Kerala: A State of Serenity

A great way to explore Kerala is to visit a mountain town, take a backwater cruise, and relax at the beach.

Munnar, a mountain town in Kerala, is a destination for those that wish to unwind within a small-town setting. The primary attractions of Munnar are its forested mountains dotted with tea estates, hiking, a bird sanctuary and national park.

Lakes, canals, and lagoons form more than 600 miles of the backwaters of Kerala, India. One way to experience the backwaters is by ferry services. The other is to rent a houseboat [kettuvallam] for a day or an overnight trip.

Kerala has over 370 miles of shoreline. While some of the beaches can be crowded, others are relatively quiet. It’s not a bad idea to travel during the monsoon months, June through August, when there are fewer tourists and off-season discounts at beach resorts are common.

Shades of Green

Let’s begin with Munnar. As you drive and climb higher up the Western Ghats mountain range, the air turns crisp and the vistas open up in front of you. The forests in the mountains of Munnar are locally known as Sholas ["forests," in Tamil].

Your Cup of Tea

Munnar is the largest tea-growing region of southern India. The other primary Indian tea growing regions are Assam and Darjeeling in West Bengal. Tea from Munnar and Darjeeling have a slight floral flavor. Tea from Assam is darker when brewed and has a robust flavor.

Munnar Market

Stop by the Munnar Market. The paths are narrow and can get crowded depending on the time of day. Keep your bearings so that you can retrace your steps. In addition to vegetable, fruit, meat, etc., the Munnar Market has some stands that sell dried fish.

Eravikulam National Park

The Eravikulam National Park is known for Nilgiri tahr [ibex] and is home to the Lakkam Waterfalls. The view is idyllic with great vistas and the Lakkam Waterfalls. Approximately 700-800 Nilgiri tahr inhabit the park. There are hiking trails in the park.

Backwater Cruise

En route to Alappuzha [or Alleppey]: One way to experience the backwaters of Kerala is by ferry. Another way is by houseboats. Houseboats were traditionally used to transport harvested rice from fertile fields alongside the backwaters. The houseboats now seem like floating private cottages that have a small sit-out, dining area, and air-conditioned cabins with attached western-style toilets.

Life in the Backwaters

People live alongside the narrow canals on homes that are usually one room long and 1-3 rooms wide. Municipal drinking water is piped into the households and so is electricity. Canal water is used for washing dishes, bathing, washing clothes, etc.

A Taste of Kerala

Mostly Kerala food was cooked and served on board, though there were some options to satisfy most palettes. Fresh fruit juice is served and tea or coffee are always an option. For dinner, you can shop for fish or shrimp along the canals.

From the Backaters to a Beach

Kerala provides a traveler with abundant opportunities to explore a wide variety of experiences — from the backwaters to the beaches to the mountains. There are several beach resorts in Kerala. Some among them have a more rustic feel since the impact they have on the surrounding community has been taken into consideration.

Tranquil

If you’re thinking of beach huts with drinks and music, speed boats, jet skis, etc., you can be at a touristy beach destination in Kerala. Other resorts provide a tranquil environment, an easy way to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Fishing Village

A beach resort can be located adjacent to a fishing village, which gives you the chance to see fishermen casting their nets in the late afternoon or returning from fishing trips in the morning. Some resorts provide a guided tour of a nearby village.

Afternoon Stroll

There are several activities at a resort and some don’t involve water slides or rave parties. Instead, the activities pertain to yoga, sustainable cooking, a visit to the butterfly garden, etc. You can also get an Ayurvedic massage or decide that a stroll on the beach is all you need. There are no vendors selling you trinkets or coconut water. Just listen to the waves and enjoy the company of a loved one, a friend, or your own self.

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