Kerala

Kerala

This Godís Own country has the Arabian Sea in the west, the Western Ghats towering 500-2700 m in the east and networked by forty-four rivers, Kerala enjoys diverse geographical features. From tall mountains and deep valleys to endless backwaters and an extensive coastline, Kerala has it all.

Fort Kochi:

To explore the historic town of Fort Kochi, there is no better choice than setting out on foot. Relax, breathe deep and come out in cotton dresses, soft shoes and yes - a straw hat. At each and every nook of this island steeped in history, there is something amusing awaiting you. It is a world of its own, retaining the specimens of a bygone era and still proud of those days. If you can smell the past, nothing can stop you from walking through these streets. Walking straight through the K. J. Herschel Road and turning left, you can have a glimpse of Fort Immanuel. This bastion once belonged to the Portuguese and is a symbol of the strategic alliance which existed between the Maharaja of Cochin and the Monarch of Portugal, after whom the fort is named. This fort was built in 1503 and reinforced in 1538. Walking a bit further, you come across the Dutch cemetery. Consecrated in 1724 and managed by the Church of South India, the tomb stones here silently remind visitors of those Europeans who left their homeland to expand their colonial empires. The next spot to watch is the ancient Thakur House, which stands erect as a concrete specimen of the colonial era. The building is simply graceful. Formerly known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow, it was home to the managers of the National Bank of India during the British rule. Now, it belongs to the Thakur and Company, renowned tea trading firm. Walk on and there is another colonial structure awaiting you - David Hall. It was built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company. The hall is associated with Hendrik Adriaan van Reed tot Drakeston, renowned Dutch commander, who is more admired for his monumental book on the flora of Kerala namely Hortus Malabaricus. However, David Hall is named after David Koder, a later occupant of the hall. Walking past the Parade Ground, the four acres of ground where the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British had once conducted military parades, you reach the St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. It has passed through many phases ever since the Portuguese built it in 1503. Now the church is under the Church of South India. By the way, it was in this church that Vasco-da Gama had been buried and his tombstone can still be seen. The Church Road is a nice place to walk, with the cool breeze from the Arabian Sea caressing your body. Walk down a bit closer to the sea and there is the Cochin Club, home to an impressive library and collection of sporting trophies. Set in a beautifully landscaped park, the club still retains its British ambience. Walking back to the Church Road, on the left side, you would stumble across another majestic mansion, the Bastion Bungalow. This wonderful structure of Indo-European style had been built in 1667 and is named after its location on the site of the Stromberg Bastion of the old Dutch fort. Now it is the official residence of the Sub Collector. The Vasco-da Gama square is nearby. A narrow promenade, this is an ideal place to relax a little. Stalls full of delicious seafood and tender coconuts are simply tempting. Savour a bit and feed your eyes on the Chinese fishing nets, being raised and lowered. These nets had been erected here between AD 1350 and 1450 by the traders from the court of Kublai Khan. Refreshed, you can now proceed to the Pierce Leslie Bungalow, a charming mansion, which once had been the office of Pierce Leslie and Co., coffee merchants of yesteryears. This building reflects Portuguese, Dutch and local influences. Its waterfront verandahs are an added attraction. Turning right, you come to the Old Harbour House, built in 1808 and owned by Carriet Moran and Co, renowned tea brokers. Nearby is the Koder House, the magnificent building constructed by Samuel S. Koder of the Cochin Electric Company in 1808. This structure shows the transition from colonial to Indo-European architecture. Turn further right and you reach the Princess Street. Mind having some fresh flowers from the shops here. One of the earliest streets of the area, this road has European style residences on both its sides. Located here is the Loafer's Corner, the traditional hangout for the jovial and fun loving people of Kochi. Walking northwards from the Loafer's corner, you come across Santa Cruz Basilica, the historic church built by the Portuguese and elevated to a cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. In 1984, Pope John Paul II declared it as a Basilica. After having a quick look at the Burgher street and the Delta Study, a heritage bungalow built in the year 1808 and now functioning as a high school, you walk down, once again to the Princess Street and then to the Rose Street. There you would find Vasco house, believed to be the residence of Vasco-da Gama. This traditional and typical European house is one of the oldest of Portuguese residences in Kochi. Turning left, you walk over to the Ridsdale Road to find the VOC gate, the large wooden gate facing the Parade ground. The gate, built in 1740, gets its name from the monogram (VOC) of the Dutch East India Company on it. Close by is the United Club, once one of the four elite clubs of the British in Kochi. Now, it serves as a classroom for the nearby St. Francis Primary School. Walking straight, you reach the end of the road and there is the Bishop's house, built in the year of 1506. It had once been the residence of the Portuguese Governor and is set on a small hillock near the Parade Ground. The facade of the house has large Gothic arches and the building was acquired by Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th Bishop of the Diocese of Cochin whose jurisdiction extended over Burma, Malaya and Ceylon apart from India. Yes, now it is time to wind up the walk. With the feel of the bygone days still lingering in your minds, mesmerizing sights staying back in your eyes and your taste buds yearning again for the delicacies and it is not at all a sin, if you feel like another walk.

Alappuzha:

Referred to as the Venice of the East, Alappuzha has always enjoyed an important place in the maritime history of Kerala. Today, it is famous for its boat races, backwater holidays, beaches, marine products and coir industry. Alappuzha beach is a popular picnic spot. The pier, which extends into the sea here, is over 137 years old. Entertainment facilities at the Vijaya Beach Park add to the attraction of the beach. There is also an old lighthouse nearby which is greatly fascinating to visitors.

Another delightful experience while in Alappuzha is a houseboat cruise. The ones you find in the backwaters of Alappuzha are in fact reworked version of kettuvallams of olden times. The original kettuvallams or rice barges used to carry tons of rice and spices. The kettuvallam or 'boat with knots' was so called because the entire boat was held together with coir knots only.

Bekal:

About 16 km South of Kasaragod on the national highway, Kasaragod district, North Kerala Kasaragod, the Northern most district of Kerala is renowned as the land of gods, forts, rivers, hills and beautiful beaches. The imposing fort at Bekal is one of the largest and best preserved forts in Kerala. The beautiful expanse of the shallow beach near the Bekal fort known as Bekal Fort Beach has been developed as an exotic beach location by the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC).

Kumarokkom:

The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, and is part of the Kuttanad region. The bird sanctuary here, which is spread across 14 acres is a favourite haunt of migratory birds and an ornithologist's paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teals, waterfowls, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian Stork visit here in flocks and are a fascinate the visitors.

An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom offers visitors many other leisure options. Boating and fishing facilities are available at the Taj Garden Retreat, a sprawling old bungalow-turned-resort.

Munnar:

Munnar is one of the attractions that contributed to Kerala's popularity .Situated at the confluence of three mountain streams - Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala, and perched about 1600 m above sea level, the hill station of Munnar once used to be the summer resort of the erstwhile British administration in south India. This hill station is marked by vast expanses of tea plantations, colonial bungalows, rivulets, waterfalls and cool weather. It is also an ideal destination for trekking and mountain biking. Let us now explore some of the options in and around Munnar that would provide travellers ample opportunities to enjoy the captivating hill station of Munnar.

Eravikulam National Park One of the main attractions near Munnar is the Eravikulam National Park. Located about 15 km from Munnar, this park is famous for its endangered inhabitant - the Nilgiri Tahr. Spread over an area of 97 sq. km., this park is also home to several species of rare butterflies, animals and birds. A great place for trekking, the park offers a magnificent view of the tea plantations and also the rolling hills caressed by blankets of mists. The park becomes a hot destination when the hill slopes here get covered in a carpet of blue, resulting from the flowering of Neelakurinji. It is a plant endemic to this part of the Western Ghats which blooms once in twelve years. The last time it bloomed was in 2006.

Anamudi Peak Located inside the Eravikulam National Park is the Anamudi Peak. This is the highest peak in south India standing at a height of over 2700 m. Treks to the peak are allowed with permission from the Forest and Wildlife authorities at Eravikulam.

Mattupetty Another place of interest, located about 13 km from Munnar Town, is Mattupetty. Situated at a height of 1700 m above sea level, Mattupetty is known for its storage masonry dam and the beautiful lake, which offers pleasurable boat rides, enabling one to enjoy the surrounding hills and landscape. Mattupetty's fame is also attributed to the dairy farm run by the Indo-Swiss Livestock Project, where one would come across different high yielding breeds of cows. Mattupetty with its lush green tea plantations, rolling grasslands and the Shola forests is also ideal for trekking and is home to a variety of birds.

Pallivasal Pallivasal, located at about 3 km from Chithirapuram in Munnar is the venue of the first Hydro-electric project in Kerala. It is a place of immense scenic beauty and is often favoured by visitors as a picnic spot.

Pallivasal Pallivasal, located at about 3 km from Chithirapuram in Munnar is the venue of the first Hydro-electric project in Kerala. It is a place of immense scenic beauty and is often favoured by visitors as a picnic spot.

ChinnakanalNear the town of Munnar is Chinnakanal and the waterfalls here, popularly known as Power House Waterfalls, cascade down a steep rock 2000 m above sea level. The spot is enriched with the scenic view of the Western Ghat ranges.

Anayirangal When you have traveled about seven kilometers from Chinnakanal, you reach Anayirangal. Anayirangal, 22 km from Munnar, is a lush green carpet of tea plants. A trip on the splendid reservoir is an unforgettable experience. The Anayirangal dam is surrounded by tea plantations and evergreen forests.

Top Station Top Station, which is about 32 km from Munnar is at a height of 1700 m above sea level. It is the highest point on the Munnar-Kodaikanal road. Travellers to Munnar make it a point to visit Top Station to enjoy the panoramic view it offers of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the spots in Munnar to enjoy the Neelakurinji flowers blooming over a vast area.

Tea Museum Munnar has a legacy of its own when it comes to the origins and evolution of tea plantations. Taking account of this legacy and to preserve and showcase some of the exquisite and interesting aspects on the genesis and growth of tea plantations in Kerala's high ranges, a museum exclusively for tea was opened some years ago by Tata Tea in Munnar. This Tea Museum houses curios, photographs and machineries; all of which have a story to tell on the origins and growth of tea plantations in Munnar. The museum is located at the Nallathanni Estate of Tata Tea in Munnar and is worth a visit.

Thekkady:

The very sound of the word Thekkady conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills and spice scented plantations. The Periyar forests of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India. Spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks.

Flora:

Over 1965 flowering plants including 171 grass species 143 species of orchids. The only south Indian conifer Podocarpus wallichianus grows in the forests of Periyar Tiger Reserve.

Fauna:

Mammals: Thirty five species which include the Asian elephant, Indian bison, sambar deer, Indian wild dog, Barking deer, Smooth-coated otter which can be sighted during a boat cruise in the Periyar Lake. The Nilgiri tahr is confined to the higher rocky areas whereas the endangered lion tailed macaque can be found in the interior evergreen forests. Both the bonnet macaques and Nilgiri langur can be seen foraging from the trees near the boat landing. Malabar giant squirrel is omnipresent.

Birds: 265 species including migrants. The Malabar grey hornbill, The Indian pied hornbill, Whitebellied Treepie, many species of drongos, woodpeckers, flycatchers, babblers, the spectacular Malabar trogon, etc can be seen near the boat landing.

Reptiles: Cobra, viper, krait, a number of non-poisonous snakes, and the Indian monitor lizard.

Amphibians: Frogs like the colorful Malabar gliding frog, fungoid frog, bicolored frog, many species of toads, and limbless caecilians.

Pisces (fish): The Periyar lake and streams have several species of fish including the masheer, the famous and endangered game fish of India. The Smooth-coated otter can be frequently spotted from the boat.

Plantations: Tea, cardamom, pepper and coffee plantations abound in the areas adjoining the Tiger Reserve.

Kovalam:

Kovalam is situated just 16 km from Thiruvananthapuram city, South Kerala. Kovalam is an internationally renowned beach with three adjacent crescent beaches. It has been a favourite haunt of tourists, especially Europeans, since the 1930s. A massive rocky promontory on the beach has created a beautiful bay of calm waters ideal for sea bathing. The leisure options at this beach are plenty and diverse. Sunbathing, swimming, herbal body toning massages, special cultural programmes and catamaran cruising are some of them. The tropical sun acts so fast that one can see the faint blush of coppery tan on the skin in a matter of minutes. Life on the beach begins late in the day and carries on well into the night. The beach complex includes a string of budget cottages, Ayurvedic health resorts, convention facilities, shopping zones, swimming pools, Yoga and Ayurvedic massage centres. Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, is just 16 km away from Kovalam and getting there is no hassle. But if you are on holiday it is better to stay in Kovalam and visit the city. The City of Thiruvananthapuram has interesting places to see like the Napier Museum, the Sri Chitra Art Gallery, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Ponmudi hill station etc. SMSM Institute, a State owned handicrafts emporium, is the ideal place to pick up ethnic curios and other articles.

Varkala:

Location: 51 km north of Thiruvananthapuram city in Thiruvananthapuram district and 37 km south of Kollam, south Kerala.Varkala, a calm and quiet hamlet, lies on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram district. It has several places of tourist interests like a beautiful beach, a 2000-year-old Vishnu Temple and the Ashramam - Sivagiri Mutt a little distance from the beach.At the serene Varkala beach is a quiet sea resort rich in mineral water springs. A dip in the holy waters at this beach is believed to purge the body of impurities and the soul of all sins; hence the name 'Papanasam beach'.A two thousand year old shrine the Janardhanaswamy Temple stands on the cliffs overlooking the beach, a short distance away. The Sivagiri Mutt, founded by the great Hindu reformer and philosopher Sree Narayana Guru (1856 - 1928) is also close by. The Samadhi (the final resting place) of the Guru here attracts thousands of devotees every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days - 30th December to 1st January. Sree Narayana Guru propagated the ideology: "one caste, one religion and one god", in a society torn by the taboos of caste system.Varkala offers excellent accommodation facilities for tourists and is fast becoming a popular health resort with many Ayurvedic massage centres.

Wayanad:

Area: 2132 sq. kmAltitude: 700 - 2100 m above sea level

A bio-diverse region spread across 2,132 square kilometers on the lofty Western Ghats, Wayanad is one of the few districts in Kerala that has been able to retain its pristine nature. Hidden away in the hills of this land are some of the oldest tribes, as yet untouched by civilization. And the very first prehistoric engravings in Kerala discovered in the foothills of Edakkal and around Ambukuthimala bear testimony to a pre-historic culture dating back to the Mesolithic Age. Strikingly scenic, it is known for its sub-tropical savannahs, picturesque hill stations, sprawling spice plantations, luxuriant forests and rich cultural traditions. A holistic confluence of wilderness, history and culture, Wayanad is located on the southern tip of the magnificent Deccan plateau.

Muzhapilangad:

Location: About 15 km from Kannur and 8 km from Thalasseri, Kannur district, North Kerala.

The Muzhapilangad beach which stretches across four kilometres of sand is a drive-in-beach where one can drive down the entire length. Calm and serene, the place is secluded and remains unexplored. Huge black rocks scattered here protect this long beach from the deep currents, and form a tranquil pool of shallow waters that is a swimmer's paradise. The palm groves fringing the beach are a cool hideaway from the tropical sun.

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