Are the icy mornings and grey skies making you want to scratch that travel itch? Maybe a dose of sunshine and culture is just the tonic you need? If so, consider the Indian state of Kerala.
Winter and early summertime here is a warm affair, with very little rainfall and maximum highs hitting around 33°C. Compared with the bustling northern states, often described as an ‘assault on the senses’, Kerala is a far more laid back affair, with its sleepy backwaters, tropical beaches and emerald green hill stations.
Colourful Temple Festivities
With many significant dates in the Hindu calendar between February and April the temples across Kerala are literally teeming with life. Explosions of colour fill the streets and skies as brightly adorned elephants are proudly paraded and accompanied by musicians and fireworks. The most elaborate of these celebrations is in April – Thrissur Pooram at Vadakkumnathan Temple, one of the oldest temples in the state. One of the main spectacles is kudamattom where the exchange of decorative umbrellas takes place whilst participants are perched high on top of the elephants. It’s certainly a memorable sight!
March sees the continuation of Kochi-Muzuris Bienalle – a biannual contemporary art event in Fort Cochin. Internationally acclaimed artists, such as Anish Kapoor and Julian Charrière, have been attracted to the 108-day long celebration of the arts. Fort Cochin, with its colonial architecture, also draws many visitors throughout the year in its own right, with its diverse historical and cultural heritage, such as witnessing the elaborate Kathakali Dance Drama. Accommodation in Cochin at this time can be notoriously hard to come by. Consider, the newly opened Beach Gate Bungalows, which has 3-bed villas with private butlers. The Bungalows are situated close to Kochi beach where you can watch fishermen using traditional Chinese fishing nets.
From the Backwaters to the Plantations by Train
With its crisscrossing canals Alleppey is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’. Undoubtedly the best way to explore these scenic shores is by taking a day cruise on a rice barge. To fully appreciate the history of the town you could explore in the company of the Preserve Alleppey Society, with an opportunity to enjoy an authentic Keralan meal with a local family. After exploring the Backwaters, you can hop aboard the Jan Shatabdi Express to Kozhikode. From here transfer deep into the plantations for fascinating walks, fantastic birdwatching and maybe a stint in a treehouse, such as the Tranquil Plantation in Sulthan Battery. You may also like to unwind and take advantage of an Ayurvedic spa treatment or retreat, although arguably these treatments are best taken during monsoon season, as the cooler and moister atmosphere makes the skin’s pores more receptive.
Regardless of the time of year you decide to travel to Kerala, you will no doubt be greeted by friendly locals. They will greatly appreciate interest shown in their culture and this can be acknowledged with small gestures which recognise their traditional practises such as remembering to take off your shoes before entering a temple, avoiding pointing the soles of your feet at anyone and washing your hands both before and after meals.
If you want to find out more about Kerala and India contact Rachel, Red Savannah's India travel specialist on 01242 787800.