Kerala – “The God’s Own Country” is a narrow strip of land, rolled out like a green carpet between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats, in the south-west coast of India. The name Kerala or Keralam means the land of ‘Kera’ (coconut). It has an area of 38,863 Sq.Km. with a population 3.20 crores.
Kerala is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, and often referred to as one of the 'ten paradises of the world' and 50 must see destinations of a life time’. The geographical features combined with the diverse culture and traditions made Kerala, one of the exciting tourist terminus in the world.
The history of Kerala Tourism begins in the 1980’s. Initially it was started as a hospitality department by the Government of Kerala, but soon realized the importance of Tourism. In 1986 the Government of Kerala recognised Tourism as an industry. In 1990’s Tourism was identified as a foreign exchange earner and an employment generator. Now the growth rate of Tourism in Kerala is 13.31% contributing a major share in the economy of the state.
Kerala is immensely blessed by nature with sun-kissed sands, palm- fringed beaches, lush vegetation, stunning mountains, verdant greenery, mist-clad valleys, wild life and bird sanctuary. The forts and palaces, pilgrim centres, and festivals and rituals are added attractions; with a new work of 44 major rivers and lakes on the back water system.
The 580 kilometres of coast line of Kerala is dotted with some of the finest and charming beaches of the world, characterized by the long stretches of golden sand, coconut groves, lagoons, natural harbours and sheltered coves.
Tourists can experience water safe swimming, sun bathing, surfing and a variety of delicious sea foods.
The most famous beaches in Kerala are Kovalam, Varkala, Alappuzha, Cherai, Kappad, Kozhikode, Dharmadam Island,Meenkunnu, Bekel, Payyambalam, Shankumugham and Muzhuppilangad.
Kerala is guarded by the Western Ghats towering 500 – 2700 meters in the east. The dense forests, luxuriant plantations, the exotic wild life, the mid–clad hill stations, the beautiful gorges and valleys, and the streams through the rocks – conjointly offers a magical experience of nature, in its natural beauty.
The major hill stations in Kerala are Munnar, Vagamon, Ponmudi, Devikulam, Nelliyampathi, Peerumedu, Ramakkalmedu, Pythalmala, Ezhimala, Ranipuram, Vythiri, Chembra peak, Gavi and Elavizhapoonchira.
Athirappally, Thusharagiri, Meenmutty, Perumthenaruvi, Thommankuthu and Kanthanpara are the famous waterfalls.
The wild life sanctuaries in Kerala are Periyar (tiger reserve), Parambikulam, Idukki, Chinnar, Wayanad, Neyyar, Peppara, Chenthurini, Peechi-Vazhani, Chimmini and Aaralam.
Kumarakom, Thattekkad and Mangalavanam are the bird sanctuaries.
Kerala’s prosperous past is reflected by its preserved heritages in the form of Forts, Palaces and Monuments, which compliment the Royal History of the state. Due to the presence of foreigners in the past, most of their heritages characterise a blend of traditional Kerala ‘Thachushasthram’ and foreign styles of architecture.
Bekal Fort, Pallippuram Fort, Palakkad Fort, St.Angelos Fort at Kannur, Thalassery Fort, the Dutch Palace, Arackal Palace, Mattancheery Palace, Kanakakkunnu Palace, Bolghaty Palace, Alway Palace, Thrippunithura Hill Palace, Krishnapuram Palce, Koyikkal Palace and Padmanabhapuram Palce (now in Tamil Nadu) are included in the tourist map of Kerala.
The Kerala Back waters marks a matchless ecosystem, where the fresh water from the rivers meets the sea water from the Arabian Sea. It’s a net work of 900 kilometres of inter connected waterways, rivers, lakes and inlets. They connected the ancient towns with the modern lake side resorts.
The largest back water stretch in Kerala is the Vembanad Lake which flows through Alappuzha, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts. Kumarakom – the famous back water tourism destination is set in the back drop of Vembanad Lake. The Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam district is the second largest.
A journey in ‘Kettu Vallam’ (House boat) in the back waters is one among the main tourist attractions in Kerala. The tourists move to a magical world when they cruise down the water ways, as it offers a perfect blend of scenic beauty and tranquillity.
Other tourist interests in Kerala are, Kathakali- a rhythmic dance form based on ancient epics, Kalarippayattu-an incredible martial art form originated in Kerala, Ayurveda- the traditional form of medicine and treatment, and Boat Races- water sports conducted in festival season.