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 it’s Kerala’s dreamy beaches, serene backwater lagoons, forested mountains and abundant wildlife that are 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’. TransIndus were among the first operators to offer trips to the region, and our local knowledge remains unrivalled.

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