8 Ways to Explore Kerala, India

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6. Vembanad Backwater

Vembanad is India’s longest of lakes, and one for drifting languidly for days on end. In nearby Kochi they call it Kochi Lake and in Kuttanad it’s known as Punnamada—it seems everyone wants a small piece for themselves. Vembanad is part of the dreamy backwaters raved about in this southern region—the setting is a page ripped out of an entirely different book than most of India. Vembanad is part of 900 kilometers of backwaters: myriad canals, streams, rivers and five massive lakes—both natural and manmade-are strewn with natural islands. This is a unique ecosystem rich with estuaries, lagoons, and deltas. Kerala features three distinct backwater regions: Alapuzha, Ernakulam, and Kottayam—the latter is the best-known and most impressive. Hit the helm and hire a boat for a few days to traverse the transcendent backwaters and languorous lifestyle (not to mention your own cook and navigator).

Vembanad Backwater

5. Mattancherry Palace

Mattancherry Palace occupies an important historical place in India’s past. The palace was an offering, a gesture of goodwill from the Portuguese to the Raja of Kochin in the mid-16th century. About 100 years following, it was remodeled by the Dutch and renamed Dutch Palace. From afar, Mattancherry Palace doesn’t live up to expectations of grandeur, but rest assured there are important things to see. The exceptionally preserved murals of Hindu origins depict colourful scenes from the Puranic, Ramayana, and Mahabharata legends in exquisite detail. Located in Kerala state’s endearing Cochin (Kochi) City, the palace is constructed in the state’s traditional architectural style called Nalukettu, featuring a central courtyard with a diminutive temple dedicated to the Kochi royal family’s protective goddess Pazhayannur Bhagavati. Two temples flank the palace, one dedicated to Lord Siva, the other to Krishna. Take a tour for an insightful side trip while in Cochin.

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