- Colonial heritage hotel
- Fort Cochin waterfront
- Boutique B&B with boat
- Rustic Alleppey lakelands
- Homely 1920s estate
- Peaceful plantation hilltop
- Modern-art deco
- Cochin’s cricketing Parade Ground
- Thatched Malayalam with mod cons
- White-sandy shores of the Arabian Sea
- Colonial but contemporary Keralan villa
- Alleppey on the Arabian Sea
- East meets west
- Fort Cochin cricket ground
- 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.
Yeah, we know it's a cliché, but no trip to Kerala is complete without a watery wend through the beautiful meandering backwaters. This lush paradise offers a slice of nature and village llife like no other.
- 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.
- Tipping culture
- In restaurants or hotels a service charge of about 10 per cent is often added, so tipping is optional. Drivers, porters and anyone who helps you will appreciate a monetary thank you – even if it's just a few rupees.
- Packing tips
- India kit essentials include a torch, a nail scrubber, hand sanitiser. For dealing with the change in your diet, you may find bringing high-fibre snacks helpful, and, in case you do get an upset tummy, a product such as Floracare (0870 366 5729) is a great standby for restoring a healthy digestive system. Mosis are a big problem, particularly in Fort Cochin, so take lots of clothes that will keep you covered up, especially around the ankles. If you want to avoid chemical-based insect repellents, try Alfresco’s Beauty Without Bites (www.alfresco.uk.com).
- Recommended reads
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy; Selected Short Stories by Rabindranath Tagore.
- Kerala has been supplying the rest of the world with spices for centuries, and folk flocked to the Malabar Coast (as this part of the world was known) for its pepper, once referred to as ‘black gold’. The distinctive-flavoured curry leaf has a starring role in Keralan cuisine, which is a big celebrator of natural and nutritional spices. Onions, garlic, chillies, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and cumin are among an aromatic cast of characters, featuring in meat dishes, fish curries and vegetarian cooking.
- Indian Rupee (INR). And before you cash up ahead of your trip, remember that you're not really supposed to take Indian currency in or out of India.
- Time zone
- GMT +4.5 hours.
- Dialling codes
- The code for India is 91.
- 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.