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Kerala and South India.


Kerala is a South Western Indian state that is a complete holiday destination in itself and very different to many of the other states in India. Tamil Nadu is a South Eatern state famous for its temples (Madurai, Thanjavur & Mammallapuram being the most popular), the rack & pinion railway from Mettupalayam - Ootacamund, the oasis of Pondicherry with its French ancestory, unique Karnatic music & Bharata Natayam dance and of course the very famous snack foods such as Dosas, Idlis & Wadas in addition to the staple food of rice and Sambhar. Karnataka is a state with such diversity contaning excellent palaces such as the Mysore Maharajah's Palace & JagMohan Palace, beautiful rock carvings of Belur & Halebid, incredible terrain in Hampi (famous for the Vijaynagar empire), the sights of Badami, Aihole & Pattadakkal, the Golgumbhaz in Bijapur and forts such as Gulbarga & Bidar. Goa is world famous for its beaches. Maharashtra with Mumbai being its driving engine is iconic for various landmarks such as Mumbai CSTM (formerly Mumbai Victoria terminus railway station), Mumbai Churchgate, India Gate and of course, the cricket maidan and the home of Bollywood. It also has many other sites of importance with the main ones being Ajanta & Ellora caves (off Aurangabad) and the hill stations of Matheran (with the narrow gauge railway from Neral) and Mahabaleshwar (known for its Bollywood film shootings). Formerly, Telengana was part of Andhra Pradesh but as a separate state Hyderabad is home to the Charminar and the majestic Golconda Fort, while Andhra Pradesh is the home of Tirupati (arguably, the most sacred temple to South Indians). Many of the products combine Kerala with the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa and Mumbai.



PRODUCT CLICK LINKS BELOW:-
Rajasthan & North India      Rail/ Hotel Itineraries in India       Tailor-Made Travel      Kerala & South India

KERALA.

Map of Kerala


Kerala is a narrow fertile state in the south western region of India. It is known for its greenery and natural beauty. The western ghats are to the north and east of Kerala. The state of Tamil Nadu is on the eastern border and the state of Karnataka is to the north. The Arabian sea and the Lakshadweep and Maldive islands are to the west. The coastal region of Kerala is referred to as the Malabar coast. Thus Kerala is a land of excellent beaches and waterways commonly referred to as the Backwaters, coconut trees, spice hills, unique cuisine, wonderful arts( such as 'Kathakali' and 'Kalaripayattu') and very friendly people throughout. Kerala is marketed by the KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation) as 'Gods Own Country'. It is arguable that this is far fetched, but it is one of the most beautiful natural scenic spots in Asia (especially in the Kerala Backwaters and the Spice Hills). There are 2 important points in making a trip: when to go; what to see.

When should I go?
Our advice is to go at anytime that you get the opportunity. Temperatures in Kerala vary from 25 degrees - 37 degrees. Generally, they do not reach 40 degrees. Ideal time is September - May (although May is starting to get hot for some people). The months of June, July and early August undergo the Indian monsoon which sweeps through India in a 45 degrees angle from South East to North West. Still a good time to go but not as good as other months. There is also a rainy season in the end of Nov going from South West to South East. These are not torrential rains like in June, July and early August. Off peak season is usually April - September. Hotels have reduced tariff. Peak season is October - March with December being the most popular time owing to school holidays.

How do I decide where to go and what should I do ?
There is no perfect answer to this question. We have tried to identify a visit to Kerala into 9 main categories (which may aid you in a decision making process). They are listed below:-








Kerala Backwaters.

The Kuttanad region (the stretch in Kerala from Quilon (Kollam being the Keralan name) - Cochin (Kochi) is the Kerala backwaters region and is one of the most beautiful regions in the whole of India. Some of the major points which act as excellent bases for the Kerala Backwaters are: Allepey (Allapuzha); Kumarakom; Cochin (Kochi); Quilon (Kollam). There is no better way of seeing the beauty of this region other than travelling by boats. You can also stay in traditional Keralan houseboats made out of coir and wood. You can also stay in traditional Keralan upmarket hotels such as Coconut Lagoon and see the backwaters by motor boat.


This is an extensive topic.
For further details on the Kuttanad region, products associated with the Kerala Backwaters and the concept of staying in a houseboat and products related to this region, please click here.






Cardomum Spice Hills.

Many people do not venture this far into the mainland of Kerala. Those who do are rarely disappointed. It encompasses two major points (i.e. Periyar wildlife reserve and the beautiful hill station of Munnar).



Periyar Wildlife Reserve: This is arguably the most important wildlife reserve in South India built around an artificial lake. The area is surrounded by the spice hills. Wildlife comprises of sambar, bison, wild boar, langur and most important of all the 'Indian Elephant'. Apart from the sitings of elephants on the banks of the lake especially from the Lake Palace, the major attraction is the setting of the park. You can wander in this area outside the park into the spice hills. In some areas, you can pluck cardomums from the trees. You can also visit a local spice plantation. You may also wish to stay at the Spice Village where they have a spice garden.

Munnar: This is a highly under-rated hill station in India at 1520 m. Surrounded by green rolling hills and with tea growing estates, it is an excellent retreat from the travels.
This region is an extremely peaceful and picturesque region amidst spice plantations and are excellent for walking and hill hikers. You do not have to travel to the to the snow clad mountains of the Himalayas to get beautiful walks.

Products which feature the Spice Hills Region.


We have tried to combine Keralan beaches or Kerala Backwaters with the Spice Hills region.





Keralan Beaches


Kovalam Beach: Viewed from Samudra hotel

Kerala with such a long coastline is home to some of the best beaches in India. Some of the popular beaches are: Kovalam, Varkala and Mararikulam.
Kovalam: This is a long stretch of beach and is further sub-divided into other names. It is the most popular beach in Kerala with a wide variety of hotels for all budgets. The nearest major town is Trivandrum from which many rail and air connections exist. They are lighthouse beach and Hawah beach concluding at the Ashok Beach Resort. From there onwards, you reach Samudra beach which is in a cove (with the Ashok Beach Resort and the KTDC Samudra hotel). A little further you arrive at Pozhikkara beach.
Varkala: This is approx. 40 kms north of Kovalam beach. It is an excellent option to Kovalam especially for viewing the Arabian sea from the cliff-top.
Mararikulam: This is an exclusive beach resort which is surrounded by greenery and coconut trees. Reaching it involves driving through winding roads in a forest. The nearest major towns are Allepey and Cochin. There is an excellent hotel here called Marari Beach Resort run by the casino group of hotels. This is built as individual Keralan style cottages (referred to as Garden Villas) in a forested environment. This leads on to the beach which resembles a picture postcard beach with the sea, sand and coconut trees in the background.

The Keralan Beaches of Kovalam, Varkala & Mararikulam are excellent places to relax at the end of a trip and also a place where you can add Ayurvedic Herbal Oil treatment within your stay and also cover the spice hills of Periyar.
Two such trips are listed below:-





Ayurveda

Ayurveda: the science of healing is becoming more popular day by day throughout the world. Panchakarma, a unique branch of Ayurveda has attracted the attention of the whole world. In the modern era, though humans are enjoying the fruits of modernisation without its knowledge. Hence, they are suffering from incurable diseases such as Diabetes, Hypertension, early ageing, loss of immunity which in turn produces more number of diseases like chronic fatigue, fatigue syndrome etc. Causative factors for all these are : foods containing preservatives, colouring substances, hybrid foods, refrigerated foods; irregular habits; stress, strain, tension; polution etc. These in turn are culminating into waste products in the body. In such conditions Panchakarma is providing required benefits because it is removing the waste materials and toxins from the body without hurting the body organs and thus helping in the cure of the disease. The therapy also helps to rejuvenate the body cells and organs and for maintenance of health. Kerala is one of the best exponents of this kind of therapy through a variety of herbal oil treatments.

Ayurvedic Herbal Oil Treatment is a feature, virtually everywhere in Kerala. This can be added to any product.


Note: Please do check up with your local GP before proceeding with any of the treatments. To take in the benefits of Ayurveda, it is essential to have an equivalent amount of relexation (i.e. If you have 3 days of Ayurvedic treatment you should take 3 days of rest.). Hence, it is better to stay at a beach resort for 7 nights and then within it have 3 days of Ayurveda. Specific clinics in Kochi are ideal as are resorts in Kovalam, Varkala & Mararikulam. Other good points for Ayurveda are: Periyar or specific clinics and hospitals that specialise in Ayurvedic treatments.


We have a summer special which involves Ayurveda and a chance to learn Keralite cooking in Kochi at Eden Garden. For details of products associated with this region please click here.







Keralan Performing Arts

There is a multitude of Keralan arts that stun the naked eye of the visitiors. However, we wish to point you in the direction of 2 forms. There are many others.
Kathakali: This is a dance drama which attracts many visitors. You do not have to even be a lover of classical dance to appreciate this. This has a very involved authentic face decoration prior to the performance. The performance itself involves eye, cheek, chin, lip, hand and leg movements. Viewing a performance is very easy. Many hotels especially in Cochin have a night performance. Try and get front row seats. Most products associated with Kerala, involve Cochin (for details please click here).
 

Kalaripayattu: This is an ancient Keralan martial art. Here the art is that of visual athleticism rather than a means of self defence (like in China). For such performances please check up the KTDC offices in Trivandrum for information as to its whereabouts.








Keralan Cities

Cochin (Kochi): An inter-connection of islands (Bolghatty Island, Willingdon Island, Vypeen Island just to name a few).It comprises of low rise, picturesque buildings. It is rich in history and its sights are that of diverse tradition. Examples of the same are: the Jewish Synagogue, Mattancherry palace (built originally by the Portugese, then rebuilt by the Dutch occupants. It is built in traditional Keralan pattern called 'nalukettus'. To the south of the palace is a complex temple dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu.); St Francis Church (the place where Vascodagama died); Santa Cruz cathedral, Chinese fishing nets which line the harbour entrances.
Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram): It is a very pleasant capital city of Kerala. Sights include: Sri Padmanabaswamy temple, typical dravidian architechture (Note: Normally open to hindus only); Arts and crafts museum (wooden keralan style architechture housing collections from Chola, Vijaynagar and Nayaka periods. In addition, Kathakali costumes are also on display here); natural history museum (also houses a replica of Nalukettu): Keralan Nayar house and many other museums. An excellent excursion would be to the beautiful wood carved Padmanabhapuram Palace, which was once the seat of the Travancore rulers. This is constructed from teak and granite, with rosewood ceilings carved in floral patterns, floors finished with a special compound of crushed shells, coconuts, egg whites and juices of local plants.
Quilon (Kollam): Southern starting point of the Kuttanad region. Easy going town that is surrounded by coconut trees and cashew plantations on the edge of the Ashtamudi lake. Most famous as the starting point of the day long Kerala Backwaters ferry trip from Quilon to Allepey. There are many other trips that emanate from Quilon for those who wish to do shorter trips.
Allepey (Allapuzha): Noted for 3 major points of interest: one of the main bases for the Kerala Backwaters trips; headquarters of the coir making industry; important for cashew nut processing.

Many of the cities listed above are very popular with our past customers. Hence, are featured in many of the Keralan products.For details, please click to get some ideas.

The towns listed below generally tend not to be on most travellers itinerary, but are well worth a visit. If you like to go away from the beaten track and yet see some beautiful sights, they are good destinations. For a visit to these sights and some of the more popular cities, the best thing is to tailor-make an itinerary for yourself. Just send us an email of your requirements in the contact form at the bottom of the page.

Trichur (Thrissur): Lies at the base of a hillock crowned by the famous Vadukkumnathan temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva). An excellent place to visit for the Pooram elephant festival held annually usually in April or May. An excellent excursion at approx. 32 kms from Trichur, especially for pilgrims is Guruvayur to visit a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna, known as Guruvayurappa.
Calicut (Kozhikode): An ancient port. North of the city is Kappad beach, where a small stone monumnet commemorates the landing of Vascodagama at this, his first stop in 1498.
Cannanore (Kannur): Formerly a major port area, this is now an industrial city known for its handloom weavers who produce silk and cotton saris. Sights include: the picturesque Moplah town and Payyambalam beach kust 2 kms away.






Keralan Cuisine

Did you know that one of the most popular Indian restaurants in London (given acclaim by various Restaurant bodies) is the Rasa Samudra ? This restaurant cocentrates on hardcore Keralan cuisine and is patronised by British whites, Indians and tourists (thus the diversity of interest: Not a taste package for one tongue). Keralan cuisine is very unique in relation to general Indian cuisine. Many of the dishes are coconut based. For vegetarians: thoran (vegetables cooked in a coconut base); aviyal (similar to Thoran where vegetables are cooked in a sauce); boiled Keralan rice; rasam (a thin water brown coloured soup with various spices and herbs); sambar (fluid dish with veregtables made from tamarin, lentils and spices); curd. Non vegetarian dishes are plentiful but the speciality of Keralan cuisine is seafood (variety of fish dishes cooked in traditional manner using Keralan spices). This is hardly surprising considering the wonderful Keralan coastline being in such proximity. The general conclusion to this is a sweet dish called Paal Payasam (rice pudding). For food lovers this is a unique opportunity to sample very different dishes to those North Indian dishes which have been marketed so well in western countries. For examples: there are banana pakoras which are starter dishes (very rarely found in most restaurants or even most homes abroad).

Why not try and learn to cook some of these dishes in addition to seeing the natural beauty which is in Kerala? One of the best ways to do so is to learn cooking whilst staying for 2 nights or more in a Keralan Houseboat. For details please click here.
The oweners of Eden Garden Homestay have offered to give away their secrets and offer a cookery/Kerala sightseeing program during some of theoff-peak summer months at a very attractive price. For details please click here.





Keralan Heritage Hotels.

Keralan Heritage hotels tend to have a style similar to a 'Nalukettu' (traditional Keralan wood carved cottage home with a central courtyard). Two very good examples of this kind of unique architechtural style are: Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom and the Bolghatty Palace in Cochin (especially in the corridors leading to the rooms). Details are given below:-
Coconut Lagoon
Bolghatty Palace

If possible try to stay in one of these type of properties which are styled as 'Nalukettus'. But there are plenty of other heritage properties. For example staying in a houseboat (made in traditional manner using coir and wood) or staying at the Brunton Boatyard in Cochin or Carmelia Haven or Spice Village in Periyar or the Marari Beach Resort in Mararikulam.






Keralan and South Indian Holidays.

Many products in our site which are associated with South India feature Kerala. Some of them like the Kerala Backwaters + Periyar + Madurai + Kanniyakumari mainly concentrate on Kerala and have add ons in the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu. Some also feature Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Goa. Whilst others feature Kerala as one of many destinations in addition to other destinations in India like the South India Sampler or Visit to Goa, Kerala and conclude on a Keralan houseboat. A list of products featuring Kerala in some form or other are listed below:-
Product: Skeleton Itinerary Details

Kerala Backwaters + Madurai + Periyar (6 nights): Trivandrum - Kanniyakumari (1 night) - Madurai (1 night) - Periyar (2 nights) - Allepey or Kottayam (for Kerala Backwaters boat trip) - Cochin (2 nights) - Trivandrum.
Kerala Backwaters + Madurai + Periyar + week in Kovalam (13 nights). Trivandrum - Kanniyakumari (1 night) - Madurai (1 night) - Periyar (2 nights) - Allepey or Kottayam (for Kerala Backwaters boat trip) - Cochin (2 nights) - Kovalam (7 nights).
Kerala Houseboat Holidays. Stay on a Keralan Houseboat in Allepey to view the Kerala Backwaters region.
Cochin, Periyar, Spice Hills + Munnar.
Keralan Cuisine: Starts and concludes in Cochin (7 nights).
Kerala Ayurveda by specialist doctors in Kochi and Keralite Cuisine in Kochi: Starts and concludes in Cochin (7 nights).
Kerala Sampler: Cochin, Periyar, Kumarakom and Mararikulam. Starts and concludes in Cochin (10 nights): Cochin (2 nights) - Periyar (2 nights) - Kumarakom (2 nights) - Mararikulam (4 nights).
West Coast Sampler + Keralan Houseboat (9 nights).
South India Sampler. Starts and concludes in Mumbai (14 nights): Mumbai - Goa (3 nights) - Cochin (3 nights) - Tiruchi (0 nights) - Madurai (1 night) - Ootacamund (1 nts) - Mysore (2 nts) - Bangalore (0 nts) - Mumbai.
Modified South India Sampler (16 nights): Starts & concludes in Mumbai.
Mumbai - Hospet for Hampi (2 nights) - Mysore (2 nights) - Madurai (1 nt) - Tiruchi - Cochin (3 nights) - Goa (3 nights) - Mumbai.
Modified South + Central India Sampler (17 nights): Starts in Mumbai and concludes in Chennai.
Mumbai - Aurangabad (2 nights) - Hyderabad - Mysore (2 nights) - Cochin (3 nights) - Kovalam (3 nights) - Madurai (1 nt) - Chennai (1 nt).
West Coast Supreme (21 nights): Starts and concludes in Mumbai and covers the beaches of Palolem and Gokrana and hill station of South India including Munnar, Ooty and Coorg region plus sights in Kerala including Backwaters, Cochin and Periyar and Mysore in Karnataka.
Mumbai - Canacona (for Palolem) (3 nights) - Cochin (2 nights). Start Modified Cochin, Spice Hills and Munnar programme (Cochin (2 nights) - Allepey for backwaters boat trip - Periyar wildlife park (2 nights) - Munnar (2 nights)) - Ooty (1 night) - Mysore (2 nights) - Coorg Region (2 nights) - Mangalore. Mangalore - Gokarna (4 nights) - Mumbai.

Note: The rates have not been updated since 2016 season, as there has been a violent change in the exchange rates ever since the Brexit Vote. We have left the rates as per 2015 - 16 season to give you something of an idea. For current rates, pl email your requests with dates & number of passengers. We can then get back to you on the same.



Note: All products in the website are being reviewed in view of the current pandemic on account of the coronavirus. At this point (i.e. when the website was being updated in late Dec 2020 / early Jan 2021), we regret that we are unable to recommend travel from the UK to the majority of the countries in Asia that we deal with. We are hoping that the situation will improve (not only for the anxiously waiting travellers and the tour operators in the UK but also for the thousands of people connected with the travel trade who are more than just associates for us.). When and how quickly travel is likely to resume is unknown to us with the earliest time likely to be in the autumn of 2021. Many of the products may need to be changed at the early stages for the safety of the travellers and the locals at these countries.


PRODUCT CLICK LINKS BELOW:-
Rajasthan & North India      Rail/ Hotel Itineraries in India       Tailor-Made Travel      Kerala & South India

Pl also see the Help Section below for travellers to India/Nepal.

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