Tropical Kerala has an ancient history. The first dynasty to have a recorded presence in the area were the Tamil Cheras, who ruled from Vanchi in what is now Tamil Nadu. Gradually, Kerala emerged as a distinct entity from the Tamil Kingdoms under the second Chera empire. who began to speak a different tongue that was an ancestor to Malayalam.
Kerala has a unique history among India. because it was an early trading center, and the dependence of the area on trade led to many merchants from the Middle east living there, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims. In fact, India’s oldest mosque is in Kerala, built in 629 AD, in the same lifetime as Muhammad.
The Portuguese, seeing the immense wealth brought on by trade, invaded the area in 1498 under Vasco Da Gama, and their arrival began the long European presence in the area. The Dutch subsequently ousted the Portuguese in the 18th century, who were then forced out by the rulers of Thiruvanathaparam in the Battle of Colachel. The area became part of the Kingdom of Mysore not long afterwards.
Tippu Sultan, ruler of Mysore, fought four wars with the British in the 18th century that led to the annexation of Kerala by the British East India Company. The area was part of the Madras Presidency.
Kerala largely stayed out of the Indian Independence Movement. When independence was achieved in 1947, the state was first known as Travancore-Cochin before becoming Kerala.
Kerala is a narrow strip of land in-between the Indian Ocean and the Western Ghats. Over recent years, Kerala become one of the premier tourist destinations in Asia, a consequence of its famously hospitable tourist industry. Kerala has wonderful groomed beaches, towering green mountains, and the famous backwaters region, regarded worldwide for its biodiversity and beauty.
Culturally, too, Kerala has much to offer. It has one of the most diverse religious communities in India, with large Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities with ties to Kerala going back hundreds of years. Kerala’s Jewish community, although it has largely emigrated to Israel, existed and prospered here for centuries. Kerala is one of the most peaceful states in India and is largely devoid of sectarian violence. Additionally, it is one of the most educated states in India.
Many consider Kerala to be the best place to travel to in India, as it has a little of everything for everyone. It’s not called “Gods Own Country” for nothing!
Thiruvanathapuram’s history goes back as far as 1000 BC. It is said King Solomon’s ships traded with the city. The city as we know it today was the center of the kingdom of Travancore in the 1700’s, and it has remained a center of Kerala eve since. The city is a major educational and medical hub, with a surprising amount of tourists from the West coming here for medical treatment, especially for Ayurveda therapy.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the divya desam, the 108 most sacred sites of Lord Vishnu. Every six years, a major festival, the Laksha Deepam, occurs, attracting hundred of thousands of faithful and lighting up much of the city. The ciy is so important to city life that the city itself gets it name from it.
Varkala is the site of an ancient, 3,500 year old temple dedicated to Vishnu, a major pilgrimage center often called the Varanasi of the South. The nearby beach is thought to have sacred waters that can wash away evil. Additionally, the only sea cliffs in Kerala are here, making for picture-perfect postcards.
Nearby Thiruvanathapuram is the so-called Golden Peak, popular among tourists and Keralites alike for its cool mountain air and tea gardens, as well as great hiking opportunities. It is nearby the peak Agasthyarkoodam, one of the highest mountains in the Western Ghats, which is accessible if one asks the Forest Dept.
Kochi has been a trade center for as long as records exist. It traded with the Greeks, Romans, Jews, Arabs, Chinese and Malays for hundreds of years and has been visited by many famous explores including Zheng He and Vasco da Gama. As a consequence, it has a rich history and culture, and its cuisine is famously tasty. It is the economic center of the state, and walking the streets of its old town is a journey to the past.
St Francis Church
This is the first Church built by Europeans in India, and it served as an example for future constructions in the country. It is a popular tourist attraction nowadays, as it marks a major historical event in Kochi.
Eravikulam National Park
Eravikulam has a breathtaking array of flora and fauna. There is the largest Nilgiri tahr community in the world here, as well as large populations of guar, wild dog, dhole, tiger and mongoose, hundreds of birds, butterflies, and flowers and even elephants from time to time. Buses can be taken from Kochi or Munnar, and there are accommodations available for staying.
Kumarakom is a quiet village popular among tourists for its proximity to the Vembanad Lake, the biggest backwater in the state. There are tons of shrimp and freshwater fishes in the lake and some of the best seafood in India can be found here. Kumarakom is near some mangrove forests, famous for their biodiversity, but people who just want to relax can sit around the village, one of the most beautiful and blissful places on earth.
The lush green hills surrounding the town of Vagamon are always a cool 10 to 23 degrees celcius, making it a popular getaway for people fleeing the extreme temperatures of an Indian summer. The place is a popular pilgrimage site for Keralite Christians as well, as the famous Kurisumala monastery is on the nearby slopes. There is also a Kurisumala ashram here. Aside from religious destinations, there are several resorts and trails for people to enjoy.
Cheraman Juma Masjid
Of interest for the historically inclined is the Cheraman Juma Masjid, the oldest mosque in India, built in 629 AD, during the lifetime of Mohammad. It looks more like a temple than a mosque, and is an intriguing historical oddity.
Ground zero for backwater expeditions in Kerala, Alappuzha is where thousands of tourists go to explore the unique waterways of the state. Tourists can rent a house boat and spend a couple days exploring the area for a very affordable price, and the backwaters are an excellent place for fishing. There are tons of resorts to stay at as well. Alappuzha is a perfect place to see Kerala’s beautiful countryside.
Munnar used to be a very sleepy little town hidden in the beautiful Western Ghats until the 1990’s, when the area exploded with activity. Time share houses and resorts attracted the millions of new middle class Indians, and Munnar has since become a lovely resort town with many modern amenities. Additionally, it has a magnificent backdrop of emerald green tea farms and has a lot of nearby wildlife.
Nelliampathi is a idyllic hill station in the Western Ghats surrounded by dense forest and tea and coffee plantations. It’s renowned nationwide for its perfect weather, as well as the amazing wildlife surrounding it. The area is a popular for hiking and trekking.
Silent Valley National Park
Silent Valley National Park is a nature enthusiasts paradise. One of the only undisturbed parts of the Western Ghats tropical rainforest, the national park was protected after local industrialists wanted to build a hydroelectric plant in its passes. Silent Valley has a wide array of animals, including tigers, leopards, scaly anteaters, porcupines, mongooses, several monkey species, as well as the Guar, the largest wild cattle species. There are an overwhelming number of butterflies and flowers here as well, along with hundreds of bird species, including 16 endangered ones.