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As you may have realised by now if you’ve seen any of my Instagram photos or previous India posts, I had a pretty awesome time on the #tripofalifetime with Kerala Blog Express. We spent fifteen days travelling around Kerala, doing all sorts of different activities. With such a packed schedule it’s hard to decide which places were my favourite and compiling a list of all the things I enjoyed the most and the most beautiful places in Kerala was a tough job. If you’re planning your own trip to Kerala, this bucket list is a pretty good place to start if you want to know about all the best things to do and places to visit in Kerala, India!

The bloggers of Kerala Blog Express Season 5 and the KBE bus. Photo by Jinson Abraham @jinsabraham @keralatourism

Best places to visit in Kerala for adventure activities

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I love all sorts of outdoors and adventure activities, so I couldn’t help but start this Kerala bucket list with all the best adventure activities you can do in the region.

Kayaking in Dharmadan, Kannur

Kannur is a region in the north of Kerala, where it is possible to go sea kayaking. I had been kayaking before, in Dubrovnik and Thailand, however the backwaters and mangrove surroundings made it a completely different experience. Despite it being salt water the sea is actually pretty calm as you are not in open sea, but surrounded by a system of mangroves which make it an easy place to kayak also for beginners. In certain canals close to the mangroves the water is also very shallow, so no need to worry about falling over!

Me and Karla from @karlaroundtheoworld kayaking in Kannur. Photo by Jinson Abraham @jinsabraham @keralatourism

Go hiking in Wayanad

As you may have seen before on my blog, I love a good hike. Be it up a volcano at night in Indonesia, along the coast of Italy or up a mountain in Canada, I’m always up for a good hike with scenic views. In Wayanad we had the opportunity to go on a short hike in the hills around the village of Wayanad. At the time we were visiting trekking was actually forbidden in Kerala, due to a recent fire started by hikers that caused a number of deaths. However we were still able to go on a short 30-minute hike, and the views over the valleys and tea plantations were well worth it. Hopefully by the time you visit Kerala the trekking ban will have been lifted and you’ll be able to go on a proper hike in the beautiful landscapes of Wayanad.

Epic views after our hike in Wayanad, India

Bamboo rafting in Wayanad

You’ve heard of rafting, but have you heard of bamboo rafting? I hadn’t until I went to Wayanad. As you may have guessed by now, Wayanad is a good region of Kerala for adventurous activities. On the Vythiri river it is possible to go on bamboo rafting tours, which generally last 60 minutes but you can ask for a longer one if you want to spend longer cruising the river in this unconventional way. The bamboo rafts are, as the name implies, rafts made out of bamboo branches.The driver will normally be positioned at the front and use a long pole to direction the raft. There is a dry and cushioned seat at the back for you to sit, so that at worst you only get your feet wet.

Bamboo rafting in Wayanad, India

Repelling in Wayanad
For the real adventure junkies reading, this will probably be the most adventurous activity on this list. While in Wayanad we had the opportunity to try repelling. I had been rock climbing before (only indoors so mostly bouldering) and this was completely different. Instead of climbing up a rock, you are launching yourself off it to reach the ground. Launching might be a bit of an exaggeration. You’re all tied up and secured, and you slowly make your way down from a high rock with little jumps. The rock isn’t too big so it’s not too scary if it’s your first time, but it’s also a good adrenaline rush for the adventure fans out there.

My friend Teresa of @broganabroad repelling in Wayanad, India

Quad biking on the beach in Kannur

After your adventure kayaking, why not try some quad biking? Always in Kannur, it is possible to go quad biking on the beach. This is actually a driveable beach in India, so you will be able to drive with your car on the beach all the way up to the quad rental place. No need to worry if you’re not an excellent driver, there isn’t enough traffic to interfere with your quad biking!

Me and Karla from @karlaroundtheworld quad biking in Kannur. Photo by Jinson Abraham @jinsabraham @keralatourism

Best places to visit in Kerala for epic outdoors activities

The following activities are some of my favourite things to do outdoors in Kerala that didn’t quite fall into the adventure bucket, but are also all about being outdoors and exploring.

Visit the tea plantations in Munnar

Exploring the tea plantations of Munnar was one of my absolute favourite things to do in Kerala. We spent a whole morning driving around the tea plantations in 4WD jeeps along dirt track roads, stopping at all the most scenic points and walking amongst the tea trees (fun fact; they may look like bushes but they could actually grow to 4-5 metres like proper trees)! We also saw some of the local tea pickers and learnt about the process by which fresh tea leaves become the tea we drink.

Dancing around the tea plantations of Munnar, India

One of the local women that work as tea pickers in the tea plantations of Munnar, India

Cruise the backwaters in Allappuzha

Another extremely popular outdoors activity in Kerala, and also one of my favourites, is cruising the backwaters. Kerala has a system of internal waters that is 900km long, as you can imagine, it makes for a pretty epic cruise backdrop! We did an overnight cruise on a luxury houseboat and spent almost 24 hours on the backwaters, surrounded by palm trees, other boats and the occasional village. We boarded around lunch time, and after a lovely curry we got to sit at the prow with the captain, enjoying the view and listening to his stories of the area.

A traditional kettuvallom boat surrounded by the palm trees of the Kerala backwaters

Sunset over the backwaters of Kerala, India

Explore the beaches

As a region Kerala has its entire Western side on the sea, with 600km of shoreline on the Arabian Sea, there are quite a few beautiful beaches out there! During Kerala Blog Express we visited a number of different beaches in different areas of Kerala. My favourite beaches were the ones in the north of Kerala, since they were completely off the beaten track and had a beautiful tropical paradise vibe to them. However if you’re looking for less deserted beaches one of the best places to visit in Kerala for this is Kovalam, in the south.

Enjoying one of the untouched beaches in Kerala, India

Best places to discover local culture in Kerala

One of the highlights of the trip for me was discovering the local culture in Kerala. We saw incredible things and did lots of fun activities, however meeting local people and learning about their culture from them is what made Kerala Blog Express a unique experience for me. The following are examples of activities and things you can do to get closer to the locals while in Kerala.

Stay in a homestay 

Unfortunately during my time in Kerala I wasn’t able to stay in a homestay. However we visited a number of homestays throughout the trip, where we were welcomed with incredible hospitality. In Munnar we were able to spend longer at Kollenkeril Homestay and talk to the families that run homestays in that region. They let us try examples of the food they would cook their guests and showed us how they prepared it. In some homestays it is also possible to do activities such as cooking classes, weaving classes and more. Staying in a homestay is the best way to fully immerse yourself in the Indian culture, since by living in their home you will be part of the family and treated as such.

One of the amazing families that welcomed us at Kollenkeril Homestay and treated us to homemade sweet and savoury treats

Sargaalaya arts and crafts village

If you’re looking for authentic and hand made beauties to take home as souvenirs, this is the perfect place. At the Sargaalaya arts and crafts village you’ll be able to see the local artisans at work, transforming raw materials into beautiful vases, bags, sculptures, paintings, jewellery and much more. By purchasing products here you can directly contribute to the local economy, all while learning about how these products are made.

One of the local artisans of Sargaalaya village at work

One of the local artisans of Sargaalaya village at work

Live a “day in the life of the locals” in Kumarakom

If you want to truly learn about traditional life in Kerala from the locals, Kumarakom is the place to do so. We spent a whole afternoon in Kumarakom visiting different parts of the area and experience village life in Kerala. Here we had the opportunity to see and learn how the locals in villages live, the kind of daily activities they go about and how they work. We learnt how to climb coconut trees (see my poor attempt below), how to weave coil ropes and how to intertwined carpets. The best part for me was spending some time with the local villagers, playing with the children and listening to the elderly’s stories of their lives.

Me attempting to climb a coconut tree in Kumarakom, India

My friend Maria (@travelling.buzz on Instagram) learning how to weave a carpet

Eat a traditional meal on a banana leaf

Living in London I’ve had my fair share of Indian food and curries, but needless to say these tasted nothing like the food we had in Kerala. On a number of occasions we were served meals on the traditional banana leaf and without cutlery, to be eaten with our hands (don’t worry, you can ask for a fork if you’re not comfortable with that). These are usually a selection of lots of different types of curry, rice and chutneys. Being Italian I’m not very good at handling spices and hot food so I was afraid I’d struggle a bit in India. If you think you’ll have the same issue just ask! Everywhere we went people were happy to give me a heads up if food was spicy (although bear in mind a local’s “medium spicy” is different from ours)!

Me enjoying a traditional banana leaf meal in Kerala, India. Photo by Backpackers Wanderlust

Best things to do in the cities of Kerala

I’ve spoken a lot about outdoors and nature activities, if you’re a city lover, here are the best things to do in Kerala’s cities!

Visit the Sweet Meat Street (or Mittayitheruvu) in Kozhikode
If you’ve been looking for a place to do your shopping, this is it. Despite the sweet street name this market actually has lots to offer also in terms of clothing, electronics and other food. It’s the perfect place to get that saree you’ve been meaning to get your mother in law, those colourful travelling pants for your teenage cousin and much more. Thanks to the excellent conversion rate from INR (Indian Rupee) to GBR / EUR / USD or any other Western currency, you can freely shop without breaking the bank. Just remember you will have to fit everything in your suitcase when it’s time to leave!

Exploring the street markets of Kerala. Photo by Jinson Abraham @jinsabraham @keralatourism

Wandering around the Sweet Meat Street. Photo by Shan Samad @inst.shan @keralatourism

Check out a martial arts exhibition in Kozikhode

Kerala is the home of Kalaripayattu, a martial art that was created in Kerala. If you’re a sports fan you can’t not pay a visit to a martial arts centre in Kerala to witness a Kalaripayattu training session. We visited a Kalaripayattu centre in Kozikhode, where the local men showed us examples of the martial art in action, displaying examples of how you would fight with different weapons.

The Kalari martial arts exhibition (sorry, don’t have any photos of them actually fighting as they were moving to quickly to capture!)

Visit an Ayurveda centre
Kerala is also the home of Ayurveda, where these treatments were created. Ayurvedic medicine was created more than 3,000 years ago and is based on the belief that human wellness and health relies on a delicate balance between the body, mind and spirit. Ayurvedic massages are a key part of the Ayurvedic therapy, and believe in balancing the mind and body through oils, music and bodyworks. In Thrissur we visited an Ayurveda Museum, where we learnt more about these ancient therapies. Since it was born in Kerala, there are a lot of Ayurveda centres that you can visit to receive massages and learn more about Ayurvedic treatments.

My friend Veronica (@siniciliya on Instagram) enjoying an Ayurveda massage. Photo by @saraindubai

Do a sunset cruise in Kochi

If cruising the backwaters in Allapuzha wasn’t enough for you, there are more cruise opportunities around Kerala. In Kochi it’s possible to go on a sunset cruise of the river, which will take you up and down along the banks of Kochi and give you the opportunity to see the orange sunset over this beautiful city.

Sunset in Kochi during our Kochi sunset cruise

Where to stay in Kerala

Over the fifteen days we spent in Kerala we stayed in almost as many hotels, as we were moving around every night. I am by no means an expert in accommodation in Kerala however the ones I personally stayed at and can recommend are the following.

Lakesong Resort

Located on the bank of the Vembanad Lake you will find Lakesong Resort. Lakesong Resort is an entirely green resort, which through a number of different practices aims to keep their carbon footprint down. All the staff is also employed from villages and towns in the area, so as to give opportunities for development to the local area. The rooms are lovely but what I loved the most is the beautiful garden they have, where you can walk around and relax after a long day exploring Kerala.

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Have you ever been on a cruise? What about a cruise on the backwaters of a tropical country, surrounded by palm trees and beautiful views? If the answer is no, you should start planning a trip to Kerala asap! I recently spent two weeks in India with the Kerala Tourism Board and Kerala Blog Express on the #tripofalifetime. As part of this trip we got to spend a day and night on a houseboat, cruising the backwaters of Kerala. Read on to find out everything you need to know about doing a houseboat backwater cruise in Kerala, India.


Enjoying a coconut drink onboard our Spice Routes houseboat while cruising the backwaters of Kerala, photo by Jinson Abraham / Kerala Tourism

About Kerala & the backwaters
Kerala is a region in Southern India, famous for its natural beauties. The backwaters are one of these. The backwaters of Kerala are a group of internal waters that stretch for 900km. Similarly to the canals of Venice; they act as roads and passageways for the areas where the proper roads don’t reach. As such it’s not uncommon to see all kinds of boats transporting all sorts of things while cruising the backwaters. The backwaters connect very large sections of the region so there are a number of different ports from which you can start and end your cruise. We set off from Alappuzha and returned there after an afternoon, night and morning spent on board.

Cruising the backwaters of Kerala, India

About Spice Routes & houseboats
We did our backwaters cruise with the luxury houseboat company Spice Routes. Spice Routes takes the traditional kettuvalloms; large boats that used to carry spices, provisions and much more, and turned them into luxury houseboats. Houseboats today are adapted to ensure travellers have access to all modern conveniences, while enjoying an authentic experience on the backwaters.

The lounge / dining area of our Spice Routes houseboat

Our Spice Routes cruise was on-board their houseboat Clove. This boat had the kitchen in the back, three cabins with a double bed and private bathroom, and a large communal area with a dining table for meals and couches for relaxing. All the rooms had air-conditioning and a fan. There were three crew members on board (a driver, an assistant and a cook) that did their best to ensure we had an incredible trip.

Our bedroom onboard our Spice Routes houseboat

Houseboat prices & rates for a Kerala backwaters cruise
Prices for a houseboat cruise on the backwaters of Kerala range massively depending on the type of boat, with rates starting around 50 GBP per person per night and going as high as 300 GBP.

A typical kettuvallom boat cruises the backwaters of Kerala, India

Palm tree reflections in the backwaters of Kerala, India

Our Spice Routes backwaters cruise
We started our cruise in Alappuzha, also known as the “Venice of the East”, a town famous for boat races, beaches, marine products and coir industry located in the “Rice Bowl of Kerala”; a region of lush paddy fields and the only place in the world where farming is carried out below sea level. We set off around 1PM and were offered lunch as son as we departed. We got to enjoy some tasty curries while watching the palm trees and backwaters cruise past us, all while comfortably sat in an air-conditioned room (I’m not usual an air-con snob, but in the Indian heat it’s necessary)! After lunch, we got to sit by the prow to enjoy the view, while the captain cruised the boat and told us about the area.

Enjoying the view during our backwaters cruise in Kerala, India

If you’ve done river cruises in European cities such as Venice, London or Budapest you might be expecting a lot of sailing with little to see until you reach one of the main landmarks, where everyone rushes to a the window to snap a photo. Cruising the backwaters of Kerala is very different. There isn’t a specific end point or main tourist attraction that you are sailing to; the cruise itself in the calm backwaters surrounded by palm trees is the attraction.

A traditional kettuvallom boat surrounded by the palm trees of the Kerala backwaters

The highlight of the day for me was seeing the sunset over the backwaters. The sky turned a beautiful orange and we enjoyed seeing the sun dip below the palm trees and horizon. Just after the sun had gone down, around 6:30PM we docked for the night. None of the houseboats cruise at night, as this is when the fishermen operate, and they don’t want the houseboats to interfere with the nets. We were given the opportunity to disembark from the boat and go for a walk in the rice fields and town where we had docked. This is a great opportunity to see a place that you might not otherwise be able to access, as the roads are limited. The staff on-board Spice Routes are very flexible and asked us what time we wanted to eat, and arranged dinner according to that. We finished off the day with some more lovely curries and relaxing in the lounge before going to bed in our respective rooms.

Sunset over the backwaters of Kerala, India

Enjoying the sunset over the backwaters of Kerala from our Spice Routes houseboat

Sleeping in the houseboat can be a bit bumpy if you’re not used at spending time on boats, however it didn’t present an issue to myself or any of my fellow travel bloggers. The boat is docked so the movement is limited, the houseboat will occasionally rock when other boats sail past too fast. In the morning when the crew start turning on and moving the boat however this becomes more noticeable and it can be harder to sleep. In my opinion, this made for a great way to wake-up call! Ditch the alarms, on your backwaters cruise you will be naturally woken up by the movement of the boat and noises of the river. While the boat sailed back to the harbour and end point of our cruise we were served a typical Indian breakfast, with also some more traditional Western choices (eg. cereal) for those who like me can’t handle a curry early in the morning.

Morning views over the backwaters of Kerala, India

Spending a day and night on a houseboat while cruising the backwaters of Kerala was one of my favourite experiences of Kerala Blog Express. Have you been on a backwaters cruise before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! Want to see more of Kerala and need some help planning your trip? Check out these day-by-day Kerala itineraries.

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PROHIBICJA w Kerali w Indiach? - Kerala Blog Express - YouTube

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Co jest NIE tak z moją wycieczką do Indii? - YouTube

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Jak wygląda wioska w Indiach w Kerala? - YouTube

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Rozlewiska Kerali - Cud natury w Indiach Kerala Backwaters - YouTube

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Jak pojechać za darmo do Indii? Kerala Blog Express - YouTube

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Pernah mendengar Kerala? Mungkin kalian baru pertama kali mendengar nama Kerala. Di India bagian Selatan ada satu kota yang dijuluki sebagai Negara Tanah Tuhan atau “God’s Own Country”. Posisi Kerala di antara laut Arab di dan Ghats Barts di wilayah selatan India di Asia, Kerala termasuk salah satu bagian India yang unik untuk dikunjungi karena kaya alam dan budaya.

Secara politik, Kerala merupakan negara bagian yang dikuasai oleh Partai Komunis India-Marxis (CPI/M) jadi sepanjang jalan kalian dapat menemukan simbol-simbol bendera komunis di tiap jalanan. Sebaliknya dari sisi pariwisata, Kerala memiliki nuansa pedesaan dengan pemandangan alam yang masih alami.

Petualangan kami bersama bus Kerala Blog Express

Bahasa Hindi identik dengan India, namun tidak untuk Kerala. Bahasa Malayalam merupakan bahasa ibu untuk masyarakat Kerala sehingga bisa saja orang India bagian lain tidak begitu mengerti percakapan dalam bahasa Malayalam. Unik kan.

Dua minggu mengikuti Kerala Blog Express membuat saya jadi tahu wilayah geografis India bagian selatan. Ini merupakan perjalanan yang singkat dan melelahkan sebab setiap hari kami selalu berpindah kota menggunakan bus dan berpindah hotel setiap harinya. Tapi saya menikmati setiap perpindahan kota, justru di sana saya banyak menemukan keramahan warga lokal serta budaya setempat.

Berikut 12 daerah distrik di Kerala yang menarik untuk dikunjungi di Kerala, India Selatan.

1. Trivandrum
Coba kalian ucapkan Thiruvananthapuram dalam satu tarikan nafas. Berhasil?

Agak sulit memang mengucapkan Thiruvananthapuram, akhirnya sesuai ejaan bahasa Inggris kita bisa menyebutnya Trivandrum agar lebih mudah menyebutnya terlebih bagi orang bukan dari Kerala. Kota ini merupakan ibukota Kerala sehingga pusat pemerintahan Kerala berpusat di kota ini.

Trivandrum merupakan kota pertama saya memulai perjalanan #KeralaBlogExpress session 5. Suasana kota cukup tenang apalagi kalau sudah pukul 10 malam jarang terlihat aktivitas warga. Selain itu, tingkat kemacetan masih tergolong stabil.

Kuil Sri Padmanabhaswamy

Salah satu ikon penting kota Trivandrum adalah kuil tertua Sri Padmananbhaswamy. Entah benar atau mitos, di dalam kuil Sri Padmanabhaswamy tersimpan harta karun dari raja-raja Travancore dulu. Tentunya untuk ukuran sekarang angkanya sangat fantastis. Sayangnya kuil ini tidak boleh sembarang disinggahi oleh orang luar termasuk yang bukan beragama Hindu. Jadi saya hanya dapat melihat dari arah jauh.

2. Kovalam


Marari Beach, Kerala

Perjalanan dari Trivandrum ke Kovalam membutuhkan waktu sekitar satu jam atau 18km dari selatan kota Trivandrum. Apa yang menarik dari Kovalam ini tentunya pantai yang mengarah langsung ke Laut Arab.

Pemuda Kerala, mereka masih kuliah di jurusan Elektrik.

Jomblo dilarang baper…

Kovalam memiliki tiga pantai yaitu Lighthouse Beach, Hawah Beach dan Samudra Beach. Kami hanya berkunjung ke Samudra Beach untuk menikmati sunset pertama kali di Kerala. Saat tiba di Samudra Beach, saya diingatkan oleh sebuah gambar yang pernah dikirimkan oleh Yayan dua tahun lalu. Akhirnya, lewat gambar tersebut saya berhasil menginjakkan kaki di Kerala. Thank you, Yan!

3. Alappuzha


Menikmati semalam di houseboat, Kerala

Kerala juga memiliki kawasan perairan luas pada masa dulu. Sebagai daerah maritim, Alappay sebutan lain dari Alappuzha ini sangat berkesan bagi saya sebab di tempat ini kita dapat melihat kehidupan warga pinggir lebih dekat. Bagaimana sungai adalah pemandangan setiap hari serta mendayung perahu kayu adalah sebuah keahlian.

Bagi saya yang tinggal di Palembang dan Sungai Musi adalah vital bagi masyarakat pinggir sungai tentu saja akan tetap menarik untuk dilihat. Bagaimana aliran sungai di Alappay ini mengalir tenang hingga membuat saya ikut merasakan bermalam di sebuah houseboat.

Kapal akan menepi untuk bermalam

Menikmati sunset indah dari houseboat

Kerala Tourism kreatif dalam mengemas paket wisata sehingga wisatawan punya pilihan untuk mendapatkan pengalaman menyenangkan saat berada di Alappuzha dengan tinggal di houseboat. Ada banyak vendor houseboat bisa dipilih seperti Rainbow, dengan fasilitas standar yaitu kamar tidur, kamar mandi, balkon dan makanan.

4. Kumarakom


Salah satu keahlian warga Kumarakom yaitu memanjang pohon kelapa.

Kumarakom memiliki iklim yang tenang serta perairan kecil dekat dengan Danau Vembanad. Salah satu destinasi yang dibidik oleh Kerala Tourism sebagai kawasan Responsibility Tourism. Di sini kalian dapat merasakan keramahan warga lokal secara langsung di Kumarakom Village. Warga lokal di sini dengan senang hati akan menunjukkan aktivitas mereka sehari-hari mulai dari memanjat pohon kelapa, memintal serat kelapa, mengayam, membuat sampo secara tradisional hingga menyadap thoddy, alkohol fermentasi dari kelapa.

Mencoba memintal serat kelapa menjadi tali.

Cilukba….

Kumarakom termasuk salah satu distrik yang berkesan bagi saya oleh karena keramahan warga setempat. Namun, mau pergi ke distrik Kerala manapun kalian juga bisa menemukan keramahan warga lokal.

5. Munnar


Naik jeep mengelilingi perkebunan teh di Munnar

Jika kalian ingin mencari landscape alam di Kerala, maka Munnar adalah jawabannya. Daerah Munnar mengejutkan saya karena daerah ini memiliki perkebunan teh luas. Suhu udara di Munnar sejuk mulai dari -4 celcius sampai 25 celcius. Sayang pada saat saya datang ternyata Neelakurinchi, anggrek liar yang mekar sekali dalam 12 tahun dan berwarna ungu belum berbunga.

Perkebunan teh di Munnar bisa dikatakan terbesar di India Selatan, tumbuh subur dengan tiga jenis teh yang dihasilkan yaitu teh hitam, teh hijau dan teh putih. Salah satunya pabrik teh Lockhart yang menjadi tempat diproduksinya teh secara massal. Dalam satu hari pabrik teh ini bisa menghasilkan sekitar 5000 kg teh dengan melewati proses-proses produksi.

Tea Picker at Munnar

Seperti di Pagar Alam :p

Berkunjung ke Munnar sangat cocok bagi kalian yang menginginkan suasana sejuk dan tenang. Selain itu juga bisa merasakan sensasi naik jeep untuk berkeliling di sekitar perkebunan teh.

6. Thrissur


Aryuveda Museum

Distrik Thrissur terletak di bagian tengah Kerala, dekat dengan distrik Ernakulam. Hal yang terbaik di distrik Thrissur dikenal sebagai kota budaya Kerala dan Pooram. Dua budaya ini sangat melekat di Thrissur dan saya juga menemukan teman baru di distrik ini.

Sejak zaman dulu, Kerala terkenal dengan metode pengobatan tradisional yaitu Aryuveda. Biasanya ditiap hotel juga menyediakan Aryuveda massage dengan harga mulai dari 1000 INR. Teknik pemijatannya lebih ke arah rileksasi. Namun Aryveda bukan hanya sebatas urusan pijat melainkan pengobatan menggunakan rempah-rempah, sehingga Thrissur disebut sebagai kota budaya.

Festival Pooram

Festival selepas panen musim panas

Setiap tahun, masyarakat di Thrissur akan merayakan Pooram yang menjadi festival tahunan. Perayaan ini biasanya di kuil-kuil yang didedikasikan untuk dewi Durga atau Kali setelah panen musim panas. Sebagian besar Festival Pooram menggunakan gajah yang dihias kemudian diarak selama prosesi. Saya beruntung saat tiba di Thrissur ternyata sedang berlangsung acara Pooram yang spektakuler dan berwarna di salah satu kuil kuno.

DISCLAIMER : Trip ini merupakan perjalanan selama dua minggu di Kerala Blog Express session 5 bersama Kerala Tourism. Diikuti oleh 30 blogger internasional dari 30 negara.

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O exotismo da Índia sempre fez parte dos meus sonhos. Aquele destino longínquo, que marcou a história de Portugal e sempre me fez sentir intrigado com nomes e expressões como “Caminho Marítimo para Índia”, “Descobrimentos”, “Vasco da Gama” ou “Rota das Especiarias”. Intrigado, no sentido da expressão máxima da palavra curiosidade. Curioso por saber mais sobre esse outrora gigante e desconhecido “Novo Mundo”, do qual tanto ouvi falar nos primórdios da minhas aulas de história, e também em livros, filmes ou documentários. Não fugindo a toda a parafernália de património material e imaterial, existente por todo Portugal, directa e indirectamente ligada a essa importante conquista de Vasco da Gama, ao descobrir o caminho marítimo para Índia, em 1497. Uma gigante “auto-estrada” comercial, de elevada importância, que nos permitiu (nós, Portugal) ser uma espécie de “reis do mundo” da altura. Com base nesta informação, que quase nasce com todos os portugueses, como uma espécie de legado intemporal, a minha expectativa perante a partida para uma viagem à Índia, acredito que seja completamente distinta de um viajante da Australia ou da Russia, por exemplo. Existe algo muito forte, a unir a cultura e história portuguesa à cultura e história indiana. Quase como uma espécie de irmãos, filhos do mesmo pai e com mães diferentes, que pouco contactaram entre si. Têm traços em comum, conexões de sangue, mas são completamente diferentes. É assim que sinto a Índia e o seu povo, em relação a mim, enquanto português. Foi isso que senti, quando recebi o convite do Departamento de Turismo de Kerala, no início de Fevereiro, para visitar essa região, bem no sul da Índia, curiosamente o primeiro pedaço de terra que Vasco da Gama pisou em solo indiano. Senti que ia partir para uma espécie de viagem pela minha história, apesar de saber que tudo o que me é familiar ficaria bem distante do que iria encontrar e viver.

Entre o período do convite e da viagem, passou cerca de 1 mês. A data da partida estava marcada para o dia 16 de Março. Durante esse mês, foi tempo de ultimar pormenores. Visto, seguro de viagem (info em baixo), vacinas e, sobretudo, sonhar muito com o que iria viver. Confesso que nunca fiquei muito apreensivo com o choque cultural, confio na minha capacidade adaptativa, mas não posso negar que fiquei a pensar no assunto saúde. Principalmente porque deixava em casa a Liliana grávida, com a minha Alice a ganhar forma. Tinha algum receio de trazer comigo alguma doença exótica, daquelas invisíveis, e de alguma forma prejudicar a saúde das minhas meninas no meu regresso. Confesso que foi a minha principal preocupação. Pelo que li, o cenário era catastrófico. Sentia estava a viver dentro de um aquário e que estavam prestes a soltar-me para o oceano. Não bebas isto, não comas aquilo, cuidado com o outro. Enfim, toda uma conjuntura do mal. Mas fiz aquilo que recomendo a todos aqueles que vão viajar para um destino “diferente”. Fui a uma consulta do viajante, disse para onde ia e o que iria fazer. Falei na Liliana e na Alice. Resultado: tranquilidade. Levei umas vacinas, comprei um kit de sobrevivência (um conjunto de comprimidos) e construí uma pequena lista de recomendações. É claro que é preciso ter cuidado. Assim como é preciso colocar um protector solar, se decidir ir para à praia, às 11h da manhã, num quente mês de Agosto. É senso comum que é perigoso ir sem protector. Para a Índia é parecido, é preciso ter cuidado com algumas coisas e cumprir as recomendações. E fazer um bom seguro de saúde, caso alguma coisa corra mal. Mas muito longe de estar a viajar para uma espécie de abismo ou ter de viajar com fato de astronauta vestido, para estar imune a todos o males. Muito longe disso.

Iria começar a minha viagem em Thiruvananthapuram (sim, eu sei. Parece o nome de um antibiótico), cidade também conhecida por Trivandrum. Para facilitar as questões linguísticas. Iria ficar cerca de 20 dias e viajar de sul para norte, com a viagem a terminar em Kochi. No “guião” ou plano de viagem que me entregaram antes da viagem seria uma espécie de “best of” Kerala, o objectivo desta viagem. Raramente iria ficar dois dias no mesmo lugar. Muitas vezes iria partir em busca do mais genuíno que existe por ali, com o pessoal do departamento de turismo a facilitar-me o encontro com as melhores experiências e com as melhores pessoas. A região de Kerala, é da mais pequenas da Índia, o que não a impede de, comparando com a realidade europeia, ser enorme. Tem pouco mais de 600 quilómetros, de norte a sul, e conta com mais 30 milhões de pessoas, como sua população. Sim, muita gente. É quase como imaginar Portugal com 3 vezes mais pessoas. O que, na mesma proporção, implica imaginar as grandes cidades, como Lisboa ou Porto, com 3 vezes mais população. Sim, a Índia é assim. Estas 30 milhões dividem-se em 3 distintas crenças religiosas. Cerca de metade são Hindus, e os restantes são Muçulmanos e Cristãos. Mas confesso que pouco investiguei sobre Kerala antes da partida. Sonhei muito, com aquela imagética da Índia, dos cheiros, das cores, da comida, do clima, mas não queria ter certezas de nada. Queria viver tudo e ser chocado (ou não) com tudo. No dia 16 de Maio, com muita dificuldade, lá me despedi da Liliana e da (nossa) barriga chamada Alice. Foi muito diferente de todas as outras despedidas. Pelo menos para mim. Sentia que estava a deixar muito para trás, sentia que 20 dias depois iria encontrar a barriga da Liliana muito maior e sentia, sobretudo, algum receio que pudesse acontecer alguma coisa de mal com as minhas meninas e eu não estava lá para as proteger. Sim, instinto paternal a nascer dentro mim. Pouco mais passava das 13h e já estava dentro do avião da Emirates para rumar, primeiro ao Dubai, e depois para Trivandrum, num total de 15h. Talvez movido pela adrenalina da chegada, tudo passou num ápice. Nas primeiras horas da manhã, chegava pela primeira vez à Índia.

O aeroporto de Trivandrum não é pequeno, mas também está longe de ser grande. A uma escala indiana, é pequeno. Saí do avião e encaminhei-me para as autoridades para me carimbarem o passaporte. Um filme. O meu passaporte passou por umas três mãos, que distavam entre si uns bons 100 metros. Só pensava: “estes não gostam do Vasco da Gama, vão me lixar por causa disso e nem o facto de ser do mesmo país que o Cristiano Ronaldo me vai safar”. Só vi todas as outras pessoas a irem embora e eu ali parado, a ver o meu passaporte a circular e ouvir uma língua que, para mim, não passava de sons. Nem percebia quando uma frase acabava. De vez em quando lá perguntava se estava tudo bem e só me abanavam a cabeça. No sentido negativo do movimento “abanar a cabeça”. Mas com cara amigável. Confesso que me estava a sentir confuso, sem, no entanto, me sentir atrapalhado. Assim no meio do nada, e passado uma boa meia hora, lá ouço um barulho. Era o carimbo no meu passaporte, seguido de um “Welcome to India”, com um sorriso de orelha a orelha. Nunca cheguei a perceber o porquê de demorar tanto tempo. Dias mais tarde percebi que o tal “abanar de cabeça”, não queria dizer que não. Queria dizer que estavam a perceber e de acordo com o que estava a dizer. Um movimento de cabeça bastante engraçado e característico do povo de Kerala. Muito me ri depois com os meus amigos indianos, comigo a recordar a situação. Eu perguntava “está tudo bem?”, eles abanavam a cabeça a dizer que não. Eu perguntava “vai ser rápido, tenho gente à minha espera?”, eles abanavam a cabeça a dizer que não. Eu perguntava “falam inglês?”, eles abanavam a cabeça a dizer que não. E depois no final disto, lançam-me um sorriso e um “Welcome do India”, como se nada fosse. É claro que tinha de me sentir confuso. Na verdade foi só um caso real de Lost in Translation.

Poucos minutos depois do barulho do carimbo no meu passaporte, estava na rua, à porta do aeroporto, a suar em bica e com a roupa colada ao corpo. Este é o primeiro impacto real da Índia. Parece que tinha acabo de entrar, com a minha roupa de Primavera vestida, para dentro uma sauna misturada com uma estufa. E depois assistir e sentir o nosso corpo a lutar pela adaptação. À minha espera tinha um batalhão de gente, de sorriso fácil e prontos para me fazer sentir em casa. Entrei dentro de um táxi e parti para aventura. Tal como alguém que está num parque aquático e sobe um bom lanço de escadas e chega ao topo e não existe outra hipótese, é lançar-se escorrega abaixo e sentir as emoções. Foi isso que senti quando entrei no táxi e comecei a percorrer as caóticas ruas de Trivandrum. Tal como no escorrega, pensamos em muita coisa quando vamos a subir as escadas. Boas e más. Eu também as pensei sobre a Índia. Mas depois de começar a escorregar, normalmente as sensações são boas. Eu sinto-me vivo e farto-me de rir. Naquele primeiro táxi também ri muito sozinho. Estava dentro do meu primeiro filme de Bollywood. Tal como eu sonhara. Muito barulho, toda a gente a buzinar, tuk tuks sem regras, muitas pessoas na rua, pessoas diferentes daqueles eu já tinha visto, cores diferentes, cores muito quentes de acordo com o clima que se fazia sentir, os cheiros também muito diferentes. Mas no meio desta confusão toda, só conseguia sorrir. Não era um sorriso atrapalhado e constrangedor. Mas um sorriso sincero, de alguém que está a viver um bom momento. Aquela Índia maluca e exótica dos meus sonhos era verdadeira. Estava confirmado. O que eu não sabia, é que me iria sentir estranhamente confortável com ela. Desde o primeiro momento. Não digo que me senti em casa, porque a Índia é demasiado diferente para conseguir sentir uma coisa dessas. Mas senti-me bem na diferença. Senti prazer em estar noutro mundo. Calculo que o Vasco da Gama tenha extrapolado esse sentimento, no seu primeiro momento de Índia. Também pensei nele, durante o tempo em que estive no táxi. Mais uma vez, com um infinito a separar os elementos em comparação. Mas senti-me pronto para descoberta. Queria ver tudo e conhecer tudo. Sentia que estava apenas no início do percurso. Sentia que iria ver muito e viver muito. O táxi terminou a sua viagem, num hotel de estilo colonial, bem no centro de Trivandrum. É claro que a internet funcionava mal e que dizia que tinha uma bela piscina, quando na verdade não tinha. Mas isto é a Índia e estava radiante por ela ser assim. Disfuncional, caótica e incrivelmente magnética. Já estava preso a ela, de uma forma que não tinha sonhado. Sim, também no hotel todos foram incrivelmente simpáticos. Todos me deram um sincero “Welcome to India”.

Esta é primeira parte de um conjunto de 4 histórias sobre a minha viagem à região de Kerala, no sul da Índia.

Imagens captadas por mim, durante os 20 dias que estive na região de Kerala.

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Recordar es volver a vivir. Y, así lo hago con mi participación en el #KeralaBlogExpress 5ta Edición. Esta aventura se inició en diciembre del 2017, con la inscripción como aspirante, ni bien se abrió la convocatoria gracias a mis guapas y cariñosas amigas, Diana de Dianamiaus y Analú de ViajarParaVivir que me avisaron casi al instante. El siguiente paso fue solicitar votos a través de mis redes sociales, sobre todo en Twitter, Facebook e Instagram. Agradezco desde esta ventana, a cada uno de los votos y el apoyo mostrado, antes, durante y aún después de esta gran experiencia, por lo que me gustaría que aquí encuentres algunas cosas elementales antes de visitar Kerala, al sur de India.

Los backwaters de Kerala. una gran experiencia sensorial en India.

Visitar Kerala con el proyecto viajero anual
¿Qué es el #KeralaBlogExpress?
Es un proyecto viajero anual llevado a cabo por la oficina de Turismo de Kerala (Kerala Tourism) para el cual se seleccionan un aproximado de 30 participantes de todo el mundo, para vivir una de las experiencias inolvidables de esta era digital.

Durante quince días uno de los grandes protagonistas es el bus viajero, un clásico medio de transporte acondicionado y decorado para esta especial ocasión.

15 días en el bus viajero. Foto de Jinson Abraham para Kerala Tourism.
Casi todos los trayectos del viaje son llevados en el bus, por eso cuando todo termina, puedes llegar también a extrañarlo, como es mi caso, nunca había viajado tanto en un autobús en mi vida, donde aprendí a convivir el día a día, y casi 24 horas con desconocidos de varias partes del mundo.

Teresa (UK), Bo (Perú) y Gloria (Chile) contentos de vivir la experiencia del #KeralaBlogExpress 2018. Foto de Shan Samad para Kerala Tourism.
Cada uno de los participantes escogidos representa a su propio país o al de residencia. En mi caso, representé a mi querido y añorado Perú.

Bo Saldaña, representante de Perú en el #KeralaBlogExpress 2018. Foto de Jinson Abraham.
Edición 2018
Para la edición 2018 o Season 5, fuimos seleccionados de 28 países diferentes, varios idiomas, y un solo sentimiento viajero nos unió de cierta forma, contando además con un gran equipo de profesionales detrás de cámaras.

Todos los gastos de alimentación y alojamiento fueron cubiertos por la Oficina de Turismo de Kerala, y empresas participantes, así como un porcentaje del billete de avión hacia/desde Kerala.

Todas los participantes del Kerala Blog Express 2018. Foto de Jinson Abraham para Kerala Tourism.

¿Cómo puedes participar en la siguiente edición?
Esta es la pregunta del millón que me hicieron muchos amigos y conocidos viajeros, y aquí intentaré dar la respuesta que es sencilla.

Por eso, sí eres creador de contenido y tienes un blog o canal de Youtube, o eres un fotógrafo relacionado a los viajes, no dudes en participar y optar a una de las plazas para las siguientes convocatorias. Mi recomendación es que te inscribas lo más pronto posible, ya que puede tardar un poco, hasta que te digan que tu candidatura ha sido aprobada.

En términos generales, el proceso se abre a mediados de diciembre de cada año, y está disponible hasta la mitad de enero del año siguiente. El viaje puede iniciar en la segunda quincena de marzo, tiempo en la cual, podrás visitar Kerala y sus lugares de interés de la mano de un gran equipo.

Imagen típica en los backwaters de Kerala.
Ten en cuenta que, este es un viaje que combina trabajo y placer, por lo que hay que crear contenido de las experiencias, además de vivirlas. Por este motivo, recomiendo que te des tiempo en combinar ambas facetas, y así disfrutar de la mejor manera los grandes escenarios o mejores sitios de Kerala.

Así podrás sentir: los espectaculares y místicos backwaters, las coloridas y ancestrales festividades, las mágicas plantaciones de té, las especiales y cálidas playas, y más; sin olvidar por supuesto de su gente que enamora, ya que sus habitantes siempre van con una sonrisa de oreja a oreja, además derrochan una amabilidad que te hacen sentir como en casa.

Más datos antes de visitar Kerala por tu cuenta
¿Qué es y dónde está Kerala?
Antes del viaje no investigué mucho sobre Kerala, lo poco que sabía fue gracias a algunos participantes de la edición 2017.

Por eso, es mi intención darte a conocer más datos y así puedas tomar una buena decisión si deseas ir por libre o por tu cuenta.

Si miras el mapa mundial, Kerala se ubica al sur de India.

Es uno de los 29 estados que tiene la República de India, un gran país, considerado un subcontinente en Asia. Al visitar Kerala, una parte tuya no imaginará que estás en India, porque es normal relacionar a este país con el famoso Taj Mahal, una de las maravillas mundiales.

Para mí no tiene mucho que ver la parte norte con Kerala, por eso ha sido una grata sorpresa al ver sus grandes e inimaginables escenarios dignos de película, y sentirlos con mis propias carnes. Incluso tienen un propio idioma.

Bo Saldaña en el Xandari, una casa barco o house boat en los backwaters de Kerala.
Los keralites o malayalis, gentilicios de Kerala, en una gran mayoría son ciudadanos amigables y más abiertos en el sentido de la complicidad con los visitantes. Ya sabes que cada país tiene sus características, y si has estado en otros estados de India, verás y experimentarás el significativo cambio o al menos la sensación de estar en un país o zona distinta.

Carta abierta a India, imágenes y sensaciones de mi primer viaje

Por momentos me sentí en un ambiente bastante familiar, ya que en Iquitos, donde nací, también puedes disfrutar de palmeras y sus deliciosos y saludables cocos, comer con las manos, probar los chips de plátano o chifles como se conocen en la selva peruana, y también usar las hojas de plátano como parte del menaje o el día a día.

El idioma oficial en Kerala es el Malayalam, el cual tiene sonidos que me parecieron divertidos. Una gran mayoría de ciudadanos hablan el inglés, aunque con un acento -sobre todo si estás acostumbrado al americano o británico- un tanto difícil al principio.

Bloggers interactuando con gente local. Foto de Kerala Tourism.
Cómo llegar a Kerala
Kerala tiene en la actualidad dos aeropuertos importantes e internacionales, uno en la capital del estado en Trivandrum, y el segundo en la colonial y exhuberante ciudad de Cochín.

Yo volé a la ida con la aerolínea Emirates desde Londres (vía Dubái) a Trivandrum (TRV), y a la vuelta desde Cochín (KOC), también hacia Londres con una escala breve en Dubái.

Además, al buscar los vuelos vi que existen otras aerolíneas que operan directamente a Nueva Delhi o Mumbai (Bombai), desde estas grandes ciudades se puede coger trayectos en vuelos domésticos.

También puedes llegar a Kerala vía tren desde otras ciudades de India, experiencia que pudimos disfrutar en este viaje.

El Clima en Kerala
El clima que predomina en Kerala es el tropical influenciado por el mar arábigo, por lo que a diario puede hacer una temperatura de no menos de 30 grados y con una humedad significativa, por lo que te sugiero beber mucha agua para evitar la deshidratación o el famoso Delhi Belly, conocido como diarrea del viajero.

Solo en las montañas o highlands de Munnar sentí algo de fresco en la noche, pero no tanto como para usar abrigos de invierno, pero si visitas estas zonas ten en tu equipaje o a la mano, alguna prenda tipo primaveral u otoñal.

Un especial amanecer en los backwaters de Kerala en India.
Vacunas para Kerala
Si vives en un país como Perú, Brasil, Colombia, Venezuela y otros similares con posible riesgo, puede que te exijan al visitar India, la Vacuna contra la Fiebre Amarilla.

Al vivir en España no fue necesario una nueva vacuna al respecto, tengo la mía, y que según la doctora que me atendió en la consulta, ya no es necesario vacunar cada 10 años. Puedes ver una nota al respecto según la OMS (Organización Mundial de la Salud).

Aún así, en la oficina del Centro de Vacunación Internacional me recomendaron por prevención las siguientes vacunas: Tétanos-difteria, Fiebre Tifoidea y Cólera Oral y Diarrea por ETEC.

Recuerda hacer todas gestiones de salud y prevención con la debida anticipación y tiempo, ya que las citas siempre están ocupadas, sobre todo en grandes ciudades de España.

Indicaciones de la vacuna oral contra la Fiebre Tifoidea antes de visitar Kerala.
Visado para Kerala
Para una gran mayoría de ciudadanos del mundo, se necesita viajar a India con una visa o visado que puedes obtener de forma online o presencial en un consulado o embajada de India en el país donde estés o residencia.

Las dos veces que fui a India, saqué la visa online a través de la página oficial, y por medio de la página que te recomiendo: iVisa.com

Para ambas opciones el proceso es sencillo de llevar, aunque si te da “miedo” no saber leer en inglés, puedes hacerlo en español, mediante un formulario sencillo en la web recomendada, pagando solo una tarifa de servicio bastante accesible.

Dónde dormir en Kerala
Te confieso que me ha sorprendido la buena oferta hotelera que tiene Kerala, y a precios accesibles, considerando también que es un país emergente o en vías de desarrollo.

Pronto, en este mismo artículo, estará disponible un enlace con una lista de los hoteles y resorts que hemos visitado, para que te des una idea. Los precios que no son altos comparados con Europa u otras partes del mundo, varían según el lugar o lo que puedas ver o hacer en sus alrededores o cercanos a ellos.

Mientras tanto puedes ir viendo donde dormir en Kerala y reservar a través de Booking.com

Otros artículos sobre India

Si tienes alguna duda o lo tuyo es hacer aportes, te espero en los comentarios.

Gracias por compartir en tus redes sociales.

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