At the recent Traveller Review Awards 2020, Kerala was named “The Most Welcoming Place in India” for the second year in a row. Four of the southern Indian state’s destinations – Mararikulam, Varkala, Thekkady and Kollam – made their way into the top-10 list of the country’s most welcoming places. Here’s a quick look at each of these Kerala gems…
Tucked away on the coastline, just an hour’s drive south of Kochi, Mararikulam ticks all the right boxes if you’re looking for a tranquil beach destination. Full of history and tradition, Mararikulam’s beaches, coconut groves and charming fishing lifestyle will welcome your escape from the tourist crowds, as you relax and breathe the sultry sea air blowing in from the Arabian Sea. To treat your mind, body and spirit, check out the award-winning Carnoustie Ayurveda & Wellness Resort, which offers exquisitely furnished villas complete with private pools and timber decks – all done with a fusion of traditional and modern Kerala style. True to their name, the resort also offers holistic treatments with an emphasis on Ayurveda.
A 90-minute drive north of Thiruvananthapuram lies Varkala, home of a lovely beachfront and sea cliffs overlooking the ocean. This is a spectacular beach for sunbathing and swimming, and for strolls along its golden sands. Follow up the outdoor delights with an Ayurvedic wellness treatment or yoga session at one of the spas and wellness centres located just behind the beach or a fresh seafood lunch or dinner at the many local eateries. For travellers, backpacking lodges and guest lodges tend to be the go-to option here. For a nature-inspired stayover, the Palm Tree Natural Bungalow, located behind the nearby Odayam Beach, offers luxury-style cottages created from locally sourced bamboo, hardwood and palm leaves.
Located in the heart of Kerala’s hill country, Thekkady lies adjacent to the Periyar National Park, home to a world of rare and endangered flora and wildlife including elephants and tigers. You can experience the true wilderness of south India thanks to a huge number of eco-tourism activities – including the park’s Jungle Patrol outing, where you can experience the Periyar Tiger Reserve at night, take a rafting and hiking tour around the park’s natural lakes or a jump in a Jeep safari to some see hard-to-reach parts of the park. Thekkady itself is a gateway to the region; just outside town, there are sprawling spice and coffee plantations at Murikady, waterfalls and cascades at Chellar Kovil and the centuries-old Mangala Devi Temple. Looking to stay over? The Sterling Thekkady resort features 83 luxurious rooms and suites with mesmerising views of the Idduki hills.
Another of Kerala’s southern coastal gems, Kollam is one of the oldest ports on the Arabian Sea; for centuries it was a focal point for spice and precious-goods traders from as far as the Middle East, Europe and China. These days, Kollam continues to welcome travellers from across the globe who want to hop on one of the region’s traditional Kettuvallam houseboats for a cruise around the district’s backwater canals and natural lakes. “Get on board a houseboat and let the beautiful landscape take you back to an age when nature resided in our midst. The 8-hour ride to Alappuzha is among the most sought-after and picturesque trips that Kerala has to offer,” says the Kerala Tourism board. Kollam also has plenty of ancient temples to explore, gorgeous beaches and the famous 43-metre, red-and-white striped Tangasseri lighthouse. Make your way to the top via its spiralling staircase for spectacular views of the coastline. For a luxury stay, check out the grand heritage hotel, the Raviz Ashtamudi.
To learn more about what to see and do around India’s southern state of Kerala, visit www.keralatourism.org
Fly Oman Air! Oman Air flies to Kozhikode, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, as well as 8 more destinations throughout India. To view the weekly flight schedules, visit www.omanair.com
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