Journey to Southern India – Kerala
Spices, coconut trees, serene beaches, tea gardens, sea food, ayurveda, backwaters…. Kerala has it all. Visitors from all over the world flock to Kerala to enjoy the pristine beaches, backwaters and of course, the delicious food.
Our first stop was Chinnakanal, around 25 km away from Munnar – the tea capital of Kerala. The journey from Cochin to Chinnakanal took us through picturesque landscapes, tea farms and dense forests. The resort we stayed in was right in the middle of a tea plantation, with an amazing view of the Anayirangal Lake.
All around Munnar, the local tea estates and spice farms are very tourist friendly. They arrange for short tours of their plantation, where you can see different spices growing and even buy some. Further away from Munnar are the Athukad waterfalls, Mattupetty Dam and Sethuparvathipuram Dam which are also popular for their picturesque views. Kollukkamallay, the highest tea garden in the country at 7,900 ft above sea level is also a must see.
Munnar is surrounded by hills and is also home to animals like the asiatic elephants, gaurs, leopards and the famous Nilgiri Tahrs (mountain goats). To spot the Nilgiri Tahr, head to Eravikulam National Park which is enroute to Anaimudi, which at 8,841 ft is the highest peak south of the Himalayas. Once a highly endangered species, today Nilgiri Tahrs are found in large numbers and are acustomed to human presence.
Munnar town is dotted with small eateries that serve delicious local food. If you are vegetarian, quite a few restaurents serve simple but finger licking food like, dosas, idlis, puri bhaji and other delicacies. The Meals (Thali) at any of the restaurents is worth a try, for authentic south indian food. Munnar being famous for its tea, most shops sell tea in convenient packs and also offer spices, fruit preserves and oils such as eucalyptus, lemon grass etc.
Our next visit was the Periyar Tiger Reserve at Thekkady, situated in the Cardamom hills. Periyar tiger reserve is home to big cats such as tigers and leopards, elephants, gaur, deer, nilgiri langurs, giant squirrels and many kind of reptiles and variety of birds can be spotted here. The best and easy option to have a glimpse of the reserve is to take boat ride on the manmade Periyar lake. An early morning boat ride will often reward you with herds of deers, wild boars, and if lucky you can spot a few elephants and gaurs along the banks of the lake. If the short boat ride doesn’t suffice, a full day jeep safari to Gavi, in the middle of the forest is a better option. The trip begins early in the morning & takes you right in the middle of the forest. You can go on a short trek in the forest & also take a boat ride in the Gavi lake, where you can spot many birds and animals.
We then moved on to Kumarakom, on the banks of Lake Vembanad. Kumarakom is known for its backwaters and the best way to experience it is to spend an entire day on the houseboat or Kettuvallam as it is locally called, which ferries you all around the lake and also serves you some fantastic meals onboard. If you wish, you can buy fresh catch of local fish or lobsters sold along the banks of the lake. Grilled lobster, karimeen polichattu, creamy prawns curry, egg curry, kadala curry with appams, chappatis and rice are some of the must haves here.
Kumarakom also has a bird sanctuary spread across the eastern banks of the lake. One can spot Brahminy kites, egrets, herons, darters, cormorants, kingfishers and other birds. The sanctuary attracts lot of migratory birds in the cooler winter months between November and February. Watching the sun setting over the lake is an romantic experience in Kumarakom. You watch the sun going down slowly and simply disappearing in the lake. At night the houseboat is anchored at the banks, as houseb0ats aren’t permitted to move about the lake.
Kerala indeed is God’s own country and is blessed with rich cultural heritage that makes it a unique place because of its natural diversity, ayurveda and not to forget – the food. It is impossible to cover Kerala through this small travelogue. We would definitely want to find a few more reasons to visit this beautiful heavan on earth.
More photos from our trip : Kerala Photos