Mellow Kerala in southern India is a fantastic family holiday destination and an easy introduction to this mystical – but sometimes overwhelming – country. Here are four favourite Keralan escapes for families to enjoy, brought to you by Globetotting.com.
The ancient port of Fort Cochin (Kochi) has been luring traders and travellers to its shores for over 600 years and today is one of India’s most popular destinations. Much of Fort Cochin’s appeal centres on its colourful history but even if this doesn’t capture your child’s imagination, there’s certainly enough for kids of all ages to see and do for a couple of days. The leafy lanes are easy to navigate and with little traffic save for the resident goats it’s a good walking, cycling and stroller-pushing kind of town.
Highlights include the enormous, cantilevered Chinese Fishing nets; visit in the morning and you may even be able to help the fishermen haul in their catch. The daily sunset cruises are fun, particularly for spotting the dolphins that live in the harbour. Ferries criss-cross across to the mainland and also to Cherai Beach where sandy shores and the Arabian Sea provide a welcome distraction from sightseeing. Visit the spice market, browse the myriad antique shops and indulge in gorgeous, coconut-fuelled seafood dishes at breezy waterfront restaurants.
The sleepy fishing village of Marari Beach may be one of Kerala’s lesser-known destinations but it also happens to be one of its finest. This stretch of Malabar coastline makes for a great family holiday with a very good family-friendly resort or kid-friendly boutique villas to choose from.
It’s worth remembering that this is India (and not the buttery beaches of Thailand) but the beaches are good for building sandcastles (little kids), splashing in the waves (big kids) or soaking up the sun (teens). It’s also a wonderful opportunity to witness life in a traditional fishing village; you’ll spot the fishermen heading out to sea in the mornings and hauling in their catch come dusk.
Marari Beach is just 11 km from Alappuzha (Alleppey), making it an easy stop-off either before or after visiting the backwaters. Alternatively you may choose to cruise the labyrinth canals and waterways on a day trip instead.
Floating along Kerala’s fabled backwaters on a kettuvallam (houseboat) is the undisputed main attraction of the region and one of India’s most magical experiences. This web of waterways (there are 900 km in total) has been used for centuries by local people and continues to be a major mode of transport.
Time moves at a different speed on a houseboat and kids, particularly little ones, might find the pace of life a little slow. But it’s well worth taking a cruise, even for an afternoon, as it is truly unique experience. And besides, a floating boat ‘hotel’ and the chance to help the driver steer the barge should keep them entertained! There’s an incredible variety of plant, animal and bird life to be seen, and watching life on the canal banks is a wonderful introduction to another way of life; kids will see other children playing in the waters, heading off to school and even rowing single-log canoes themselves.
Kerala’s most famous snake boat race, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, is held annually in August, and sees the tranquil, tangled backwaters turned into a riot of colour and noise.
Positioned inland overlooking tropical forests and the emerald green hills of the Western Ghats, Thekaddy is one of our favourite family-friendly destinations in inland Kerala. Take a walk through gardens and plantations to learn how spices are farmed and how rubber is collected and processed. Borrow a bicycle and pedal through the surrounding countryside, or explore the neighbourhood on the back of a bullock cart.
Here you’ll share your swimming pool with tiny skimming birds, lumber through the forest on the back of an elephant, go trekking, take a boat ride or enjoy a wildlife tour. Nearby Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is home to herds of wild elephants – seeing these gentle giants trundle through the woods is a truly awesome sight!
For more suggestions on how to get the most out of Kerala with the kids in tow, check out Globetotting’s favourite family-friendly breaks here.