Tuesday, 25 September 2012 11:00 AM
Kerala is an incredibly exciting place to visit, with this colourful Indian state being home to a rich, traditional culture and terrific landscapes. If you plan to travel here, read our guide to learn about some of the most popular stops on tours of the region.
Situated in the Western Ghat mountains, Munnar is a wonderful tea-growing area that is perfect for discovering some of Kerala's splendid scenery and wildlife. One of the top things to do here is take a quiet stroll through the tea plantations, which seem to stretch for as far as the eye can see.
Additionally, you can visit one of the local wildlife sanctuaries. Erivakulam Sanctuary, for example, is where you will find the nilgiri tahr, an ibex endemic to this region that is extremely rare.
Fort Cochin is where European settlers first landed in India many years ago and, since then, has had a rich history as a bustling harbour that has been under the control of several different nations, including Britain and the Netherlands.
Evidence of these multicultural influences can be seen all over the area, so make sure you take the time to spot them. St Francis Church, for instance, has the grand title of being the oldest church in all of India, and is also where the remains of famous adventure Vasco da Gama were buried for some 14 years. Today, you can still see his tombstone.
Another must-see is the Pardesi Synagogue, with its spectacular interior. Filled with furnishings from around the world, it is home to chandeliers from Belgium and a number of other interesting finishing touches.
Periyar is another popular place to visit when travelling around Kerala. One of the most unmissable things to see here is Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is the most visited in the state. Drop in and you are very likely to see Indian bison and wild elephant, while you may even catch a glimpse of a tiger.
There is a large lake in the centre of the reserve, which you can travel across on a bamboo raft, accompanied by a guide. This is a great way to spot some of the animals, especially during the dry season, since they come here to drink.
While in Periyar, it is also worth popping into one of the local spice plantations to learn about the spices the region produces.
Kuttanad backwater region
One of the most famous areas in Kerala, the Kuttanad backwater region is an essential place to include on any tour of the state, particularly if this will be your first visit. Typically, tours will see you travel the waterways on a converted kettu vallam rice barge; often, these have been utterly transformed from their traditional rice-carrying purposes into luxurious houseboats, meaning lavish furnishings are not uncommon.
While you are cruising along the water, keep an eye out for everyday life unfolding around you. Indeed, there is far more than impressive scenery to see here, since many local people live in the region and can be spotted on the shores going about their day-to-day routines, such as looking after floating duck farms and washing clothes in the water.
Often, you can opt to stay overnight on a converted rice barge, which is a great way of having a more in-depth experience of the region.