Kadathanadan Kalari martial arts demonstration.

In the heart of the Idukki District of Kerala lies Periyar National Park. It attracts many travellers each year and between the beauty of the park and the area’s spice trade, there are a number of fun things to do in the region’s small towns of Kumily, Thekkady and Periyar. Here are our Top 5 picks:

  1. Go Supernatural – Trekking in Periyar’s jungle and cruising Periyar Lake are the best ways to get close to Kerala’s resplendent nature. Check out our full story on these activities here.
  2. Spice it up – If you love spices as much as we do, you’ll want to tour a spice garden and shop for spices at the source. We recommend either Mr. Abraham’s or at our friend Mariam’s Green Land Spice Garden. Both of these places are organic and of the highest quality.
  3. Night moves – In Kumily, you will find nightly Kalaripayattu martial arts shows. I was a bit dubious the first time I went but I came away with immense respect for the artists and have gone back on subsequent visits. The whole idea of this 3000 year old form of martial arts is that the performer has such mastery of their mind and body, that every move with a weapon or not, is just an extension of self. The practitioners perform in a precisely constructed pit-like venue where the audience can have maximal viewing without threat of danger from any of the weapons, fire or athletic endeavours. It’s fast paces and thrilling. Pro tip: take a camera capable of capturing the fire show in darkness. You won’t regret it.
  4. Dance moves – Kathakali dance shows – Go early! Part of the show is watching the performers apply their makeup and costumes. It’s also awesome when the cultural interpreter explains the gist of the story teller and the actors demonstrate the eye movements that are so fundamental to their storytelling. Don’t be shy. Stick around and have your photo taken with the performers after. Just because it’s fun.
  5. Go walkabout -The small town of Kumily is a delight to visitors because it has some interesting shops and it’s small enough that you can wonder around with ease and feel relaxed. You don’t have to worry about getting lost here. Pro tip: Feel free to barter in the touristy shops. Hold that thought in the small housewares and local’s shops.

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