Since the time of ancient Greece, Europeans have been seduced by the fecundity, vibrancy and cultural sophistication of India’s far southwest – an intensely tropical region known to outsiders as ‘Malabar’, and to its inhabitants as simply ‘Kerala’ – ‘Land of the Chera Kings’. Black pepper was the reason foreigners originally came here. Now, foreigners book a Kerala holiday for Kerala’s dreamy beaches, serene backwater lagoons, forested mountains and abundant wildlife - the prime incentives, along with the chance to experience one of the oldest and most traditional cultures in Asia.
For despite being a go-ahead, modern state, with the country’s highest levels of literacy, it’s also among the most culturally conservative. Religion is very much in the foreground – whether Hindu, Muslim or Christianity (of which there are numerous denominations, some dating back to the time of St Thomas the Apostle). And clothing tends to be traditional, with knee-length, gold-and-green-edged mundus worn by as many men as Western-style trousers. Festivals, too, play a prominent part in the region’s calendar, particularly during winter months, when ear-splitting drum orchestras and processions of richly decorated elephants are a common sight around temples.
Kerala’s other great asset are its stylish heritage and boutique hotels. In the space of just a week, you can cruise the rivers of Kuttanad in a converted rice barge, bed down in a former tea planter’s bungalow high in the hills, and relax over an Ayurvedic massage in an antique wood nallukettu house nestled in the palm grove behind a secluded beach or backwater canal.
Such distinctive attractions – both cultural and natural – explain why National Geographic’s Traveler magazine named the state as one of their ‘Top 50 Must-See Destinations of a Lifetime’. As India specialists, TransIndus were among the first operators to offer holidays to Kerala and the surrounding region, and our local knowledge as Kerala specialists remains unrivalled.