Photo essay: Kerala is India’s soft landing

Thrissur Pooram Festival - Travel Photographer Andrew Adams

Thrissur Pooram Festival, Kerala, is one of India’s largest cultural festivals.

My top travel tips for Kerala, recently voted a top destination for 2014

GUIDEBOOK publisher Lonely Planet recently named Kerala one of the top destinations for family travel in 2014. And I agree. Soft, white sand beaches, gentle people, a tropical climate, fresh spices, tea plantations, India’s highest literacy rate, a unique culture … there are so many reasons to love Kerala. When asked, I often recommend starting a first trip to India in Kerala as it provides for a soft landing. Photographer Andrew Adams shares my love of Kerala, and in this photo essay shows us several views of this beloved state, which shares the southern tip of India with Tamil Nadu. For my top Kerala travel tips and recommendations, please keep reading.

Fishing on the backwaters of Kerala - Travel Photographer Andrew Adams

Fishing on the Backwaters: a charming scene of daily life in Kerala.

Flying down to Kerala

On my first trip to India, I landed in Delhi in December 2005 and by the end of the month, I was chilly! Delhi can drop to 5 C. at night in winter, and the houses are not heated. I was staying with Indian friends, who were all huddled in layers of warm clothing around room heaters, and I decided enough is enough. I did not leave Canada and travel all the way to India to be cold. I called a travel agent I knew and booked a flight to Trivandrum, Kerala. I flew on December 31, the only flight available, and I cannot tell you how happy I was to arrive in Kerala on a sun-kissed, balmy day. From that day to this, I have had a special place in my heart for this lush, tropical state.

Colourful floral offering at a wedding in Kerala.

Colourful floral offering at a wedding in Kerala.

God’s Own Country

The motto for Kerala, “God’s Own Country,” refers to the rich heritage, lively culture, lush topography and positive socio-political climate. A Yahoo! answer to the question “Why is Kerala called God’s own country” turned up this: “Nestled between the pristine waters of the Arabian sea on the west and the lush Western Ghat mountains on the east, its intense network of rivers and lagoons, thick forests, exotic wildlife, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters and a long shoreline of serene beaches make it a traveler’s paradise.”

Bride carried on a palanquin by Kerala Wedding Photographer Katha Images

The bride makes her grand entrance on guilded Palanquin, Kerala.

Top travel recommendations in Kerala

I’ve been to Kerala twice, once to stay at an Ayurvedic resort, and once to visit the Backwaters and Cochin. I have also driven along the coast, making several stops along the way — including to get a hug from Amma, “the hugging saint,” whose ashram is in Kerala. Based on my experience and those of others, here are my top suggestions for a trip to Kerala. 1. Take the treatments at an Ayurvedic resort. I stayed at Shinshiva Ayurvedic Resort for two heavenly weeks in 2006 and often dream of returning to relax on the beach, enjoy daily oil massages and eat fresh, healthy food. There are many Ayurvedic resorts and hospitals in Kerala to choose from, from the serious and austere to luxurious resorts on the beach that cater to tourists. 2. Float along the Backwaters. The Backwaters of Kerala are one of the state’s top tourist attractions and for a reason. It’s a unique way to relax and enjoy a traditional culture on board your own boat. 3. Ascend to the tea plantations of Munnar. Recently featured to great affect in Life of Pi, the lush hill station of Munnar is a centre of the coffee, tea and spice gardens of Kerala. A great place to find cooler weather and to commune with the natural beauty of the region. 4. Track wildlife at Peryiyar. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of India’s most popular nature reserves, home to bison, sambar, wild boar, langur, elephants and about 46 tigers, at last count. 5. Visit the old port of Cochin / Kochi. Kerala has long been a seaport, attracting traders from the Middle East and beyond, and Cochin was a major port of call. The old part of the city is fascinating, and features boutique hotels, great restaurants, many cultural attractions, a spice market, the famous Chinese fishing nets and a wonderful atmosphere.

Cochin Fishing Nets - Travel Photographer Andrew Adams

Traditional Chinese fishing nets are still used today in Cochin.

6. Bask on the beach in Varkala. This is Andrew Adams’ favourite spot in Kerala, and perhaps all of India. Dramatic cliffs, gorgeous sunsets and a relaxed vibe combine to make it a great spot to unwind and unplug. 7. Enjoy the festivals. Kerala has its own unique culture, distinct from the other states of India, and many of its own festivals. Onam, for example, is an exuberant festival that takes place in August/September to celebrate the abundance of nature. 8. Celebrate monsoon season. I have been besotted by the idea of being in Kerala when the monsoon arrives since seeing a documentary about it, called Chasing India’s Monsoon. While it is the off-season, and extremely hot and humid, it is considered a special time to be in Kerala. Many festivals take place and apparently Ayurvedic treatments are more effective. 9. Stay at a homestay. Lonely Planet rated Kerala as one of their top family friendly destinations for 2014 and recommended a homestay. 10. Eat fresh food and glorious spices. Kerala is the spice bowl of India, and you can visit, and even stay, at the spice gardens. The local cuisine is rice-based, spiked with fresh spices and often eaten off a large, bright green banana leaf.

Spices found in Kerala - Travel Photographer Andrew Adams

Kerala is the spice bowl of India

A Wedding in Cochin by Kerala Wedding Photographer Katha Images

A wedding couple take a romantic sunset cruise on the Backwaters in Kerala

Colorful costumes and painted faces festival season in Kerala - Travel Photographer Andrew Adams

Colorful painted faces, a tradition you will find in most Kerala festivals

About Andrew Adams

The magic moment is what Canadian photographer Andrew Adams excels at capturing. Working with minimal gear,  Andrew gets up-close-and-personal with his subject matter and creates exquisite images that evoke a sense of wonder. He has traveled extensively in India and Sri Lanka, and specializes in South Asian travel and wedding photography. To View Andrew’s Wedding Photos from Kerala To view more of Andrew’s Travel Photos from Kerala

Andrew Adams on the Kerala Backwaters - Travel Photographer Andrew Adams

The creative eye behind the images, Andrew enjoying the simple life on the backwaters.

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33 Responses to Photo essay: Kerala is India’s soft landing

  1. Dilip November 11, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    Ms. Marelin Ward has done a good survey. But sadly, like many travel writers she has covered only the south of Kerala. There are many places of interest in the north of Kerala where history and beauty of nature are equally as prominent as the south. I wish that she would soon turn her attention to the naorth of Kerala too.

    • Mariellen Ward November 11, 2013 at 7:33 am #

      Thanks for your comment Dilip! I would love to visit north Kerala, and I have requested assistance from Kerala Tourism on several occasions and they have not offered to host. This is a big problem in India: Indian tourism boards and the Ministry of Tourism are not very generous or helpful when it comes to hosting travel writers, and they ignore travel bloggers completely. The private companies are not much better. India is falling behind because of this.
      Mariellen Ward recently posted..Learn basic Hindi for travel in IndiaMy Profile

      • Suresh Nambiar December 9, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

        Dear Mariellen.. I am from North Kerala and happy to tell you that there has been tremendous improvement in the recent years.Agree to the point that government has not done much to support bloggers, however this place has so many different experiences to offer which you may not find elsewhere. The famous art form of Theyyam,Kalari, virgin beaches, magnificent forts,back waters,melting pot of Arabic and Malabari culinary delights, honestly you can experience a different Kerala at Malabar. Cheers!

  2. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures November 11, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    LOVE Kerala! What a great post!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..England & Scotland With Trafalgar: Day 2 (Part 2)My Profile

  3. Bob Hobson November 11, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Good tips and spectacular photos, thanks. I want to add something that saved all my photos on my last cruise. I lost my camera during the day and had no idea it was missing. Fortunately, I had a tracer tag on it ( mystufflostandfound.com ). A waiter where I ate lunch found it and entered my tracker number on the website. I was automatically sent a text message (and an email) with a pickup location before I ever even knew it was missing. Lucky for me, I was leaving in the morning and would never have been able to go back to search for the camera. That tag prevented a tragedy and I put them on my phone, laptop and almost everything that travels with me now.

  4. Hippie in Heels November 12, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    awesome! I am headed to kerala tomorrow to Wayanad! and it will be my first time to the state. and i can’t believe you got a hug from Amma! I’ll have to click and read that one too, ahhh i never can stop reading about india! thanks for a great post… getting me pumped for my trip!
    Hippie in Heels recently posted..Your Travel First Aid Kit – Advice from a NurseMy Profile

  5. Anwar November 12, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    One of the places I have always wanted o see. Kerala is one place in India I’ve been meaning to visit. I’ve been to India only twice now so perhaps my next visit. Thanks for the post.
    Anwar recently posted..Egypt: In the steps of MosesMy Profile

  6. Cultural tours in India November 13, 2013 at 3:46 am #

    I really want to see such more posts in future. Excellent post!

  7. Paul Marshman November 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

    Lovely post, Mariellen. This reminds me a little of Goa, at least the countryside and the climate, but I’m sure the culture is completely different. I’ve always wanted to go back to India after being there many years ago. I’m sure it’s a very different place now — but maybe not so much in areas like this.
    Paul Marshman recently posted..Photo feature: Images of EcuadorMy Profile

  8. Pranav Chandra November 17, 2013 at 2:12 am #

    Great read. Thank you!

  9. Hemal November 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Kerala is a lovely place to visit. I remember gorging on some yummy appams with coconut stew.
    Hemal recently posted..Maggi Bhajiya – only in AhmedabadMy Profile

  10. Mahima November 22, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    Kerala is such a wonderful place to visit. I could not get a chance to visit this beautiful state of India, but for sure I will visit this.

    PS: I loved your photos from Kerala.

  11. shilpi dutta November 22, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    What a lovely post. I have been planning to visit Kerala since a long time but could not. You blog post has inspired me now! I feel the urge of visiting there right away!
    shilpi dutta recently posted..Immunity..Where is it?My Profile

  12. Julie K. November 28, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    I can very well imagine going on a yoga retreat here and combine it with exploring beautiful Keralan landscape. Sounds very serene, almost heavenly, from your description! I guess, this really is a good place to start if it´s your first time in India and you want to avoid that notorious Indian culture shock.
    Julie K. recently posted..December Krazy KontestMy Profile

  13. Tom December 5, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    So happy I found this blog. I am headed to India in March and am trying to find as much info as possible.
    Tom recently posted..Next up – A Nepalese/Indian Adventure!My Profile

  14. sunil December 28, 2013 at 4:18 am #

    The photo essay looks ordinary in comparison to the real kerala. Do visit and experience the culture

  15. mahesh January 5, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    #proud to be a keralite ,

  16. Amol January 10, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    Excellent blog and mind blowing photographs, planning for a tour to Kerala has already begun.

  17. Jijin Raj January 11, 2014 at 4:37 am #

    Mariellen, Voted for You 🙂
    http://keralablogexpress.com/user/vote_participant/137

  18. Nandakumar February 17, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Thanks for sharing information

  19. wellness expedia February 19, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

    Hi Mariellen, the information you shared about kerala in this blog is very informative.There are even more beautiful places in kerala, if you are interested we are happy to help you…

  20. Amy May 25, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    Great article and pictures. Since I read The God of Small Things I plan to go there one time. Hotels and flights seem to have reasonable prices.

  21. House Boat Kerala May 6, 2015 at 6:44 am #

    You have shared amazing piece of information. It will be really useful in planning trip to Kerala.

  22. Sarath July 7, 2015 at 5:55 pm #

    Nice to see my home town Varkala among the places you visited. I have been to beaches around the world, but never felt anything close to watching the sunset from Varkala beach

  23. Neha jain July 22, 2015 at 8:37 am #

    By Reading your post i feel to visit Kerala and enjoy every thing.

  24. Shailender September 18, 2015 at 5:56 am #

    I will visit Kerala in the month of Nov’15. I was looking for the information on Ayurvedic centres, the backwaters and the tea plantations in Kerala when I came across this post. How beautifully and in concise manner you have summed up the information in this post.
    Shailender recently posted..Kayaking in Chiang Mai – Paddling down Mae Ping RiverMy Profile

  25. kerala tour package January 6, 2016 at 12:13 am #

    Thanks for such god information about kerala cultural .

  26. arya January 21, 2016 at 1:39 am #

    good post

  27. shaurya jain February 2, 2016 at 6:25 am #

    I really like your thinking. suggesting kerala as the first place to visit so they dont get overwhelmed by the chaos of cities like mumbai and delhi.
    great work !!

  28. Pathin Singh February 3, 2016 at 3:45 am #

    Lovely post with lovely photographs 🙂 After reading your post I am in love with Kerela and would love to visit it and want to spend memorable time in Kerela !!!!

  29. Ramakant March 21, 2016 at 10:28 am #

    I love this post – Kerala is beautiful place to visit specially honeymoon couples… Really great work!!!!
    Ramakant recently posted..God’s Own Country and its Gorgeous WaterfallsMy Profile

  30. pathin Singh March 25, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    Well written post !! I also visited Kerala during my honeymoon for Kerala 3 Nights 4 Days Package and it was an amazing trip but I missed the opportunity of staying in a tree house. If I get the chance to travel Kerala again I will explore each and every place.

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