Ever since Shahrukh Khan decided to go down south with Chennai Express, the bottom half of the Indian peninsula has caught the attention of travel enthusiasts like never before. The southern part of India always had its charm but is now turning into one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the country.
Call it the appeal of the greens, spices or rice, but the star of the south is on the rise.
Even though general ignorance makes us consider the whole of south as one place and culture, the four states out there are quite distinct. The most sought out by tourists though is surely God’s own country, Kerala.
So when I decided to take a vacation and travel down south, Kerala for sure was a no brainer. The first thing travelogues and travel consultants tell you is that summer is not the ideal time for a trip down south. The preferred months for a trip to Kerala, like most other places, were between the months of September and March. But this trip had been long overdue and I didn’t let the harsh summer change my decision and, it turned out to be a perfect choice.
As the aircraft touched down at Kochi, this heavenly country greeted me with a vast expanse of green. A sight for sore eyes used to the cosmopolitan concrete. Lines of coconut and banana trees will be how I define Kerala from now on.
My Kerala itinerary consisted of five destinations, and my travel through God’s own country began at Munnar.
This famous southern hill station is adorned with tea gardens and turned out to be a breath of fresh air in the nasty heat. The thought of pullovers and cardigans at this time of the year is sure to make anyone sweat but that’s exactly what I wished was part of my luggage, such was the weather here. There isn’t much to see in Munnar except the vastness of tea gardens which are primarily owned by the Tata’s and it’s this very activity that keeps the economy of this place going.
The area surrounding Munnar is also known for its spices. You can see spice gardens at every nook and corner, filling the air with aromas and fragrances.
Another interesting sight is the Rajamalai hills, located about 15 kms from Munnar. These hills house the Eravikulam National Park, home to the largest surviving population of the endangered Nilgiri Tahr.
Kerala is synonymous with backwaters and I had two such scheduled stops on my trip. The most famous of the Kerala backwaters are in the town of Alleppey, which is about a 4-hour drive from Munnar. The main attraction here is the houseboat rides. Instead of staying on one for the whole day, as is the norm, I decided to go for a two hour ride. All in all it turned out to be a good decision, primarily for two reasons.
First, I ended up saving a decent sum of money and secondly these waters were not as beautiful as I had hoped they would be. With both sides lined with houses, the waters are filled with dirt and garbage and do not offer the view one hopes for. But what did mitigate my disappointment of the backwaters was Poovar.
Situated at about a half-hour distance from Kovalam, are the backwaters of Poovar. Though not as famous as Alleppey, the backwaters here offer a much more scenic view. At the end of the backwaters is the Golden Sand Beach, where one can actually see how backwaters are formed.
The beach town of Kovalam may not have beaches as popular as Goa, but they are worth a visit. And the best of all is the Lighthouse beach, not for the beach per say, but for the lighthouse. A 140-stair climb will take you to the top of the lighthouse and a view of the waters from there is nothing short of spectacular.
My last stop Kanyakumari turned out to be the most memorable one and to think that I was going to opt out of it due to time issues. Kanyakumari, the last point of the Indian union, is not a part of Kerala but its proximity to Kovalam makes it a sure shot destination on a Kerala itinerary. And once you visit this place all else is sure to lose color. The way the three waters of The Arabian Sea, The Bay of Bengal and The Indian Ocean merge is a sight to die for. And then there is the Vivekananda statue in the middle of the waters. It sure is a majestic sight.
India is a vast country and has a lot to offer if one loves to travel, from the snow in the north to the raging rains and greens down south. Kerala is surely a must visit for anyone who loves nature.
After a five day trip as I touched down at Delhi, I had almost covered the vertical distance of India, and I was glad to have finally made the time to visit God’s own country.