala is known for its magical backwaters running through the state, the most important destinations include Alappuzha, Kottayam, Kollam, Kumarakom, Kasargod, Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvallam.
Alappuzha/ Allepey- Boat race
The all time favorite, Alappuzha also known as Allepey, lies between the Arabian Sea and the Vembanad Lake. A place of immense natural beauty, besides its exquisite backwaters, making this place prominent is its beautiful pristine beaches and its famous coir industry. But Allepey is probably most known for its Snake Boat Races, one that started way back in 1952, and is today one of the prime attractions of the state!
Held in August every year, these gigantic snake boats known as Chundanvalloms, racing against each other to win the prestigious Nehru Trophy is a function witnessed by hordes of people, who flock here. First organized when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kerala in 1952, four traditional Chundanvalloms or gigantic snake boats were sent to receive him. A snake boat race was also organised for him. So impressed was Pandit Nehru that on on his return to Delhi he sent back a gleaming silver trophy, thus starting one of the most prestigious functions held in Kerala!
However this is not the only race held here, other thrilling races include the Indira Gandhi Boat Race, Kallada boat race, Kumarakom Boat Race, Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, and Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali. The Payipad Boat Race which is held during the 'Onam' festival is known to continue for three days. Other places of interest here include Kuttanad renowned as the rice bowl of Kerala, is Pathiramanal, home to many exotic species of birds and finally the many shrines here.
The 'land of letters, latex and lakes' - that's how Kottayam is often referred to for its long stretches of serene backwaters, rubber plantations and literate people. A land of immense beauty, the backwater cruises here are renowned and tours here include cruising through the Vembanad and the Punnamada Lake.
Another bewitching backwater destination is the beautiful Kollam for it is dotted with several fascinating tourist hotspots. A veritable treasure trove of lush greenery and variegated fauna, Kollam is also known for its beautiful temples like the Subramanya Temple, the Ananda Valleeswaram Temple and the Rameshwara Temple and its beautiful beach.
Moving to Kumarakom one of Kerala's most enamoring backwater sites, it is a haven for bird lovers! A clump of small islands on the Vembanad Lake in Kerala, this lake is one of the most prominent fresh water lakes in Asia. Try this place for its Siberian storks, egrets, darters, and other birds. A must visit here is Pathiramanal, an isle with enthralling beauty that stands on the island the Vembanad Lake; another attraction here is the exhilarating boat races held here.
Those stationed in the extreme north of Kerala God's Own Country, can try Kasargod, a treasure trove of lush flora and variegated fauna. Here tourists have a choice between the luxurious Chandragiri and Valiyaparamba cruises, Chandragiri being known for its bewitching sunsets.
Kozhikode is known for its virgin backwaters, as well as for its fascinating and bewitching atmosphere. The beach here is said to be a painter's imagination of a perfect seaside view. The Kappad Beach 16 km from here is well known as this is the beach from where the renowned explorer Vasco Da Gama entered India. Another beautiful attraction here is Kadalundi a beautiful bird sanctuary in the region that attracts nature lovers. The place is also known for its numerous museums around it. Kozikode is also a must visit for sports lovers for its boating and other water sports.
The lush backwaters of Kochi are a feast for the eyes offering vintage architecture, lip-smacking delicacies and pure solitude, Fort Kochi being famous for its eclectic mix of the British, Dutch, Portuguese and Arab architectural exploits. While Fort Kochi and the Vasco da Gama Square are some of the other visitors' high lights of Fort Kochi, the Mattancherry Palace is a must for history freaks for its relics of the Portuguese era. The Chinese fishing nets are also a must visit.
Finally another beautiful backwater destination is Thiruvallam. Besides its breathtaking backwaters, it is also known for a temple devoted to Parashurama, the sage who is credited for creating Kerala out of the landmass that had so far been submerged under the sea. The Veli Tourist village is a great picnic spot, offering vacationers a variety of water sports and last but not the least is the Pozhikara Beach here a favorite haunt loved by tourists.
Spa and Ayurveda
While these destinations are known for their scenic beauty, do take time also to visit the amazing Ayurvedic spas and resorts found here. Not only do the backwaters here offer some of the very best of nature but is also the place to be to enjoy the peace, tranquility & a holiday of a lifetime.