The highlights of an authentic holiday in Kerala, South India, are tropical beaches and houseboats on backwaters
Having two nights on the rice boat on the Keralan backwaters was a real treat. We loved watching the people living by the water, the scenery, the birds - I had never seen anyone herding ducks before! Wonderful food and the best nights’ sleep.
A holiday in Kerala can be an adventure in its own right but many travellers add on some time in Kerala after visiting North India in order to benefit from the beaches and more relaxing, tropical, laid-back atmosphere.
As well as beautiful beaches, come for a houseboat cruise on the famous backwaters, spice gardens, and a rich culture of music, dance and arts. It’s also known for the ancient healthcare system of Ayurveda, with quite a few resorts offering treatments or even long-stay health breaks.
There are also many wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala which you can visit, and don’t forget take a look at our South India page too.
- Kochi: Formerly called Cochin, this city on the Arabian Sea has a rich trading and cultural history, as seen by the Chinese fishing nets, the Jewish synagogues, and the many ancient buildings in Fort Kochi (the old town) from Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial times. Don’t miss a classical Indian Kathkali dance performance here.
- Keralan beaches: Tropical beaches on the Arabian Sea and Malabar Coast. Kovalem Beach near Trivandrum is one of the busier spots, but if you like things a little quieter, try Marari Beach near Alappuzha (formerly Alleppey), or even Kannur further north. You’ll find some excellent hotels, often with a spa or wellness centres.
- Kerala’s backwaters: Stretching about 75kms just inland from the Keralan coast, the famous backwaters are palm-fringed lagoons and canals. Watch everyday rural life as you pootle past on your houseboat – many of which are former rice barges.
- Kerala’s wildlife: Kerala is also home to wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves such as Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Periyar, Silent Valley, Wayanad and Eravikulam. See our section on Indian wildlife safaris.