TRIVANDRUM: In an affirmation of its alluring tourism credentials, its stunning backwaters and its sumptuous cuisines, Kerala has been featured in the list of 19 exalted places across the globe that CNN Travel has recommended tourists to visit in 2019.
"This area of India has it all: sun, sea, sand, good food, houseboats, culture and wildlife.
Its spectacular natural landscapes - think palm trees and sprawling backwaters - lend the region the nickname God's Own Country," said CNN Travel.
Kerala's backwaters, a chain of lagoons and serene lakes parallel to the Arabian Sea coast, are an idyllic place to stay on a houseboat; they also offer an opportunity to see India at a relaxing pace.
"Kerala's backwaters are famous for a reason: a nexus of waterways linking the region's villages and best explored via kettuvallam - a traditional wooden houseboat. It's worth spending anywhere from a single afternoon to a week on one of the many rental houseboats on offer, enjoying the sights and sounds drifting by," the travel portal said.
It mentioned the floods in August last year, the worst to hit Kerala in nearly a century, but said many of the southern state's tourist destinations escaped the fury unscathed.
The coastal state is also great for beaches, particularly in the southern part of the state.
"Postcard-perfect Kovalam is a surfing hotspot, while Varkala is good for just relaxing."
The travel portal also lavished praise on Kerala's cuisines - from spice shops of Munnar to coconut, which is everywhere in Kerala and is used to make one of the state's signature dishes: Kerala prawn curry.
It also mentioned Kochi International Airport, powered entirely by solar panels, and the ancient port city of Kochi, once occupied by the Portuguese, which is a multi-cultural hub offering plenty to do and see.
Kerala is a great place to check out Kathakali dance, the traditional, storytelling dance form known for its colourful and intricate costumes and masks. Other top trips include Munnar to see the tea plantations, and Periyar National Park, a wildlife haven offering guided jungle treks.
Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran said this was a massive recognition for Kerala Tourism and will surely increase international footfalls in the state.
"What is particularly heartening is the fact that CNN Travel has made it explicitly clear that most of the state's tourism destinations escaped unscathed in the aftermath of the severe floods of 2018," he said.
Expressing happiness, Tourism Secretary Rani George said it would give currency to Kerala's touristy appeal.
"It is going to be an authentic advertisement for God's Own Country and its brand as an inescapable tourist destination," she added.
"The endorsement of Kerala as a never-miss destination by CNN Travel has come at the most opportune time, which also recognises how quickly tourism in the state has bounced back after last year's floods, with the stakeholders and the government moving together," State Director of Tourism, P Bala Kiran, said.