Kerala: India for Beginners
India can be quite a culture shock for the first time visitor but it is also probably the most fascinating and rewarding place you could ever visit, somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime! Luckily there are places in India that are less chaotic and the tropical, laid back southern state of Kerala is a great introduction to India for beginners.
When people think of India usually images of of the Taj Mahal, brightly coloured saris, desert forts and dirty and chaotic cities come to mind. While the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and the flamboyant state of Rajastan holds some of the most crazily colourful and exotic travel experiences in the world, visiting these places can also be really overwhelming and traveling in India can be hard work.
After over 18 months of traveling in both the North and South of this incredible country I always offer the same advice to friends venturing to India for the first time – start with the South of India.
I say this because, generally speaking, I find the South of India a lot easier, cleaner and safer to travel in and a real gem and highlight of South India is Kerala
Tropical, Beautiful Kerala
The luscious, emerald green state of Kerala forms a tropical, blissed out strip along the Western Coastline of the far South of India. Whilst all the colour and exoticness of India is found here, in many ways the state of Kerala, also known as ‘God’s own Country,’ differs to the rest of India and traveling in Kerala is a cleaner, less hassled, and laid back affair.
Nature has blessed ‘Gods own Country’ from head to toe and Kerala boasts so many amazing experiences from tropical beaches, spice plantations, languid backwaters, stunning nature and wildlife sanctuaries, cool hill stations and historic, multicultural, unhurried towns. Add scrumptious seafood and cuisine, an abundance in natural therapies like yoga and ayurveda and some of the friendliest people and warmest hospitality I’ve ever encountered.
India is so diverse, you could really spend a lifetime travelling here and never see it all, from deserts to the Himalayas, from chaotic cities to rural villages untouched by the 21st century to ancient temples, historic forts, tropical beaches and of course, one of the most amazing water ways of earth – the Kerala backwaters. Diversity abounds in India and every state is different. Kerala has been described as ‘easy India’ or India for beginners’, and from my experiences, Kerala is the prefect introduction to India.
Why is Kerala Different?
Kerala differs from the rest of India as it was cut off by the highlands of the Western ghats, instead the abundance of spices grown here attracted traders and explorers since time immemorial, first the Arabs and Chinese and then the Portuguese, Dutch and British and along with trade they also influenced the local population. Kerala is also cleaner, wealthier and more developed than many parts of India and it was actually the world’s first state to have a democratically elected communist government back in 1957.
One of the biggest differences is in education, Kerala has the highest literacy and life expectancy rates and the lowest infant mortality in India. Education is taken very seriously here and it’s never hard to find someone to help who can speak English.
Despite Kerala’s stunning natural beauty, it is the people of Kerala, possibly the friendliest I’ve encountered in India, and their wonderful smiles who are Kerala’s best asset. Actually the people here have overwhelmed me with their warm welcomes and amazing hospitality, this alone makes a visit here special and one that lingers in the hearts, minds and memories forever.
I’m going to be writing many more tips posts to ease your travels around India, including packing, safety for women, transportation and how to book trains and where to go. If you have any queries about travel in India contact me and I’ll try my best to help!