Kerala: One Indian State, Four Exhilarating Ways

The mountains of Munnar are teeming with tea plants and tea plantations.

Scott Hocker at The Week: Kerala is a microcosm of India itself. The 360-mile-long sliver abutting the Arabian Sea is a bewildering jumble of people, places and cultures. Impossible to get a handle on with one lone visit — or six visits even. The startling breadth of Kerala is almost preternatural. Well, better to say it is extra natural, because the mountainous Western Ghats and the topographical marvel of the coastal backwaters are acute embodiments of the natural world. Discover how Kerala does what it does with these four guides to four very different parts of the state.

Do nothing on the coast

Beach nuts and laze-abouts will relish the tranquility of Marari Beach. There is not much there, and that is the entire point. Just stretches of sand and the waves of the Arabian Sea. Fishermen ply their trade on the beach’s shore, so the morning rush can be a bit intense. Otherwise, the vibe is permanent-mellow.

The aptly named Fisherman Cafe is tucked back off the shoreline and serves seafood with both Keralan influences and European ones. That means you can order a paratha to go with your whole grilled snapper, stuffed with lemon, butter and rosemary, and served with potatoes and zucchini.

The stillness can be deceptive. The sun is a force even on the most tranquil days. So lather on that sunscreen when you take those beachfront strolls.

Get friendly with elephants and spices in the mountains

Munnar is probably the most well-known of the mountainous destinations in Kerala. It does, after all, have a litany of mountainsides teeming with tea plants and tea plantations.

For a more surprising but kindred experience, head to Thekkady. There, you can experience a tour of a spice farm, where, if you are blessed, you might also get a home-cooked Keralan meal. You will learn the differences between a variety of black peppercorns, see what exactly a cardamom plant looks like and likely sample green clove buds straight from the plant…

More here.