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Kerala Tourism

Kerala is the southernmost state on the Malabar Coast of India. It is one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the country and has often found its way to various travel magazines’ lists of must-visit places around the world. This beautiful state is best known for its long coastline, glistening backwaters, hills covered with spice and tea plantations, wildlife reserves and Ayurvedic retreats.

Tourism is a major contributor to Kerala’s economy. According to the official website of Kerala tourism, the state had welcomed 11,318,850 domestic and 782,118 international tourists in the year 2018, till September alone. There are many accommodation facilities in Kerala designed to cater to the varied needs of travelers. These can be categorized as heritage hotels, Ayurvedic resorts, premier and budget properties and homestays.

Kerala Tourism Quick Info

Capital Thiruvananthapuram
Official Language Malayalam
Area 38,863 Square kilometer
Main Cities Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Kochi, Kozhikode, Alappuzha, Kumarakom, Munnar, Wayanad, Varkala, Kovalam, and Kottayam
Status State
Official Tourism Website https://www.keralatourism.org/
Nicknames God’s Own Country
Major Railheads Thiruvananthapuram Central, Ernakulam Junction (South), Ernakulam Town (North), and the ones in Kozhikode, Kollam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kannur, Kasargod, Kottayam, and Alappuzha, among many others
Airport Cochin International Airport (Kochi), Calicut International Airport (Kozhikode & Malappuram), Trivandrum International Airport, and Kannur International Airport

History of Kerala

Kerala’s history as a spice exporter dates back to 3000 BCE. The first dominant dynasty to rule over this region was the Cheras, besides the Cholas and the Pandyas. Portuguese invasions of the Malabar Coast began in the 15th century. The East India Company ousted the Portuguese before the turn of the century but faced troubles from the Travancore Royal Family.

One of the celebrated rulers of the region was the Travancore king, Maharaja Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma. In the 18th century, he brought together all the small territories in northern Kerala to form the state of Travancore. It was later invaded by Hyder Ali, whose successor, Tipu Sultan, ultimately ceded the Malabar district to the British. By the end of the 18th century, they had control over most of Kerala.

After India attained independence, Travancore and Kochi were combined to form Travancore-Cochin in 1949. The state of Kerala as it stands today was formed in 1956.

Geography and Climate

Wedged between the Western Ghats and the long Malabar Coast, Kerala shares a border with Tamil Nadu in the east and south and Karnataka towards the north and northeast. The islands of Lakshadweep are located towards the west of this state. Geographical features of the state can be categorized as the eastern highlands, central midlands, and the coastal plains or western lowlands. Kerala has 44 interconnected rivers and a network of estuaries, brackish canals, and backwaters. Some of the major rivers in the state are the Periyar, Bharathapuzha, Pamba, and Chaliyar.

The climate of Kerala can be characterized as wet tropical rainforest. It receives heavy rainfall in monsoons and is prone to cyclones; hence it is best to avoid traveling to Kerala during the rainy season. The best time to visit the state is post-monsoons, between September and February.

Places to Visit in Kerala

  • Beaches: Kovalam, Varkala, Cherai, Marari, Vizhinjam, Muzhappilangad (Drive-in beach), Shankumugham, Kannur, Kappad, Alleppey, Kollam, Bekal, etc.
  • Religious Places: Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Vadakkunnathan Temple, Guruvayur Temple, Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple, Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple, Cheraman Juma Masjid, Beemapalli Mosque, Palayam Juma Mosque, Paradesi Synagogue, Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, St. Andrew’s Basilica (Arthunkal), Catholic Rosary Church
  • Wildlife Hotspots: Eravikulam National Park, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Silent Valley National Park, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Mukurthi National Park, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Anamudi Shola National Park, etc.
  • Waterfalls: Athirappilly Falls, Soochipara Waterfalls, Palaruvi Falls, Thusharagiri Falls
  • Hill stations: Anamudi, Ponmudi, Banasura
  • Museum: Napier Museum, Hill Palace Museum, Tea Museum, Teak Museum, Kerala Folklore and Culture Museum, Arakkal Museum 
  • Historical Places: Fort Kochi, Mattancherry Palace, Bekal Fort, Krishnapuram Palace
  • Lakes: Vembanad, Punnamada, Pookode, Ashtamudi
  • Island: Pathiramanal
  • Backwaters: Alappuzha, Kuttanad, Cherai Island, Cochin

Cuisine of Kerala

Kerala’s cuisine is one of the reasons why people travel to the state. The cuisine is generous with its use of coconut, curry leaves, and spices. Traditionally, meals are served on plantain leaves. Some of the iconic dishes of Kerala include Malabar Biriyani, Malabar Parotta, Beef Fry, Sadhya, Idiyappam, Appam with Stew, Kappa, Puttu and Fish Molee. Kozhikodan Halwa, Paal Payasam and Ada Pradhaman are some of the desserts you can try. Kerala is also famous for lip-smacking snacks, which include Pazham Pori, Unnakaya, Muttamaala, Kottayam Churuttu and Banana Chips. You must also try the local brew – Coconut Toddy.

Shopping in Kerala

A visit to Kerala is incomplete without shopping for a few souvenirs. From shopping malls and government emporiums to street markets, there are plenty of places here to indulge in retail therapy. Some of the best things to shop for are:

  • Tea
  • Spices
  • Kathakali masks
  • Kerala sarees
  • Seashells
  • Coir handicrafts
  • Pottery
  • Lacquerware
  • Banana fiber handicrafts
  • Woodcraft
  • Aranmula Kannadi
  • Banana chips
  • Kasavu mundu
  • Nilavilakku
  • Houseboat models
  • Cashew nuts

Things to Do in Kerala

  • Stay on a houseboat
  • Take a trip across the backwaters
  • Relax on a beach
  • Hike through the hills
  • Try spotting a tiger
  • Tour a spice plantation
  • Watch a Kathakali performance
  • Stay in a treehouse
  • Indulge in an Ayurvedic massage
  • Try paragliding

How to Reach Kerala

By Air: Domestic flights connecting Kerala to cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Kolkatta and other metros operate from all four airports in Kerala. These airports also connect Kerala to international destinations like Kuwait, Bahrein, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Abu Dhabi.

By Rail: Kerala has over 200 railway stations with trains connecting the state directly to Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, and other Indian cities. The railway network is connected by the Southern Railway. Some of the popular trains to Kerala are the Rajdhani Express, Jan Shatabdi, Bangalore Express and Kerala Express.

By Road: Kerala is well-connected to its neighboring states through a network of national and state highways. NH 17, NH 47, and NH 49 are the major highways running through the state. Buses run by private companies and the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) ply regularly on these highways connecting rural and urban parts of the state. Alternatively, one can hire taxis to commute. Some parts of Kerala including Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode are accessible by sea as well via cruises from Mumbai and Lakshadweep.

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