Kerala, a region in Southwest India, is known for its extensive backwaters, pristine beaches, and lush hill stations. Travelers can visit a tea plantation, stay overnight on a houseboat, enjoy an Ayurvedic massage, or experience an elephant safari. The most visited areas in Kerala include Cochin, Alleppey, Kumarakom, Periyar, Thekkady, Munnar, and Kovalam. However, there are many lesser known treasures in this beautiful region, including eco home stays, waterfalls, and historical plantations. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Shenbaga Vilaasam, Pollachi: Shenbaga Vilaasam is a restored plantation that was built in the early 1900's admidst acres of farmland. The house is decorated with family heirlooms and only has four guest rooms, assuring a private and authentic experience. The Vanavarayar family initiated the building of a large man-made lake, which was meant to irrigate the surrounding areas. Today, in addition to giving the land around Shenbaga Vilaasam a picturesque setting, the lake continues to provide a means of livelihood for the villagers. Guests can interact with the farmers, stroll through nearby villages, and enjoy evening tea on the patio.
2. Dewalokam Farmstay Retreat: Dewalokam is an eco-friendly home stay based on the principles of sustainability and responsibility. Located less than two hours from the Cochin airport, it is the only place in Kerala where the local community is directly employed. Seven women and ten men from the village are regular employees at Dewalokam, and their income supports sixteen different families in the village. Also, Dewalokam is the only working organic farm in Kerala where the meat, vegetables, fruits, milk, and honey are produced and harvested for the guests. Activities include guided forest treks, gardening, bamboo rafting, spice walks, cycling, and yoga.
3. Rainforest Lodge, Athirapally Waterfalls: Each room at this lodge has spectacular views of the misty Athirapally waterfalls from the private balcony. Enjoy a guided jungle trek with an experienced native guide, or spend a day with the tribesmen of the Sholayar range. Four different tribes co-exist peacefully here: The Kadar, the Malayar, the Muthuvar and the Mannaan. Most of the tribal people subsist on activities like hunting, fishing and collecting honey and medicinal plants from the jungle. For the less adventurous, pack a picnic lunch for the easy hike to the base of the falls, considered the Niagara of Kerala.