Kerala is one of the most beautiful states in India. It is blessed with gorgeous scenery – you’ll find a lush, green landscape of swaying palm and coconut trees, rice paddy fields, a huge network of backwater rivers and long golden beaches. Kerala is also very laid-back, with travel through the state more relaxing and stress-free than in other parts of the country. In fact I believe that Kerala is the ideal introduction to travel in India. Whether you are looking for a taste of India on a short trip or want to explore the whole country on a longer tour, Kerala is the perfect place to start, giving you the chance to adapt to Indian life.
So why is Kerala a better place to start exploring India than other parts of the country?
1. It is easy to travel around
Kerala is one of India’s smallest states, making up only 1% of the country’s total landmass. This makes travelling around much easier. Attractions are never too far apart (there are no 24 hour train journeys here!) and with such beautiful scenery to enjoy, the journey is part of the fun. Even if you don’t fancy braving the local buses and trains (although I recommend it for the more adventurous traveller), you can hire your own car and driver inexpensively.
2. It is very relaxed
Many people are worried about travelling in India, and have heard plenty of horror stories. Most of these just don’t apply in peaceful Kerala – there is far less hassle here, and the pace of life is slower. This chilled-out state is the ideal place to adjust to Indian life before moving on to other parts of the country – you’ll be much better prepared for the more hectic parts of India.
3. Keralan people are friendly
The locals here are wonderfully laid-back, kind and welcoming. They are more likely to ask you about your family than try to sell you anything. People will always be willing to help you find the right bus or recommend a place to eat. It also helps that English is commonly spoken throughout the region (the state is very proud of its 91% literacy). A highlight of travelling in Kerala is the huge range of homestays on offer where you can stay with local people, get to know more about the culture and sample delicious home-cooked food.
4. Great weather
Most visitors to India come during the winter (November-February) to avoid the monsoon and the steamy summer temperatures. What most tourists don’t realise is that it can get very cold in Northern India at this time, especially at night, with temperatures dropping below freezing. This isn’t a problem in the tropical Southern states, where the weather never gets cold. Kerala’s winter features guaranteed sun and 28 degree Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures. If you prefer cooler weather you can always escape to the spring-like hills, only a few hours from the coast.
5. Diverse attractions
The huge range of activities on offer is another big draw for visitors. In a week-long trip you could float on a luxurious houseboat in the tranquil backwaters; sunbathe on a tropical beach; spot elephants in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary; practise yoga in an ashram; and hike in the cool mountains and tea plantations near Munnar.
The compact, relaxed, friendly state of Kerala is the ideal destination to begin your India travels.