When the southwestern state of Kerala was trying to establish an identity for itself in the tourism market, it’s not hard to see why they chose the slogan “God’s Own Country.” The moniker took off, largely because it is so unarguably true. The beachy coastlines, shimmering backwaters, and lush hills are the dreamlike backdrop for the happiest, most well-educated population in India.

Kerala’s charms have beguiled national and international visitors for some time, from the Portuguese spice traders of the colonial period to the devotees of Ayurveda who now flock to Kerala for immersive treatments. However, it was only in the 1980’s that the state made a concerted effort to establish a tourism infrastructure that would attract high-end hotels and restaurants to fit the pristine landscape. As the state became more accessible, it also made a concerted effort to preserve its natural resources, the mainstay of its attraction. Today Kerala is considered one of the world’s leading ecotourism destinations.

It is as through the sea breezes have carried away the frenzied activity of the rest of India, leaving only glorious nature and laid back sensibilities on the shoreline. The people here have the highest media saturation, literacy levels, and Human Development Index scores in the entire country. They seem to thrive in their beautiful surrounds with little to dampen their enjoyment.

Thanks to their own diverse makeup, Kerala happily welcomes visitors to share in their revelry. With over 10,000 local, regional, and national festivals per year, there’s always a party to be found.

Among the undomesticated wildlife, Kerala has some of the world’s most important biodiversity, with large predatory mammals, birds, reptiles, and sea life. Among the hills local farmers cultivate tea, coconuts, cashews, and spices, all of which contribute to the subtle and fine cuisine of the region.

Kerala is a stand-alone destination, but it pairs even better a journey through India or other beach destinations of the Indian Ocean.