The major cities of Kerala are Kozhikode in the north, Kochi in the centre, and Thiruvananthapuram in the south. They are smaller and more relaxing in comparison to most other Indian cities.
The beaches are never far away. Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is a convenient gateway to the palm-fringed beaches of Kovalam and Varkala. South of Kochi is a beautiful white stretch of beach at Mararikulam. Kozhikode has lovely beaches to the north such as at Neeleshwar.
For visitors, the most popular city is undoubtedly the great port of Kochi. Traders from all over the world have left their mark on the architecture here, making Kochi one of the most unique and fascinating towns in India. Walking around the old atmospheric quarters of Matancherry and Fort Cochin is a great delight.
The greatest joy of travelling in Kerala is exploring the backwaters south of Kochi, a network of waterways which weave through villages set amidst lush vegetation. There are lots of interesting home-stays and small atmospheric hotels in and around Allapuzha, Kumarakom and Thrikunnapuzha (near Kollam). Alternatively, you can cruise through the backwaters in a converted rice barge (the so-called "houseboats").
Roads leading further inland pass through spice, tea, coffee and rubber plantations, and natural forests, en route to wildlife reserves such as is the Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary near Kothamangalam, Eravikulam National Park near Munnar, and the Periyar National Park near Thekkady. The beauty of these green hills is unique to Kerala.
One of the most beautiful landscapes in Kerala is in Wayanad district, in the north of the state. Here you find an unbelievably beautiful combination of paddy fields, spice plantations and rain forests, creating an rich verdant atmosphere. There are some wonderful accommodation options in small places like Sultan Battery, Vythiri, Meppadi and Lakkidi.
There are special home-stays all over Kerala but some highlights are Ayisha Manzil in Tellicherry, a beautiful bungalow overlooking the sea, Kandath Tharavad, a 100-year old traditional Kerala house in Pallakad, and Vanilla Country in Teekoy, a wonderful home right at the heart of a working plantation of vanilla, coffee and rubber.