The state of Kerala is India at its greenest and most unrushed, famous for its beaches, its tropical vegetation and its hundreds of miles of waterways (referred to as backwaters).
If the classic tourist images of India usually revolve around the busy sounds, scents and colours of the country's cities and palaces, Kerala is a famously serene alternative. It draws large numbers of visitors as a result.
Houseboat cruises along the backwaters are perhaps the classic Kerala activity, but the state is also famous for its Ayurvedic health tourism, so you'll find easy opportunity for retreats and quality massages. The regional cuisine, often based on coconut milk, is another draw.
The state has its busier side too, of course, not least in the port city of Kochi (formerly known as Cochin). It was the first European settlement in India, initially settled by the Portuguese before being occupied by the Dutch and the British. Today these and other historical influences combine to make it a fascinating cultural stopover, famous for - among other things - its traditional fishing nets.
Where is it?
In southern India, stretching for more than 350 miles along the southwest coastline.
What is it?
A state famous for its relaxed pace, good food and quiet backwaters.
Best time to visit?
The weather is at its most appealing between October and March.
A cruise on Kerala's backwaters gives the opportunity to lie back and enjoy the view - birdlife, greenery and all.
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