The Malabar Coast, situated in the Southernmost tip of India, is a treat for the eyes. It is not often that a cultural heritage so rich in beauty is known as ‘God’s Own Country’. Kerala is one of the most favored travel destinations of India, with its unblemished environment, virgin beaches, calm backwaters, and startling flora & fauna. Read on to learn where to visit in Kerala.
It would also be cardinal to navigate around the different parts of the state in search of the spiciest and most delectable seafood available fresh from the day’s catch. The Kerala backwaters consist of a postcard scene of green landscapes, often merging meandering lagoons with rivers and inlets.
If you wish to visit Kerala, the best time would be after September when the monsoons have just started to cease and the weather boosts lakeside activity in a nonchalant pace. The sense of retreat and subsequent leisure activities will stun you every time you search for something new. No kidding, it’s a photographer’s heaven and an explorer’s never-ending trail. Join me as I take you through 15 of the most lush regions of Kerala, so you don’t miss out on this stupendous experience next time you are in India!
Table of Contents
Where to Visit in Kerala – 15 Must-Go Destinations
As the most sought-after tourist spot in Kerala, Wayanad finds itself as the Queen with the tiara. Famous for its abundant opportunities for camping, trekking, and birdwatching activities, Wayanad allows you to find your treasure amidst caves and mountains.
Wayanad is a rural district that marks the border of the greener ends of the Western Ghats. This hill station is located approximately 76 kms away from the Kozhikode, the nearest transit town. Its land mass stretches quite far, right from Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu to Bandhipur in Karnataka. Marking the southern tip of the Deccan Plateau, it marks a steep contour overarching the deep forests and pitted ridges. The best option is to cover the village strategically, as it’s located on the hinterlands of Ooty, Mysore, Kannur and Coorg. Vythiri and Lakkidi areas are famous for the highest ranges of rainfall received, approx 3000-4000 m.m. The rain and the rugged evergreen forests do not let the temperatures rise more than 29 degrees Celsius at any point.
Wayanad has been historically placed as a major center for Jains. The district headquarters convert as their summer or winter homes in the latter part of the year. Tipu Sultan, the major figure opposing the colonial rule of the British hailed from Mysore. He constructed the fort of Sultan Bathery in the 18th Century, a major installation for such times. The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1973. It goes on to be a protected area, ranging from Bandipur and Nagarhole (NE region) to the fringes of Mudimalai (SE). It forms a pact to conserve the biological heritage of the land as a primary portion of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, helping preserve the untarnished lifestyle of the tribal folks around the village.
Do not miss the Chethalayam Waterfall, Mahaganapathy Temple at Thiruvangoor, Tiger Valley, Meenmutty and Soochippara Waterfalls. The capped hills of Chembra and Kuruva Islands add to your lust for Wayanad.
Search for accommodation options in Wayanad.
Located in the Idukki district of Kerala, Munnar takes the spot as the favorite hill station of the British Raj. Around 1600 meters above sea level, it gives you the most serene view of the area. The spot is also called the ‘Kashmir of South India’, owing to its gorgeous landscapes and idyllic environment.
The name ‘Munnar’ etymologically means ‘three rivers’. It marks the confluence of Kundali, Mudhirapuzha, and Nallathanni rivers. Connected by State, National, and rural highways, the town has around 30,000 people only, making it less crowded and a peaceful zone for travelers. Despite the habitat fragmentation in other parts of Kerala, Munnar is home to a variety of species, including Kurinjimala Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, and Eravikulam National Park. Many endemic species are roaming around these preserved spots, including Nilgiri wood-pigeon, sambar, Nilgiri langur and Nilgiri Thar.
It is also important to notice a flower that blooms only once in twelve years called Neelakurinji, a native of the town. None should let go of a visit to the tea gardens and an evening at the Kalari Khshetra, a temple that lets visitors watch a marvelous performance of the state dance, Kathakali. The water birds can visit the Kundala Dam Lake for a laid-back boating session with their family or walk around the rose gardens for a relaxed trail.
Search for great deals on accommodation options in Munnar.
Located on the Laccadive Sea in Kerala, Alleppey is considered the best spot to acquire houseboat cruises in the homespun backwaters. The 19th Century Lighthouse was built on its beaches. Known as the ‘Venice of the East’, Alleppey is also known by the name of Alappuzha. It is hugged by the Arabian Sea in the west and serves in close proximity to the vibrant avian life carved around its seascape.
Alleppey ranks third highest in literacy rate in Kerala, making way for great conversations for all visitors. It stands out as the cleanest town in India, according to the 2016 rankings by the Centre for Science and Environment. Being the oldest planned city on the Southern coast, Alleppey is just 55 km away from Kochi. The annual event, Nehry Trophy Boat Race is a vital activity in the region. The race is arranged on the Punnamada Lake, every year on the second Saturday of August.
The toponym Alappuzha consists of two parts. ‘Alayam’ refers to home and ‘puzha’ is a watercourse. The Dewan of Travancore, Raja Kesavadas was the creator of the city in the 18th Century. The oceanic regions were very suitable for mercantile activity and infrastructural facilities that connected areas of Surat, Kutch and Mumbai. Serving as a depot for the storage and disposal of goods, Alleppey was a major trade spot for the country. Do not forget to visit Kalloorkad St. Mary’s Basilica, Mullakal Rajarajeswari Temple, and Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple to get a taste of the region’s architectural marvels. Make time for Thumpoly Beach and Marari Beach before visiting the only National Coir Museum in the world.
Find great deals on accommodation in Alleppey.
Kovalam is a beach that requires special mention, internationally renowned for being the border of three crescent beaches adjacent to it. Located only 13 km away from the city capital Thiruvananthapuram, it has been flocked by tourists since the 1930s. The rocky beaches and the tranquil waters are perfect for sunbathing.
The beach is surrounded by luxury as well as reasonably priced cottages, convention centers, and Ayurvedic health resorts. You can also try their Yoga massage facilities and continental food options as and when you want to try them out. The name ‘Kovalam’ is derived from ‘coconut grove’ as you will see a wide topography only marked by coconut trees. The terrain stretches along 17 km of coastline. The southernmost beach is Lighthouse Beach, located at the top of Kurumkal hillock. The next is Hawah Beach with a bay and a high rock promontory. The local fishermen often call it Eve’s Beach. Ashoka Beach consists of the sea wall that separates the sea above rocks and the shallow waters for swimming. Flowing through the outskirts of the region is the Karamana River. It originates from the Sahyadri range of the Himalayas.
Kovalam is also home to the Vellayani Lake, Neyyar, and Aruvikkara Dams. Make some time to see the awe-inspiring marvels of the Kovalam Art Gallery. One must-visit spot is the Halcyon Castle. Now called the Kovalam Palace, it was built in 1932 in Travancore (Princely state of India). Visit Sanghumugham Beach to get hold of the sunset in the Valiyathura Pier. Trust me, you do not want to let go of this view! Vizhinjam Rock-cut Cave Temple should also be on your list when you visit Kovalam.
Search for hotels and other accommodations in Kovalam.
Cochin was the official name of a major port city called Kochi till 1996. Situated in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, Kochi is the most densely populated region in the whole state. It covers a whole range of areas under its metropolitan zone, including Fort Kochi (as the mainland) and suburban regions of Kalamassery, Aluva, and Kakkanad, leaving aside the group of islands within the Vembanad Lake. As a bustling town, you will find the most engaging coastal town activities in Kochi.
Since the 14th Century, Arab merchants kept arriving in the land to formulate a trade network. It was an important spice centre so much so that it attracted the Portuguese in 1505. Known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’, it is still home to ancient buildings like the Old Harbour House and ranks number one in domestic and international tourist arrivals in Kerala. In 2019, Kochi also finds a place in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities in the World to Visit in 2020. You will be surprised to know that Kochi is the only region in India to hold a parallel water metro system.
Cochin is known as the industrial and commercial capital of India, recording the highest per capita income consecutively. ‘Cochym’ is derived from the names given to the ancient tradesmen. The Jewish community called it ‘Kogin’ and Arab merchants called it ‘Kashi’. Make your way to the Kerala Folklore Museum, Chottanikkara Temple, Kashi Art Gallery and Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace). The Paradesi Synagogue was constructed in 1568 by the people of Malabar Yehudan. Do not miss out on Vallam kali or the Snake Boat Race and Aranmula Race. Both are the oldest riverboat festivals held during Onam.
All these things make Cochin one of the top places where to visit in Kerala. Find hotel deals in Cochin.
Kozhikode is also called Calicut in English and it served as the capital of the Malabar district during the British era. The town also served as the gateway to the medieval South Indian Coast for the Europeans, Persians, and Chinese. The term is derived from ‘Koyil-kota’ or ‘Fort’. In the languages Malayalam and Tamil, ‘koyil’ means ‘Hindu Temple’. It refers to the famous Tali Shiva Temple in the region.
You must visit Kappad Beach when in Calicut and behold the crystal-clear blue lagoons in Kariyathumpara. The amalgamation of the high mountains and 60 shades of green will leave you dumbfounded. The Kozhikode beach is surrounded by the best restaurants in the state, while the Beypore Port serves as one of the oldest ports in Kerala. Go for a picnic in Mananchira Square or shop around SM Street. You can also swim under the beautiful Kozhippara Falls. The tropical monsoon climate in Kozhikode makes it perfect for tourists to experience the pre-monsoon Mango showers around April.
The Thusharagiri Waterfalls cascade as a mingled body of three waterfalls. You can see nomadic waterbirds from the Thikkoti Lighthouse or take your binoculars for elephants in a dam site called Kakkayam. Mithai Theravu is the only place where you will get to taste a wide range of exclusive sweetmeats in Kerala. Elathur marks a distinct place where you can witness a river on one side and a lake on the side of the beach. A tributary around river Chaliyar, you will find Vellari Mala as a slumbrous spot.
Find good accommodation options in Kozhikode.
Another major destination in Kerala, Kumarakom is a village situated around 10 km from the city of Kottayam. Vembanad Lake makes for the backdrop of the area. It is famous for its Bird Sanctuary which becomes home to numerous migratory birds. It is the largest backwater in Kerala and breeds freshwater fishes like Karimeen or Pearl Spot and Poovala Chemeen or Shrimp.
In the past, this was a dangerous area. The Chundan Vallam or Kettu Vallam (small boats) were used for lightning attacks. The clans from Central Travancore used to fight in these outskirts. Under the reign of the King of Thekkumkur, soldiers were placed in the red-alert zones and a fort was constructed at the entrance in Kottathudu. Many places around this region have the prefix ‘pada’ which means war. Some of the most famous names are Padanilam and Padakkajam.
Experiencing a moderate climate throughout Kumarakom, the locals are engaged in activities like agriculture and fishing. Due to its expansive mangrove forests, coconut groves, and paddy fields, the region is blessed with a grand yield every year. Jackfruits, ambazhanga, Chaambenga, guava, pineapples and tamarind are common here. Mangoes and bananas are exported. The Meenachii River is home to many canals that irrigate the fields. Hibiscus flowers lean over the canopies making a beautiful umbrella for all visitors there. Water hyacinths and lilacs add to the virginal temperament of Kumarakom.
Kuttanad is one of the most historically significant areas that covers three districts, namely Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta. It is distinguished as the major rice-producing area, instigating the usage of Biosaline Farming Method. The FAO or Food and Agricultural Organization proclaimed that the Kuttanad Farming System is a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) in 2013.
The Kuttanad boat races take place on four major rivers: the Meenachil, Pamba, Manimala, and Achankovil. Kuttuva tribes used to live in this region. The Chera kings placed this as their capital and broadened their kingdom northward and eastward. ‘Karinilam’ or black paddy fields were famous in this area as charcoal was extracted till the recent past. This practice gives the name to various places like Chathurthiakary, Chennamkary, and Kandanakary. Thottapally Spillway was a major project to introduce a solution for the flood situation in the Kuttanad. The bund or dam was formed across a river to prevent seawater from crossing the margin.
Do not miss out on the Karumadi Kuttan. It is the idol of Buddha telling the tale of the residential Buddhists who visited south India at the time. Driving around 56 km from Kuttanad will take you to the Chavara Bhawan. The resort cum religious destination still holds the original light beacon, conserved for the last 250 years. The Bhagavathi Temple is 3000 years old. Be forewarned, summer is hot here. Travel at other times of the year.
Malappuram means ‘terrace on top of the hills’. It was the administrative and military headquarters, recorded in the pre-historic relics. You will find the archives in the rock-cut caves of Oorakam, Vengara, Melmuri, and Ponmala. The Jain-Buddhist history boasts of a 1500-year-old Jain Temple around 2000 ft above the sea level. The Haigh Barracks were established by the British atop Malappuram Hills, overlooking the Kadalundi river bank.
When serving as the Military headquarters of Zamorins, Malappuram was witness to the Mappila Revolts (against the East India Company). The philosophical lessons of Hindu-Vedic learning are still a popular attraction in the region. You should visit the taxonomical garden museum called Nilambur Teak Museum to look out for their butterfly gardens. Resembling the Japanese tea houses, the structure of the Thirumandhamkunnu Bhagavathy Temple is a sight to behold.
The Arya Vidya Sala is a good place to rejuvenate after hectic trips. You can plan your stay according to the programs they have to offer. The handicrafts and the local seafood will fetch you to Nedumkayam, for a freshwater swim and shower. For a marvelous and easy trek, choose Kottakkunnu. You can also come alive in the trip by planning 2-3 days in Kumaragiri Farm and Nature Camp. The Pazhayangadi Mosque and Ponnani Jama Masjid (established in 1510) will leave you stunned.
Search here for good deals on Malappuran accommodation.
Thrissur is one of the most sacred places in Kerala, known for its temples and alluring beaches. Vadakkunnathan Temple is the most ancient Shiva Temple with classical architecture. One monumental tower is located on each of the four sides alongside the kuttambalam, with vignettes carved in wood. Mural paintings on the shrine walls depict scenes from the Great Indian epic Maharabharata. Under the AMASR Act, it has been declared a National Monument of India.
Folklore entails that Parasurama, an avatar of God Vishnu was the first to build the temple. Visit the spot during the Thrissur Pooram Festival, held when the moon rises with the ‘Pooram’ star. It is designated as one of the largest festivals in Asia, attracting a staggering crowd of 1 million people. The Athirapilly Waterfalls add to the natural beauty of the place, along with the Chavakkad Beach to laze around and Charpa Falls to listen to the hums of the spring water at different times of the day. You can offer the sacred lotus flowers to the deity in Koodalmanikyam Temple, in the midst of the lake. Tripayar Temple is a unique spot where you will find the idol submerged in water. Built by Raja Rama Verma in 1791, the Shakthan Thampuran Palace hosts the Dutch style of architecture with a museum showcasing antiques, all days except Monday.
You will get an opportunity to bathe with elephants if you visit the Punnathur Kotta, approximately 3 km from the Guruvayoor Temple. There is an additional place for car lovers too! Yes, enthusiasts can visit the Vintage Vauxhall Velox Car Club to see how the place has continued displaying a variety of vintage cars since the 1950s.
Situated near Periyar National Park, Thekkady takes its name from the word ‘thekku’ (teak). 114 km from Kottayam Railway Station, Thekkady is also home to a plantation town of the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. Visit the Yodha Cultural Village to learn about the ancient arts of Kathakali and Kalarippayattu. It lets you know in depth what the culture represents and endorses through time immemorial. The Green Park Spices allow you to enjoy the aroma and pack home some of the most delectable spices from this region.
The Periyar Tiger Reserve is the initiator of the protection-oriented trekking scheme and is one of the best places in India to see tigers. The border hiking is fairly easy and lets you get a spectacular view all the way up. You can visit Philip’s Natural Honey and Bee Farm, learning about the types of honey available and their suitability according to seasons.
The Mangala Devi Temple is located at an altitude of 1341 m above sea level. It is only open for public viewing during the Chitra Poornima Festival. You can get a special permit from the Forest Ranger if you wish for an exception. Otherwise, the mountain-top allows a stunning view of the Eastern Ghats and parts of the adjacent state of Tamil Nadu.
The area of Pattumalay, meaning ‘draped in silk’, has lofty peaks and streams. It is renowned for its Tea Factory. The producer is a major exporter of the Orthodox Tea variant, under the Harrisons Malayalam Limited, established in 1931. The Chellarkovil Viewpoint allows an extraordinary site of the olive green and viridescent forests down below.
Angadipetty is one such Ayurvedic Museum that navigates through the history of the practice and enables you to transcend the moments in Thekkady. A Roman Catholic Latin Church called Our Lady of Lourdes is also a place you can’t miss!
Search for accommodation in Thekkady.
Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum is the present-day capital city of Kerala. The Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the most famous Hindu Temple in the region, dating back to the 8th Century. It is said to be further renovated by the King of Travancore, Marthanda Varma, in 1750. Home to the structure of Lord Vishnu in his sleeping position, the eternal posture is stupefying with the hood of the five-headed serpent. The mythical story inside the temple is congruent with the complex architecture outside as well. The combination of Dravidian and Chera styles of creation make the temple an off-beat tourist destination.
Visit the Napier Museum within the Trivandrum Zoo. It is the oldest zoological garden in the country, established in 1857. It covers an area of about 55 acres and was designed by the consulting architect of the Madra Government. The embellishments include a supernatural roof and subsequent minarets which create an atmosphere of natural air-conditioning.
A rare collection of private paintings can be viewed at the Shree Chitra Art Gallery. Agasthyakoodam is a full-size statue situated at the mountain of Agasthya Mala. Named after the Saptarishis or Seven Stars of the Hindu Purana, the place is also home to sloth bears, Indian Gaurs, leopards, and tigers. Visit the hidden gems of Azhimada Siva Temple, Kuthiramalika Palace Museum, and the flea markets (really cheap prices!) of Chalai Bazaar. The Greenfield Stadium is also a renowned playground referred to as the Trivandrum International Stadium worldwide.
Varkala is a place for seaside cliffs! Yes, a large coastal municipality in the northern suburbs of Thiruvananthapuram, Varkala has the only cliffs adjacent to the Arabian Sea. The geological marvels are known for the Cenozoic sedimentary formation cliffs on the flat coats known as the Varkala Formation. The Geological Survey of India declared it as a national geological monument. It is surrounded by water spouts and spas. It is also a geo-heritage site as declared by the Ministry of Mines.
The 2000-year-old Janardana Swami Temple is also called the ‘Dakshin Kashi’ or Varanasi of the South. The Papanasam Beach is located nearby and serves as a major Ayurvedic center. It is home to a bell that was rescued from a shipwreck. It is supposed to have been donated by the captain of the Dutch vessel that sank near Varkala.
Visitors in Varkala can try out their favorite water sports available throughout the year. Walk for km down the straight road beside Edava Beach. If you are interested in Kayaking, the best spot is the Nedungolam Mangrove Forest. You can choose to catch the view during the morning or the evening. The Thiruvambadi Beach is a black-sand beach tangent to the North Cliff. It offers a great spot to relax by the seashore.
Situated 12 km from Varkala, the Anjengo Fort is going to take your breath away. One of the most important spots is the Sivagiri Mutt, the ashram of Shri Narayana Guru. You can visit during the festivities of Guru Deva Jayanti (birthday) or samadhi (death anniversary). Ponnumthuruthu is called the Golden Island. It is located around 20 km away from Varkala. Make time to visit the Kaduvayil Jama Masjid by the name of Saint Thangal, who was known to have magical powers.
Search here for hotels and guesthouses in Varkala.
Vagamon is located in the Peerumedu taluk of Idukki district. In 1926, the Walter Duncan Company set up its tea plantations in this region. The tea business flourished and inter-city migration began. During the 1940s, Vagamon saw an influx of citizens from Madras, and Southern Travancore. In 1950s, the Kurisumala Ashram was set up. Today, we know that it is one of the ’50 most attractive places to visit in India’, as declared by the National Geographic Traveller.
Created during the British Raj, you can visit the enchanting valley and Vagamon Pine Forests in Vedikuzhi. Following the Erattupetetta route, you can easily reach the Marmala Waterfall. The water is situated amidst thick greenery and it’s not too far from the main town. Thangal Para is a place for pilgrimage. It means ‘a huge rock’ that was a resting place for a respected Sufi Saint called Hazrat Sheikh Fariduddin Baba. It sits on the edge of a precipice but don’t worry, it won’t fall! The Barren Hills have the right nomenclature as they look like Shakespearean Moors in Othello. The empty space lets you star gaze and feel the wind like never before!
The Mundakayam Ghats are home to high blue peaks. These touch the horizon until you can’t see the end anymore. But the most amazing part of your visit to Vagamon will be the Idukki Dam. The geometric entity has a double curvature arch that can only be imagined by a painter.
Also visit Kurishumala for a day. ‘Kurishu’ means cross. It is a crossyard for hill tops and holds the most sumptuous views in all of Vagamon. For a peaceful retreat far from the maddening crowd, visit Pattumalai Church.
When in Kasaragod, you come across numerous tongues! Yes, the region is called ‘the land of the seven languages’ or Sapta Bhasha Sangama Bhoomi. Take a trail to Ranipuram Wildlife Sanctuary which mixes pathways with the Talakaveri Sanctuary in Karnataka. The Chandragiri River flows on with great might and right. Take your time at the Sri Anantha Padmanabha Lake Temple, known for a crocodile in the lake protecting the temple from harm.
Parappa Wildlife Sanctuary will let you walk around the turtles, pigs, and porcupines. You may also come across the jungle cat, slender loris, and Hornbills. Visit the cultural capital of Kasaragod District, Nileshwar. Divided between the two rivers Thejaswini puzha and Nileshwaram Puzha, the locals enjoy the climatic tranquility for a long time.
Kareem’s Forest Park is the hub for all biologists, environmentalists, and scientists due to its rich preservation of the multicultural flora and fauna. The ancient town of Kumbala will offer you the best sunsets. There are also numerous forts built at different epochs of monarchy, namely Hosdurg Fort, Bekal Fort, and Arikady Fort. Visit the Veermala Hills and Kottacherri Hills in Kasaragod to feel the hills around you. Other important sites in around the region will include Thalangara Children’s Park, Nellikunnu, and Malik Deenar Mosques and the handloom market of Kasaragod.
Search for hotels in Kasaragod.
Where to Visit in Kerala
Hope you found these 15 places of where to visit in Kerala compelling enough to travel to India. If you’ve never traveled to India, Kerala is a great place to start.