Tucked away in the southwest corner of India, Kerala is a narrow strip of land between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghat mountains. The name means 'land of coconuts', and palms still shade almost the entire state from the blazing sun. The tropical landscape is crisscrossed by dozens of rivers and countless waterways, and visitors can spend idle days riding small ferries through the backwater lagoons, observing village life close-up in this, India's most populous state. When the rest of India gets too hot to handle, Kerala is often soothing and rejuvenating. Whether visitors stick to the lowlands or head for the hills, they will pass through scenery dotted with churches and temples; spice, tea, coffee and rubber plantations; and natural forests with wildlife reserves filled with elephants.
Kerala has some of India's best coastal resorts: among the finest is the much-photographed Kovalam, which many argue has the best beach in the country. Here visitors can take in Kerala's rich cultural and artistic life, and enjoy arguably the best vegetarian cuisine on the planet.
Compared to the rest of India, Kerala is short on monumental sights; the state's real draw card is its natural beauty. The countryside undulates westward from the mountains, offering vistas of rich green valleys. Rivers glide across the plains towards the sea, creating attractions such as the Athirampally Falls, before ending in a linked chain of lagoons where the silence of the still waters is broken only by boats and canoes, seagulls and cranes.