Kerala & Southern India Holidays
Southern India offers travellers a more relaxing experience than the chaotic cities of the well-trodden north with many highlights, from the stunning landscape of tropical beaches, dense forests, lush plantations and verdant backwaters, to the rich heritage, culinary delights, Ayurvedic treatments, incredible wildlife and temple towns studded with beautiful architecture.
Charismatic Cochin (Kochi) on the south west coast of India is the gateway to the south and particularly the tranquil backwaters of Kerala. With its spice markets, Jewish synagogue, European church, Chinese fishing nets, Portuguese palace and 17th century Dutch homes, this great trading port is packed full of interesting things to see.
The tranquil backwaters of Kerala are an extensive interconnected network of canals, lakes and inlets. Once an ancient trade route, today houseboats (kettuvallams) built entirely of wood and bamboo provide a leisurely way to travel and soak up the surroundings. Cruise past villages, temples, paddy fields and seemingly endless groves of coconut trees whilst keeping your eyes peeled for otters, turtles and kingfishers, cormorants or terns.
The rolling hills of South India include a long chain of lush hill stations, which were the favoured summer haunts of the colonial British. One of the most popular was breathtakingly beautiful Munnar, which has an unending expanse of tea plantations, pristine valleys and surrounding mountains whose lower slopes are carpeted with tea gardens and dotted with quaint old bungalows.
Those with an interest in wildlife should make a beeline for Periyar National Park. Situated in the evocatively-named Cardamom Hills, this national park is home to a large variety of animals including elephants, tigers, bison and leopards as well as over 260 species of birds.
Also of note is the historic seaside town of Pondicherry, a former French colony that retains much of its colonial charm; Kanchipuram, a major pilgrimage site with stunning temples that date from Medieval times; the UNESCO listed shrines, sculptures and caves of Mahabalipuram; Madurai, one of the oldest cities in Southern India; and not forgetting the soft palm-fringed beaches of Kovalam, the perfect place to end any tour of India.
The region's other delights include the food and famous Ayurveda treatments. While there are culinary variations between the different states, broadly speaking there's a vegetarian focus with lots of rice and lentils, vegetables and of course plenty of spices, chillies and coconut. Traditional Ayurvedic treatments date back thousands of years and are an essential element of Indian culture and wellbeing, so don't miss the opportunity to unwind in heavenly surroundings with an authentic Ayurvedic therapy, yoga or meditation session.