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Thrissur Pooram Festival 2018

Thrissur Pooram Festival 2018

Thrissur Pooram Festival, the most renowned of all festivals in Kerala, It is celebrated in a pomp manner today and tomorrow. The continuous 36 hours celebrations make you awe struck with the detailed ceremonies and rituals. The festival is an undoubtedly spectacular and a real treat for the eyes and ears.

Most interestingly, the entire arrangements and celebrations of Thrissur Pooram festival are taken care by the people across all religions without any barriers. The epic center of this great festival is the Vadakkunathan temple, located at the geographic center of the town. Deities taken in procession from the neighboring villages assemble at Thrissur and Lord Shiva is the presiding deity worshipped by all the others. The sprawling ground of Thekkinkadi Maidhan is the prime venue of Thrissur Pooram festival where the divine participants and lakhs of devotees assemble.

 

Thrissur Pooram Festival has been celebrated for more than two centuries and the two main entities of this festival are the Peramakkavu and Thiruvembadi, competing to exhibit their supremacy. The most beautiful and powerful elephants are chosen from the different parts of South India on account of this festival and each group is allowed to being fifteen such elephants.

The heart pageantry of the caparisoned elephants from Peramakkavu and Thiruvembadi towards the Vadakkunathan temple and back to their places is so magnificent and enlivening. The elephants decorated gorgeously are accompanied by the Panchavadhyam, collection of five percussion instruments, one of the special features of Kerala. Listening to the music played by the Panchavadhyam experts and witnessing the procession of elephants is really an unique experience.

Out of all, Thrissur pooram is well known for the grand fireworks lasting for three to four hours. Besides other rituals, ceremonies, procession of elephants and percussion instruments, the fireworks commencing before dawn and lasting for four hours is the major event of this festival. People from across the country and globe assemble at Thrissur to take part and celebrate this sacred festival.

Be a part of this Grand Gala and take back the most cherished moments !


Kerala: Mullakkal Chirappu starts today

Mullakkal Chirappu

Alleppey, Kerala: The annual festival Mullakkal Chirappu at the famous Rajarajeswari Temple at Mullakkal, Alleppey begins today. The whole city is illuminated with colourful lights creating a festive ambience all over. Every year, from the start of the Vruschika month [mid- November] the Mullakkal Mahotsavam is celebrated. It is a 41 days long festival in which the last 11 days is celebrated in a grand style and is known as the “Mullakkal Chirappu”. Thousands of devotees from all over the state and travellers from many parts of the world flock to the temple to participate and offer their prayers to Goddess Rajarajeswari. Nine caparisoned elephants proceed to the temple followed by a large crowd of devotees is one of the most delightful sights during this 11 day celebration.

Mullakkal temple
Mullakkal temple

The Chirappu festival at Alleppey showcases various cultural programs which reflect the state’s rich culture and heritage. Popular artists from all over Kerala perform during the night hours and entertain the people gathered around the temple. It is a great opportunity for photographers and cultural experience seekers. The festival concludes on December 26th. Annadanam or feast is served to more than 4000 people on the same day and the grand fireworks display marks the end of Mullakkal Chirappu.


Nelliyampathy: A visit to not so popular yet spectacular hill station in Kerala

Nelliyampathy

There are many hidden gem spots in Kerala which are still not on the radar of the travel community. This serene hills we call Nelliyampathy belongs to the same list. Untouched beauty at its best- that is what I would say about Nelliyampathy. It is located in the Palakkad district of Kerala nearly 70 kms from the city. We, a group of passionate travellers from Cochin decided to make a visit to Nelliyampathy. We booked a cab for the trip. It is a 150 km journey which would take nearly 4 hours to reach during the working hours and therefore we started at 5 am, early in the morning to cut in short. It took us just 3 hours to reach Nelliyampathy.

Nelliampathy

The driver took a deviation from the Cochin -Palakkad highway shortly after Vadakkencherry. The hill road starts from the Pothundi Dam view point. Our driver Joseph briefed about his previous trip to Nelliyampathy. He informed us not to expect a hill station something like Ooty, Munnar or Kodaikanal. He said Nelliyampathy is not a promoted hill station and therefore there are no particular sightseeing spots we could go and spend time, rather enjoy everything we see en-route. There are about 10 hairpin bends to negotiate before we reach Nelliyampathy. Our first stop was the Pothundi dam viewpoint. It is one of the oldest dam built in India. We stopped for few minutes and enjoyed our first moment of joy during the journey. The view from that particular spot was truly beautiful. We could see the river over which the Pothundi dam is built and the surrounding hills at its backdrop make it pleasing for any human eye.

Nelliampathy
Pothundi Dam view on road

We resumed our journey and the serpentine hill road exposed us to some of the most stunning vistas of nature, there at Nelliyampathy. We came across the Nelliyampathy Waterfalls shortly after the Pothundi Dam viewpoint. We stopped at several other viewpoints on the road to Nelliyampathy and shot few snaps as well. The gorgeous tea plantations and Coffee plantations are a highlight at Nelliyampathy. We could see a large area of plantations spread along various slopes. These were actually started by the British during their period and later sold to the natives. . I fell in love with Nelliyampathy already.

Nelliyampathy
Tea plantations at Nelliyampathy

As we reached the Nelliyampathy town, we stopped by a tea shop and checked with the locals on the sightseeing places. They were really happy to know we were tourists. They told us there are not many specific sightseeing places in Nelliyampathy just like our driver told us before, however they asked us to visit the Seetharkundu Viewpoint and Kesavanpara which are popular for great views they offer.

We started off with the Seethargundu Viewpoint, which as per Google is the highlight of Nelliyampathy. A 6 km drive took us to the Seethargundu. It takes another 1 km hike to reach the viewpoint. The hike itself is exciting. We started hiking and on to our right, we could see a chain of hills stretching to the horizon. The clock almost hit 9 and the sun was shining bright giving us a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape. The weather is pleasant and cool. We were all in a holiday mood, cheering and enjoying on the way. We reached Seethargundu Viewpoint and I must say it is one of the blissful sights I have ever had. One of my mates started jumping in joy and he was running all along the small walkway by the side. We are standing nearly 5000 feet above the sea level. One false step and we are gone. I took my camera off my backpack and started shooting. We spend an hour there at the view point. The view downhill of the surrounding landscape was beautiful. Below is a view from Seethargundu.

Nelliyampathy
Seethargundu view

Our next stop was the Kesavanpara. It is again another viewpoint in Nelliyampathy 9 kms from the Seethargundu Viewpoint and 4 kms from the Nelliyampathy town. A 500 m walk is required to reach Kesavanpara. This was again a great hike. We walked across thick greenery on both sides of the walkway. We reached Kesavanpara and enjoyed the views.

Next up, we decided to explore the woods on our own. Nelliyampathy is a great hill station and considering its vast expanse of lush greenery at Nelliyampathy, there is a whole lot of options to enjoy nature. We drove along every roadway we came across. We stopped by and hiked many densely forested areas. It was pretty risky considering the fact that we would come across some really wild animals of the jungle, but the excitement to explore triggered us to just move on. Even our driver joined us and it was total fun. By evening 5 pm we started our journey back.


All you need to know about your Alleppey houseboat tour!

Alleppey houseboat tour

Who doesn’t know about the popular Alleppey backwaters in Kerala? Probably all those who love travelling have somehow at some point, heard of this paradisiacal land we call Alleppey. If you are planning to visit Alleppey, I would say hire a houseboat. If you are looking for the best way to enjoy Alleppey, it is a houseboat for sure. A trip to Kerala, the so-called “God’s own Country”, is never complete without an Alleppey houseboat tour. Hop on to a wooden houseboat, and cruise through the Alleppey backwaters in style.

Who wouldn’t love floating along the lake, with lush greenery on both side of the backwaters, and that too in a “house like boat” with all the amenities you would find in a hotel. Also depending on your budget you can choose between standard houseboats to luxury houseboats. It depends on your travel style.

About the cruise experience

For me, personally, I love houseboats. I have had an Alleppey houseboat tour a couple of times with my family. For an overnight houseboat cruise, the check-in time is 12 pm noon and check-out time is 9 am the next day. The houseboat guys come to receive us on road and lead us to the houseboat boarding point. The houseboat crew is really welcoming and helpful. As we hop into the houseboat they help us with a refreshing welcome drink, mostly a fruit punch or tender coconut.

Next up the cruise starts and your Alleppey houseboat tour begin as well. Alleppey starts to slowly reveals itself to you. Enjoy every scene of the Alleppey countryside. As the houseboat captain steers through narrow canals and remote village sides, you could see the day to day lives of Alleppey people, churches, schools, toddy shops, fish markets and more. The paddy fields, coconut farms, the people, every sight is a delight for a traveller. By noon, you will be provided with a sumptuous Kerala lunch with the local special Meen curry [fish curry] and other dishes. Evening the crew serves you Tea/Coffee along with local Kerala snacks, such as Banana Fry, Uzhunnu Vada etc.

The cruise duration varies as per your boarding time. Generally, the timing is 12 pm to 5:30 pm and after that, the houseboat will be anchored by the side and rest of the night you spend inside the houseboat. Due to safety reasons, the houseboats are not allowed to run after dusk. Meanwhile, you can have a short evening walk through the Alleppey villages on your own which are pretty interesting and enjoyed by all.

Alleppey houseboat tour
Evening village walk

At night, a delicious dinner is prepared for you on board by the houseboat crew. If you wish to taste any particular freshwater fish, you have options to buy it on the way. The crew will help you pick your favourite fish and cook exclusively for you as per your preference for your meal. Enjoy! Kerala food is simply great to try. if you are a vegetarian? No worries, do let your tour operator know it beforehand and you will be served some mouth drooling Vegetarian Kerala food as well.

Alleppey houseboat tour

Category of houseboats

Houseboats are of different categories to suit different types of guests and their budget. Basically, there are 3 categories-

  • Standard

Standard houseboats have all the necessary amenities that we need and it is enough to enjoy the stunning Alleppey backwaters.

  • Premium

Premium houseboats are more aesthetically appealing with glass covered fully air-conditioned interiors.

  • Luxury

Luxury houseboats, just as the name suggests, they are pretty grand and luxurious.

Note: There is one bedroom to 4 bedroom houseboats available as per the number of persons travelling, let it be your family or a group of friends, you can enjoy your Alleppey houseboat tour together. There are very few large houseboats which can accommodate large groups as well.

Alleppey houseboat tour

Type of cruises

There are 2 type of houseboat cruises you can choose from.

  • Day cruise
  • Overnight cruise

Day cruise is a 4 to 5 hours houseboat cruise through the backwaters. It starts at 12 noon and ends at 5pm. If you are not interested staying on a houseboat, I would recommend you to opt for a day cruise. However, there is not a big price difference between a day cruise and an overnight houseboat cruise. Considering the fact that you got to book a hotel for your night stay in Alleppey, If you are comfortable staying on a houseboat, an overnight houseboat cruise is a better option. Again, it depends upon your travel style and preference.

Alleppey houseboat tour

Choose an authorised and reliable tour operator

Now, this must be noted. There are thousands of houseboats in Alleppey and hundreds of houseboat providers, but to find a reliable one is not an easy task. Often it happens the local houseboat operators charge you a heavy prize and provide you with a very cheap houseboat, sometimes very dirty and odd looking. Do remember to do a lot of research on finding the best houseboat operator.

It is always better to book your houseboat with your trusted tour operator who customizes and arrange the whole Kerala trip for you. In that case, you get a great houseboat as well. You can always ask them to book the best boat suiting your budget and style. You can also tell them your recommendations on how you want your food to be cooked, any extra amenities you need or whatever it is. Tell them and they will make sure everything is perfect for your Alleppey houseboat tour prior to your arrival.

We can help in this regard. The South Tourism Houseboats are all well maintained, classy and have a great houseboat crew who will see to it you enjoy every moment of your Alleppey houseboat tour. We have a great range of customized houseboats of various categories. A dedicated houseboat branch in Alleppey ensures a hassle-free and memorable houseboat tour to all our clients.

Choose your pick and enjoy the most popular backwater destination in the world in a customized South Tourism houseboat.

For bookings log onto-   South Tourism Houseboats

Alleppey houseboat tour


Athirapally Waterfalls in Kerala, the “Indian Niagara Falls”!

Athirapally Waterfalls

Often referred as the Niagra of India, the Athirapally waterfalls in Kerala is the largest waterfalls in the state. Falling from a height of 80m, this splendid waterfall is a delight to witness. It is situated in Chalakkudy [Thrissur district] on the 145 km long Chalakkudy River which originates from the Western Ghats and flows to the Sholayar Forest. The location is so beautiful that it has served as a setting for many blockbuster Indian movies like Raavan, Guru and Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se to name a few.

Though I have heard a lot about Athirapally Waterfalls, I never made a visit. Finally, last week I decided to travel to Athirapally. From my hometown Cochin, Athirapally is nearly 70 kms, a 2 hour drive. I started early morning 6am. There are 2 ways to reach Athirapally from Cochin, one is taking a right diversion after Angamaly junction which is the Mukkannur- Ezhattumukham road, and other is from Chalakkudy. I must say both ways to Athirapally are two of the most scenic routes you would have ever come across. I took the Mukkannur- Ezhattumukham road which comes shortly after the Cochin International Airport near Angamaly.

Athirapally Waterfalls
Road to Athirapally

From Cochin, it is the shorter route. However, if you are travelling by car, I would suggest you pick the Chalakkudy route as i suffered a bit moving the other route. The Chalakkudy- Athirappally road is in good condition and therefore a better than the former. As I started driving through the Mukkannur- Ezhattumukham road, I came across some blissful sights of the countryside. No wonder people love this route. There were oil palms, rubber estates, gorgeous rivulets, and smiling estate workers all along. The route passes through many beautiful villages as well. I stopped at certain spots for few clicks.

Take a look below-

Athirapally Waterfalls

I reached a check-post, where we need to buy the ticket to enter the Athirapally Waterfalls area. It is Rs. 30 per person. For still cameras, you got to pay Rs. 20 and Rs. 200 for video cameras. From there, nearly a 100 m away, there is a sweet spot for the visitors. We get a long yet spectacular view of the Athirapally Falls. The below is an image taken from the spot

Athirapally Waterfalls
Falls view near the Athirapally check post

A short walk from there got me to the Athirapally Waterfalls entrance. There are lots of food joints and other shops adjacent to the entrance. I started walking through the pathway inside. It takes a 10-minute walk to reach the first viewpoint of the Athirapally Waterfalls. From there I had a panoramic view of the waterways and the surrounding hills along with the side view of the majestic Athirapally waterfalls on to my right. You could see the same below-

Athirapally Waterfalls

A guard informed me to go for a short trek downhill where the “Big deal” is. I started the trek. The pathway is well laid out with bamboo handrails and also bamboo made benches for the visitors to relax during this downhill trek. I reached halfway, and unlike the guard said it did not feel like a short trek for me. I was heavily gasping for air. I sat at one of the bamboo benches by the side. Nearly half an hour gone, i still did not move. Maybe because I am so used to sitting at work for long hours that my body doesn’t like to overdo anything that burns my calories.

I resumed my trek. I guess it is more than half a km walk down the rocky hill. It is tiring, however, I could hear the roaring waterfalls near me, which pumped me to get through. At last, I made it. I saw a group of travellers looking up, standing in awe. I rushed towards them, and guess what- the same thing happened. I was awestruck too, I was lost for words.

Well! Who would not? seeing THIS-

Athirapally Waterfalls
View Point

The sight is just brilliant. I just stood there for a while witnessing the river water gushing down the rocky landscape surrounded by lush green mountains. A blissful sight for any human eye. The feeling was great. I was standing right in front of the largest waterfalls in Kerala. This waterfall is not big, it is simply GINORMOUS! I sat on a rock and enjoyed the sight for more than an hour.

For me, this is one of the finest pieces of art by Mother Nature.

I highly recommend all travellers, especially nature lovers to make a visit to Athirapally Waterfalls and experience the love of nature at this part of the world.


Kerala’s Jatayu Earth Centre Nature Park opens for visitors

Jatayu Earth center

Finally, the Jatayu Earth Centre Nature Park is open for travellers. Built over 4 hills at Chadamangalam, Kollam, it is nearly 40 km away from the capital city of Kerala, Trivandrum. Spread over an area of 65 acres, the site offers adventure sports like rock climbing, trekking and paintball. Adventure training sessions are also conducted here, and thus the Jatayu Nature Park is the first of its kind in Kerala providing the same. Cable Car, Virtual Reality Museum and Hele-Taxi are some of the other entertainment options for the visitors.

The major attraction of the park is the massive sculpture of the mythical bird Jatayu. It is rapidly gaining attention from travellers. This sustainable tourism site is built exactly at the point where the Jatayu fell down dead fighting the demon king Ravana, as said in the Indian epic Ramayana. The Jatayu sculpture is 200 feet long, a 150 feet wide and 70 feet tall. There is also a rainwater harvesting reservoir within the premises with a capacity of holding 15 lakh litres of water.Another great addition to this initiative is the Siddha Healing centres inside caves within the nature park. Moonlight dining is another spectacular option for, where visitors can dine right under star-studded moonlit sky.

Rajiv Anchal, a film director, an artist, humanist and a sculptor, is the one behind the initiation of this huge project. His idea was to mix up technology, mythology, nature, wellness and culture to bring up a positive impact on humanity as a whole. The construction is in its final phase and it is expected to fully function by April 2018.

For more information log onto www.jatayuearthscenter.com


Kerala: Sabarimala Temple opens today for the two month annual pilgrimage season

Sabarimala Opens

The two month long Sabarimala pilgrimage begins as the temple opens for devotees today evening. One of the most revered temples in India, the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple sees millions of pilgrims from far and near climb up 1000 meters to reach the hilltop temple and offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa. The main sanctum will be opened tomorrow, the first day of Malayalam month “Vrischikam”. The eagerly awaited day of “Makaravilakku” will be held on January 14, 2018.

Located amidst the mighty Western Ghats, the Sabarimala Temple is dedicated to lord Ayyappa, son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu [Mohini Avatar]. Devotees take a bath at the holy River Pampa situated down the hill and start a 4km climb uphill, which take them to the Sabarimala Temple. This year Kerala Government has ensured more facilities for the pilgrims which include the State-of-art-hospital at the temple and more lavish dining area which can accommodate 5000 people. The temple security has been tightened to maximum as well.

How to reach?

It is just 150 kms from the city of Cochin and 100 kms away from the capital city of Kerala, Trivandrum. Both the cities are easily accessible by land, rail and air. Catch a flight or train to either of the two cities and hire a taxi to reach Sabarimala.


Kerala Tourism awarded the “World’s Best Responsible Tourism Project” at WTM, London

Kerala Tourism bags award for Best Responsible Tourism Project

It is a great achievement for the Kerala Government, as Kerala Tourism bags the award for the “World’s best responsible tourism project” at the World Travel Mart 2017 held in London. Mr. Kadakampally Surendran, the tourism minister of Kerala received the award for Kerala’s responsible tourism project at the backwater destination, Kumarakom. Kerala Tourism has done a fantastic job implementing responsible tourism in style, safeguarding the interests of local people and the conservation of environment. The project has been successful in providing lot of job opportunities for the local people while preserving their traditional way of living and bringing it live for the winged tourists, a real Indian village experience.

This prestigious award joins the lot, of numerous other national and international awards bagged by Kerala Tourism for the Kumarakom project. This include United Nation’s UNWTO Ulysses Prize, Pacific Asia Travel Association’s [PATA] Grand and Gold awards and five national awards from the year 2007. The major theme of Kerala Tourism this time at WTM 2017 was the Kerala Backwaters. A 2 minute video recorded using the latest 360-degree technology using six cameras simultaneously was showcased at the event. The visitors enjoyed the same in a Virtual Reality Headset and thereby virtually taking a tour along the mesmerizing backwaters of Kerala.

Mr. Kadakampally also launched the Kerala Tourism’s latest project “Ayurbodha” which aims at merging the divine techniques of Ayurveda into tourism. The travellers who opt for this program would not only enjoy Kerala’s immense beauty, but also go back home rejuvenated. The Ayurbodha programs will be available at KTDC [Kerala Tourism Development Council] hotels spread throughout the Kerala state.


Bookings are open for the 65th edition of Nehru trophy boat race 2017

The much awaited event in Kerala, the Alleppey Nehru Boat Race is scheduled on 12th of August 2017. Tourists from all over the world are keenly looking forward for the booking procedures and make sure they get a chance to witness one of the most popular events all over the world. Tens of thousands of spectators will flock at the banks of the Punnamada Lake at Alleppey to visit this grand spectacle. It is for sure a pleasure to stand by the side and watch the fleet of 100 feet Chundan Valloms [Snake boats] race to the finishing point to win this prestigious award. With more than 100 oarsmen sing and enjoy themselves together as they pace through the lake is a sight to behold. The whole crowd is turned on by the beats and rhythmic movement of the boats.
The organisers have declared that the 65th edition of the Nehru trophy boat race would meet all the expectations and be a grand event. The preparations are going on at full pace with lots of new additions as well. The have also informed that a special committee have plans to standardize the event and take it to the next level by setting a format for the boat race, similar to the Indian Premiere League [IPL] cricket championship.
The participants of the boat race must register their names before 20th of July starting from July 10th 2017. New ID cards for each oarsman will be provided.
For tourists bookings are open and it is recommended to book your seat before August 10th 2017.
For more information and bookings please visit- www.southtourism.in