Asia + The Middle East Kerala Cultural Diversity, walking in lush scenery, Cruising the backwaters, Stay on a house boat Lush tropical scenery; the scent of spices, tea and flowers; colonial buildings that jostle for space with churches, synagogues, mosques and temples; golden beaches, quiet inland waterways and a backdrop of jungle-covered slopes… Kerala is not where you come for high architecture, monuments and sophisticated, Rajasthani-style luxury – but its great cultural diversity and languid pace create a unique feeling of intimacy and richness. Kerala is all about ‘homestays’, where local families have turned their ancestral homes into upmarket b+bs or charming small hotels. These are far more interesting than the somewhat ‘samey’ mainstream hotels and allow you to experience a more authentic Kerala. However, the choice of these homestays is crucial as, rather like the ‘heritage’ properties in Northern India, only the ones that have been well thought out and are well managed can provide fantastic experiences. Kerala works well for both families and couples, who may choose to link it with some beach time in the Maldives. Alternatively, if you have more time and yearn for those monuments and temples, we would suggest combining Kerala with neighbouring Karnataka or Tamil Nadu. All itineraries are individually designed, but as a guide, we can arrange ten days in Kerala (not including flights) from £2500 per person. Stories Places to Stay Highlights Location Stories As every one of the holidays we create is truly tailor-made, all of our clients come back with different and interesting stories. We love to hear from our clients on their return to find out about their most memorable moments. Our Destination Experts are also always travelling to our extraordinary destinations and every trip allows us to refine and add value to our clients' future experiences. ‘Kerala was the perfect introduction to India.’ Maxim Vane Percy could not decide where to plan for his honeymoon. He wanted the mix of exploring somewhere new, exciting experiences as well as relaxing after the stress of planning the wedding. After speaking to our destination experts, they came to the decision that Kerala offered everything they wanted. And it proved to live up to his expectations and more. Find out more Learning to cook a traditional Keralan meal Nimmy has been a professional cookery instructor for over 20 years as well as a food consultant to writers, chefs and magazines. She is a celebrity in the Indian culinary world. Alex took part in the cookery lesson which was conducted at her humble home. Find out more An Evening of Keralan Cuisine Penny Buckley, our Asia + The Middle East destination expert travelled to Kerala where she spent a memorable evening learning how to cook traditional Keralan dishes. She left with some delicious recipes and a much greater understanding of the culture of Southern India; its cuisine and traditions which are as fascinating as they are culturally diverse. Find out more Places to Stay At cazenove+loyd, we have no vested interest in the hotels, lodges, boats, trains and tented camps which we select. We only choose what is right for a particular client. We visit each destination in our three regions on a regular basis and have detailed conversations with our clients on their return so our choices are continually refined. Here are just four c+l reviews. This is by no means a prescriptive list, but hints at what we look for and value in places to stay. Old Harbour, Cochin Right at the heart of colonial Fort Cochin, is the charming Old Harbour Hotel, which along with Malabar House is a firm c+l favourite. With its small number of attractive, light and airy rooms; lovely swimming pool and restaurant surrounded by tropical gardens, this is a wonderful boutique hotel and a very relaxing base from… Find out more Purity Hotel Purity is our favourite boutique hotel on Kerala’s stunning backwaters. A far cry from the busy channels dominated by house barges, Purity sits right on the shores overlooking a secluded part of Lake Vembanad. The individual rooms are stylishly designed with antiques, and an eclectic collection of art adorns every space. This is a wonderfully… Find out more Neeleshwar Hermitage, Bekal Neeleshwar is our favourite beach hotel in India for its low key natural beauty. Beautifully positioned on a quiet corner of the coast in Northern Kerala, we think this is the perfect destination for families and couples seeking a peaceful base from which you can explore this part of Southern India. At Neeleshwar we can organise private cooking classes; a day to cycle around the local fishing villages to experience everyday life in Kerala, amongst many other activities. Find out more Paradisa Plantation, Western Ghats The location of Paradisa is one of the best that we know of in Kerala and a stay here is all about the stunning scenery, walking and relaxing. The traditional Keralan cottages are dotted amid the picturesque Cardamom Hills of this idyllic coffee and spice plantation. We love the stunning pool which overlooks striking views of the estate. Everything here is at one with the natural surroundings and the ambience is utterly peaceful which is why it is one of our favourite hotels in the region, though do be aware of a few creepy crawlies lurking in the woodwork. Find out more Highlights For over 20 years we have been creating the best luxury tailor-made holidays, we know our countries inside and out and really know how to get under the skin of each one and the best way to experience them. A DAY ON A PLANTATION WITH AN ELEPHANT It’s very special to be able to bathe an elephant and then tour a plantation on its back without it feeling commercial. And to stop in at a local temple and be blessed by the elephant herself is slightly surreal. Find out more The Architecture of Cochin Cochin, a charming town in Kerala, has a mix of Dutch and Portuguese architecture. But most importantly feature is the fort, bang on the water’s edge, festooned with Chinese fishing nets, best seen at sunset. Find out more THE LANDSCAPES OF THE WESTERN GHATS A world away from the bustle of Rajasthan, Kerala is super chilled. It’s about living on the coast, on the famous backwaters or in the hills of the Western Ghats, with beautiful landscapes being an enduring constant. Find out more Location We know Kerala better than most. The possibilities are endless and ever-changing. On the map below, we have plotted some of our current favourite places to stay, some c+l highlights and a few pertinent client stories. And you can see if there is a team member travelling in that particular country and link through to them and what they are up to, so you can get them to call you on their return. Best time to visit Kerala Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Best time to go Best visited during November to March, though the coast has an extended season as it’s less humid. The lush landscape even away from the coast an up in the Western Ghats is testament to the high rainfall and humidity, so the perfect season is short even by India’s standards. Kerala combines well with a visit to neighbouring Tamil Nadu as what it has in natural beauty, it lacks in temples and cultural sights. Karnataka to the North also works well before or after a stay in Kerala. And although Kerala does have beaches, for those wanting pristine white sand and truly world class hotels, it is also easy to fly to The Maldives from Southern India. Sri Lanka is also a natural partner to Kerala. Meet the Team Asia + The Middle East Venetia Chris Penny Florence Auriole We'd love to hear from you Our well travelled Destination Experts have extensive first hand knowledge of their destinations and can open doors that others simply can’t.