For all the charms of a land that has been blessed with some gorgeous topography, a riveting culture and a distinctive cuisine, Kerala cannot be written off the bucket-list of any traveller — vagabond or otherwise. As magnetic as the allure of the Himalayas are or as enigmatic as the hills of northeast, Kerala is a different ball game altogether and you have to see it to believe it.
So, if you are in that phase where you have your holidays prepped, your bags packed but still unsure of your destination, let’s make that decision easier for you: Choose Kerala. From mountain lovers to culture fans, this state that sits at the feet of India, has a bit for everyone. So, to further chalk things out for you, here’s the perfect seven-day holiday for the heady traveller in you.
Days 1 & 2: Exploring the Malabar
The northern-most region of Kerala extending from Kasaragod to Palakkad is known as the Malabar region, known for its ancient spice routes and ports. The remnants of these ports, which were used extensively for maritime trade and commerce, are still here. To get in, Kozhikode (or Calicut) is the nearest airport. Trains are also available from major cities like New Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Kappad Beach — For beach lovers, this could truly be paradise. This beautiful sandy beach finds its place in the echelons of history, thanks to famous Portuguese traveller Vasco da Gama who arrived here in 1498. His arrival to the city established a direct sea route between Europe and India. (Distance: 18km from Calicut city)
Edakkal caves — A set of giant boulders resting against each other to form large caves – yes, that’s Edakkal for you. One of the most fascinating and heavily visited tourist spots with cave drawings and inscriptions dating back almost 7,000 years. You just cannot miss this. (Distance: About 100km from Calicut city)
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary — If you want to see biodiversity in all its form and glory, this is the place. Also known as Muthanga, it is one of the largest biosphere reserves in India, and extends across parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, too. Home to wild elephants, deer, tigers and panthers, this sanctuary will be an absolute delight for wildlife enthusiasts. (Distance: About 110km from Calicut city)
While these are the prominent ones on the recommendation list, use the remaining time to explore parts of Calicut city, its ‘Mithaitherivu’ (the road famous for halwa and sweets) and the Kozhikode beach. Use the remaining part of Day 2 to travel ahead as we move towards central Kerala.
Must gorge: Sea food and beef from Paragon hotel in Kozhikode
Days 3 & 4: Central Kerala
As you depart the Malabar area, you enter the districts of Thrissur and Ernakulam — places considered the heart of Kerala. Soaked in cultural extravaganza, Thrissur plays host to the annual ‘Thrissur pooram’ (it takes place in the months of April-May, according to the Malayalam calendar), a Hindu temple festival famous for its display of 60 elephants at a time. And while you are in the town, hunt for friends, crash into their homes and hog on some sumptuous ‘sadya’ — alternatively, there are many restaurants that serve the traditional sadya fare as well.
Athirapilly — At a height of 80ft on the Chalakudy River, Athirapilly is considered the largest waterfall in the state. Although the river itself is quite peaceful in nature, it is known to attain a turbulent nature as it reaches the fall. Tourists have the luxury of watching the water fall, both from above as well as below. The waterfall itself is surrounded by dense forests, home to a large elephant population and a drive through at dawn can be an exhilarating experience. (Distance: About 60km from Thrissur town)
Kochi — The financial capital, Kochi is a marvel in itself. Sitting on the coast of the Arabian Sea and with Chinese fishing nets on its shores, Kochi has plenty to offer. Tourists would need more than a day to explore this city that has rich variants of Dutch and Portuguese cultures from the colonial times. Take time out to visit the islands of Vypeen and Bolghatty Palace, both of which can be accessed by ferries — a popular mode of transport. The Cherai beach, a sandy beach bordered by tall coconut trees about 25km from Kochi, is also a must-visit.
Vagamon — Situated about 100km from Kochi, Vagamon is a hill station full of tea gardens and alpine forests. Not commercially exploited yet, its cool weather and scintillating views are a delight, especially in the summer months. Tourists, who are avid offroad bikers or car drivers, will find a lot of interest in Vagamon.
Must gorge: ‘Thattu dosa’ on MG Road in Kochi.
Day 5: Aleppey
The backwaters of Kerala have drawn in much of the state’s tourists, who identify the state quite vividly with the luxury houseboats. Aleppey, just an hour’s drive from Kochi, is filled with backwaters. But one would recommend the much smaller boats, made of wood (called ‘vallam’) that course quite efficiently through small streams and rivulets in the backwaters. If you are there in the month of August, you must NOT miss the snake boat races. If you have time, head out for Mannarassala, the Hindu temple that worships ‘Naga Rajavu’ (Serpent King). The temple’s rituals and offerings are done by a priestess here.
Must gorge: Coffee and cutlets at Indian Coffee House near Aleppey Beach.
Days 6 & 7: Kollam and Trivandrum
We now move towards the southern-most parts of Kerala and the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram (about 3 hours drive from Aleppey).
Thenmala — This is considered to be India’s first planned eco-tourism project and attracts tourists from across the country. It is a hotspot for Malayali film-makers, thanks to its gorgeous views. From riverside treks to living in tree-houses, you get a chance to live quite close to nature.
Kovalam — If you haven’t seen the beaches at Kovalam, you simply haven’t seen anything (well, so said a proud Malayali). Comparisons are often made of the beaches here to the ones in Europe, and credit must go to the tourism department for keeping the place neat and tidy. Bordered by swinging coconut trees, the beach is regularly visited by foreign tourists. Delectable sea food accompaniments and numerous Ayurvedic resorts make this beach town unavoidable. (Distance: 16km from Thiruvananthapuram)
Padmanabhaswamy temple — This imposing Hindu temple has always been an inherent symbol of the city of Thiruvananthapuram (earlier known as Ananthapuri). Home to Lord Vishnu in a reclining position, the temple is an architectural wonder filled with murals, sculptures, inscriptions and carvings. It has been in the news recently for the discovery of a large amount of gold in its cellars, making it the richest temple in the world.
Ponmudi — This hill station, not far from Thiruvananthapuram, is bound to be an absolute joy for trekkers and mountain lovers. It is part of the Western Ghats and is filled with tea gardens and plantations, aided by some pleasant weather round the year. The slopes, covered in green vegetation, give tourists excellent sunrise and sunset views. Agasthyarkoodam, one of the highest peaks of Kerala, is also just a short distance away and is a rare biodiversity retreat.
Must gorge: Fish and prawns at Kovalam beach.