Kerala is a state on the southwestern coast of India. The long coastline of Kerala has encouraged global maritime contact, which is evident in the diverse architecture and overseas cultural influences. Kerala has maintained a unique cultural identity with customs, arts and festivals that continue to thrive.A network of backwaters is a special attraction found along the coastline of Kerala, that allows travelers to discover the plantations and villages by navigating these man-made canals.The population of Kerala is mainly Hindu with about one quarter following Christianity and a considerable Muslim population as well.Some of the highlights of Kerala include the Wayanad and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary for elephant spotting, exploring the spice and tea plantations around Munnar or experience the floating life of Kerala's backwaters.Thiruvananthapuram is the state capital of Kerala with many government offices, organizations and companies. It is also a major academic center housing several premier educational institutions including the Kerala University. The Padmanabha Swamy Temple, the Napier Museum and Zoo, and the Palayam Mosque and Church are among notable heritage sights in the city.Kerala has great pride in its colorful temples, European churches and mosques, historic towns and beautiful beaches which make it a popular tourist destination.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of South India's most popular tourist attractions. British engineers created the picturesque artificial lake at the heart of the sanctuary in 1895 as a way to irrigate nearby districts and provide water to the city of Madurai.The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1934 and became a tiger reserve in 1973, it is also known as Thekkady Tiger Reserve, Although the biggest draw to the sanctuary is the 900 or so Indian elephants that roam freely.Other wildlife found within Periyar includes guar (Indian bison), sambar, wild boar, langur, sloth bear, otters and lion-tailed macaque. Bird watching is another desirable activity with sightings of species such as darters, storks, kingfishers, Malabar Hornbill and racket-tailed Drongoes. Other interesting varieties of birds and butterflies have also been spotted.The mountain scenery, two-hour lake cruises and guided jungle walks make for a memorable visit! The treks allow visitors to come face to face with elephant herds or to observe the wildlife from watchtowers and viewing platforms. The best time to visit Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is from October to June.Spice plantations surrounding Periyar welcome visitors on organized tours such as the coffee and cardamom plantations of Murikaddy, pepper plantations of Vandiperiyar and several tea factories.
Natana Kairali Research and Performing Center, Irinjalakuda, India
Natana Kairali Center is a performing arts center that offers training in traditional arts including puppetry and dance. The workshops, performances and festivals are nationally and internationally acclaimed.In particular, the Natana Kairali Research and Performing Center promotes Kerala's performing arts such as Kuttiyam, Nangiar Koothu and rare forms of puppetry.In January the center hosts a 12-day festival and visitors can participate in short appreciation courses.
Eravikulam National Park
Eravikulam National Park is situated on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 16 kilometers from Munnar. Eravikulam National Park was established to protect the Nilgiri Tahr also known as the Nilgiri Ibex (a type of mountain goat). This region is the natural habitat of this rare mountain goat and the park has the largest known population of Tahrs in the world.Other important wildlife in Eravikulam National Park are elephant, leopard, tiger, malabar civet, sambar, barking deer, nilgai, langur, phyhon etc. The birdlife is abundant and includes imperial pigeons and grey jungle fowl.The park has been divided into 3 regions - the core area, the buffer area and the tourism area. Visitors are only allowed to explore the tourism area, which is within Rajmalai.
Alappuzha or Alleppey is a market town located along a network of canals and surrounded by coconut trees. Alappuzha is a one of the better starting points for exploring the backwaters. The waterways surrounding the town are still in use and service the coir industry, which has been in existence since the 19th C.The famous Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race takes place annually in August on Vembanad Lake in Alleppey. Each boat has a crew of up to 100 rowers and is avidly watched by thousands of spectators.The Mullakal Devi Temple in Alappuzha participates in a festival each December that is celebrated with dance, music, and rituals. There is also a modern Jain shrine built next to the older shrine.
Mannarsala - Nagaraja Temple
Nagaraja Temple is one of the most important centers of snake worship in Kerala. The woodlands surrounding Nagaraja Temple have statues of snake gods and hooded cobras among the trees and along the paths to the temple.Built in typical Keralan architecture, the main shrine of the temple is dedicated to Nagaraja, the serpent king.The temple is at its busiest during the annual festival in September or October when idols are carried through the woods and a large crowd of devotees participates in the parade. Offerings of milk, rice and turmeric are made.Childless women will visit Nagaraja Temple to pray for a child, and if they give birth then they return to the shrine with offering of grains that weigh the equivalent of the infant.
Kollam is a bustling market town that was once an important trading city. The Portuguese were the first to establish a trading center at Kollam in 1502. The name of the town has changed frequently over time, it has been known as Desinganadu, Kollam, and Quilon.The town of Kollam is surrounded by coconut and cashew plantations situated on Ashtamudi Lake. The tropical climate means that summer lasts from March to May and then the monsoon season begins, lasting from June to September.The busy main streets of Kollam lead to quiet winding alleys lined with old wooden houses and red-tiled roofs. Kollam is also a popular gateway for boat trips on the backwaters.
Krishnapuram Palace was built by Marthanda Varma in the 18th C and has been restored to maintain a worthy example of Keralan architecture. The two-story palace features gabled roofs, woodcarvings and one of Kerala's largest mural paintings - Gajendra Moksha.The Krishnapuram Palace now houses a museum exhibiting bronze sculptures, paintings from archeological sites, antique furniture and a palanquin, a unique enclosed seat that was used by the royal family to carry the married women of the family. Other displays include ceremonial utensils, oil lamps, miniature figures and small stone columns carved with serpent deities. The landscaped garden in the Krishnapuram Palace compound highlights a variety of flowers typical of Kerala and is home to an ancient statue of Buddha.
Fort, Thalasseri, India
Thalasseri Fort stands on a rocky cliff on the Thelichery Beach. This was one of the most important British military bases. The British obtained permission from the Raja of Chirakal to build Thalasseri Fort as a means to protect their spice interests.Built in 1708, Thalasseri Fort has an impressive gateway, high walls and a lighthouse. The intricately carved doors and secret tunnels to the sea are other sights that should be noted! Behind Thalasseri Fort are colonial buildings, two churches and a gymnastics school.The nearby cemetery was named for Sir Edward Brennen, the founder of Brennen College, who is buried there along with many European officials of the East India Company.
Hill Palace Museum, Tripunithura, India
The Hill Palace Museum was the former residence of the Kochi royal family. The complex consists of 49 buildings that now house a collection of royal family memorabilia as well as coins, manuscripts, scriptures, 19th C oil paintings, sculptures and temple models. Other exhibits include antique pieces of pottery and ceramic from Japan and China, Kudakkallu (tombstones), granite, laterite memorials, and rock cut weapons.Hill Palace was built in 1865 and is now the largest archeological museum in Kerala. The 49 buildings were built in the traditional architectural style of Kerala. The land surrounding Hill Palace has rare medicinal plants, a deer park and horseback riding facilities.
Kovalam is Kerala's most popular beach resort with development causing it to become "the paradise of the south". Even with the development occurring, Kovalam has retained its charm and the beaches have stayed cleaned.Kovalam is a popular haven for tourists to enjoy the scenic beauty, a variety of accommodations and many restaurants that offer western style and Indian food. Ayurvedic massage parlors, yoga centers and water sport facilities also draw travelers one of India's most visited beach resorts. Surfing, swimming and snorkeling are among the desirable water sports.
Padmanabhapuram Palace was originally built during the 14th C and called Darpakulangara, in the 18th C it was renovated and renamed the Padmanabhapuram Palace. Regarded as the best surviving example of traditional Keralan architecture, the palace is well worth the visit.Padmanabhapuram Palace is constructed of teak and granite with some of areas of the structure dating from 1550. The rosewood ceilings are carved in floral patterns, there are murals to discover and well-sculpted stone figures.Within the palace are the royal dwelling quarters, administrative areas, public spaces, underground passages and a shrine. The shiny floors are finished with crushed shells, egg whites, coconuts and juices.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is situated on the banks of the Vembanand Lake and offers a great variety of domestic and migratory birds for bird watchers. The best time for viewing is in the early morning and during November to February. Local species such as waterfowls, cuckoos and owls, as well as the migratory cranes and cormorants have been recorded in Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary.The Kumarakom Tourist Complex has over 101 acres of woodland and a lake for boats to be hired for a cruise around the sanctuary.The town of Kumarakom is an ideal destination to experience traditional village life and farming activities.
Marayoor is a village with a natural sandalwood forest, the only considerable one left in Kerala. The forest is strictly protected but tours may be arranged with a Tamil tribal guide. The natural beauty and wildlife of Marayoor attracts tourists from all over the world. The forests resound with the voices of many including the small wild parrots, mynas, red horned sparrows and a host of other species.The heritage of Marayoor dates back to the Stone Age and there is many important megalith sites and prehistoric rock paintings. Ancient dolmens or megalithic tombs are found among the caves and underground tunnels.
Varkala is located in a cliff-top setting with excellent beaches and a peaceful resort setting. Varkala's main beach, Papanasam is a long, golden beach with red laterite cliffs as a backdrop from which mineral water springs forth. Papanasam is a holy beach, which means 'destroyer of the sins' and the mineral water that flows is known for their medicinal qualities.The forest of coconut trees house many kinds of wildlife, birdlife and butterflies.The town of Varkala is also famous for Janardhana Temple, which was rebuilt in the 13th C. There are several smaller shrines that date from an earlier period located around the temple.
Sri Janardhana Temple
Sri Janardhana Temple is a granite structure, rebuilt in the architectural style of the Chola period during the 13th C. Surrounding the temple are Banyan trees and shrines that are said to be older than the Sri Janardhana Temple itself. Non-Hindus may be invited onto the grounds of the temple but may not enter the temple.On the cliff near the Janardhana Temple is the old palace of the Travancore Princely State, which has been converted into a government guesthouse.
Cinnamon Estate, Anjarakandy, India
Anjarakandy Cinnamon Estate is one of the largest in Asia, the estate was established in 1767 by the East India Company. Originally the Anjarakandy Cinnamon Estate was a mixed plantation of cinnamon, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and other spices but today it specializes in cinnamon and the oil that is extracted.The historical significance is that Pazhassi Raja and the British Army fought for the estate in 1903.Visitors to Anjarakandy Cinnamon Estate can watch the process for preparing the cinnamon spice and extracting the oil for perfume.
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to abundant wildlife such as elephant, guar, deer, panther, leopards and the endangered giant grizzled squirrel.The habitats in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary range from shola forest to grasslands. Trekking is a favorite pastime for tourists as well as watching the variety of birds and butterflies along the path to the watchtower.Chinnar lies in the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats and as a result only gets about 48 rainy days in a year during the months of October and November when the Northeast monsoons hit.
Guruvayoor is a small town in Kerala that is famous for the Shri Krishna Swamy Temple, an important center for the worship of the infant Krishna. The temple is visited regularly by people seeking healing for rheumatism and it is also popular for marriage ceremonies. The temple features carved columns, a tall gold flagpost, a lamp tower, murals and the image of Krishna holding a conch, a discus, a mace and a lotus.Near Shri Krishna Swamy Temple in Guruvayoor is the Punnathur Kotha, the famous Elephant Sanctuary where elephants are trained for temple purposes.
Kozhikode - Mananchira Square
Mananchira Square is at the heart of Kozhikode and contains several important buildings including the Town Hall and the Public Library as well as the Commonwealth Trust office.Once the main courtyard of the Zamorin Rulers palace, Mananchira Square has developed into a beautiful park. Temples, mosques and churches surround the square along with numerous traditional Keralan houses. A laterite-sculpted wall circles the whole square.Mananchira Square also has an artificial stream, a musical fountain, an open-air theater and a music stage.
Shiva Temple, Vaikom, India
The Shiva Temple in Vaikom is considered one of the holiest in Kerala. The present structure dates from the 16th C and the murals date from the 18th C.The temple is covered with a copper plated roof and features wooden panels and murals. The murals in the Vaikom Temple depict Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Vishnu, and numerous other figures. A unique attraction for the Shiva Temple is the Kathakali performance that takes place each evening as a ritual offeringThe temple in Vaikom was one of the first to allow "untouchables" to visit the main sanctuary in 1925.
Muzhapalingau Beach is considered one of the finest beaches in Kerala. The white sand, palm trees and rocks make it a perfect spot for photographs.Visitors to Muzhapalingau Beach can swim, sunbathe or laze around. It is also Kerala's only drive-on beach, you could drive the entire length, which can make it very crowded during holidays.Muzhapalingau Beach is a swimmer's paradise, the beach is protected from the deep currents by the black rocks.
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