Top six holiday destinations that promise to rejuvenate your body, mind & soul!
To every traveller’s delight, ‘God’s own country’ is gifted with all of nature’s bounty – picturesque rivers, beautiful beaches, serene backwaters, sparkling waterfalls, deep forests and cool misty mountains! Indeed, Kerala is the perfect tourist destination for the ‘alert Indian traveller’ who wants to experience and explore nature, the rich traditions, culture, heritage, architecture, cuisine and everything else that there is to know about this wonderful land! RITZ lists the top six holiday destinations in Kerala that promise to rejuvenate not just your body, but your mind and soul!
Text: Riya Sonny Datson
The Backwater Retreat
Alappuzha or Alleppey was rightly called the ‘Venice of the East’ by Lord Curzon. The amazing view of the backwaters, miniature canals surrounded by green foliage and the rich green paddy fields swaying in the wind, instantly soothe your mind and take you a step closer to nature. A houseboat cruise should definitely top your bucket list here. The elegant yet cosy houseboats offer the luxuries of a hotel room. If you prefer some fun and adventure, try the speedboat, or better still try out the traditional ‘vallom’ to experience the native way of life.People still use the ‘Vallom’ as most of the homes here are accessible only via the waterways. You could try your hand at fishing and enjoy spicy seafood delicacies prepared from the fresh catch. Alleppey, which is 65km from Kochi is also popular for its beaches, the annual Nehru Trophy boat race that is held in August and for its ancient churches and temples, which are some of the oldest in Kerala. It is also home to a lot of coir factories that export carpets. They have outlets adjacent to the factory that offer an attractive range of coir products. The Vembanad lake is the largest lake in the state. A cruise along the lake will take you to Kumarakom, that is famous for its bird sanctuary and rural splendour. Since it is a very popular tourist destination, there is no dearth of hotels and resorts in the area.
Hotels Recommended: Lake Palace Resort Alleppey, The Zuri, Kumarakom
Catch a glimpse of the colonial era as you scout along the streets of Fort Kochi. The beautiful architecture and ancient buildings are reminiscent of the Dutch, Portuguese and British colonial era. It is said that Vasco da Gama was buried at the St Francis Church which was originally built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The Santa Cruz Basilica was also built around the same time but had to be rebuilt as the British demolished it during their reign. The ancient remains of the Fort Emmanuel adjacent to the beach, the charming Jewish synagogue and the Mattancherry palace are places you must visit while you are here.
This bustling town is famous for its Chinese fishing nets, ancient churches, beautiful homestays and yummy seafood. Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, is around 15kms from Fort Kochi and it hosts all the top business houses, malls and retail chains. If shopping is on your agenda, head straight to the city for traditional sarees, fabrics, branded western wear, jewellery and much more! The marine drive is a popular hub for tourists as the walkway offers a scenic view of the sunset, boat rides, shopping destinations and eateries. Lulu Mall, the biggest mall in Kerala is situated in Edapally, Kochi, which is home to most of the international brands and the PVR multiplex.
Hotels Recommended: Brunton Boatyard, Fort Kochi, Taj Malabar, Willingdon Island
Close to 80 ft tall, this is the largest waterfall in Kerala. It is around 75km from Kochi and is situated in the Thrissur district. Away from the city’s traffic and blare, the drive to Athirapally is quiet and pleasant. As you approach the waterfalls, the deep forests and foliage surrounding it make you feel as if you are far away from the mainland. The forest is brimming with rich flora and fauna, which also includes many endangered species. As you stand at the foot of the waterfalls, the view is absolutely breathtaking. Surrounded by rocks, small pools of water, a little away from the waterfalls makes it a perfect spot to relax, unwind and enjoy nature up close. Trekking, nature walk and river rafting are the activities offered here. Close to Athirappally is Vazhachal, which is also another popular waterfall. A lot of films including Baahubali and Raavan have been shot here. The scenic beauty is just amazing. The Sholayar dam, Valparai and Malayattur Wildlife sanctuary are the other places to visit close to the waterfalls.
Hotel Recommended: Rainforest Boutique Resort
Situated in Kasargod, in Northern Kerala, Bekal Fort is one of the oldest forts in Kerala with a spectacular view of the Arabian Sea. The keyhole shaped fort is said to have been built in the 17th century by Shivappa Nayaka which was later handed down to Tipu Sultan. The fort has been well preserved after all these years. This remarkable monument and the sprawling beach by its side is indeed a ‘Must visit’ if you are traveling to Kerala. The famous song ‘Uyire’ in the Mani Ratnam film ‘Bombay’ was shot here after which many more films followed suit. If you are driving down from Kochi, don’t forget to make a stop at Thalassery. It was once called the ‘Paris of Kerala’ as it had the French military base, back in the 19th century. It is also said to be the birthplace of the Kerala Circus as the first circus school by Keeleri Kunhikannan, the father of Kerala Circus, was established here. In terms of cuisine, one cannot leave the town without relishing the famous Thalassery Biriyani, which is a rich blend of Malabari spices, meat and short grain rice – one of the most popular delicacies of northern Kerala. The Muzhappilangad drive-in Beach located between Thalassery and Kannur is the longest drive-in beach in India and is a very popular tourist hotspot.
Hotels Recommended: Vivanta by Taj, Lalit Resort & Spa
A 165km drive from Kochi, Thekkady is situated along the Kerala-Tamil Nadu Border. As you drive into the small town of Kumily close to Thekkady, you begin to feel the cool weather and the misty mountains. This little town is famous for its spice plantations and every nook and corner has a spice shop that offers cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, tea leaves and wild honey. The Periyar is the longest river in the state and the Mullaperiyar dam is situated here. The Periyar Wildlife sanctuary is a major tourist attraction and a boat ride around the sanctuary will give you a glimpse of wild animals like the elephants, deers and wildboars that come to the lakeside to quench their thirst. The Periyar Tiger Reserve spread across 777 sq km is home to a wide range of wild flora and fauna and is the perfect trail for a nature walk. If you are a nature lover, there are a lot of interesting activities here to keep you engaged like the elephant safari, jeep safari, boating, going on the tiger trail and Bamboo rafting. A perfect haven to explore nature and her creations!
Hotels Recommended : Cardamom County, Spice Village
Heading to Southern Kerala, the list of travel hotspots will not be complete without the mention of the Kovalam beach, one of the most popular beaches in Kerala. Kovalam, by the side of the Arabian Sea started to become popular as early as the 1930s. It is a crescent shaped stretch that consists of three beaches – Lighthouse, Hawah and Samudra Beach. The lighthouse beach, as the name suggests, got its name from the Vizhinjam lighthouse which is a 118ft tall structure. The Hawah beach or Eve’s beach bustles with activity during the morning hours as fishermen flock to the place to head out to the sea. Evenings are calm, with the swaying palm groves along the beach and the moonlit night creating a magical backdrop, perfect for a romantic flick.
Samudra, is quieter and offers more privacy than the former two as it is separated by fissures and a huge cliff, perfect for a honeymoon destination. Water sports, beach activities, ayurvedic massages and splendid seafood are the highlights of this beach. Ancient Temples like the Thiruvallam Parashurama temple, Vizhinjam Rock Cut Cave Temple and the Aruvikkara dam are some of the other tourist attractions here. Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala is 16km from Kovalam. At the southern-most tip of the subcontinent, 96kms from Kovalam, is Kanyakumari, which is the meeting place of three water bodies, the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
Hotels Recommended: The Leela Kovalam, Vivanta By Taj – Green Cove