A Guide to Luxury Kerala Holidays from the Experts
Written by Alison Nicolle and Krishna Ghosh, from The Luxury Holiday Company.
India can seem to encompass a world unto itself, with the 29 states each maintaining distinct cultures, religions, and languages. And while visitors flock to the north to view the country’s most iconic destinations – the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort in Delhi, the ghats of Varanasi – more and more travellers are discovering that there is plenty to recommend the south.
Perhaps no region of India better showcases the relaxed side of the nation than Kerala, a slim southwestern state stretching lazily along the coast of the Arabian Sea that provides a perfect introduction to India with plenty of options for traveling in luxury.
South India destination specialists Alison Nicolle and Krishna Ghosh, from The Luxury Holiday Company, bring their top recommendations for enjoying a luxury Kerala holiday yourself:
1. Enjoy the luxury of time onboard a Keralan houseboat
Kerala is crisscrossed by so many rivers and canals that the best form of transport is often a boat, and a trip on a luxury houseboat has become a staple of a holiday here. Sometimes actual converted rice boats, or at least built in the same style, these kettuvallams or ‘stitched boats’ are a quiet way to laze down the waterways and take in the sights at local villages, and Alison and Krishna suggest booking an overnight stay – it’s “not to be missed,” according to Krishna. Immerse yourself in tropical foliage, hear the songs of local birds and, for a luxe touch, enjoy a meal prepared by a personal chef using local ingredients – white prawns, mussels, and pearl-spotted fish.
2. Savour fine dining in Cochin
Cochin, also known as Kochi or Fort Kochi, is home to the main airport as well as a historic port city with a wealth of international influences. Visitors will find everything from synagogues to galleries and the intricately-painted Dutch Palace, and a sunset boat tour around the bay is highly recommended by Krishna, to catch sight of Chinese fishing boats and their expansive nets silhouetted against the sky.
But for a foodie experience in Kerala you won’t soon forget, try the dishes at The History at Brunton Boatyard. Traditional Keralan food is a highlight here, but so are the flavours of Portugal, the Middle East, the British and more. The sounds of live music – usually sitar and table – reverberate through the airy dining room, and the wooden ceiling pays homage to the boating and fishing heritage of the region.
3. Walk in tea-scented clouds
Munnar, a scenic hill station and former favourite summer resort of the British, is home to some of Kerala’s most enchanting landscapes. Undulating hills and peaks that reach up to 2,700 metres spread to the horizon, and in the mornings, this height combined with cool air means that you can wake enveloped in the clouds. The climate up here is excellent for long walks, not requiring the fortitude necessary in Kerala’s lower – and hotter – villages. And walking is really the way to go, so you can inhale the delicate scent of fresh tea mingling in the mists.
For added luxury, stay at Spice Village, an ecologically-friendly resort set at 2,000 metres altitude in the Cardamom Hills of Periyar. You’ll enjoy access to the famous Periyar Tiger Reerve next door, as well as cottages built in the style of tribal homes – but with stone floors, airy porches, a private verandah and gourmet, locally-sourced meals.
4. Indulge in Keralan Ayurveda at a world-class spa
In Kerala, Ayurveda is a mainstream medical and lifestyle practice, and to really get to know Keralan culture, a treatment (or two, or three…) is highly recommended.
In particular, the Ayurvedic Spa at The Leela in Kovalam is worth a visit.With an expansive treatment centre (spanning nearly 8,000 square feet), and boasting a panoramic view of the sea, you’re in good hands here. Spa therapies include aromatherapy oil massages, and well as more familiar reflexology, hot-stone and Swedish-style massages. Try yoga packages designed to treat specific needs, from neuromuscular coordination to eye and neck exercises and prana breathing techniques.
5. Take in a vibrant Kathakali dance performance in Cochin
One of India’s most storied dance forms, Kathakali is a classical style devoted to telling Hindu stories in theatres and royal palaces – distinctive from the often more subdued forms of dance elsewhere in India that developed in religious settings. Sit back and enjoy the show at the Kerala Kathakali Centre in Cochin, where every evening there are three performances. Some are traditional Kathakali, but the centre also specialises in classical music performances as well as martial arts, or Kalaripayttu. Interested visitors can also take a class in one of the featured art forms.
This post was a collaboration by South India destination specialists Alison Nicolle and Krishna Ghosh from The Luxury Holiday Company who specialise in providing luxury and tailormade holidays in India and worldwide. For more ideas, the Keralan Spice Coast sample itinerary from The Luxury Holiday Company features more of the team’s favourite places and experiences. They also offer a tool for tailoring your own holiday with a customisable mood board, suitable for people who know where they want to go and those just getting to learn the options. For more luxurious Kerala inspiration also have a look at my favourite luxury hotel expereinces in Kerala.