Slow travel and India, it looks like a challenging combination… How do you slow down in a country like India, a place known for its somewhat organised chaos, for its huge crowds and for its mystical world, undecipherable at first to western eyes? Turns out the southern state of Kerala has all it takes! You see, Kerala is a “different sort of India”, a softer version if you wish and an excellent place for first-time visitors to this immensely intriguing country!
Let me show you the best things to do and best places to visit in Kerala!
1. Cruising the backwaters on a houseboat
Think “Kerala” and automatically the houseboats come to mind. They have become somewhat the emblem of the state. And rightly so!
I am sipping a cold beer on deck, waiting for the cook to prepare tonight’s dinner as I watch the local women do their laundry in the river. Water buffalo’s are being herded to the next ricefield and children run along the canals on their way back home from school. It’s as peaceful as it sounds. Despite the fact that there are more than 1500 traditional kettuvallam (or houseboats) cruising these waters, it never feels crowded on the numerous lakes, lagoons and smaller canals.
And the comfort you ask? No worries, these houseboats are like floating apartments! A dining room, bedroom, small kitchen and the deck as your outside terrace, means you have everything you need to unwind and concentrate on the local village life passing by. We anchor for the night and watch the sun disappearing behind the horizon. Do I really have to leave tomorrow?
Make it happen: Lakes and Lagoons
2. Kayaking in the backwaters
If the houseboat has you hungry for more, you can venture deeper into the backwaters all by yourself! Kayaking is a fantastic way to get even closer to the river banks. You’ll be able to overhear the locals’ conversations and even exchange a few words with the teenagers, curious about your name and your general state of well-being (What’s your name? How are you?, ..)
The lack of currents makes the kayaking feel like a doddle, but you might have to paddle pretty hard to get through the water lillies though…
Make it happen: Kalypso Adventures
3. Hiking and camping in the Kerala hills
What a better way to take in everything slowly than by using your feet, right? Well, there’s no lack of hiking possibilities in the hill stations of Kerala!
I hiked in the area around Munnar, where the sheer mountain peaks are only interrupted by endless tea plantations. The “Butterfly Forest Track” leading up to “Phantom’s Head” is a moderate hike of 9 km but the heat can make the uphill part pretty challenging. Don’t let it stop you though, you’ll get rewarded for your effort reaching the top!
And how about spending a night in the hills after that?
4. Unwinding in a luxury resort
Enough of the outdoors? No worries, Kerala’s got you covered! If you’re after some pampering, then staying in one of the many luxury resorts is the perfect way to recharge your batteries! Whether it’s the hills (Windflower), the beach (Leela Kovalam) or the backwaters (Kumarakom Lake Resort) you are after, make sure to spend a few days unwinding, chilling by the pool, and enjoying a well-deserved Ayurveda massage!
5. Hanging out with the fishermen in Cochin
Cochin, also known as Kochi, is the main port city of Kerala, known for its cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that have been in use for centuries. It’s a great pastime walking around the shore, seeing the fishermen cast their majestic nets and pull them back in!
Have you been to “God’s own country”? What are, according to you, the best places to visit in Kerala?