I grew up in Kerala. Spent 25 years here and I figured I might as well use the little knowledge i have and help people to understand Kerala a little better. People say its god’s own country and devil’s own people. I chose to ignore those comments. So read on and let me know if you share my views. Do add on if u have more things to do and enjoy in kerala!!
1.Wake up to the world’s best breakfast
Kerala’s spread of morning dishes – vellayappam, Uppuma, iddli, puttu, masala dosa,appams etc. have been rated the best breakfast in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine. A must-try is the crisp lacy appam served with meat/vegetable stew.
2. Walk-through paddy fields
These are different walking experience. Venture in to the very heart of the paddy fields, on narrow dykes. Don’t lose yourself completely in the dazzling green around you, as you’ll have to watch out for the slushy water passages that run through your mud path.
3. Tip toe across a coconut trunk bridge
In the interiors of Kerala, you’ll come across plenty of small water bodies with these extremely narrow Bridges. Watch the native folk cross them with case, but think twice before you do. It isnt your cup of tea, don’t worry. Further down the water’s edge you’ll find a more friendly bridge.
4. Sip tender coconut
Refresh yourself with a sip of cool tender coconut- nature’s rejuvenating nectar – and a scoop of its soft white flesh, Nutrition at its natural best.
5.Take a swig of toddy
Ask your tour guide to arrange for fresh madhura kallu (sweet toddy extracted from the coconut palm) and have it the Kerala way with exotic karimeen pollichathu (baked fresh water fish) or spicy pickles.
6. Stay on an exotic houseboat
Embark on an enchanting journey across sun – dappled backwaters on a kettuvallom-fully furnished traditional rice boats. While your eyes explore the rustic life that floats by, treat your palate to backwater delicacies prepared by your personal chef.
7. Ride a Canoe
Drift along serene waterways in a country craft, Enjoy the breeze, answer a cuckoo’s call. Wave back at the cheerful village folk on the banks. Invite some of their chirpy children to hop in for a ride. They’ll keep you well entertained.
8 Workout on a treadmill
In Kerala, traditional treadmills are still used to irrigate the paddy fields. Try your luck with the local farmer and see if you can get to pedal one.
9. See Chinese fishing nets
Watch fishermen tug at these huge nets with their rich haul. These nets that billow from massive bamboo poles were brought here by traders from the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongolian King. Their silhouettes against the evening sky make for terrific pictures too.
10. Choose your pick from the Fisherman’s net
Along the Malabar Coast and at Vasco da Gama Square in Fort Kochi, you can select your favorite from an inviting display of juicy sear fish, sardines, prawns, red snappers etc. Ask the friendly fisherman to fry it for you the local way.
11. Feast on kappa and meen curry
Try Kerala’s hot red fish curry with steamed tapioca or boiled rice. It’ll make your mouth water as well as your eyes.. But you’ll still enjoy it.
12 Savour a Sadhya
Seat yourself on the floor, roll your sleeves up and get started on this multi-course feast of rice, 12-15 vegetarian dishes, spicy pickles, crunchy banana chips, crispy pappadams, plantains and payasam- the dessert. Served on a plantain leaf, the meal is eaten with the fingers.
13 Wear a Kerala saree
Stun your friends in Kerala saree – five metres of fine off-white cotton edged with golden zari, that lends an extraordinary elegance to the person wearing it. Each piece is specially woven on a traditional handloom.
14. Wear jasmine in your hair
Get yourself a string of jasmine-the natural ornament for your hair. You could even pluck them fresh from a garden and string them yourself.
15 Spice up your life
Kerala is the Spice Coast of India. Take home a chest full of exotic spices and win compliments for your aromatic cooking. These are also available in special gift pouches.
16. Ride on 8 tonner without wheels
At the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkady, you and your friends can majestically ride into the scenic jungle on an elephant. A mahout will guide you on your enchanting journey.
17 Watch birds
Spot egrets, herons, Siberian stork, darters, teals and hundreds of other migratory birds in Kerala’s enchanting bird sanctuaries. Hear them sing. Take their Family photograph. Applaud their aerobatic skills.
18 Follow the tiger’s trail
Join the Thekkady tiger trail- a real adventure trek into the dense forest with expert guides. Cook in the jungle. Sleep in tents. Wake up to the sounds of the wilderness. Try and spot a tiger.
19 Design a floral pattern
During Onam, the harvest festival in August/September, you can see colourful, beautiful floral decorations in the courtyards of Kerala’s homes. Try making one with family and friends.
20. Cheer a snake boat race
Watch the backwaters of Kerala come alive. Feel the excitement bubble in you as teams of 100 oarsmen row their snake boats, their bodies swaying in unison to the fast rhythm of full throated singing, in one of the most exhilarating water sports.
21. Feel the rain on your body
Kerala’s invigorating monsoon will cleanse you, refresh you and rejuvenate you. Let it run down your body, and wash away stress. So don’t just listen to the pitter-patter on the roof. Step out.
22 Munch an uppumanga
You’ll simply relish a meal that is accompanied by uppumanga, tender mangoes preserved in brine for months (the longer, the better).
23 Get an Ayurvedic massage
Gift yourself new life. Surrender to the magical fingers of specially trained masseurs. To medicated baths that will refresh you. Herbal diets that will replenish you. Yoga that will revitalize you. And meditation that will recharge you.
24 Say hello to the Nilgiri Tahr
Half the world population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr live in the Eravikulam National Park at Munnar. Friendly as they are, you can pat them or pose for pictures with them. So meet them and have plenty to brag about when you get back home.
25 Sip fine tea
Take a walk through the green carpeted tea hills of Kerala and strong aromas will lead you in to the factories over a hundred years old. Here you can taste and pick up the finest tea in the country.
26. Marvel at elephant pageants
The spectacle of 30-60 caparisoned elephants will enthral you as they move in a majestic procession, while trumpets and drum beats work up to a frenzy. The best of these spectacles is seen at the Thrissur Pooram.
27 Listen to temple music
Panchavadyam is an orchestra of 5 native instruments – suddha-maddalam, kombu, edakka, elathalam and timila. This traditional temple music accompanying elephant pageants builds up the festive spirit. And never fails to leave its listeners entranced. Audio cassettes of panchavadyam are available.
28 Visit the local markets
Small stalls with fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, chicken… High pitched salesmen luring you with impossible bargains. Visit these bustling markets or chandas for fresh buys.
29 Go bananas
In Kerala, red, green and yellow are synonymous with various types of plantains’. These digestives come in different shapes too — tall, short, stout, sleek… And while you taste banana chips, raw banana dishes, banana milk shake, banana ice cream, dried bananas, fried bananas… you’ll wonder if there’s any other fruit more versatile.
30 Try your hand at percussion
Kerala’s rich repertoire of percussion music and instruments is world famous. So bring alive your taste for good music and learn whatever your holiday allows.
31 Cheer racing oxen
Entertain yourself at a Kumbala, the local ritualistic bullock race of Kasaragod or a Kaalapoottu – the agrarian sport of Palakkad.
32 Shop for souvenirs
Kerala’s handicraft centers have an extraordinary collection of wood, coir shell and sandlwood souvenirs, trinkets and jewellery. Woodcarved Kathakali masks, snake boats, elephants, jewellery boxes etc. are perfect showpieces for your drawing rooms and ideal gifts for friends.
34 Have a mud bath
Go in for mud thereapy and discover its healing properties at the Kavil Bhavan Yoga and Cultural Centre at Nileswaram, Kasaragod.
35 Bask in sunshine
Screne, secluded and spellbinding. Kerala has some of the best beaches in the world. Ride the surf. Get a tan. Build sand castles. Or simply sift sand through your toes. Anything you do here will unwind and relax you.
36 Watch a Malayalam movie
Malayalam movies have excellent story lines and some of them are internationally acclaimed. If you visit the State during a film festival, you’ll get to see good movies with English subtitles.
37 Bathe in healing waters
Don’t miss your chance to take a dip in the waters of the Nelliyampathy forests in Palakkad or the mineral springs at Varkala. These waters are known for their medicinal properties. Take a splash, heal yourself.
38 Buy gold for all occasions
Kerala’s gold jewellery, intricately disgined and delicate, will steal any woman’s heart. Make sure you have enough money on you before you step into a gold shop. Because whatever be your taste, you’ll find patterns you’d wish to own.
An Aramula mirror is made of a finely polished alloy of four metals – copper, silver, bronze and lead. Once a closely guarded preserve of royalty, these ornamental mirrors are exceedingly rare-only two master crafts men and their families still make them.
40 Feel the presence of God at Maramon
Witness the largest Christian convention of Asia at Maramon, near Kozhencherry. Interestingly, the waters of the Pamba River dry up every year to reveal sands that serve as the venue for the event.
41 Ride in an autorickshaw
Explore the streets of Kerala in an autoriscksha, a three wheeled taxi painted yellow and black. Don’t be surprised if you meet a driver who has a degree in English literature or is fairly fluent with the language.
42 Peep into your future
The fortune teller on the street has your future written on his cards – your career, your life, your life partner and more. Just show him your palm and wait while his parrot picks your card from the pack.
43 Spin coir
See nimble fingers at work as they spin water treated coconut fibre into long ropes with a traditional hand spindle in the suburbs of Kollam. You can shop at a number of roadside stalls for brightly coloured coir door mats, wall hangings and carpets.
44 Learn exotic art forms
Watch kathakali, mohiniyattam, theyyam or thiruvathira and pursue one that interests you most. Learn how a story unveils through the eyes, fingers, feet and myriad expressions of the artist.
45 Rock about in a bullock cart
On a pleasant evening, treaverse the scenic mud roads of Kerala at the unhurried pace of a bullock cart. The tinkling bells and roll-over-from-side-to-side motion of the cart will pull you into a lazy reverie.
46 Walk the lanes of Fort Kochi
Put on your hat and sunglasses, wear comfortable sandals and embark on a walking tour of Fort Kochi where bastions, churches and mansions built by the British, Dutch and the Portuguese, 500 years ago will greet you. Interestingly, Vasco da Gama, one of the world’s greatest explorers, was buried here.
47 Order a meter of tea
Stop by a thattukada, a roadside kiosk, for a steaming cup of strong tea. Watch the expert stretch it to a metre while pouring it from glass to glass, blending it well and building up a tempting froth in the process.
48 Climb rugged heights
Not all places to visit in Kerala are on well travelled roads. Or on roads at all. Hike up rugged terrains at Munnar, Wayanad and Kakkayam (Kozkikkod) for an exhilarating experience. If you haven’t tried rock climbing before, our experts will teach you the tricks.
49 Engage in water sports
An adventure sports lover will rarely find time to stay idle in Kerala. Her beaches provide you with unlimited watersporting options of wind surfing, rafting, sailing, power boating and even that of a simple catamaran ride.
50 Take a train through paradise
A train journey is an interesting way to experience Kerala. Get a window seat and watch the landscape unfold like pages of a colourful picture book, or acquaint yourself with your fellow travellers who make interesting profiles
51. Treat your sweet tooth
The famous Mithai Street of Kozkikkod has everything to make your mouth water – from heavenly haluvas, juicy jillebies to creamy milk sweets. Relish them as they melt in your mouth.
52. Study rare flora
Treat your eyes to exotic orchids, anthuria, sandalwood trees etc. in the forests. One of these, the rare Neelakurinji, bathes the mountains of Munnar in blue once every 12 years. It is expected to bloom next in 2006.
53. Romance the spice hills
Holiday amidst the sprawling tea plantations, picture book towns and winding lanes of Kerala’s mist clad hill stations – a world where tranquillity abounds. The dense tropical jungles in these hill stations house some of the exotic bird and wildlife sanctuaries in the country.
54. Watch the making of an Arabian dhow
Witness this 1500 year old tradition at Beypore. It takes an expert team of 15-30 strongmen at least two years to shape a vessel in wood. Locally called uru, this Arabian trading vessel is fast fading from the shipping scene.
55. Bathe in waterfalls
Nowhere else will you find water so playful, so pure, so pacifying. Crystal clear waters cascade down the mountains of Kerala, gurgling, whispering, laughing and cleansing everything in their way. Watch them wake serene rivers with a magnificent splash.
56. Go arty
You can browse in the art galleries for hours without track of time. Among them are collections of the world famous works of Raja Ravi Varma, Raja Raja Varma, Svetlova, Nicholas Roerich, rare murals and masterpieces from China, Japan, Tibet, Bali and other parts of India.
57. Visit scenic Kuttanad
Explore the lush paddy fields of Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala – the only place in the world where farming is done 1.5 or 2 m below sea level. Kuttanad is in the interiors of the beautiful backwater district of Alappuzha.
58. Taste Payasam
The payasam, a rich milk delicacy prepared with vermicili, gram or rice, is a delight for the plate. The most common dessert of Kerala, the payasam is made in scores of flavours and garnished with raisins and nuts fried in ghee. It is usually eaten with salty snacks.
59. Feast your eyes on the largest mural
The palaces and museums of Kerala have an exotic collection of ancient murals. The Krishnapuram Palace at Kayamkulam displays the largest of these masterpieces – gajendramoksham – which belongs to the 18th century and depicts an event from mythology.
60. Watch Theyyam
Theyyam is the oldest ritual art form of Kerala, Look on in awe as Theyyam performers invoke the temple diety Bhagavathy with their frenzied dancing and throbbing temple music in the courtyard of village temples.
61. Try coconut hair oil
The secret of a Malayali woman’s long, black, lustrous hair could be yours too. Coconut oil is considered the best nutrient for hair and a coolant for the head. In Kerala, both men and women massage oil on their heads before a bath.
62. Explore a tharavad
Relive the old times in the perfect settings of antique furniture and exquisite woodwork in Kerala’s heritage holiday homes and nalukettu (quandrangular mansions with a central courtyard), each more than 50 years old.
63. Learn Malayalam
Malayalam, Kerala’s sweet toned language, has 56 letters in its alphabet. Try learning the basics and roll the words off your tongue.
64. Star gaze
Steeped in astronomy, Kerala’s planetariums will show you much more than Mercury, Venus and Mars. Buy a ticket to the evening star gazing sessions and experience the wonders of the universe.
65. Holiday on an island
Spend a weekend on Kerala’s islands or lagoons, and experience special moments . Spectacular sunset, balmy backwaters and succulent seafood at Bolghatty, Pathiramanal, Poovar….These paradises can be reached only by a ferry or boat.
66. Picnic beside virgin lakes
Pack a picnic basket and spend a romantic evening beside the crystal clear lakes near Munnar. Try your luck at fishing and feast on your fresh catch. Go for a long walk hand-in-hand, undisturbed. Lie down on the most comfortable of grass beds.
67. Go paragliding
Sweep across the lush green hills of Munnar on a paraglider and enjoy the vantage of an eagle. See the soothing blues and greens of nature. Enjoy the wind beneath your wings. Feel on top of the world.
68. Walk in to a palace
Besides exquisite wooden architecture, the palaces of Kerala flaunt the finest floors in the world. Floors that, surprisingly, need least maintenance – being made of crushed coconut charocoal, egg whites and the sap of plants. You’ll also see collections of antique sculptures, paintings and bronzes.
69. Muse in a Museum
The museums of Kerala, especially the Pazhasiraja Museum at Kozkikkod, pay full tribute to outstanding crafts-historical and contemporary ornaments, temple carts and Ivory carvings of life sized figures of Kathakali in full regalia.
70. Watch Thullal
Thullal, an exotic art form, and the rhythmic sounds of music accompanying it will keep you in a constant stage of merriment. Humour, satire and social criticism are its hallmarks. This art form was fourmulated overnight by the renowned poet, Kunjan Nambiar.
71. Visit the zoo
The zoological parks in Kerala have plenty to excite the animal lover in you. The Trivandrum zoo is one among the best designed in Asia and is set amidst woodlands, lakes and lawns.
72. Wash your sins away
According to a myth, sage Narada was approached by mendicants who confessed to having sinned. The place he created for them to pray for redemption is known as the Papanasham beach (papanasham meaning redemption from sins) at Varkala, Trivandrum. Take a dip and come out feeling clean in your heart too.
73. Go nuts
You can get raw, fried, grilled, salted and spiced cashews at surprisingly affordable rates from Kollam where cashew plantations and industries abound.
74. Chew into a juicy mussel
It is indeed fun watching mussel collectors anchor their boats, dive down and bring up basket loads of these fresh water delicacies. The shells are later burnt in kilns to make lime.
75. See wildlife from a boat
Watch wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat at the sanctuaries of Kumarakom, and Periyar. Herds of wild elephants bathing in the lake, the Indian bison digging his horns into an unaffected tree, the cormorant darting into the waters… a treat for an amateur photographer.
76. Learn Yoga
Relax your mind with yoga at the special ashrams in Trivandrum and Nileswaram – the cultural centre of Kasaragod. Sessions are conducted by spiritual gurus and experts in the field.
77. Walk the historic Kappad beach
This is where Vasco da Gama landed in 1498 with his men in three vessels. Here, you’ll find an interesting landscape of rocks that sprawl right into the sea. An 800 year old temple stands nearby.
78 Munch on crispy snacks
Kerala has a wide range of crunchy snacks- ethakka (banana) chips, chakka vattal (jackfruit chips), pappadam, kuzhalappam, achappam, cheeda and churuttu. All worth every penny, spend on them.
79 Meet martial art experts
Kalaripayattu, the martial art form of Kerala, is the oldest and most scientific in the world. Watch agile bodies gleaming in oil and armed with weapons practise their feats-chattam (jumping), ottam (running), marichil (somersault)-to stunning perfection. Explore the Bekal Fort.
80 Explore the largest and the best-preserved fort of Kerala at Bekal, Kasaragod.
The imposing laterite structure rising 130 ft. above sea level, stands on a 35 acre headland that runs right into the Arabian Sea.
81 Behold the Queen of the Arabian Sea.
Kochi, also known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, is breathtakingly beautiful. Apart from being the commercial capital and the most cosmopolitan city of Kerala, Kochi also flaunts one of the finest natural harbours of the world.
82 Discover prehistoric settlements
The Edakkal caves at Wayanad and the caves at the mouth of the Shenduruny River have interesting pictorial writings and cave drawings from the Stone Age. You’ll have to trek at least a kilometer uphill to reach the Edakkal caves.
83 Say a prayer at the old Synagogue
The 500 years old Synagogue in Kochi is adorned with mid 18th century hand painted Cantonese tiles. Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs, ancient scripts on copper plates and great scrolls of the Old Testament are preserved here. An age-old clock tower stands nearby.
84 Let a mohini enchant you
Mohiniyattam or the dance of the enchantress reflects the graceful nature of the land. The sensuous, graceful movements of the dancer, clad in gold and off white costumes, will remind you of palms swaying in the gentle breeze and sweeping waves.
85 Spend the night at a Kathakali concert
Kathakali, the four centuries old classical art form, is usually staged at night. Elaborate costumes, ornaments and multi-coloured facial make-up give the artistes a super human appearance, which leaves you spellbound.
86 Cook in earthenware
In most of the traditional homesteads of Kerala, women cook their food in earthenware. For some time-tested reason renders a special taste to the dish prepared.
87 Collect antiques
Stroll up the Jew Street in Fort Kochi for interesting finds like period furniture, ancient coins, elaborately carved pens, ornamental brass latches, antique jewellery, grandfather clocks and timepieces etc.
88 Cruise the backwaters of Alappuzha
Alappuzha, embroidered with a labyrinth of waterways, was extolled by travellers as the Venice of the East. Visit this land where the skiff is the family vehicle, the ducks outnumber chicken and children learn to swim perhaps even before they walk.
89 Meet smart fishermen
It is indeed a spectacular sight to watch Kerala’s smart fishermen outdo the crashing waves by pushing their boats into the sea from a pier beyond the wave point, and simultaneously jumping into it in perfect coordination.
90 See mind-blowing fireworks
Make a wish under a thousand shooting starts -brilliant firework displays that mark the end of a festival in Kerala. And you’ll never miss them as every dawn in Kerala brings yet another festival.
91 Watch a puppet show
Yakshagana Bombeyattu (puppetry) is the art form of Kasaragod. Colourful puppets in huge headgears, elaborate facial make-up and loud attires dancing to throbbing music will keep you entertained.
92 Go for a flower show
Spend a colourful evening with pretty asters, glowing anthuria, exotic orchids, beautiful roses, elegant lilies and a bloom of soft cotton candy at a flower show.
93 Smash the elusive pot
Uriyadi (smashing the pot) is a spirited sport connected with some of the festivals of Kerala. The festive pot colourfully decorated will be hung from a tall pole. All you have to do is try and break it with a stick as the crowd pulls it up and down.
94 Spot a dolphin
If you ‘re lucky, you’ll get to see the dolphins do their grand act at the Cherai beach, in Ernakulam district. Applaud them as they spring out of the magnificent waters with a splash, only to take a marvelous dive back.
95 Buy a Palmyra fan
In Kerala, you’ll find small, handy fans made of medicinal herbal roots, palm fronds, bamboo splits and grass. Get yourself a portable, compact, cute and colourful little fan that comes in handy anytime of the day. When not in use, you could even put it up on the wall as a showpiece.
96 Stay in exotic resorts
Kerala’s innovative hoteliers have amazing experiences in store for you. Some even have Theme evenings when centuries old art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattom are performed as well.
97 Savour nectar
Beat the bees and butterflies to it in a banana plantation. Hold the tip of a banana inflorescence (koombu) to your mouth and suck the sweet nectar.
98 Visit a Snake Park
The Snake Park at Parassinikadavu, Kannur, is the only one of its kind in the whole of India. There are three snake pits and fifteen glass cases full of various species of snakes, and two large glass houses for King Cobras. The snake demonstration conducted is a major crowd puller.
99. Watch thiruvathira
Thiruvathira, a traditional dance performed by women, has simple steps and a single rule-performers should be clad in a Kerala saree. Join them as they sing and move elegantly around a ceremonial lamp (vilakku) or a floral decoration (pookalam).
100. Bring swing to your life; Onam is the season for fun and games.
Visit Kerala during August /September and you’ll find it in every house. The friendly people here will be only too glad to let you join them.
101. Try out new ways to fish
Dangle a rod and line into the flowing waters; sweep a towel through it; feel for fish with your feet in the mud below; or simply try trapping small fish with your hands. Anyway, you’ll never return disappointed.