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Kerala, a state in Southern India is known as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It is a narrow strip of coastal territory that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation, and reaches to the Arabian sea. Kerala borders the states ofTamil Nadu to the east and Karnataka to the north. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohini Attam. It is the most literate state in India, and a land of diverse religions, where you can find Hindu temples, mosques, churches, and even synagogues. With world class tourist sporting options, ayurvedic spas and treatments, eco-tourism initiatives, a large number of visit options ranging from beautiful high altitude blue mountains to pristine rain forests to golden sun-sand beaches and an enormous range of accommodation, Kerala has much to offer the visitor.
The tourism department of Kerala boasts that the state is God's Own Country. Once you visit, you will see where this claim comes from. The state really is blessed with great natural beauty, and diverse ecology. You can get an Ayurvedic oil massage, spend a day or two on a houseboat with nothing to do but watch coconut trees pass by, or just laze around on Kovalam or Varkala beaches. Thus tourism is more experiential here, rather than being composed of superficial sightseeing options.
- Backwaters of Kerala are a maze of lagoons criss-crossed with rivers, shallow pools and canals, all separated from the sea by a narrow strip of sand banks. In many places, the backwaters connect to form large lakes. Backwaters are present throughout the state but Alappuzha and Kottayam are most notable in this regard. There more unexplored backwater stretches in Malabar, particularly in Kannur District. The Vembandu lake is the longest lake in the country, which is also one of the largest, while Astamudi Lake is highly unique due to its topography.
- The annual Vallam Kali boat races take place in the backwaters. The boats are large wooden canoes that can accommodate 60 to 100 rowers. The most famous race is for the Nehru Trophy Vallam Kalli, held on the second Saturday of August as a tribute to the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who had a keen interest in this sport.
- The Blue Mountains of the Western Ghats, popularly known as Nilgiris which has numerous hill stations in this area. The most popular is Munnar, the honeymoon capital of the state. The highest peak of the Western Ghats is located at Anamudi (2,695 metres) and is good for trekking. The area is also home to several sanctuaries and forest reserve areas.
- Several small and big Hill stations, spread in Eastern Districts of Kerala are highly popular picnic spots. Wayanad and Idukki offers several such idyllic picnic spots.
- There are more than two dozen waterfalls, both large and small, with numerous rapids and springs. The largest fallwaters are at Athirampally, where three milky waterfalls fall at great speed.
- Periyar National Tiger Park, Eravikulam Reserve, Silent Valley Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad Reserves are some of the most popular tourist destinations, offering spectacular insights to the rich flora and fauna biosphere of Kerala. Many of these parks are well known internationally due to presence of exotic animals like Nilgiri Tahr, Gaur, Indian Muntjac, Sambar Deer, Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat, Dhole, leopard and the Indian Tigers, which many are endangered rare species. Some little known animals such as Nilgiri langur, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Indian Porcupine, Nilgiri Marten, small clawed otter, Ruddy Mongoose, and Dusky striped squirrel offers a visual treat to tourists. Wild elephant herds making seasonal visits to water bodies are also seen in many of these parks.
- Kerala also has several bird parks, with more than 132 species of birds on record. Thattekkad Salim Rajan Bird Park is one such famous destination along with Malayatoor Forest Reserves
- Many popular hill-stations like Nelliyampatty, Peechi Dam, Ranipuram, Vythiri and Kumarakom offers unique natural wildlife parks, with lots of rare flora and fauna to be explored.
Kerala has 650 km of coastline and numerous beaches. Some of the more notable are:
- Kovalam Beach near Trivandrum has a good bathing area, clean environment and plenty of accommodation. This was a centre of Hippy counter-culture in sixties, and is today well known for hedonistic beach parties.
- Varkala Beach in Thiruvananthapuram district - A long cliff makes the beach more natural (no restaurant behind you). It is long beach with natural springs from the cliff.
- Alapuzha Beach and Kollam Beach are both well known for beach sports and tournaments.
- Cherai Beach near Kochi city has a large sand beach.
- Kozhikode Beach is where Vasco da Gama first landed in India, marking the start of European colonisation and the Age of Discovery.
- Muzhappilangadu near Kannur is the country's lone drive in beach in Kannur district with lush greenery around. This beach has a naturally clean and closely packed sand which makes it drivable. Beach is very long 4-5 km and is a pleasant place to spend time. Lots of adventure activities like para gliding/ para sailing etc. are arranged in this beach regularly.
How to reach
There are three airports in Kerala, with flights to domestic and international destinations: Kochi(Cochin), Kozhikode, andThiruvananthapuram(Trivandrum). The airports have several carriers operating international flights around the world.
Indian Railways operates several trains to and from Kerala. More than 300 plus trains connect Kerala to all parts of India, including long-haul direct train services to cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Trivandrum Rajadhani, Ernakulam Durnoto, Kerala Express and Netravati Express are some of the most popular trains connect key cities across India.
Kerala is well connected by National Highways and recently it was renumbered. Both numbers are used interchangeably:
- NH 66 (Connecting Mumbai to Trivandrum via Western coastal side of Goa, Karnataka and almost all coastal cities of Kerala like Kannur, Kozhikode, Kochi, Alapuzha, Kollam etc) (Earlier known as NH 17)
- NH 544 (Connecting Salem with Kochi via Coimbatore, Palakkad, Thrissur (Earlier known as NH 47)
- NH 766 (Connecting Kozhikode to Mysore via Wayanad)(Earlier known as NH 212)
- NH 85 (Connecting Kochi to Ramaeswaram via Munnar, Madurai)(Earlier known as NH 49)
- NH 183 (Connecting Kollam to Dindigul in Tamil Nadu via Kottayam, Kanjirapally, Kumily and enters into Tamil Nadu at Kambam)(Earlier known as NH 220)
- NH 744 (Connecting Kollam with Madurai via Punalur, Shenkottai, Tenkasi)(Earlier known as NH 208)
- NH 966 (Connecting Palakkad with Kozhikode) (Earlier known as NH 213)
Kerala, being very close to equator, has a tropical climate. Kerala experiences heavy rains almost throughout the year, and is one of the wettest areas on the earth.
Kerala has three distinct seasons:
- Summer lasts from from mid-February to mid-May. The tropical sun is really hot and temperatures can go up to 35°C in the afternoons.
- The monsoon is in place from mid-May until early September. The North-East Monsoon winds bring heavy showers.
- Winter is mild and lasts from about mid-October to early February. Heavy rains occur from the last week of September until until early November, due to the retreat of the South-East monsoon. There is no snow in Kerala, although it is quite cold and misty in the mountain regions.
When in Kerala, carry an umbrella no matter what time of the year it is. You can be caught in a sudden shower in summer which will leave you drenched if you are unprepared. The Kerala sun coupled with high rate of humidity can be unforgiving in the summer months.
The temperature averages around:
- 28°C - 34°C daytime, 24°C - 28°C at night in summer seasons of March, April
- 20°C - 28°C daytime, 18°C - 25°C at night for the rest of the year
Temperatures may drop down to 10°C or sometimes even little below during Winter seasons (November, December) in Hilly areas of Western ghats, especially at popular hill-stations like Munnar and Wynad etc, which results a misty days and freezing nights coupled with light cold showers. However in other places, the temperatures never drop below 15°C.
Recently summers have become hotter. Though the maximum temperature on summers has never risen higher than 36°C, the rising humidity has made recent summers difficult. The height of the Kerala summer is normally between mid-March and May. Wear only light loose cotton clothes during this season. Consider a trip to hilly areas where the temperatures never exceed 26°C.
Kerala experiences mild winds throughout most of the year
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