There are dime a dozen Kerala tour packages, but to pick the one that truly suits your interest whether it is nature, history, art, culture, cuisine or leisure, requires discretion. We help you shortlist Kerala holiday packages that are a bang for your bucks.
There is no exaggeration in Kerala’s status as ‘God’s own country’, for how else does one explain its gorgeous 600-kilometre stretch of undisturbed coastline skirting the Arabian Sea, the palm-fringed beaches, a network of languid backwaters home to a vibrant rural life, the misty tea-covered Western Ghats, wildlife reserves teeming with endemic flora and fauna and spice plantations running rampant on its valleys and hill slopes.
One of the country’s cleanest states, and perhaps the friendliest too, it is an absolute delight travelling around, visiting the historical temples and museums in Trivandrum, getting a slice of the maritime history in Cochin (Kochi) or taking a boat ride to islands like Mattancherry to trace its Jewish roots.
Add to it a culture that is defined by colourful folk art and dance forms, a cuisine that is subtle yet generous in its use of spices, and a passion for Ayurveda that promises to soothe frazzled nerves. Simply slacken your stride and let all its sights and smell envelop you.
In your quest for Kerala packages, make sure your itinerary incorporates these places.
Alleppey : Kerala’s getaway into the backwaters, Alleppey or Alappuzha is an intricate network of waterways that is choc-a-block with a thousand houseboats either anchored or motoring down a mesh of canals. A major hub for the state’s coir industry, the Alleppey backwaters stretch to its south, north and east and bring you face to face with some glorious rural scenery that you’re going to remember for time to come.
You could opt for the heavy rice barges or the houseboat and let it take you down the Kollam route in its languid pace. The green waterways with a heavy fringe of coconut trees shelter a backwater life that is at once picturesque and heart-rending. Stand on your deck and watch little kids leave for their school in punted canoes or wooden boats, toddy shops busying up for the day, village women stooping over their paddy crop, the elderly folk sitting in a huddle and reminiscing, until a flock of thousand ducks decides to cut across and bring everything to a grinding halt.
It is only when the villages taper off revealing a great blue sea burbling in the distance with the Chinese fishing nets forming the only tangible barrier between you, the fragility of life in the backwaters dawns upon you. Book your Alleppey tour package at best price with Yatra.com.
Wayanad : A Kerala trip mandates a visit to Wayanad, its wild northern region that shares borders with Karnakata and Tamil Nadu. An important elephant corridor, Wayanad surrounded by the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve which is a part of the Western Ghats creates a breathtaking mountain scenery.
As you explore further, a canvas opens up before you of blazing green paddy fields, betel nut groves, bamboo jungles, fields of ginger shrubs, and plantations of coffee, cardamom, rubber and eucalyptus. Wayanad’s seclusion compared to the rest of Kerala, the presence of some quaint coffee and spice plantation stays, and the British-made serpentine highways that wind up its hillside, make it a perfect retreat and a refreshing break from the tourist-heavy backwaters and the beaches.
Dissected by the Kabini River and home to one of the country’s largest dams, the Banasura Sagar Dam, Wayanad’s fecund land has been a proven goldmine for a variety of cash crops since the colonial era.
Fort Kochi : Among places to visit in Kerala, you must head out to Fort Kochi. For more than 600 years, travellers, traders and explorers have found their way to this port city, a glittering gem of South India. This has led to an intermixing of cultures manifest in its Chinese fishing nets, antique mosques, a 450-year-old Jewish synagogue, traditional homes from the Portuguese and Dutch era, as well as the fast-fading relics from the British rule.
A browse around this multi-cultural city on the Malabar coast punctuated by a unique blend of medieval Holland, Portugal and English villages, will open you up to some quaint and arty boutiques, curio shops, cafes, and a bevy of atmospheric heritage hotels and homestays. This city still practices its age-old art forms and remains the best place in whole of Kerala to witness a Kathakali or Kalaripayattu performance.
There are several things to do in Kerala, and unmissable among them are a trip to the historical sites like the Mattancherry island, Fort Kochi that bring out the city’s colourful colonial past.
Varkala : Varkala has off late gained immense popularity with Russian tourists who stay at a bed and breakfast or one of the Ayurvedic resorts on its 15-metre-high laterite cliffs heavy with coconut groves skirting a choppy Arabian Sea. This unique setting of Varkala, about 50 kilometre northwest of Trivandrum, makes it a haven for backpackers and seekers of a quiet retreat.
Around this region, regular yoga classes, extensive Ayurvedic therapies, a nutritious diet incorporation the Sattvik elements, are a norm. Varakala’s seaside charm is unlike any other you will experience in Kerala, and comparable only to the likes of the extreme northern or southern beaches of Goa.
Choose to stay somewhere on the North Cliff and experience the drama of a raging sea ebbing and flowing down below. As you thread your way through its winding muddy trail you will cross pretty curio shops selling silver jewellery, trendy beach and casual wear and a whole wealth of cafes and seafood bistros.
Don’t be surprised to find cafes stacking books in Russian. A typical day in Varkala can be about lazing around in your hotel and hearing the sea from your window, attending a yoga class, reading up at a library, taking a walk, stopping by at a cafe in the evening to reserve your fresh seafood catch and turning up later to see it turned into a gorgeous grilled fish main course, waiting to be tucked in.
A typical wooden alfresco setup ensures you are at eye level with a breathtaking sunset. The local tailors at this little seaside resort are extremely prompt and adept; they can turn a piece of fabric of your choosing into a trouser, skirt or dress in a matter of few hours. Don’t leave without experiencing a traditional Shirodhara therapy at an Ayurveda clinic that dots the place.
Just a couple of days here and you will begin to see familiar faces in the cafe and even the shopkeepers will begin to know you by your name.
Munnar : At Munnar experience the feeling of being above the clouds looking at the panorama of a misty valley carpeted by perfectly manicured tea gardens rising and falling into the distance.
The chiseled contours of the rolling, emerald-green tea estates define the lower Western Ghats scenery. As you drive around Munnar, you will realise that the setting is not just astounding, it can be quite disconcerting too. A tea garden flashing a vibrant green only a moment ago can disappear under a veil of clouds at the blink of an eye.
Despite its share of traffic snarls, it is rather easy to escape off the road and embrace a sea of green, and of course peace and quiet. From watching the tea plantation workers go about their day, rounding up the waterfalls, the echo point, to stopping by at a roadside tea stall to enjoy a hot cuppa to go with a crispy fritter and chatting up the locals, Munnar offers you the best of atmospherics and hospitality.
To get a sense of the local culture and to chance upon undiscovered acres of greens, set out on foot. But before leaving Munnar make sure you get a sighting of the endemic Nilgiri Tahr, the mountain goat, at the Rajmala Wildlife Sanctuary, about 15 kilometre from the town’s main administrative hub. With wisps of cloud floating around you, this will be your starting point into the Nilgiri wilderness that is abound with tigers, elephants, deer and panther.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary : Among South India’s premiere wildlife reserves, the Periyar Tiger Reserve spread out over 777-square-kiilometre comprising a 26-square-kilometre man-made lake, made by the British, is a top draw for both domestic and international travellers. Home to about 2000-odd elephants, aside from bison, sambars, langurs, the elusive tiger and a wealth of bird life from cormorants, hornbills, the Nilgiri wood pigeon, darters to laughing thrushes, you can explore the depths of the Periyar jungle either through a trek along its hillside or a scenic boat cruise.
While the latter is a great way to take in the landscape and its lush expanse, it is only when you take off into the wilderness on foot with a local villager as your guide can you get a closer look at its flora and fauna. Post your jungle jaunt, head into the nearby town of Kumily, about 4 kilometre south of Thekkady, for a hearty Kerala-style thali for lunch.
You can cap it off by shopping at the local market for authentic spices like cardamon, saffron, cinnamon, star anise, clove, black pepper aside from an assortment of tea. Kumily has a boat jetty, KTDC hotels and a bunch of other hotels and restaurants.
For a more rewarding wildlife experience, the months between December and April are ideal.
Best time to visit Kerala
While Kerala has three distinct seasons, summer, monsoon and winter, tourists flock to Kerala round the year.
High season : Peak season in Kerala is between September and March post monsoon when the humidity and the heat make way for a more pleasant weather with temperature hovering between 23 and 32 degree Celsius. The period between November and January is the winter season when the skies are clear, the sunshine is clear and bright and there is a gentle nip in the air around sunset.
This is the best time to travel in a houseboat or go to backwater destinations like Alleppey and Kumarakom. Also, a time when you must explore the misty tea estates of Munnar or take a jetty ride to the Mattancherry Palace in Cochin.
Off season : Any time between April and May is the low season in Kerala. The heat and humidity are very high in these prominent summer months and you will see fewer crowds wherever you go. The beaches are desolate, the monuments are empty, the shacks have winded up and the hotels are running empty.
The hilly areas of Wayanad and Munnar are popular choices in this season for their cooler climate and invigorating mountain breeze. In the plains, this is a good time to get hotel discounts.
Ayurveda season : The monsoon months of June, July and August when it pours in Kerala and the seas turn tumultuous, are the best to pamper yourself with a rejuvenating Ayurvedic therapy at one of Kerala’s Ayurveda resorts or clinics. The end of the dry spell, the boisterous winds and the subsequent lowering of temperatures make it favourable to experience an intense Ayurvedic massage and follow the prescribed diet chart.
How to reach Kerala
By air : Kerala is well-connected with the rest of the country by air. Kerala has two international airports in Cochin and Trivandrum. There are flights operated by prominent international and national airlines with flights to either of the cities. Etihad, Emirates Airlines, SriLankan, Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines aside from Air India, AirAsia, GoAir and Vistara each have flights from Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait to Kerala.
By rail : Some significant railway stations in Kerala include Shoranur Junction Railway Station, Kollam Junction Railway Station, Kannur Railway Station, Ernakulam Junction Railway Station and Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station.
By road : From the neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, there are many state-run buses made up of a fleet of Volvo AC seater, sleeper and multi-axle buses to Kerala.