Short Breaks

World Travel Magazine - - Contents -

A Week­end In Ker­ala is the per­fect way to re­vi­talise the senses. From the cool salty air of Kochi and its in­tri­cate cul­tural tan­goes to Mun­nar’s serene tea plan­ta­tions and Alleppey’s fa­mous back­wa­ters, we help you max­imise the long week­end.

While even two weeks are not enough to fully ex­plore the lush green lands of Ker­ala, what do you do if you have just two nights in the state? Anushka Patodia tells you how to max­imise your week­end here.

A breath of cool, salty air wel­comes you as you first set foot on the south-western coast of In­dia, a serene haven known as Ker­ala. The rip­pling back­wa­ters, lush co­conut palms, tran­quil house­boats and lux­u­ri­ous re­sorts are surely the stuff an uber­re­lax­ing va­ca­tion is made of.

Ker­ala is dot­ted with nu­mer­ous re­sorts, wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies, hill sta­tions and Ayurvedic cen­tres, that of­fer the sweet prom­ise of a sybaritic ex­pe­ri­ence, one that you may not for­get eas­ily. So, de­pend­ing upon where your in­ter­ests lie – whether it’s the spa, wildlife, the moun­tains, or the back­wa­ters – you can choose where to go next. While Kochi is in­du­bitably the first stop on this (re­ally) short break, there are a num­ber of op­tions you can choose for your sec­ond stop

KOCHI-COO­ING YOUR WAY AROUND

This port city is also of­fers a unique cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence to vis­i­tors. Known for its qual­ity spices such as black pep­per and car­damom, which was traded to the Arabs, Dutch, Phoeni­cians, Por­tuguese, and Chi­nese more than 600 years ago, it soon be­came the gate­way to Old In­dia and was where the coloni­sa­tion of In­dia be­gan from. To­day, it is a thriv­ing com­mer­cial port, which hosts the an­nual Kochi-muziris Bi­en­nale, an in­ter­na­tional ex­hi­bi­tion of contemporary art.

Do make it a point to visit the Hill Palace Mu­seum, an im­pres­sive 49-build­ing com­plex that was once the home of the Kochi royal fam­ily. You’ll find 19th-cen­tury oil paint­ings, old coins, sculp­tures and paint­ings, jew­ellery and tem­ple mod­els from the col­lec­tions of former royal fam­i­lies here. Also worth a visit are the Ker­ala Folk­lore Mu­seum, which houses more than 4,000 arte­facts; the Indo-por­tuguese Mu­seum, which of­fers a glimpse into the lives of early Catholic com­mu­ni­ties; and the Mar­itime Mu­seum, ded­i­cated to the his­tory of the In­dian navy.

Spend some time ex­plor­ing the ma­jes­tic Pardesi Syn­a­gogue. Built in 1568, it fea­tures a gor­geous golden pul­pit, Bel­gian chan­de­liers, Scrolls of Law, and an 18th-cen­tury clock tower. Lastly, do not leave with­out a visit to the fish­ing nets, which sym­bol­ise the back­wa­ters and the city. These gi­ant can­tilevered fish­ing nets are on the north-eastern shore of Fort Kochi and have been there since 1400AD.

LOVE THE MOUN­TAINS? PICK MUN­NAR

If you’re a na­ture lover and en­joy be­ing sur­rounded by green, then this is the place for you. Lo­cated about 130 kilo­me­tres from Kochi (a four-hour car ride), Mun­nar of­fers a coolly pleas­ing cli­mate, rolling hills speck­led with tea plan­ta­tions, wind­ing lanes, and pic­turesque val­leys. Its mild cli­mate and the leisurely

pace has made it one of In­dia’s most pop­u­lar hon­ey­moon des­ti­na­tions.

Un­wind with a hot cup of the finest tea as you watch the clouds go by through the ver­dant moun­tains. If you’re in the mood for some ex­er­cise, go for one of the many treks in the sur­round­ing hills and watch out for gur­gling wa­ter­falls. Top off your days with some de­lec­ta­ble Ker­alan food, in­clud­ing idlis (steamed rice cakes), dosas (rice pan­cakes), medu vadas (deep­fried savoury dough­nuts), and spicy co­conut-based cur­ries with fresh seafood, beef, and chicken.

WANT TO EX­PE­RI­ENCE THE BACK­WA­TERS? GO TO ALLEPPEY

An in­te­gral and dis­tinc­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of Ker­ala, the back­wa­ters are a set of brack­ish la­goons and lakes that al­low you to en­joy the unique land­scapes around. Spend a day and night on the back­wa­ters by trav­el­ling to the town of Alleppey, which is just 54 kilo­me­tres (1.5-hour car ride) from Kochi.

Watch the lan­guid wa­ters and the fish­er­men and farm­ers work­ing their way around as you re­lax with a cool drink and some of the fresh­est seafood this side of the world. Here you’ll feel one with na­ture and watch your stress melt away as you see a mul­ti­tude of birds flit around in your new­found sanc­tu­ary.

EN­JOY WILDLIFE? VISIT THEKKADY AND PERI­YAR

If you’re the ad­ven­tur­ous type and love watch­ing wildlife, it’s worth the long drive (158 kilo­me­tres; 4 hours) to Thekkady. Here, you’ll find the im­pos­ing Peri­yar Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary, a dense evergreen de­cid­u­ous for­est which is home to herds of ele­phants, sam­bar, tigers, gaur, lion-tailed macaques and Nil­giri lan­gurs. If you’re lucky you’ll even sight hordes of ele­phants drink­ing wa­ter from Peri­yar Lake.

Be­sides the wildlife, Thekkady it­self is a green town, with a pop­u­lar spice mar­ket and abun­dant spice plan­ta­tions where you can pick up some fresh, high-qual­ity spices to take back home.

JUST WANT TO UN­WIND? SPA IN KU­MARAKOM

If you wish to re­lax and do noth­ing at all, you can’t go wrong with If you wish to re­lax and do noth­ing at all, you can’t go wrong with check­ing in to one of the lux­ury spa ho­tels in Ku­marakom. Just 53 kilo­me­tres (1 hour 20 min­utes by car) away, this white sand haven is the ideal spot to re­lax and re­lease those knot­ted muscles in your body. Choose from op­tions such as the Zuri Ku­marakom and Taj Ku­marakom Re­sort & Spa.

While the mon­soon is the best time for an Ayurvedic mas­sage, you’ll still be able to un­wind with the va­ri­ety of op­tions avail­able for the full body, foot, face, and back. With the serene sur­round­ings and the ex­pert touch of the masseuses, you’re bound to come back feel­ing re­ju­ve­nated and re­freshed.

This Page, from top, the Santa Cruz Cathe­dral Basil­ica at Fort Kochi; Seashells scat­tered around a beach near Kochi; Co­conut tree-lined back­wa­ters in Ku­marakom Op­po­site, Ele­phants in Peri­yar Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary, near Thekkady

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