- Coast and country Mangroves, mountains, the Malabar Coast
- Coast/country life Malayalam markets, magnificent festivals
Coconut-studded coastlines, canal-like backwaters, and undulating evergreen hills – the tropical beauty of this south-west swathe of India is unrivalled.
It’s not only Kerala’s scenic splendour that will win your heart, but also its friendliness, spirituality and spicy cuisine. Little wonder it’s nicknamed ‘God’s Own Country’ – so special is this state, it's a gift to mankind from the Big Guy upstairs. Stay anchored in a stylish resort in a postcard-perfect setting, or sample as many experiences as possible and take a tour through its varied terrain, stopping off at a range of charming retreats. Whether your location is city, coast or country, sightseeing is always wide-angled. Visit the colourful churches in the historical harbour of Fort Cochin; venture inland to Spice Country and hike the nature reserves of Thekkady; for wildlife-filled rural escapism, sample the tranquility and seclusion of backwater life; or wend your way south to the palm-lined sands near Alleppey and indulge in some beach-based R&R. And, to enhance your mind-body-and-soul-satisfying sojourn, ensure you indulge in the ancient healing science of Ayurveda while you’re away. Because of the rich vegetation and wealth of herbs in Kerala, it is believed that the cosmetic and therapeutic Ayurvedic treatments practised here are the most superior.
Do go/Don’t go
Tourists tend to prefer Kerala from October to March, when it is sunny but not too hot. After April, temperatures really rise; then, from late June, the monsoon season strikes until early September. But don't be completely deterred by the rain – not only is Kerala still beautiful then, but in this July to September period, it is considered the ideal time to take Ayurvedic treatments.
- Planes Kochi (Cochin) and Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) are the main airports. If you're flying from the UK | Emirates is a good option | as flies in and out of both from Heathrow | Gatwick | Manchester | Birmingham and Glasgow via Dubai. Internally | South India has a busy network of air services. To access Lakshadweep | you'll need to fly from Cochin to Aggatti Island.
- Boats The only real boating options are the backwater trips (most depart from Alleppey). You can get to Lakshadweep or Laccadives islands by boat from Agatti.
- Trains Trains are the most popular way to traverse this vast country, and most that travel through Kerala start or finish in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the state capital. Visit the Indian Railways website to book tickets online: http://irctc.co.in. Try and avoid passenger trains; air-conditioned 'superfast' express services are advisable. First-class is recommended although by western standards not necessarily luxurious.
- Automobiles This is not somewhere you’ll want to take the wheel yourself. Ask your hotel to organise you a driver | preferably in a 4x4 for lengthy journeys – and make sure to request a car with seatbelts. The more intrepid might want to hire an Enfield Bullet – the classic motorbike of choice.
- Taxis Ambassadors are the traditional taxi vehicle, and the cost of these is usually about INR 7 a mile. Ask your hotel to book one for you; for the sake of comfort you may want to ask for a Jeep fitted with seatbelts, although this will cost a little more.