Yoga has taken the world by storm. While it was always a popular modality in the East, it has become even more popular in the West, than ever before. In the United States, Americans spend over $2.5 billion on Yoga instruction annually, outside of Yoga equipment. Increasing numbers are looking to the science of Yoga to solve various arising as a result of an overly materialistic lifestyle.
Additionally, more and more and more people are coming to the East in order to learn Yoga from its birthplace. Kerala is one of the most popular destinations for those seeking to further their studies in Yoga as well as for general tourism. Kerala is one of the most popular destinations in India for Western tourists for a variety of reasons.
If this is your goal it is probably best to stick to party areas, which Kerala is actually quite popular for, once it is done in some moderation. And if you come to the region as a spiritual seeker, then India is for you. Even within India Kerala is renowned for its Yoga practices, a place where many seekers and aspirants, as well as Masters and Sages, came to learn and teach. For the ultimate experience, you can even try to do Yoga on the beach, getting the benefit of the sun, the sand, and the water, a supreme three in one.
Kerala is a state located in Southern India on the Malabar coast. It is the 13th largest Indian state by population and the most widely spoken language is Malayalam, the official language of Kerala. It has a humid equatorial climate and almost 600 kilometers of coastline. The Eastern region of Kerala contains mountainous terrain with multiple valleys and gorges. Its Western belt is comparatively flat compared to the Eastern mountains. Kerala is one of the top spots for international travelers to India, due to how modern it is as well as its progressivism and cleanliness.
Ultimately, if you are seeking to deepen your yogic or spiritual practice, Kerala is the place to be. It can be defined as a tropical paradise with pristine ocean waters, sandy beaches, a lovely mix of East and West, amazing retreats and Yoga courses, great food, lovely people and cheap prices. It ticks all the boxes.There is no need to make a divide between a spiritual quest and a holiday. Kerala can give you both, as you avail of the best courses and retreats while at the same time simply relaxing on the beach and enjoying the sun on your face.
There are a multitude of reasons to visit Kerala. It is known as “Gods own country” for good reason. First off is probably the beaches, among the best in the world with beautiful harbours, fine weather and coconut trees. It is the ideal spot for a pleasant vacation. It is also renowned for its culture and heritage. Music and dance play a central role in Kerala, and there are many museums and art galleries which can be explored in the region. Another reason to go to Kerala is for its Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is an Eastern alternative to medical issues that are not being solved by Western science, and Kerala is one of the key locations for Ayurvedic medicine if you happen to be suffering from any ailments. Along with Ayurveda, Kerala is a prime location to complete Yoga asanas and is well known for its variety of ashrams and yoga schools. If you love Yoga and beaches, Kerala is the place to be.What we love
Kerala has actually been listed as one of thirteen paradises on earth as per the National Geographic Traveler. The main reason to go to Kerala is that’s it’s beautiful, a tropical paradise. This is the reason that it is India’s number one tourist destination. It features many rolling hills, waterfalls, forests, botanical gardens, ancient heritage sites and serene backwaters. It also has a large coastline, a hot climate and wonderful mountains. The scenery is what we love most about Kerala.
Before outlining where to eat in Kerala, it is good to know what to eat in Kerala. Kerala, unlike many of its neighbours, takes pride in its non-vegetarian food. Mutton, beef, seafood and pork are to be found in abundance in Kerala dishes. Like most food dishes in India, coconut oil, chillies, curry leaves and mustard seeds are often found. You can pay less than 100 rupees for many dishes in Kerala, the equivalent of $1.50 at the time of this writing. And Indian food is delicious. One well-recognized dish in Kerala is the Puttu and Kandala curry. This is an extremely popular breakfast dish consisting of steamed rice and coconut shavings. As the name suggests it is served with Kandala curry and sometimes ripe bananas. Another popular dish which can be found in the region is Appam with stew. It is basically a rice pancake which can be paired with almost anything. It comes with coconut gravy and mutton or beef. Other popular dishes include Dosa Ghee Roast with Kerala Style Sambar, Idiyappam with Egg Curry and Kerala Prawn Curry. Most of the best restaurants in Kerala will serve a variety of these dishes. Below are three of the most highly recommended restaurants on TripAdvisor all with certificates of excellence.
•Villa Maya serves a mix of Italian, Indian and Asian cuisine and is located in Trivandrum, Kerala. It is ranked #1 in the region and for good reason. It also serves a variety of vegan and vegetarian options. (Phone: +91 471 257 8901 Address: Airport Road, Trivandrum, Vallakadavu, Trivandrum 695008, Kerala, India)
•Trilogi can be found in Kochi and is a prime fine dining location. Out of 250 TripAdvisor Reviews, it has generated 5-star feedback, an outstanding score which few restaurants can match. Prices are a little higher than other locations, but you get what you pay for, and it is still very cheap as compared to typical Western prices. (Phone: +91 484 286 5000 Address: Nh - 47 National Highway 47 Bypass Road, Crowne Plaza Kochi, Maradu, Kochi, Kerala)
•Clafouti is a well-known restaurant located in the coastal town of Varkala. What makes this particular restaurant stand out is a combination of a gorgeous deck overlooking the sea, as well as excellent food and fantastic service. A wonderful restaurant in Kerala. (Phone: +91 470 260 1414 Address: North Cliff, Clafouti Beach Resort, Varkala, Varkala 695141, India)
•Bamboo Café is a budget friendly café that also serves vegetarian options. Staff are reported to be quite friendly as an added bonus. (Phone: +91 94474 31950 Address: Lake Road, opposite Thekkady homestay and Aramam massage centre, Kerala).
•Our Place is another Thekkady entry on the list, our place is a café with an extremely relaxing vibe and a wide range of food. This is an excellent place to find Western food and does not serve traditional Indian food as would be expected. It serves mainly European food with an emphasis on British cuisine. (Phone: +91 70343 77684 Address: Kumily Thekkady Rd, Thekkady, Kerala 685509)
•Bar-B-Que is a venue that offers genuine Indian cooking lessons and a fabulous selection of original Indian food. The host and family are a delight to interact with making this an excellent place to dine out. (Phone: +91 9895613036 Address - K.K.Road, Kollampattada, Near Periyar Hospital, Kumily, Thekkady Kerala, India).
•Viceroy Restaurant is the most popular restaurant in Kasaragod. It is renowned for its spectacular variety of inventive vegetarian dishes. It is also one of the oldest restaurants in Kasaragod. (Phone: +91 4994 222 464 Address: M.G. Road, City Tower Hotel, Kasaragod 671121, Kerala, India)
•Green Gates Restaurant is so called for the amount of greenery surrounding the beautiful restaurant. The service is quick and the food delicious, providing excellent value for money. It is part of a hotel but welcomes all guests. (Phone: +91 4994 222 464 Address: T.B. Road, Kalpetta 673122, Kerala, India).
•The Royal Hotpan has a nice vibe and modern ambience. It is also quiet and comes with quick service. The food is exceptional and it is located conveniently off a bypass (Phone: + 91496208182 Address: Nh Bypass Opposite MCF Public School, Kalpetta 673121, Kerala, India)
•1980’s A Nostalgic Restaurant is a 19080’s themed restaurant that is not to be missed. Not only does it have an excellent theme and great atmosphere but the authentic India food is excellent. (Phone: +91 95626 61662 Address: After Kalpatta Kozhikkodu Mysore Highway, Kalpetta Wayanad Kerala, Kalpetta 673121, India)
Kerala is arguably the best, most progressive and cleanest state in India. It is cheap, with a fine culture and beautiful views. However, if you do find that you are tired of the state and want to venture further afield, it is bordered by two states with different environments.
To the North and North East lies the state of Karnataka. Here you can visit the Chennakesava Temple, a historic ruin in Belur. The temple was built in dedication to Lord Vishnu and is a cultural heritage site. This site is not only of religious interest but contains many architectural and historic points of interest. It has a unique design and intricate sculptures on the walls of the temple. Built in the 11th Century the temple still, stands tall. The temple is complex, almost like a labyrinth, so it is a good idea to get a good tour guide to show you around this attraction. Another popular attraction located in Karnataka is the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens if you happen to be looking for something more outdoors. The gardens contain a wide variety of exotic animals and the zoo itself is in pristine condition with amazing facilities. A wonderful way to enjoy the day with friends or family in Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens, Mysore. The giraffes are probably the main attraction, but there is a diverse array of birds to be found here also. Another key location to visit in the state is Mysore Maharajah's Palace, the most famous place to visit in Mysore. On a Sunday evening, the place can be viewed shining with the light of 90,000 bulbs.
To the East and to the South of Kerala lies the state of Tamil Nadu. Located in Remeswaran, Ramanathaswamy Temple is a key attraction in the region. It has been described as one of the most beautiful temples in Tamil Nadu and also comes with quite a history. The visitor enters the temple from the sea and passes through 21 wells where he or she takes a shower at each well. A serene experience for those intending to visit the temple, the only piece of advice that can be given is to visit it in the morning, as it can get moderately crowded at peak times. Other places of interest in Tamil Nadu include Pancha Rathas, a site to visit for those interested in architecture. The entire monument was built on a single boulder, and it is an architectural marvel. The site is also clean and well maintained. The sculptures are nearly 1000 years old and are still standing. Another place to visit in Tamil Nadu is Dhanushkodi Beach, which is not just another beach. Located at the tip of the island it contains pure sand and a rich history.
Arriving by air
Kerala has three main airports, Cochin International Airport, Calicut International Airport and Trivandrum International Airport. Trivandrum International Airport is one of the oldest operating airports in India. The three airports of Kerala are among the busiest in India.
Arriving by bus
Kerala has more roads than any Indian region, with nearly 150,000 kilometres of roads. It has nearly double the national average of kilometres of road per thousand of the population. In the West, two national highways facilitate transport, the NH 47 and the NH 17. NH 17 connects Kochi to Mumbai. It should be noted that national highways in Kerala are among the narrowest in India so drive carefully if you are hiring a car. This is because Kerala has an exemption on the width of its highways. In Kerala, highways are 148 feet wide, compared to the national minimum of 200 feet. As of 2015, the state had the highest number of road related fatalities, with most fatal accidents occurring along the national highways. The political establishment of Kerala do not seem to be motivated to addressing the problem and as a result, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is giving preferential treatment to other states in terms of grants for highways and road construction.
Arriving by train
The Indian Railways Southern Railway runs through the state of Kerala. Rail transport can be an amazing way to travel around India. Rail travel is a fraction of the cost of travelling by rail in Western countries. Most of the major towns and cities are connected by rail.
Another popular mode of transport in Kerala is the rickshaws, which look like tiny 3 wheel cars. They are very cheap to get around in. These are to be found in many Eastern countries and are called tuk-tuks in Thailand, Bemos in Bali and tricycles in the Philippines. Most of them have three wheels and do not tilt. Another popular mode of transport in Kerala is the motorcycle taxi. These are motorbikes with drivers where you sit on the back and ask the driver (or the “pilot”) to take you to your destination. While these are quite useful, quick and cheap it is very important to know exactly where you are going and to get a quote before you take a motorcycle taxi. There is more risk when getting a motorcycle taxi compared to a rickshaw, which usually carries more than one person to different urban destinations.
Kerala also has one major as well as 17 minor ports. It is also home to numerous backwaters which are used for inland navigation. There are 67 rivers fit for travel in Kerala, however, the water transports system is not fully developed at the present time.
If you are thinking about visiting Kerala, then there are a few things you may wish to acquaint yourself with about the region. First, it gets up to 140 rainy days per year, with a wet tropical climate. The majority of the rainfall occurs from June to August and most of the rest from September to December. These two periods are known as the rainy monsoon months in Kerala, where most of the precipitation occurs. January, February, March and December are the driest months and this may be the best time to visit the region.
The population density of Kerala is almost 900 people per square kilometre, nearly three times the national average. So, if travelling to Kerala you may not have as much space as you are used to. Thiruvananthapuram is the capital city of Kerala, with the most inhabitants. Other large cities that can be found in Kerala are Kochi, Kollam, Thrissur, Kannur and Kannur. Between 1951 and 1991 the population of Kerala doubled. The population of Kerala now stands at nearly 35 million people. Unfortunately, the coastal regions of Kerala are the most densely populated, at over 2000 people per square kilometre. The sparse, mountainous regions of the East have a much lower population density.
In contrast with other parts of India (and the world in general), the mother is the head of the household in Kerala society. Women occupy a much higher societal standing in Kerala than in most other parts of the world. This is an interesting culture shock to adjust to for many foreign inhabitants. This was influenced by the dominance of certain castes as well as Christian missionaries who started schools for girls from poor families. Kerala is the only state where women outnumber men. However, gender still influences social mobility, meaning that there are still some restrictions and there is still a gender bias towards men in the society. Despite many advantages, the women of Kerala still do not have equal rights to men, though they are allowed to participate in politics and read religious texts.
Kerala is actually one of the more progressive and well-developed states in India. It has an exceptionally high human development index, better than in many developed countries. It spends high amounts of money on the elimination of poverty, health care and education, which is what contributes mainly to its high human development index score. Kerala is largely regarded as the healthiest and cleanest state in India. Kerala has the highest literacy rate in among Indian states and the life expectancy is 74 years, among the highest in India. It has a low birthrate of 18 people per thousand and over 10% of its citizens are above the age of 60, a sign of a developed region. It is also generally regarded as the least corrupt state in India.
If you get tired of doing Yoga for 8 hours a day, Kerala has much more to offer. We have to be as selective as possible given there are so many places to go and experiences to have in Kerala. Below is a list of Three of the best places to see in Kerala.
•Kerala Folklore Museum – Located in Kochi, the Kerala Folklore Museum is a definite must-see in Kerala. While it may be a little off the beaten track, it is worth the time. It contains a fantastic collection of ancient Indian heritage. While there are many museums in India, this is one of the authentic and pure folklore museums that is worth going a visit. The only issue, as with many Indian attractions, is that it is sometimes overcrowded and has limited space. Even for people who are not typical museum fans, this is an entertaining and interesting attraction.
•Guruvayur Temple – A temple devoted to Lord Krishna. There is something special about this temple, as attested by the many visitors. Even spiritual aspirants who visit many different temples say that this temple has a special presence to it. The temple contains ancient carvings of Lord Krishna. If you are thinking of going to Guruvayur, this temple is definitely worth a visit. The temple can give you peace of mind if you feel stressed.
•Munnar Tea Gardens – If you happen to be travelling from the West, it is advisable to visit some form of the tea garden. It will put in contrast the type of tea we have in the West as compared to the tea in the East, which is far better. And Munnar tea gardens are among the best in Kerala. It is an incredibly green area with Manicured vistas and panoramas. The air is clear and cool and the landscape consists of beautiful sloping terrain.
•St Andrew’s Basilica Arthunkal – This is a highly popular seventh-century church located in a peaceful environment in Alappuzha. It has a large and imposing architecture but is a serene setting great for family and friends. One of the main reasons for giving this locale a visit is the impressive architecture which will impress those who find this type of thing interesting. The statues, the wood carvings, paintings and floorings are spectacular.
•Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary - This is one of the more popular locations in Thattekad with a wide variety of animals aside from just birds. The region that the sanctuary is located in (the Western Ghats) is one of the richest habitats for a large selection of birds. It is a highly organic and natural sanctuary and a must visit for all bird and nature lovers. Racket-tailed Drongos everywhere, and plenty of unusual birds around if your luck is in. The trails can be done without a guide.
•Sivagiri is an excellent place to visit in Varkala and has even received the prestigious certificate of excellence from Tripadvisor. The theme of this location is peace and tranquillity. This is a wonderful Shrine to the enlightened social reformer Sree Narayana Guru. He worked to break down the caste system and founded schools for the poor. The energy, peace and tranquillity are palpable in the temple and the tomb. The grounds are beautiful with the stunning snake tree - with its amazing blossoms - snaking round the trunk.
Other noteworthy places to visit in Kerala include the Kerala backwaters, the Kashi art gallery, Kappil lake and Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary.
Like most things in India, accommodation in Kerala is quite cheap. However, as usual, it helps to know the area to find the cheapest accommodation. Due to the recent influx of tourists, there has been a recent rise in the prices of accommodation in the region. But even considering this factor accommodation is still incredibly cheap when compared to standard Western prices. According to Numbeo, the online price site for various locations across the globe, the prices for a one bedroom apartment in the city center in Kerala is about 11,000 rupees. This is incredibly cheap compared to prices found in New York or other Western areas.
A good way to find good accommodation in Kerala is to use Airbnb and TripAdvisor. This way you can get exactly what you want at the best price while seeing user reviews. It is also a good way to find safe accommodation. It does depend to an extent on what you are looking for. You can pay high prices for luxury villas overlooking a pristine beach. Or you can go backpacking and get more than adequate accommodation for less than $10 a night.
Whatever you happen to be looking for there is accommodation in Kerala to suit all needs and preferences. It could be a good idea to stay in a hotel for the first week while you find a suitable place to stay. There are more than enough budget friendly locations and these are best found when you are in the region, as opposed to booking the more expensive rooms available online. There are numerous deals available for those wishing to avail an all in one package, for example, food, accommodation, and Yoga classes. Or you could stay for $5 a night with an ashram with the monks. Your options in Kerala are certainly not limited.
There are many resources you can utilise in order to find out more about Kerala. As always, TripAdvisor is one of the best ways to find out information about restaurants, attractions and accommodation. For a more official source of information, you can try the Kerala tourism office. There are many tourist offices in Kerala, located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kasaragod, Pathanamthitta and practically all large towns and cities. There is also a Kerala tourist Facebook page. This is a much easier way to find out deals and packages than physically trying to find a physical tourism office in a large city.
There are many books available for more information about where to go in Kerala as gather information about the history and culture of the region. The Kerala book center in Kochi is a goldmine of information for all things Kerala. It is also worth visiting the Kerala books and publications society.
•Kerala - This Kerala travel guide was written in 2013 by Supriya Sehgal. It contains must see information about the sights and experiences, how to plan your trip, reviews of accommodation, dining and shopping venues and comes with full-color maps.
•Kerala: The Divine Destination – This book focuses more on the spiritual side of Kerala and reveals how important spirituality is to the Indian culture. It focuses on the history of India with its temples and ashrams and how central the ideas of peace, spirituality and karma are to the Indian people. This affects their mindset greatly and shows a Western audience how the Indian people view the world. It was written in 2001 by Lalitha Balasubramania.
•Lonely Planet India: Kerala - This is another travel guide which outlines what to do and what not to do in Kerala. It is over 600 pages long and is full of information about the region. It was published in 2009 by Lonely Planet.
There are a wide variety of publications to avail of when visiting Kerala. Below is a list of some of the more popular publications.
•Deshabhimani Daily – This is one of the most popular publications in Kerala. It is published in 6 different editions in the regions of Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam, Trichur, Kannur and Kozikhode. One of the oldest running newspapers in Kerala.
•Chintha Weekly – This is more of a political newspaper with left-leaning tendencies. It is good to an idea of the flavour of the political underpinnings when visiting any region. This publication has been around since the 1960’s.
•The Government of Kerala - The government of Kerala frequently creates publications which are deemed to be of benefit to the state of Kerala. Some of the more popular and recent publications include Kerala Calling and Samakalika Janapatham
Today, websites are the most efficient way to get good information as quickly as possible, and some of the most reliable and up to date data can be obtained in this way without having to go to the effort of traveling a long distance.
• Keralatourism.org - The official page of the Kerala tourism service. All your Kerala queries can be answered here.
• Kerala tour packages - This is an inbound tour operator offering a variety of holiday packages for guests.
• Makemytrip - Offers package deals and other pieces of information that make a stay in Kerala affordable and enjoyable.
• TripAdvisor - Always one of the best places to go for live reviews of practically everything. Because it is a free marketplace of ideas where anyone can review, it is the best place to get an accurate representation of how good or bad a place is.
Compared to other Indian states Kerala is closer to the equator and as such gets more temperature weather conditions year-round. Winter in Kerala is from November to February, but in any case, the temperature does not vary that much. Towards the end of February is probably the ideal time when most tourists start to come to Kerala for Yoga practice if you are looking to connect with like-minded individuals.
There is always Yoga in Kerala and it may be something of a tradeoff. You can go in when the weather is good and meet with lots of Western tourists. Or you can choose quieter times and avail of cheaper prices with more room. Yoga is an all year activity in Kerala as it is a way of life. In this sense, there is no real “best” time. The best time is as soon as possible so you can deepen your practice and develop as a person. There are so many different yoga schools in Kerala that any time is the right time. There is always food, friendliness, and Yoga available to travellers from all over the world.