SOUTH INDIA

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Classical Kerala

With the Arabian Sea in the west, the Western Ghats towering 500-2700 ms in the east and networked by 44 rivers, Kerala enjoys unique geographical features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia. An equable climate. A long shoreline with beautiful beaches. Tranquil streches of emerald backwaters. Lush hill stations and exotic wildlife. Waterfalls. Sprawling plantations and paddy fields. Ayurvedic health holidays. Enchanting art forms. Magical festivals. Historic and cultural monuments. An exotic cuisine... All of which offer you a unique experience. And what's more, every one of these charming destinations is only a two hour drive from the other. A singular advantage no other destination offers.

Kerala, India's most advanced society : A hundred percent literate people. World-class health care systems. India's lowest infant mortality and highest life expectancy rates. The highest physical quality of life in India. Peaceful and pristine, Kerala is also India's cleanest state.

For administrative purpose, the state of Kerala is divided into fourteen districts. Most of these districts offer all the tourism products typical of the State.

Backwaters Kerala's backwaters and lagoons stretch over 1900 km. Kerala lives along these backwaters. They snake over the state physique, bestowing paddy fields with good harvests, and provide the whole village with drinking water and other facilities. The backwaters refer to the large inland lakes of Kerala. Today these backwaters act as vital water ways for the transport of people and produce. They are often the only link between remote, isolated villages and crowded town pockets. It's an incredible experience to float on these soothing waters in a country craft to absorb this unusual representation of Kerala.

Alumkadavu Gliding along the calm and serene backwaters flanked by green leaves and palms, seeing a rural Kerala preserved through the ages and completely hidden from the road is an enchanting experience to any visitor, more so while sailing a slow-moving, spacious Kettuvallam. Alumkadavu, a quiet spot in the town of Karunagapally - hardly 23 kms. north of Quilon (travel time: 30 min) has become a hot point of Kettuvallam building, with more than a hundred people involved.

These huge, long and tapering barges were traditionally used to move tones of goods across kingdoms, with a portion covered with bamboo and coir serving as a rest room and kitchen for the crew. A familiar sight on the waters, these vessels are built entirely without using nails.

Planks of jack wood are joined together with coir rope and coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. With careful maintenance they last for generations.

Today, widely and appropriately called houseboats, they carry furnished bedrooms, modern toilets, cozy living rooms, a kitchen and even a balcony for angling. Some are powered by a 40 HP engine. At Alumkadavu, you can even find a floating conference hall, designed to seat 35, with a dais and a sophisticated public address system.

Beaches

Beaches, touristy and unexplored, galore along the 600 km Kerala coast. A bunch of them have historical significance too. Kodungalore coast near Kochi had been where St.Thomas, the Apostle of Christ and first missionary in Indian coast, landed. Vasco De Gama, the first European voyager, stranded at Kappad near Calicut heralding the European invasion.

Sea has always been an inspiration for Malayali literati and filmmakers. Keep your ears close to the pages of Malayalam novels. You can hear roaring of sea and the poignant life on the coastal Kerala. Ace novelist, late Thakazhi had set, Chemmeen, his masterpiece, against the background of sea. Many films have coastal life as background screen.

At least rumble of a turbulent sea and billowing tidal waves are used as symbols of an agitated mind. A traipse along coastal hamlets will give a whiff of Kerala's village life.

Kerala, with its finest beaches, offers surf and sand unspoilt despite being used by trippers from across the world.

Kerala beaches have a character unique. Cool, saline breeze blowing on the coconut groves along the coast would function as a balm to an agitated soul.

Lose your heart to the mesmerizing charm of the tropical beaches such as Kovalam, Varkala, Shangumugham, Vizhinjam, Alappuzha, Kappad, Payyambalam and Bekal.

Kovalam Beach

World famous Indian beach since 1930 where foreign and domestic tourists throng. This post-card tropical beach, boarded by blue waters and lush coconut gardens, once was a haunt of hippies from European countries. Kovalam, more popular among backpacking travelers, is a western cultural dot on a traditional and orthodox Kerala physique.

"Kovalam" means a grove of coconut trees and true to its name the village offers an endless sight of coconut trees. The crescent-shaped beach has three parts. The southern most beach, and the most popular, is light house beach. It offers an amazing sight of Vizhinjam mosque. The northern Samudra is a laidback one and time, seems, stands still here. The middle, hawah, in the early day, is a beehive of activities with fishermen setting out for sea. With a high rock promontory and a calm bay of blue waters, this beach paradise creates a unique aquarelle on moonlit nights.

Azure water and favorable climate make Kovalam a favorite year-round spot for swimming. Sea, here, is pacific and shallow where you can take a dip in the saline waters. Landlubbers will get lifeguards' service. The clean white sandy beach will arouse a temptation irresistible: to lie in idle on the sands and tan the body.

Feeling a spent-cartridge after aquatics and beach activities. Get into an Ayurvedic massage centre-there are many such centres - and lie down on the wooden lath for a herbal, body-toning massage. To make the visit memorable, go for a shopping in handicrafts, jewellery and cloth shops spread across the shore. Food and accommodation suiting your purse is available along the beach.

Chowara Beach

A virgin beach, 9 kms south of the renowned Kovalam Beach is the hot spot these days for the traveller. It offers a harmonious combination of nature where you can enjoy lush greeneries, whispering sea breeze and the murmering surf. And it is a "must visit" destinaation having heritage and Ayurvedic resorts like Somatheeram, SuryaSamudra and Manaltheeram.

Hill Stations

When the heat is on the plains, and the time to get away from the crowd, came for a rendezvous with nature.

Inhale the bracing mountain air, relax in peace, stroll down winding paths, marvel at the beautiful views, enjoy the profusion of flowers in bloom. Kerala's exotic appeal is centered in the highland area of the Western Ghats. Rising to an average height of 1520 m, it houses rich flora and fauna.

Wayanad

Luxuriant plantations of coffee, tea, cardamom, pepper and rubber, stretch over the hills of Wayanad as far as the eye can see. With the fast-flowing rivers - Panamaram, Mananthavady and Kabini - cutting across the undulating panorama and lending a picture-postcard look to the whole region - the north eastern tip of Kerala.

Ponmudi

A quaint little hill station tucked away in the Western Ghats, Ponmudi is at an altitude of 1100 ft. above sea level. Lush green woods, lazily meandering streams and countless varieties of butterflies lend a strange magic to Ponmudi.

Nelliyampathy

A forest range 75 kms. (travel time: 2 ½ hours) from Palghat, the Nelliyampathy hills comprise a chain of ridges cut off from one another by valleys of dense evergreen forests and orange plantations The height of the hills range from 467 meters to the tallest peak Padagiri looming at 1572 meters.

Accessing Nelliyampathy from Palghat is a sensation on its own, as you negotiate over a dozen hairpin curves on the ghat road passing through the fascinating jungles of the Sahya Ranges. An route, 17 kms. from Palghat, the shimmering Pothundi Reservoir and its manicured surroundings make for an ideal stop over.

Munnar

The nature-lover's paradise. Snuggling in the green and serene Kannan Devan Hills, lies the quite and restful resort of Munnar, at an altitude of 1524 m and 136 km off Cochin.

Panoramic views of low-flying clouds and mist filled valleys make it a pretty little heaven with a cool bracing climate. It was opened up out of virgin forests a century ago by pioneering planters.

Within its remote and elderly churches - gracious, stone-structures with ancient chandeliers and rosewood pews. A little beyond lies Anaimudi, South India's highest peak. In the vicinity is the Eravikulam National Park, the home of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr that roams on a stretch of grassland or is seen climbing the pinnacles of the undulating hills.

Here we can have a glimpse of a Gaur, Langur, Lion-tailed macaque, and Elephants roaming in herds.

The Kundale Tea Plantation - An area surrounding a lovely lake that offers some of the most stunning views of the region. It offers the best opportunity you are ever likely to have to see the tea plantations, to watch tea being picked, to learn how tea is processed, to smell the sweet scent of tea wafting through the air and to buy the tea directly from the gardens.

Wildlife

Befriend an Elephant Shake hands Discover the elephant's point of view. Feast your eyes on the most exotic of wildlife. And realize that there's much more to life when a deer stops to look at you. When a monkey decides to renew acquaintance. When a blue-winged Parakeet sings for you.

Eravikulam National Park

This sanctuary was set up specially for the preservation of Nilgiri Tahr, one of the seriously endangered animals. Now the number of tahrs has increased and they constitute the largest known population of tahrs existing in the world. In addition to tahr, the park shelters elephants, sambars, gaurs, lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, tigers and leopards.

Accommodation and board facilities are available at Munnar, the nearest town, which is connected to Kottayam (148 km.) and Ernakulam (130 km.) by road. There is a motorable road upto Rajamally. Further, travel is on foot, but the trekking is really enjoyable.

Silent Valley National Park

The Silent Valley contains India's last substantial stretch of tropical evergreen rain forests and it is perhaps the only vestige of a near virgin forest in the whole of the Western Ghats. Elephants, tigers, wild dog, flying squirrel and lion-tailed macaque are found here.

Vehicular traffic is allowed upto Mukkali from Mannarghat. From Mukkali one has to cover at least 24 km on foot to reach the source of river Kuntipuzha, which flows through the valley.

Nearest railhead is Palghat, 75 km away. Admission to this part is restricted. Prior permission is required to visit the part. For further detail contact: The Divisional Forest Officer, Palghat.