The Backwaters of Kerala are essentially a group of 5 lagoons that are linked by natural and manmade canals. These waterways were mainly used for trade during the older times and are known for their scenic beauty and a rich variety of flora, fauna, avi-fauna and marine life.
With the Arabian Sea to the west, the Western Ghats towering up to 2700 m to the east and a network of 44 rivers, man-made canals, and many large water-bodies, Kerala enjoys unique geographical, cultural and social features that have made it one of the most sought after destinations in Asia.
All of Kerala’s charming destinations, such as its beaches, backwaters, hill stations and wild life, are only a few hours’ drive from each other. In addition, Kerala is considered to be India’s most advanced society and a true masterpiece of diversity. It is rare and refreshing to find people of three great religions living in such harmony with the result that Kerala is often referred to as the ‘Mount Everest of Social Development’.
Kerala was chosen as one of the ‘50 Places of a Life Time’ by the National Geographic Traveller, because of both the place and the people. To quote Bill Makibben in the National Geographic Traveller ‘50 Places of a Life Time’, “…that engagement with the world is one of the best things about the place. Keralites meet you on more or less equal terms, with neither the subservience nor the rage you’ll find in much of third world.”
The centuries old backwaters of Kerala consist of a network of many rivers, canals and natural water bodies, fed mostly by the monsoon rains, that criss-cross the narrow coastal belt of Kerala. Unlike the hills, beaches and wild life which are found in other parts of the India, the backwaters are unique to Kerala because of the vibrant community life along the banks, which is throbbing with its own unique culture.
Among the many features of Kerala’s backwaters that make it unique are the vibrant community life on its banks which is both adapted to, and dependent on, the waters, the reclaimed farms, the network of canals and rivers, the flora and fauna, the indigenous methods of fishing, the handmade country boats which are works of art, the coir fibre production and finally the locally-sourced, delicious cuisine.
Kerala, in south India, is often referred to as “God’s Own Country”. This coastal state is rich in distinctive traditions and culture, and lush unspoiled tropical beauty. Most of all, Kerala is known for its elephants, elaborate temple festivals, and the tranquil backwaters. The pace of life is slow, making Kerala the perfect place for a leisurely vacation.
Don’t miss these top 6 Kerala tourist places.
Prefer to see Kerala on a tour? This seven day small group Beaches & Backwaters backpackers trip from popular G Adventures includes Kochi, the Kerala backwaters, and Varkala on its itinerary. G Adventures also offers this seven day Highlights of South India small group tour to Kochi
1. Fort Kochi
Known as the “Gateway to Kerala”, Kochi is an enchanting city that’s had an eclectic influence. Arabs, British, Dutch, Chinese, and Portuguese have all left their mark there. The architecture and historical sites in Fort Kochi attract most of the visitors to the area.
2. Kerala Backwaters
One of the most tranquil and relaxing things you can do in Kerala is take a trip in a houseboat along the palm-fringed Kerala canals, known as the backwaters. Freshly cooked Indian food and chilled beer on board the boat make the experience even more enjoyable. You can even spend the night out on the middle of a lake. Stay a few nights at a hotel or resort along the backwaters too. Bliss!
If you like tea, a visit to Munnar is a must! The surrounding region is renowned for its sprawling tea plantations. See tea being picked and processed, and try fresh tea straight from the gardens. There’s even a tea museum. The area is blessed with the natural beauty of winding lanes, misty hills, and forests full of exotic plants and wildlife. Adventure enthusiasts can trek to Anamudi, the highest peak in south India, explore Eravikulam National Park, or go rock climbing and para gliding.
The setting of this Varkala beach is striking enough to take your breath away, with a long winding stretch of cliff and views that extend over the Arabian Sea. A paved footpath runs along the length of the cliff, bordered by coconut palms, quaint shops, beach shacks, hotels, and guest houses. Nestled at the bottom of the cliff is a long stretch of sparkling beach, reached by steps leading down from the cliff top. It’s not surprising that Varkala is one of India’s best beaches
Wayanad is a bright green mountainous region that stretches along the Western Ghats. It has a great deal of scenic appeal. Abundant coconut palms, thick forests, paddy fields, and lofty peaks form the landscape. Due to the nature of its terrain, the area also has much to offer adventure enthusiasts. Popular attractions include trekking to Chembra Peak and Meenmutty Falls, exploring old Jain temples, climbing to Edakkal Caves, and wildlife spotting at Muthanga and Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuaries. Another highlight of Wayanad is the many delightful homestays in the area.
6. Periyar National Park
Kerala’s Periyar National Park, in the Thekkady district, is one of the most popular national parks in southern India. One of the best things about the park is that it stays open all year round, even during the monsoon season. Periyar is known for its elephants, and 30 minute elephant rides through the jungle are offered. Safaris are carried out by boat, with the lake being particularly captivating at sunset. Visitors can also take part in an excellent variety of eco-tourism activities there