Travelogue: Kerala

Posted by Nicola Withington Travel
24 5 2016

A seven day tour of India's spectacular southern state, Kerala, as experienced by Active UK's resident world wanderer.

Active’s Head of Travel & Events Nicola Withington takes us on a seven day tour of Kerala, South India’s stunning tropical state. With its picturesque natural landscapes, rich culture and lush accommodations at CGH Earth properties, Nicola’s travelogue inspires pure wanderlust.

Day 01: Cochin

Arriving at Cochin Airport was so exciting, knowing I was about to embark on an experience of a lifetime. I stayed at the lovely Eighth Bastion Hotel for the first night. Had an amazing Kerala curry for dinner and slept like a baby.

Day 02: Cochin / Periyar

After breakfast, our lovely driver picked us up and we were off to Periyar, 163km away. The four hour drive was, admittedly, a bit scary but fortunately, we had beautiful scenery to distract us.

Checked in to the gorgeous Spice Village Hotel.

We spent the afternoon on the Spice Plantation Tour. The spice plantations of Kerala are fascinating farms to wander around. Each plantation has specific sections dedicated to each spice. Apart from spices traditionally grown in India, such as pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom, farmers in Kerala have taken to growing spices that are used worldwide, like vanilla, oregano, thyme, basil, mint, bay leaf and sage.

A must for anyone who cares about taste and flavours, the spice plantation visit provides a deeper understanding of how spice is used in everyday cooking throughout the world as well as how spices are grown, harvested and processed before they find their way to your local supermarket. The visit also gives a first-hand look at the wonderful world of spices, their history, cultivation, medicinal values and economics. A walk through the aromatic spice gardens, where the air is laden with the fragrance of nature's bounty, transports you into a green paradise.

 Day 03: Periyar / Kumarakom

Went for an early morning boat cruise on Lake Periyar.

After a three hour, 127km afternoon drive to Kumarakom, we arrive at the Coconut Lagoon. Stunning!

Day 04: Kumarakom / Alleppey 

We boarded our very own staffed house boat, which is known as a Kettuvallum, and sailed through the backwaters.

The Kettuvallam or ‘old boat with knots’  features a roof constructed of woven coconut leaves, two to three rooms with a double bed, shower room with toilet, washbasin and shower, living room with rattan furniture and a sundeck at the front of the boat.

We cruised in the scenic backwaters and found artisans carrying boat coir and cashew nuts in route to the port. The canals are beautiful and picturesque, surrounded by green vegetation, large rice paddies and farms.

We made a stop to cut banana leaves from the trees to use as plates and made a meal of some HUGE prawns from the locals…delicious.

We spent the night on the boat and the whole experience was just amazing.

Day 05-06: Alleppey / Mararikulam  

After breakfast on board at the house boat, we continued to cruise through the narrow canals and landed at Alleppey, a city known for its snake boat races, marine products and coconut production farm.

From here, we drove to Mararikulam, a seemingly quick drive compared to the previous ones! We land at the Marari Beach Resort.

Day 07: Mararikulam / Cochin  

Driving back to Cochin, we found ourselves back where we started – the Eight Bastion Hotel. We spent the afternoon on a sightseeing tour of Cochin with an English speaking local guide. Here are a few of our favourite spots around the city:

St. Francis Church, considered to be India’s oldest European-built church, was constructed in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars who accompanied the expedition led by Pedro Alvarez Cabral. Vasco de Gama was buried in this church before his remains were taken back to Portugal when the Portuguese left India.

Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace, was built by the Portuguese and presented to the Raja of Kochi in 1555 AD. It acquired the present name after 1663 when the Dutch carried out extensions and repairs in the palace. At no time did the Portuguese or Dutch stay here. Its interiors are decorated with murals from the Ramayana and there are some likely displays of royal costumers and palanquins.

The Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry was built in 1568 AD. The site contains the Scrolls of the Law, copper plates on which the grants of privilege made by the Cochin rulers were recorded. The Synagogue floor features exquisite Chinese hand-painted tiles from the 18th century,

The Chinese Fishing Nets that line the seafront exhibit a mechanical method of catching fish by local fishermen in Fort Kochi. Said to have been brought from China by traders of Kubalai Khan’s Court, they are still used at high tide.

Seven days in Kerala were spectacular, full of exploration and new insight. Truly a memorably visit!

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