Gay Kerala: travelling as a gay couple in “God’s Own Country”

Stefan Arestis

Kerala, popularly known as God’s Own Country, has evolved a way of life that was distinct from the rest of the country – a way of life that expressed a fascinating interplay of nature and humanity across the most diverse terrains one could imagine.

Here, every human act is a way of connecting with everything in nature around them. Everything here feels so momentous, and you are intensely aware of how temporary life is. You learn how to appreciate the beautiful moment while they last, and fall in love with your surroundings.

Everywhere we went in this beautiful region of India, we were met with such compassion, and the locals showed such interest in our lives. With so much to discover, so much to do, this is our experience travelling in Kerala as a gay couple.

Disclosure note: this is a sponsored campaign in collaboration with Kerala Tourism.

Where is Kerala?

Kerala is located in the southwest of India. The main transport hub is the port city of Kochi (Cochin), which has the main international airport for Kerala. This is the city we based ourselves when we toured Kerala.

During our big trip around India, coming to Kerala after North India felt like a breath of fresh air. It was like we were in a completely different country! For example, in cities like Delhi, Jodhpur, Agra and Jaipur in the North, there are rarely pavements for pedestrians. Instead, they have open sewers which you have to dodge. Here in the south, Kerala is a more progressive part of India with more gender equality and much better investment in public services – so no open sewers here!

Is Kerala safe for LGBTQ travellers?

Since the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality in 2018, gay tourism has flourished. However, society is still very conservative, so although foreigners will be treated differently (almost like royalty!) it pays to be cautious and minimise public displays of affection.

As a gay couple travelling in India, for Kerala, we never had any problems getting a double bed in hotels nor in any of the guesthouses we found. But if uncertain, call/email ahead to double-check with the hotel.

We found Kerala to be one of the more progressive and welcoming parts of India for gay travellers, with an LGBTQ community that has become more and more visible over recent years. For example, the activist group, Queerela, have done wonders for shifting public attitudes towards the Indian queer community, and they play a pivotal role in organising the Kerala Queer Pride. For more, read our interview with local boy Raj about what it's like growing up gay in India.

Gay traveller in Kerala backwaters
Stefan proudly showing off how gay friendly Kerala is

Cruising on a houseboat along the backwaters

Eat your heart out Venice – you may have fancy gondolas to get around the city, but Kerala has houseboats!

For most, this is the number one reason travellers are drawn to Kerala. The backwaters of Kerala are a network of interconnected canals, rivers and lakes with a number of villages. One of the most romantic things we did as a gay couple travelling in Kerala was to rent a houseboat in Alleppey and drift along the backwaters for a few days, watching the world go by. We also got to stop over in a number of small villages along the way and hang out with locals.

Cruising the backwaters of Kerala
Cruising along the peaceful waters of the Kerala backwaters

Exploring Kochi (Cochin)

We based ourselves in Kochi for several weeks during our trip around Kerala. We found a super cute homestead run by an old Christian couple who had no issue about welcoming a gay couple.

Kochi city is a pretty city we loved exploring. The architecture harks back to the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonialists who fought to take charge, each leaving their own mark in Kerala's scenic design. The city still echoes with each of the cultures that have touched it.

We also love Kochi because the city is abuzz with so much activity, from mothers yelling at their kids, to young couples kissing in a shop foyer, it can't help but remind you of the beauty in life! One of the most fascinating things to do is head to the old port at sunset and watch the traditional Chinese fishing nets being used.

Chinese fishing nets at Kochi old port at sunset
The traditional Chinese fishing nets at Kochi old port

Kerala Queer Pride in August

Kerala Pride has been taking place for the last ten years. Each July, the queer community across the region unite for one giant fabulous party.

The parade pulls together elements of art and activism, with discussion panels, parties, and education workshops taking place across the city. One of the best things to look out for are the fascinating kathakali shows – a classic Indian dance where the story is told by the eyes and elaborate makeup.

For details of the next Kerala Queer Pride, check out their Facebook page.

Kathakali dancer in Kochi during Gay Kerala Queer Pride
Kathakali dancing: the ultimate resting bitch face ever!

The food of Kerala

Known as the Land of Spices, Kerala has earned its reputation for its exquisite cuisine. Back in the Colonial years, Kerala was the focal point for trade with Europe and other parts of Asia, making it a melting point for many intricate and unusual dishes.

Simply put, the food in Kerala is unique and delicious. The cuisine caters for all. From lovers of spice to those who can only handle mild tastes, vegetarians to meat fanatics, and the sweetest of fruits, to the sourest of creams. But be warned, it can get very very SPICY!

Thali Kerala delicious food
Stefan with a plate of delicious prizes from Kerala

Exploring the Munnar Hills

A popular honeymoon destination for gay couples to India, the Munnar Hills are famous for their lush green scenery and thriving flora life.

The hills are situated in the middle of South India's largest tea-growing region, on the edge of the Western Ghats, around 3.5 hours east of Cochin. It's also a nice break from the intense heat and humidity of Kochi, with a more refreshingly cool climate.

We especially loved the tea museum and small spice market. But the true lure is the surrounding hills, blanketed by tea bushes! As you climb higher, you become encased within the thick forest – feeling like you're in a scene from the “Jungle Book“.

For more, watch this excellent video about Kerala:


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Gay Kerala, exploring God's own country in India
Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

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