What’s Kerala’s best-kept secret?
The trance-like theyyam ritual folk dances. Everyone comes to Kerala and goes to a Kathakali show, but in the north of Kerala you can watch an authentic ritual that’s not put on for tourists. Theyyam performers wear huge headdresses and fans who watch the show believe that the artist actually becomes the god that he’s enacting. You have to seek them out as they’re not advertised – local guesthouses will know where’s best to head to and when.
What’s your top tip for Kerala?
Visitors must try a traditional Keralan breakfast. Normally, this is idiyappam (rice noodles with a coconut milk dressing), steamed bananas, idli (a round, white rice cake with green chillis) or a dosa (savoury crepe stuffed with veggies). In Kerala, nearly everything is cooked in coconut oil, so food is much lighter, and slightly sweeter, than in the north.
Where’s best to chill out?
Kannur, definitely, in northern Kerala, and the beaches of Udma and Bekal, where you can explore the fort when not at the beach. There’s also a history of weaving here, so some low-key shopping can be had too. A few new big resorts aside, it is far less touristy than southern Kerala and has an undiscovered feel.
Where’s good for adventure?
Munnar, naturally! In the mountains here, you can trek and do some good overnight wilderness trips sleeping in forest huts. Further afield, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (55km from Munnar) also has trekking and tree house accommodation – there you might see some giant squirrels, elephants and if you’re really lucky,