Of all the traveling I have done over three decades, its rare to find someone who has experience Kerala in India. Why? Most people head to the obvious tourism spots including Taj Mahal and Delhi but they don’t always consider the raw beauty that Kerala has to offer.
Kerala is stunning and is known for its nature, wildlife, beaches, hiking and hills. There are also some stunning waterfalls here as well as culture — think forts, palaces, museums, monuments and pilgrim centers. And the sunsets are….well, simply breathtaking!
Although there’s plenty of culture, history and heritage, we’re going to focus on the raw and pristine beauty and nature because we feel that this is the most transformative part about the region. And, because we don’t think that travelers really “get into” and connect with nature/Gaia in deep ways as much as they should. Let’s start with their known backwaters, which are so worth exploring.
Lesser known in Kerala is Kavvayi Kayal, an area which the result of five rivers: River Kavvayi and its tributary streams Kankol, Vannathichal, Kuppithodu, and Kuniyan. Essentially, Kavvayi refers to a collection of small islands connected to Payyannur in Kannur by a bridge. It is apparently considered among one of the most exotic locations in North Kerala.
What’s fascinating and deeply rewarding is the opportunity to take boat rides which take you past simple villagers and amazing wildlife, as well as rare bird life, flora and fauna. You can opt to take boat rides to explore each of the islands. Because you are surrounded by water, seafood is amazing here as well.
Also worth mentioning is Alumkadavu, which is a village famous for houseboat construction. Here you’ll also discover kettuvallams (traditional rice barges), that accompany these backwaters. Other things to note is that Alumkadavu is also a coir manufacturing centre, making Kollam famous for its coir products. It’s a beautiful spot — super relaxing and laid back, so it’s a wonderful choice to get off the grid for awhile.
Kerala’s Hills & Hillstations
Kerala has a number of various hills and hill stations, many of which run along what’s referred to as the Western Ghats. Our experience of this area was just stunning — warm people, great food and breathtaking views of the hills.
Here, you can also explore the plantations, wildlife, flora and fauna. One place to mention is Devikulam, which is only around 8 kilometers from Munnar. Think velvet lawns and picnics. Not far from here is the beautiful Sita Devi Lake which among relaxing and swimming, is great for trout fishing as well. If you’d want to fly into the closest airport to this region, it would be Cochin International Airport.
Chembra is the highest peak in Wayanad district and is roughly 2,100 meters above sea level. If you love views and hiking, this beautiful spot offers breathtaking views of rare flora and fauna as well as birdlife.
There are tons of trekking trials around here — along the way, you are greeted with a heart-shaped lake (yes, really — how cool is that?), waterfalls and lush greenery. Even though trekking is magical here, you need to get prior permission before going on these treks. Guided tours are available as well, simplifying the process.
A full day trekking package to Chembra peak is organized by the forest department. The moderate trekking path through tea plantations will take you the hridayasarassu — you can learn more about Chembra peak trekking here.
The nearest railway station to this area is Kozhikode and the closest airport is Calicut International Airport.
Another spot worth mentioning is Agasthyakoodam in Thiruvananthapuram, which not only offers great trekking but stunning views and unique wildlife experiences. Add it to your bucket list and you’ll be glad that you did.
Wildlife in Kerala
There are countless places in Kerala to experience wildlife in nature. Bird lovers will appreciate the Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary and the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, which is among the most popular bird watching spots in the country. The latter is spread out over 14 hectares where you’ll find many rare avian species here. Located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake in Kottayam, you can see migratory birds that flock in thousands, ranging from places like the Himalayas to Siberia.
Also on your list should be the Eravikulam National Park. There’s also the Choolannur Pea Fowl Sanctuary, Chimmini Wildlife Sanctuary, Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Begar Wildlife Sanctuary, Chinna Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary which has been around since the early seventies.
The Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the protected area network of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka on the north east and Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu on the southeast. The area is extremely rich in bio-diversity, and is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. This particular sanctuary has a large population of pachyderms and has also been declared a Project Elephant site.
Elephants roam freely here and tigers can be found as well as deer, monkeys, birds, butterflies, and insects. The trees and plants that you’ll find in this lush sanctuary are typical of the south Indian moist deciduous forests and semi-evergreen forests.
Beaches in Kerala
Since Kerala is a coastal state in India, some of the most beautiful beaches can also be found here. Some of the ones worth mentioning include Kovalam, Varkala, Chowara, Chavakkad, Nattika, Cherai, Kizhunna, Poovar and countless others, all with their own unique special characteristics and qualities.
The seashells found at Cherai Beach are unique and dolphins lovers will want to head here as well. It could be said that Cherai is the ideal blend of both the backwaters and the sea. It is apparently a very popular destination, so is known to be amongst the most visited beaches in Kerala. Photography lovers will appreciate the breathtaking views as well.
An alternative is to head to Kizhunna, which is known as the hidden pearl of the North. The beaches here have soft sand and beautiful rock formations. Kizhunna is a great place for a romantic getaway since it is extremely secluded beach which means it also makes a great spot to head to if you simply want a little rest, relaxation and solitude.
If you love nature and want to explore the road less traveled, then head to Kerala.
There truly is something for everyone and the region is simply stunning. Whether you’re a beach lover, a hiker, or simply want to get some solitude and read a dozen books in a peaceful setting, Kerala is an amazing choice.
Take a look at this video to go on a visual and audio journey with us.
She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.
Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.
Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.