Kerala is located in the south-western tip of India, and is known for its tropical beaches, palm-fringed backwaters and hills of the Western Ghats. Historically, Kerala was the hub of the spice trade, and Cochin (now Kochi) was and is a thriving port that has always been a melting-pot of cultures and people. Kerala saw great interest from European traders, and the Portuguese, Dutch and British were all lured to this part of India, leaving a lasting impression. To the south, you find Cochin, and for many an starting-point for a holiday to Kerala. A walk through Fort Cochin is a delight, as you see historic Portuguese churches, Dutch mansions and spice markets in abundance. The backwaters surround Lake Vembenad to the south, and you can stay on a traditional houseboat floating through remote villages, seeing a way of life unchanged in centuries. All along the Arabian coast, you find gorgeous beaches such at Kovalam to the south and Mararikulam close to Cochin and the backwaters. To the east you have the popular wildlife sanctuary of Periyar and as you enter the Western Ghats you find tea plantations and stunning views, best seen by a visit to Munnar. Further north explore the untouched delights of Wayanad, and along the northern coastlines you have even more unspoilt beaches in Bekal and Kasaragod. Kerala is perfect for a first-time holiday to India, given its relaxed way of life and shorter drives than Rajasthan for instance. It isn’t a destination packed with things to see such as temples or forts, but more about a relaxing insight into local life, experienced best when you take your time to slowly immerse yourself in Kerala’s distinct charms. The cuisine is a delight, and it is possibly the best place in India to try your hand at Indian cookery. Kerala combines perfectly with the Maldives if you want a beach stay at the end, or you can easily include Tamil Nadu or Karnataka to the north if you want a longer tour in India.