India is famend for its crammed, loopy cities, bursting with color and tradition, and for years I prevented getting into case it’d all be an excessive amount of for me! That was till I found Varkala, a breath of contemporary coastal air, within the Southern spice province of Kerala. As a substitute of taking the motorway from Trivandrum airport, my driver took me down a small highway working parallel with the Arabian sea, lined with a billion palm bushes.

Varkala sits perched alongside the sting of a crimson stone cliff, overlooking an ochre sandy seashore. The sound of gently crashing waves is a continuing accompaniment to the aroma of incense wafting from just about all over the place. The mis-matched decor of the pink, inexperienced and blue buildings supplies a captivating air of shabby-chic. This place doesn’t take itself too severely and the relaxed, laid-back vibe is clear. Kerala, which is named ‘Gods Personal Nation’, boasts 14 of the least polluted cities in India, and in line with the newest Greenpeace Report, is India’s saving grace.

Listed below are eight methods to immerse your self absolutely into the rhythm of this city:

1. Ayurveda

India is the house of Ayurveda, which interprets because the ‘information of life’. This historic system of therapeutic centres on the connection between thoughts and physique to regain steadiness, along with the usage of crops and herbs. There was a time when Ayurveda was overshadowed by Western drugs, however it’s now having fun with a wholesome resurgence of curiosity. An skilled physician of Ayurveda can set up your physique to be considered one of three varieties (Kapha, Vatta or Pitta) by asking very particular questions on your temperament and habits, generally performed while the heart beat is learn. She or he can then prescribe remedies and way of life recommendations akin to meditation, therapeutic massage, cleaning, and consuming plans in addition to natural dietary supplements to help your physique kind.

There are a wealth of Ayurvedic retreats within the space, some extra established than others, with generations of the identical household sustaining the custom. Two of my favourites are AyurSoul and Thanal. My therapeutic massage therapist at Thanal, Sunita, had magical fingers and after performing a natural head and face therapeutic massage, I felt rejuvenated and nourished and slept soundly that evening. Massages, that are advisable frequently, could be very oily, however showers can be found, though it’s endorsed to depart a few of the aromatic oil on the pores and skin to soak up.

2. Yoga

The religious observe of yoga has had its roots in India for at the very least 5,000 years and is likely one of the Vedic philosophies of Ayurveda. Not like Ayurveda, its main intent was to not heal the bodily, however to give attention to the inside self and the character of consciousness, nonetheless fashionable yoga has been re-designed with the intention to rejuvenate the physique. Yoga is a continuously evolving motion, which has many branches to the principle tree, such because the sluggish Hatha, which is nice for novices, the heart-pumping Vinyasa circulate, the difficult Ashtanga, the exact Iyengar and the new, sweaty Bikram. Varkala affords the possibility to check out a couple of of those branches, with varied drop-in courses obtainable morning and night, when the temperature is cooler.

Practising yoga surrounded by the fantastic thing about nature serves to boost this sacred ritual, selling a reference to the environment and a way of inside peace (the phrase yoga itself means to affix or unite). I joined a aware morning class of Hatha yoga with a beautiful trainer from Tamil Nadu named Kamraj, who gave cautious steerage and help all through the category. Morning classes are generally adopted by a sociable breakfast, offering an amazing alternative for dialogue and making new associates. Beginning the day with yoga can actually have an amazing affect in your entire day!

three. Papanasham seashore

Varkala seashore, often known as Papanasham (which suggests ‘wash away sins’) is a seashore like no different. Right here you’ll repeatedly see individuals sitting in meditation, respiration with the rhythm of the ocean. Yogis observe their handstands within the early morning gentle, whereas native households frolic among the many waves, absolutely clothed, earlier than the solar will get too sizzling.

On the south finish of the seashore, there’s a small temple, the place locals make prayer choices (Puja) to departed family, with holy males sitting beneath vibrant umbrellas. This entails filling two banana leaves, one for the daddy’s household and one for the mom’s household, with flower petals, seeds and rice, whereas repeating advanced Sanskrit verses. The mom’s leaf is left to relaxation on the seashore, whereas the daddy’s leaf is held atop the pinnacle, and thrown backwards into the ocean, like a bouquet at a marriage. The orange petals then wash again as much as beautify the shore line. Additional south of the temple, surfers glide alongside easy, clear waves that are good for novices. Regardless that there are some hefty waves, swimming is feasible, because the water behind the waves is far calmer. Getting previous the waves, nonetheless, could be an effort with out good timing!

four. Cooking

One other vital facet of Ayurveda is food plan and consuming the proper amount and sorts of meals to steadiness your physique kind. I took a brief cookery course with Chef Anir on the Sanctum Spring Seaside Resort. We first visited the roof backyard to select contemporary, natural substances, together with purple spinach, ocra, lengthy beans and chilli peppers.

We then set about creating dishes from each North and South India, which incorporate all 6 tastes (candy, bitter, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent). The primary spices utilized in Chef’s cooking embrace cardamon, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry leaves, fennel, fenugreek, turmeric, mustard seeds and Kashmiri chilli powder. Spices which come of their entire or seeded variations are usually added initially to a scorching pan, and could be heard ‘popping’. Powdered spices are typically added half manner by means of or in the direction of the top, which provides the depth and complexity of flavour attribute of Indian delicacies.

My favorite dish of the day, and one I’ve by no means tried earlier than, is a candy and tangy Pineapple Pachadi. It’s often made with yoghurt, however we substituted coconut cream as an alternative to make the dish vegan. Chef begins each dish by lighting the fireplace, waving his hand over the flame and bringing it to his coronary heart. Earlier than Chef tries a dish, he stands within the daylight and offers thanks for the meal. Gratitude and mindfulness play part of Ayurvedic cooking.

5. Indian meals

The eating places alongside the cliff prime boast unbelievable day by day catches of sailfish, tuna, butterfish and king prawns, proudly set out in eye-catching shows. There are such a lot of native dishes to select from, however the winner each time for me, was the Kerala Fish Curry, accompanied by a freshly made naan, roti or dosa.

Be sure to strive consuming together with your fingers, by pinching the meals with bread between the fingers. This manner of consuming displays the sacred mudras (hand gestures) utilized in yoga for channeling prana (vitality) by means of the physique. Curiously there are numerous Tibetans dwelling in Varkala and so Tibetan meals, akin to mono steamed dumplings, are additionally a speciality right here. Contemporary juices are discovered all over the place and meals is at all times seasonal and safely washed in clear water. Tip: when travelling, its at all times good to organize by taking probiotics earlier than and in the course of the journey, which assist the abdomen cope with any international bugs or sorts of meals which can not agree with you. The most effective place to sit down for dinner is greater up on one of many terraces, the place the breeze is cool and contemporary. This may also offer you a greater view of the coast and sundown.

6. Backwaters

Watch the world float by as you let the tranquil, calming waters carry you downstream although a winding net of palm-fringed rivers. Locals dwelling by the waters edge could be seen going about their day by day routines, youngsters climbing palm bushes, girls in stunning saris defending themselves from the warmth of the solar with vibrant umbrellas and the occasional half-submerged cow, lazily chewing the afternoon away. Jelly-fish waft slightly below the floor, whereas Eagles and Kites soar within the skies above.

Your automobile of selection can vary from a giant houseboat ‘kettuvallam’ the place you may eat dinner and sleep the evening, or for shorter excursions, small picket fishing boats with bamboo punts are in a position to entry the narrower veins of river. My selection was to SUP (rise up paddle board). It requires a half-decent sense of steadiness, and somewhat little bit of elbow grease, as I paddled beneath my very own steam for an hour to achieve Golden Island (often known as Ponnumthuruthu Island). There’s a small temple hidden behind the shady foliage, which might generally be entered, though non-Hindus, as a rule, can usually not enter temples and should solely stroll across the perimeter. On the return journey, the solar began to set and the water turned a mass of glowing serenity.

7. Vibrant tradition

Festivals are deeply atmospheric events, smoky incense creating clouds of thriller, road distributors’ scorching hot-plates wafting spicy invites to pattern their snacks. I used to be fortunate sufficient to catch Lord Shiva’s birthday (Shivratri) which is well known on 13th February. The primary occasion takes place additional north in Tamil Nadu, with hundreds of devotees making an all-night vigil exterior a gargantuan black statue of Lord Shiva.

Leisure carries on all evening, to maintain devotees from falling asleep! For a smaller native style of the motion, the two,000 yr outdated Janardanaswamy temple hosts a Puja (prayer providing to the deceased), along with dancers, musicians, and a embellished Elephant which, though revered as a sacred animal, has more and more turn out to be the topic of animal welfare debates lately. In case you don’t catch a competition, there are weekly Kathakali dance performances, a classical, however quirky, Indian dance story. Males play each the female and male roles, with elaborate make-up and costumes which take hours of preparation. The actors should observe the facial expressions and mudras (hand gestures) for years to good them. The efficiency was mesmerising and really memorable!

eight. Procuring

The outlets round Varkala supply a bounty of distinctive gadgets to take residence, together with Ayurvedic oils and lotions, spice mixes, hand-made incense, intricate work and the chance to have your personal distinctive merchandise of clothes made by one of many tailors alongside the cliff. There’s an enormous selection of supplies, however you too can deliver your personal. The tailors can re-create considered one of your favorite designs, or you may select a basic Indian design.

For a much bigger buying extravaganza, Trivandrum has a beautiful division retailer referred to as Pothys, which sells meals, supplies, home-wares and indulgent silk saris. It’s the Indian equal of Debenhams. For a extra stylish scene, go to FabIndia, which is a smaller boutique. I attempted on a surprising gold sari, which immediately made me look extra female, and goddess-like. A sari is definitely only one lengthy piece of fabric, which is wrapped and folded in a specific option to improve the curvature of the physique. The folds additionally deliver out fantastic thing about the fabric.

When to go?

Etihad flies into Trivandrum airport through Adu Dhabi with a really quick flight change. December 15th by means of to January 15th is the height time because of the cooler temperatures, subsequently it may be troublesome to search out lodging throughout this era, however the month earlier than and afterwards are much less crowded. Keep away from visiting in June and July when its Monsoon season, until you’re keen on the rain! Nevertheless, one upside of visiting within the monsoon is that the sunsets are unbelievable! The rains clear the air of air pollution and so the colors are extra saturated and vibrant. Its good to notice that for half the yr the tide comes proper as much as the cliff, engulfing the seashore.