Kerala remains a very popular tourist destination; famous for its incredible tropical vegetation and its impressive backwaters. Its capital city is Thiruvananthapuram and it is surrounded by Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and the Arabian Sea. Being a coastal city means that it enjoys a range of fauna and flora, as well as an abundance of different activities and attractions.

Kerala experienced much the same history as the rest of India. In ancient times, it was occupied by the Pulayas, Kuravas and Vetas and then, a little later, by Aryan migrants. It was under the rulership of various dynasties and kingdoms until European explorers arrived and began to make concerted efforts to take over the subcontinent through progressive battles. In Kerala, the local tribes and settlements actively struggled with these new-comers in an attempt to maintain independent rulership. The settlers and explorers that inhabited Kerala from other countries introduced Christianity and Judaism, which influenced local customs and culture significantly. It was only in 1947 that the entire country of India finally achieved independence from British rule. Kerala was formed as an official state in 1956.

Kerala is situated between the Western Ghats and the Laccadive Sea, where its climate is generally typical of the equatorial subtropics; i.e. hot and humid. The highlands in the east are characterised by high, jagged mountains, deep valleys and cooler temperatures, while central Kerala is known for its hilly topography and abundance of wildlife. In the west, the coast is home to a completely different range of vegetation and the animals that prefer these conditions. There are many rivers, canals and lakes throughout this Indian state, most of which are filled by the annual monsoon rains. The different geographical areas experience different climates, although Kerala is generally considered to be climatically
Image of Mountain landscape in Munnar ( Kerala) India
Mountain landscape in Munnar ( Kerala) India

Nature enthusiasts will delight in the abundant array of exciting plant- and animal species that can be found here. Approximately 2500 different plant species can be found in this state. Significantly, about 900 of these are medicinal plants that are used extensively throughout India for the treatment and prevention of many different ailments. The numerous forests that occupy Kerala are lush and densely vegetated. Lake Sasthamkotta and the Vembanad-Kol Wetlands are both Ramsar Convention-listed wetlands. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is another important treasure that can be found in the state of Kerala. Some of the exciting wildlife to be found here includes the Asian Elephant, Bengal Tiger, Nilgiri Tahr, Mugger Crocodile and the stunning Indian Leopard. There are also impressive varieties of birds and fish.

Agriculture, fishing and the service sector are the main industries that support the economy of Kerala. Within the services sector, tourism, banking, transport and communication are key elements. In terms of farming and the services and products associated therewith, almost half of the local people depend on this industry for their survival. The main crops include rice (of which there are hundreds of varieties), coconuts, cashew nuts, tea, coffee, rubber, pepper, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. In addition, there are over 220 fishing villages on the Kerala coast alone, supporting thousands of fishermen and their families.

Kerala is known for its high proportions of Jewish and Arab influences as well as for the relative independence granted to women in this society. In this Indian state, women have a far higher status than in most other societies within the subcontinent.

Tourist must-sees in Kerala include:

• Kochi (a busy port city)
• The Dutch Palace at Matancherry
• The Santa Cruz Basilica
• Kovalam Beach
• Alappuzha
• Kumarakom

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