Our favourite five places to visit in Kerala, India

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Photo of Our favourite five places to visit in Kerala, India 1/6 by Annabel and Tom
Photo of Our favourite five places to visit in Kerala, India 2/6 by Annabel and Tom
Photo of Our favourite five places to visit in Kerala, India 3/6 by Annabel and Tom
Photo of Our favourite five places to visit in Kerala, India 4/6 by Annabel and Tom
Photo of Our favourite five places to visit in Kerala, India 5/6 by Annabel and Tom
Photo of Our favourite five places to visit in Kerala, India 6/6 by Annabel and Tom

From the sandy idyllic beaches of Kovalam to the misty hill town of Munnar, Kerala is India’s spicy southern jewel and there are plenty of adventures to be had in this small, steamy slice of the subcontinent. Whether it be chilling out on a converted rice barge for a few days or tiger spotting in Periyar Nature Reserve there is something for everyone. Here is a list of our favourite five places to visit in the Indian state of Kerala:

1. Varkala

A small town just north of the state capital Trivandrum, is an area that attracts backpackers like nobody’s business is the cliff top path town of Varkala with its many restaurants and hostels. Hugging the ragged cliffs that tower above the beach below, a small dirt track runs the length of the cliff top, dotted with guest-houses and mellow cafes, restaurants and the odd shop and book exchange.

With a laid back vibe and a great selection of places to eat and drink this small cliff top hang out is the perfect place to relax. If laying on the beach all day becomes a tad monotonous, there is a nearby temple for a spot of culture and lots of shops to spend your rupees in, as well as lots of yoga on offer but the main activity of the day is surfing! We spent many an evening here enjoying a delicious curry and a kingfisher watching the sun set over the Arabian ocean.

2. KochiThe ancient town of Kochi, or Cochin, rests about a third of the way up the coast of Kerala. A large bustling port town, the main attraction is colonial Fort Cochin which is best reached by an often overcrowded ferry. The colonial Portuguese influence can be seen everywhere in this small but bustling part of town. The shores of Kochi are lined with Chinese fishing nets and most fishermen will invite you aboard and may let you try your hand at operating the ancient fishing structures.

Well worth a visit is the oldest part of the island, the cobbled labyrinth of the Jewish quarter. Another draw is one of only eight basilicas in the whole of India; the Santa Cruz basilica, a relic of the catholic influence and drenched in history. Kochi is also a great place to check out the cultural offerings of the area; the traditional Indian dance drama of Kathakali being top of many peoples lists .

3. ALLEPPEYRather optimistically dubbed ‘the Venice of India’, Alleppey doesn’t really live up to its nickname. At the time there seemed to be an unfortunate rubbish problem that plagues most Indian towns and cities and the canals were teeming with debris and oily waste. That being said the main draw of this town doesn’t lie in the centre but in the vast network of canals on its outskirts.

For varying costs depending on size and quality you can rent a houseboat for a few days and float down the waterways atop your very own converted rice barge. Indian life continues in a much more traditional pace away from the hustle and bustle and this is clear to see as you slowly cruise down the waterways. Feast on freshly caught fish or lounge on your very own boat balcony as you watch rural India slip past.

4. MUNNAR Drag yourself from the stunning beaches of the coast and you will eventually arrive in the misty highlands of eastern Kerala. Amidst the gentle slopes of the lofty tea plantations lies the small town of Munnar. Admittedly the town itself is wholly unremarkable and similar to every other Indian town in the area.

The attraction of this small mountain community, however, lies in its surrounding countryside. Tea plantations create a seemingly infinite patchwork quilt of shrubbery that hugs the hills in every direction. Tea pickers slowly work their way through the bushes and add a burst of colour to the serenely green landscape. Narrow paths meander through the hills and provide a brilliant way to get amidst the crops. With tiny tea picker settlements and beautiful waterfalls dotting the surrounding vistas, the walks provide some of the most picturesque scenery that India has to offer.

5. MUNROE ISLAND

Most people give Kollam a miss during their time in Kerala, which is perfectly understandable as there aren’t that many attractions worth visiting in comparison to other places in Kerala. The main reason to make this place a stopover is for transit; as this is the home to the ferry port for the journey through rivers and waterways to Alleppey. That being said there is a little known area not too far from the town called Munroe Island. The tranquil island in the midst of the Keralan backwaters feels as though it is a thousand miles from away from civilisation, and it was one of the best experiences we had on our trip. The landscape is home to lush, tropical foliage and a slow paced, traditional way of life.

We experienced the island from its tiny waterways in a small canoe with a friendly local guide, Vijeesh (who now operates a homestay as well). Losing count of the vibrant kingfishers and stunning wildlife, we visited coir rope makers and tried our hand at climbing one of the thousands of palm trees. This whole area is home to the backwaters that Kerala is famous for, and a canoe trip here is one of the greatest ways to experience the rural tradition of Indian life.

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