Visit Kochi, a fascinating fusion of cultures and religions
The city of Kochi is a compelling melting pot of cultures, just a short hop from the main Kerala airport, Cochin International Airport. In the 14th century it was a renowned trading port, visited by merchants from around the world. In Kochi you'll find St Francis Church, the oldest in India, as well as its oldest practising synagogue.
Spend the day strolling around the historic Fort Kochi area, where you can see the famous cantilevered fishing nets and watch the fishermen as they dip these hammock-like constructions into the water.
You can also saunter down the sleepy, winding lanes of Mattancherry, a district famed for its intriguing antique shops. It's here you'll find the lavish Mattancherry Palace – its rooms are decorated with colourful murals of the Ramayana, an ancient epic poem.
Experience Kerala’s tranquil backwaters
No holiday to Kerala is complete without a trip to its backwaters, which are coconut-fringed networks of lagoons and waterways that lie parallel to the coast. Alleppey, a town known as 'The Venice for the East,' is one of the most popular areas to begin a backwaters journey.
For a truly unique experience you can rent a luxury houseboat, with a design adapted from the traditional rice barges. Here you'll spend the day being steered down the canal backwaters, passing paddy fields and traditional villages, meaning you can relax into a slower pace of life. You're guaranteed a gorgeous sunset at the backwaters, as the setting sun tints the water and sky orange and pink.
Miles of beautiful beaches
Kerala boasts hundreds of kilometres of pristine coastline, so you're spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a beach spot to relax and unwind. Kovalam Beach, only 16 kilometres from the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, is one of the state's most popular beaches, as its calm waters are perfect for sea bathing.
Varkala is another popular beach destination, a natural beauty spot encircled by red cliffs. It's believed that the waters here are sacred and a dip in the ocean will wash away your sins. Meanwhile, Marari Beach, a long expanse of sand fringed by coconut palms, is one of the quietest and most picturesque spots in South Kerala.
High-altitude relaxation at Kerala’s hill stations
In the months of March and April, the mercury soars above 35°C on the coast. Therefore, savvy tourists travel inland to Kerala's Western Ghats region, which has a cool, refreshing climate. The Western Ghats are one of the eight biodiversity hotspots in the world, making them a perfect place for birdwatching and animal spotting.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, a forested area of the Ghats, is home to elephants, bison, rare lion-tailed macaques, and even the elusive tiger. Go on an early morning safari with a trained naturalist and see how many you can spot.
For more wildlife watching, combined with trekking opportunities and, of course, having an excellent cup of tea, visit Wayanad or Munnar. Wayanad is a plateau in the Western Ghats famed for its misty forests, paddy fields, and aromatic spice crops such as cardamom, pepper and cinnamon. At a far higher elevation, Munnar is characterised by its rolling hills carpeted in tea plants, and the craggy silhouettes of the surrounding mountains.