Things to do in Kerala

Kerala by kayak

With more and more houseboats taking over the backwaters of Kerala, you can delve deeper into the narrow canals, waterways, rivers and lakes by kayak. Stopping for traditional Kerala lunch in villages, such as Kuttanad, along the way, this is a delightful way to combine slow travel and slow food. These trips take you into the heart of rural Kerala, where duck rearers, toddy tappers and fishermen welcome peaceful paddlers, but also share their harvests with you at riverside bars, stalls and cafes along the way. Kayaking tours are led by local well trained guides who know these waters like no other, and who are tapping into tourists’ desire to discover Kerala’s biodiverse beauty through experiential travel. Combine this with a homestay in Alleppey and you have the perfect package of true community tourism.
I find great pleasure in interacting with tourists and love spending time with them and helping them explore the amazing hill stations
– Zac Koshy, our supplier, Koshys Homestay
It’s stepping out of a comfort zone for some tourists but, for others it is stepping into a truly wonderful cultural one. Keralites are very welcoming and by spending some of your vacation in a homestay most of which are on small farms, you will not only meet some fab people, but eat some of the finest food on your travels. Folk music is part of Keralite tradition, so by bringing a song, recorder or harmonica on your travels, you’ll allow cultures to merge through music.

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Go get the Ghats

Few people associate Kerala with mountains, the Himalayas monopolising the western desire for elevated landscapes. Although they may not appeal to the serious explorers out there, the Western Ghats range is rapturous for most ramblers. And mountain bike riders. All in all, The Ghats are one of the best things to do in Kerala. Named as one of the world’s Biodiversity Hotspots, it’s a daily festival of flora and fauna here. And no snow either in winter. A good starting point is the town of Munnar, with the backdrop of Anamudi, Kerala's highest peak at 2,695m. Hike or bike through tea and coffee plantations, such as the world’s highest tea estate at Kolukumalai as well as to hillstations, which were built as summer retreats by the British colonial powers to cool down from the summer heat. Escape to tourist free hideaways on trails through high altitude grasslands and, in delightful contrast, montaine rainforest (known as sholas), such as the Silent Valley National Park with its ascent up to Meesapulimala peak. The other advantage of enjoying the elevated landscapes of Kerala is that the lowlands, with their cooling backwaters and then coastal treats, are all downhill and never too far away.  

Be transported by Theyyam

The ritual of Theyyam, as an outsider, is not only an honour but also humbling to witness
A ritual form of worship undertaken by men in northern Kerala. Unlike the more well-known dance, Kathakali, this is not a performance, but a truly spiritual experience. A colourful ritual, with men besporting costume and makeup, it focuses on the worship of heroes and ancestral spirits. Although it was performed by men of the lower caste, this trance like ritual equalized everyone. It happens in festivals, or at more intimate local shrines. Best go with your tour operator in a small group.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Scorpp] [Kayaking: Kalypso Adventure] [Homestay: lensmatter] [Western Ghats: Phillippe Verheyden] [Theyyam: Dhruvaraj S]