Kerala has drawn explorers to her shores since 3000 BCE. The Ancient Babylonians and Egyptians once referred to this coastal state as the ‘Spice Garden of India’. A stark contrast from the deserts of central and northern India, Kerala is world of houseboats and canoes that float along gently beside emerald paddy fields and slow paced village life. Just a few hours north from these waters is the tea growing region of Munnar, which has some of the world’s highest growing tea estates, Periyar National Park, bounded by high altitude mountain ridges. Both locations make for great walks – the former through bountiful tea estates and the latter through thick jungles which are home to an abundant wildlife and is home to a small population of tiger, vast herds of wild elephants and leopards, as well as a rich birdlife. The area surrounding Periyar is also famed for its spice gardens, where spices such a pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom grow, as well as many plants valued for their medicinal properties and used in Ayurvedic treatments. These beautifully diverse backdrops are a perfect setting for yoga and Ayurveda themed trips.
Kerala is also known for its vibrant dance heritage, primarily ‘Kathakali’, a 500-year-old form of dance-drama that interprets ancient epics, and was designated a UNESCO Human Heritage Art. It is possible to witness these performances throughout Kerala, but Cochin (or Kochi as it is now called) offers great intimate spaces to not onoy watch the performances, but to watch the artists prepare their intricate make-up and costumes, whch itself can take hours. An eclectic mix of cultures has made Fort Cochin what it is – Arab, Portuguese, Dutch, British and Jewish influences have coloured this small, atmospheric fort into what it is today. Don’t miss out on the iconic Chinese fishing nets that dot the harbour. This rich cultural history has left an indelible mark on Kerala’s very unique Indian cuisine. With the obvious influence of the local spices, fresh seafood and abundance of coconuts, Kerala’s cuisine is a unique, mouth watering, often fiery curries which are not to found anywhere else in India.