Feast Your Eyes on the Verdant Hues of Beautiful Kerala

  • A Sea of Green

    Located at over 5,000 feet above sea level, the town of Munnar is one of India's top hill stations, and a popular spot for locals and visitors to escape the heat of the plains below. The area was formerly a summer resort for the British government in India during colonial times, and they turned it into a major tea cultivation region. These days, it still produces abundant quantities of India's tea, and is home to a Tea Museum tracing the history of tea production in India.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Tea Plantations in the Western Ghats

    Munnar was featured in the film Life of Pi, bringing it a boost in tourism due to its beautiful scenery. The tea plantations here stretch on endlessly, flanked by the hills of the Western Ghats in the background. There are excellent opportunities here for hiking, sampling tea and just relaxing – breathing in the cool, fresh air and enjoying the absence of crowds, a rarity in India.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Original Tea Estates Now Serve as Boutique Stays

    Century-old plantation estates in Munnar have now become boutique hotels, and are one of the top reasons for heading into the verdant hills. Here, you can wake up to home-produced cups of tea, be taken on plantation tours, have your own personal butler and enjoy total peace and quiet while contemplating the greenery from the privacy of your balcony or garden.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Viridescent Dreams in Munnar

    The maze of tea bushes are a marvel to watch or wander through. They change color throughout the day, and are best appreciated in the early morning light or shortly before dusk. During the monsoon time or in morning mist, they can be eerie, moody, and for some, even scary. The plantations here are a far cry from what most visitors' preconceived images of India tend to be. 

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Life Passes by Slowly on the Backwaters of Kerala

    The Kerala backwaters are comprised of a chain of lakes, canals and lagoons that lie just off the Malabar Coast and Arabian Sea, fed by around 40 rivers that snake their way out of the Western Ghat Mountains down to the ocean. One could say it is like an Indian bayou, except that these backwaters are home to a thriving lifeline, as thousands of people live surrounded by water and have shaped their lives to living above the flow.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Staying on Original Rice Barges Converted Into Houseboats

    Traveling by houseboat through the backwaters is Kerala's top tourist draw. The kettuvallams, as the houseboats are called, are traditional rice grain barges that were formerly used to transport rice from the wetland paddies to the coast. Made with thatched roofs and over 25 meters long, the boats are quite elegant, and used to be the preferred way of merchant travel prior to the coming of paved roads and motorized vehicles. 

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • The View From the Deck Is the Way to Go

    Relaxing on the front deck of a houseboat, glass of wine or cup of Indian chai in hand, gazing out at the slow water life scenes passing by is a memory to be savored. In addition to boats ferrying locals to and from home, fishermen out working and a variety of cottage industries happening at every turn, there is also abundant birdlife to check out. Most houseboats do a bit of canal touring before dropping anchor in one of the large freshwater lakes that dot the area and spending a night under the stars. All are staffed with cooks and attendants, and just about every whim and nuance is catered to, ensuring a journey of bliss.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • To Really Explore, You'll Need A Rowboat

    If you really want to check out the backwaters, you'll need to take a small hand paddled boat that can make its way into the small waterways that meander through the chain of lakes and canals. The Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy is from this region, and her novel The God of Small Things is set here.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Kathakali, Kerala's Traditional Performance Art

    Green is the primary color used on the face paint of Kathakali performers. Kathakali is Kerala's famed traditional dance-drama performance art, which combines Hindu epics, myths and religious themes into its mesmerizing performances. While short performances are staged for visiting tourists, the real deal still involves night-long temple shows and is a major part of the elaborate Keralan festival calendar each year.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Performers Go Through an Elaborate Ritual to Make Themselves Up

    The makeup routine for Kathakali is elaborate, with dancers (who are traditionally male) spending several hours getting their faces painted in preparation for the show. Face masks are painted with rice paste and vegetable dye, and the vivid green usually represents characters of gods or kings, such as Krishna or Shiva.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Costumes and Preparation are the Essence of Kathakali

    The costumes used in Kathakali are also elaborate, with large hemispherical layered skirts attached to the performers by several assistants. Stiff petticoats and side panels are used to fluff out the skirts and the behind-the-scenes designers are just as important to the performances as the artists. 

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Regal Kathakali Performance

    Besides song, Kathakali features complex hand signs known as mudras, along with a series of facial expressions to communicate with the audience. There are nine facial expressions to show emotions, and 24 mudras on the basic level, making the training of a dancer quite a committed ordeal. There are professional training centers for Kathakali artists throughout Kerala, and many of the performers have gone on to international fame and recognition.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • A Cormorant Dries Its Wings

    You'll also find plenty of greenery in Kerala's fine national parks. Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve is set on 1000 square kilometers of jungle and mountainous terrain, and is home to tigers, sloth bears and other diverse wildlife. While tiger spotting can be elusive, you're guaranteed to see plenty of birdlife, especially out on Lake Periyar where the park service runs boat trips for visitors.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Herd of Gaur in the Periyar Tiger Reserve

    If you're lucky you'll also see herds of gaur, the Indian bison, which graze along the banks of the lake. You'll have to venture further into the forest to find them if you come during the monsoon; with their water needs taken care of during this time, they head for the hills. 

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Santa Cruz Basilica Glowing at Night

    Even the churches in Kerala are green! Well, at least illuminated at night. Churches like the Santa Cruz Basilica in Kochi show off Kerala's open history and Portuguese settlement. Many of the inhabitants in Kerala are Catholic, and it is one of the most diverse and tolerant spots in India. 

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Fishermen at Work in Kochi

    And there is even a green tint to the fishing nets used by the traditional fishermen in Kochi, Kerala's capital, also known as Cochin. The city is known for its fishing industry and features large cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that are set over the harbor, which are magical come sunset, with the large, not-so-green ball of the sun sinking into the sea, silhouetted behind the nets.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

  • Houseboat at Rest on the Kerala Backwaters

    With a mix of beautiful landscapes, traditional arts, friendly locals and abundant diversity, green Kerala is one excellent place for a holiday.

    Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

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