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Backwaters & Beyond: Exploring Kerala

| Words by Ellena Johnstone |

Let's explore Kerala...

Kerala: the jewel in southern India’s crown, and a peaceful oasis just waiting to be discovered. A world away from the chaos of India’s cities, Kerala has so much to see and explore, from its peaceful waterways and pretty fishing villages, to world-class cuisine, incredible wildlife, lush tea plantations and stunning coastline.

Chhatra Sagar

If you only have a short while to explore Kerala, a backwaters cruise on a traditional kettuvallam is the must-try experience. Leave the hustle and bustle of metropolitan India behind, and take a trip through the idyllic waterways on one of these traditional barge-style houseboats. As you glide amongst the peaceful waterways, remember to watch out for wildlife: the backwaters are the ideal place to spot kingfishers, cormorants, kites and other exotic bird species, all from the comfort of your boat.

Yet there is so much more to Kerala than purely the backwaters. Once back on dry land, why not try one of these other iconic Keralan experiences? Here is our top pick:

1. Rejuvenate with an Ayuverdic treatment

An Ayuverdic treatment is the ideal was to ease back into your holiday after the pure relaxation of your backwaters cruise. Ayurveda has been practised in India for thousands of years, and is essentially a belief system which promotes holistic (whole-body) healing. Travellers on our Secrets of South India get to indulge in an Ayuverdic treatment as part of their tour, or why not ask our Asia experts to arrange one for you?

2. Sample Kerala's incredible spices

Spices, Cochin

The defining influence on Keralan cuisine is spices; cardamom, cloves, star anise and turmeric are all widely used in Keralan cooking, and a visit to one of Kerala’s many spice markets makes for a fantastic day out while in the region.

Kerala is also world-famous for exceptional vegetarian food, as historically its cuisine was influenced by religious taboos limiting meat eating. Key ingredients in Keralan cuisine include coconuts, chillies, curry leaves, mustard seeds and tamarind, as well as delicious seafood given Kerala’s 600km of coastline.

3. Explore historic Cochin

Boats, Cochin

Cochin has been an important spice trading centre on India’s west coast since the 14th century, and with such a rich history there is plenty to explore! Take a trip to historic Fort Cochin, explore the maze of spice trader’s mansions, and take a walk along the seafront to where Cochin’s iconic Chinese fishing nets stretch along the waterfront.

4. Relax amongst the tea plantations of Munnar

Tea, Munnar

Munnar is a verdant paradise of tea gardens and cardamom plantations, the perfect place to unwind after a visit to Cochin. The town is actually a former hill station, perched high in the Western Ghats mountain range. Munnar is famed for its temperate, cool and refreshing climate, making it a popular weekend hideout for locals to escape the heat.

5.Spot tigers in Kerala’s National Parks


Kerala is teeming with national parks, the ideal spotting grounds for Bengal tigers, wild Asian Elephants, Sambar deer, exotic birds and countless other iconic species. The most famous parks include Eravikulam, nicknamed the roof of Kerala, and the Silent Valley National Park, home to the incredibly rare Lion-tailed Macaque.

Our Asia experts can tailor-make your perfect private itinerary in Kerala, taking in these must-try experiences. Or why not experience Kerala in a small group with our Spice of the South or Secrets of South India journeys? Contact us today.