If you are looking forward to spending some quality time together, Kerala, God’s own country has all the right itineraries for you. From floating in a ferry to sharing a recipe, this could be just the kind of break you need
In Fort Kochi, this is an expansive antique shop done up like a Travancore mansion, housing an enormous old snake boat running down the centre. The door at the end of this tunnel-like room opens to yet another room with a sprinkling of antique tables and chairs. You can sit and dine at the tables and if you so fancy, buy the table when you’re done! Go on beyond the door, you find yourself in an open courtyard on the backwaters.
Under the sky
Sleep under the stars on a canopy of trees
What: Spending a night or two at the height of trees and that too in the middle of thick forests, is an innovative hotel type that was first made popular in Kerala.
Why: At the top of a tree you are not just closer to the stars in the clear sky above, but even better is the fact that you are blissfully away from the people below. Your little room, or hut, is made entirely of wood and blends in quite well between the woods, peeking out from its green carpet in a warm and cosy manner. It is small, intimate and utterly romantic to live in a tree house with your partner as dim lighting makes your home for the night glow in the dark and all you hear are sounds of the night in the jungle that surrounds you. You climb down for creature comforts in the day as you go on various sightseeing tours and eat and drink with other guests at the hotel, but when the day comes to a close, you escape together to your wonderful, secluded, green, haven.
How: Though there are quite a few options in Kerala now, Wayanad is the best place to try out living among the trees with the tried and trusted Vyhitri resort. (www.vythiriresort.com/ tree_house)
Soulful spa experience
Ayurvedic therapy and couple massages
What: While in Kerala, you really should not return without dipping into the healing well of ayurveda but there is no reason why you should not add a bit of comfort to the process.
Why: Ayurveda is not a gentle thing and it is certainly not romantic to be drowning in foul-smelling oil together—no, ayurveda is strictly for the wellness of mind body and soul, and hence the romance and comfort in this holiday must come from elsewhere. Most good ayurvedic resorts are more like hospitals where you go for specific treatments—but you can add some frills to your wellness holiday by opting for a luxury spa hotel where you can get massages other than ayurveda apart from great food, well appointed accommodation and fantastic sea views.
How: Surya Samudra is a great option in Kovalam. Located at a height, you have fab panoramic views of the sea from your beautiful cottage, and in between yoga and massages, you can enjoy fine cuisine and wine at its three restaurants. Its bar, Madira, looks out at the ocean and is known for its cocktails— a perfect antidote to some hardcore ayurveda. (www.niraamaya.in/kovalam_indulge.html)
Break the rut and spend some time in these mystic backwaters
What: An option where you slow down the pace of life, spend time exploring Kerala’s quieter side with each other.
Why: The stillness of Kerala’s backwaters soothes any jangled nerves immediately. The minute you set afloat on a houseboat, the world becomes a prettier place as all you see is acres of blue, lined by miles of green. The only population is that of swooping birds, though you do see little huts of fishermen who are all away for the day on work. It’s the two of you, the lake, the nature and nothing in between. It’s just good to be in this lovely tranquil—just breathe in the fresh air and soak in the unhurried pace.
How: Lake Vembanad is the biggest lake with the most number of backwater cruises to offer—you can get a day package or opt to stay on a state-run houseboat. If you want a little quieter area, Kollam is a good option. You could also opt for the backwaters of the Ashtamudi in Kollam—cruise in the days, while return for the night and stay at Welcom Heritage Raviz, (www.itchotels. in/hotels/welcomhotelravizashtamudi). For staying on the water, try the Vrinda houseboat run by The Oberoi. (www. oberoihotels.com/kerala-backwaters)
A break in Bekal
Soak in the breathtaking views as you take a detox break to a seaside fort
What: Seaside town and yet undiscovered, for now, Bekal is on its way to become one of the most popular destinations in Kerala. Be there before that happens to catch its quiet beauty.
Why: Perhaps the only thing that is known about Bekal is its grand seaside fort that is accessible from the highway and has stunning views of the sea. People on their way to elsewhere do stop here for the fabulous view, but often move on ignoring the rest of Bekal. This is where you break away from following the crowds and make the quiet seaside town your home for a few days. You will be rewarded with rich sea views, acres of isolated beach and the unfrequented backwaters of the Valiyaparamba around Bekal. There are hills and ghats that lay between Kasargode district and the sound of silence for company.
How: There are some wonderful spa hotels that have come up in Bekal and among them The Lalit is a good option as it lies on the banks of the lovely Nombili backwater. Once you are done with walking on the beach, you can lay back in its lap of luxury and gaze at the stars together. Or try the Rejuve Spa therapies, you are in the home of Ayurveda, after all. (www.thelalit.com/the-lalit-resort-spa-bekal)
The wild side
The deep, dark forests of Kerala are teeming with surprises
What: A weekend in the heart of Kerala’s green belt, in Thekkady, where the thrill of spotting the tiger adds excitement to your otherwise peaceful break.
Why: A dream for those inclined towards nature and wildlife, Periyar National Park, or Thekkady, is a tiger and elephant reserve spreading over two districts of Kerala, Idukki and Pathanamthitta. But life here needn’t be about chasing the wild beasts—though the tiger, the elephant and the endangered Malabar squirrel are the star attractions, you might find the haunting beauty of Periyar Lake a bigger draw as dead tree stumps stick out from placid waters, giving it an otherworldly look. Take a leisurely jungle walk in the morning or go bamboo-rafting with forest department guides. The evening lake cruise is mandatory, given the high incidences of elephant sightings at sunset. Join the Periyar Tiger Trail conducted by a team of poachers-turned-protectors.
How: The drive from Thiruvananthapuram, the closest airport, takes about five hours. And you can stay at Lake Palace Thekkady, built on an island inside the national park. (www.lakepalacethekkady.com)
A culinary tour
Learn a few recipes of the local cuisine and cook up a meal for two
What: A holiday spent learning how to make the cuisine of the state you are visiting, cooking holidays is still a nascent trend in India, with hardly any Indians opting for culinary tours and vacations.
Why: Kerala is one of the best places to try this trend as its cuisine is delicate and delicious. Learn to make the local curries and stews as you do everything from shop for vegetables to stir the pan! This way, you not only take memories back with you, but also some awesome local recipes.
How: Try the Pimenta Spice Plantation culinary tour packages, which give you the option to stay, learning to cook as well as exploring the scenic environs. You can also opt for their ‘stay and cook’ option, where you cook dinner so you have the whole day to do sightseeing. (www.thepimenta.in)
Find a home
In the rural part of the state you can live the age old traditions
What: Staying in a traditional home in a rural part of Kerala, with a family that still practices the old ways. The back to basics lifestyle will rejuvenate you and make you think about the benefits of a simpler lifestyle.
Why: Home cooked Kerala food could be the only reason one wants to stay in a traditional homestay but there are many more reasons. Get involved with local life of the place you are visiting for a richer holiday experience as you see from up close how rural Kerala works, and what goes into keeping it green and lovely. A homestay comes with its usual advantages of unmatched locations and local information from the family—and the experience is so intimate and bespoke that you can become addicted to this style of holidaying.
How: Try the lovely Thekkanat Parayil homestay at Olavipe. Located in the middle of a farm, at the Thekkanat Payayil home you are surrounded by green fields and a thousand birds. Early morning walks, bird-watching and cruises on the backwater are all part of your itinerary while anything that is rushed or noisy is shunned away. (www.olavipe.com)