Kerala was a traveler’s dream from the times of the Phoenicians and Romans who made Kerala their prime destination for its riches – mostly pepper, teak, sandalwood and ivory. Intrepid travelers of yore like Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and Ma He The Chinese Eunuch Admiral also made a beeline for Kerala and stopped over in Kerala for years, enchanted by Kerala’s beauty and prosperity. They were all praises for Kerala’s beauty and culture.After the Ottomans had blocked off the conventional sea-lanes to India, the Europeans searched desperately for another sea-route to India and the spices of Kerala. It was in search of such a sea-route to India and Kerala that Columbus and his men stumbled upon the Americas in 1492. Columbus thought it was India he had set foot on, and so called the natives Indians and the land (West) Indies. Six years later, a Portuguese explorer called Vasco Da Gamma succeeded where Columbus ‘failed’. Gamma sailed the treacherous seas round the horn of Africa and landed in Calicut, Malabar, on the northern coast of Kerala and set up the first European colony in the East.
One of Gamma’s crew-members, Pedro Álvares Cabral, was later put in charge of the Portuguese possessions in Kerala. On one of his voyages to Kerala from Lisbon, Cabral sailed to the South and West to catch the favorable winds to India. But Cabral went too far to the SW and landed in Brazil in 1500, and is now considered as the first European to have set foot on Brazilian soil.
At the time, the discoveries of America and Brazil paled in comparison with the discovery of a sea-route to Kerala in commercial terms and consequently, at the time Gamma was more of a celebrity for landing in Kerala than Columbus was for landing in the Americas and Cabral was for landing in Brazil.
Kerala became a modern destination for tourists and vacationers after The National Geographic Traveler showcased Kerala as one of ten most beautiful ‘Paradises Found’ on earth along with the likes of Amalfi Coast (Italy), The Boundary Waters (Northern Minnesota), The British Virgin Islands, The Greek Islands, The Hawaiian Islands, The Japanese Ryokan, The Torres del Paine (Chile), The Seychelles and The Pacific Islands, and recommended it for the “Tour of a Lifetime” Bill McKibben of The National Geographic goes on to say, “Statistically Keralastands out as the Mount Everest of social development; there’s truly no place like it”.
Kerala Tourism received another boost when in 2009 when The National Geographic Traveler again ranked Kerala in the 23rd position alongside the Stonehenge in England and Petra in Jordan, among the 133 world famous tourist destinations. In this list the backwaters of Kerala scored higher than Bali, Athens, The Niagara Falls, Ankhor Vat, The Dead Sea, the Taj and other world renowned destinations. In fact the even lagoons of Venice only come in at the 31st position compared to Kerala’s Backwaters. Then to complete the honors, TripAdvisor’s 2010 Travellers’ Choice Destination Awards ranked the serene hills of Munnar in Kerala as Asia’s second best destination after Tokyo.
Then in 2010 the independent travel magazine ‘Smart Travel Asia’ conducted a ‘Best in Travel poll 2010’ on reader’s favorite perceptions and travel brands through out May-July 2010 and Kerala has emerged as the best destination in Asia ahead of Bali, Phuket and Maldives. Rajasthan comes in at a distant eighth place and Goa in the tenth. In the 2009 poll conducted by the same magazine Kerala had been in the third place
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