Kerala, named one of the ten paradises of the world by the National Geographic Traveller magazine, is a treat for the eyes. From lovely backwaters to the serene sunset, Kerala is a place where everyone must go. Read this list of top 10 places to see in Kerala so that you don’t miss out on the best on your trip to Kerala.
1. Fort Kochi
With a sprawling architecture representing the colonial past, the streets of Fort Kochi are filled with Portuguese, Dutch and British influences. The place is famous for St. Francis Church, Mattancherry Palace, Chinese fishing nets, spices, Jewish Synagogue, cosy cafes, quiet streets and a lot more. The 16th century Portuguese St. Francis Church once housed the remains of Vasco da Gama and is now considered a national monument. The inviting Chinese fishing nets, deemed to be influenced by Chinese traders who came here in the 14th century, create a compelling balance with the serene landscape.
You can visit the Palace Museum in Mattancherry, prominent for its murals, art and royal paraphernalia. Its streets are filled with inviting cafes, modern galleries, spice markets and a fantastic mix of myriad cultures. Fort Kochi is a captivating paradise, needless to say; you’ll never want to leave this place.
Strategically located at the confluence of the Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala rivers, this lush green land with hovering clouds is simply put as ‘paradise on Earth’. Its subtle curves draped in exhaustive tea plantations are a perfect setting for a romantic trip. Apart from the tea plantations, you can explore the wildlife sanctuaries in Munnar – Kurinjimala Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Amaravati Reserve Forest, Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park and Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to spot Nilgiri Tahr, Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, Elephant, Gaur, Nilgiri Langur, and other endemic species.
Indulge in trekking or cycling in this verdant valley and at night, lull your tired self to sleep on the bosom of Kerala.
3. Alappuzha Backwaters
With extensive networks of freshwater lakes, brackish lagoons, narrow canals, verdant valleys and paddy fields, this place is one of a kind. Get lost in nature and enjoy the company of otters, turtles, crabs, frogs, mudskippers and water birds such as terns, kingfishers, darters and cormorants. You can rent a private houseboat here for a laid-back vacation or plan a Kerala tour in the month of August-September to enjoy the boat race on Alappuzha backwaters. Other attractions include Alleppey Beach which looks over the Arabian Sea, Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple, Edathua Church, Krishnapuram Palace and Pathiramanal, an enchanting island on India’s longest lake, Vembanad.
Literally, “Land of Paddy Fields”, Wayanad, with its hues of green and blue will take your breath away. Set amidst the Western Ghats, this beautiful hill station with sparse human habitation sprawls with extensive tea estates, paddy fields, forests and exotic spices. Once known as Maya Kshetra, this enchanting land will hook on to your memory for as long as you live. You can repose in the abundance of nature or better still, indulge in long drives. Go for a boat ride on the Pookode Lake and traverse the map of India.
All the while you can explore the animal life that this lake harbours. Or explore the Jain temples, now in ruins on the Kalpetta – Mananthavady road. You can also pay a visit to the largest earthen dam in India, the Banasura dam. Here you can hike up the surrounding scenic landscape or explore the dam. Other prominent attraction is the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
Tucked deep inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Gavi is one of the gems of Kerala. Unspoiled by progress and rich in natural beauty, it is one of the major eco-tourism centres in India. A day here is a day well-spent on your Kerala tour – a refreshing change from the hubbub of city life. A thick, dense forest, Gavi is mainly known for the wildlife it supports. Here, you can spot countless endangered species including the Tiger, Nilgiri Tahr and Lion-tailed Macaque. Leopards, Bears, Indian Gaur, Sambar, Mouse Deer, and Nilgiri Marten also frequent this place.
With an extensive treasure trove of birds, Gavi is a haven for avid birdwatchers. The great pied hornbill, woodpecker and kingfisher are few of the 260 species that can be found here. And of course, there are Kerala’s majestic elephants (wild) that throng this place in abundance. It is also home to the only two Gopher trees in India.
You can indulge in trekking, outdoor camping or jeep safaris in the scenic landscape. Other attractions of this place include Paradise Cove, spice gardens, cardamom factory, a view of Sabarimala temple and lake Gavi.
An immensely popular tourist destination in Kerala, this place promises the best of everything that Kerala has to offer. With a beautiful beach, historical temples, lakes, a 924 ft long tunnel, Ayurveda centres and a lot more, Varkala does not have any shortage of choices. Make the best of the Varkala beach with its spectacular cliffs – the only one you’ll find in Kerala overlooking the Arabian Sea. Known as Varkala Formation, the cliff has been declared a geological monument by the Geological Survey of India. With little shops, restaurants and resorts, the cliff is worth exploring. Or better still, feel the adrenaline rush when paragliding or surfing over the sea water.
Located on the Papa Snanam beach, the 2000-year-old Janardhana Swamy Temple is an important Ayurveda treatment centre – worth dropping by for a unique combo of history and rejuvenation. The serene Kappil Lake flanked by coconut groves is also worth a visit for its tranquil landscape. Other prominent sites include the 924 ft long Varkala tunnel built by Sir T.Madhava Rao, the Sivagiri Math founded by Sree Narayana Guru and the historical Angela Fort.
7. Athirapally Falls
A perfect place for a family outing on your trip to Kerala, kids will love this place. And if you’re an adult with a heart of a child, you won’t feel out of place here either. The 80 feet high cascading waters of Athirapally are just awe-inspiring. Located on the Chalakudy River, it originates from the highest point in South India – the Anamudi mountains of the Western Ghats.
Every moment spent here is worth it – from the winding roads to a lush green landscape and then to the final view of the majestic falls, this site is a delight which cannot be put in words. Although the place is heavily guarded by authorities to prevent accidents, there are areas where you can immerse yourself in the cool waters and soak in the pristine landscape. Monsoons are the best time of the year to visit this place. Plan an elaborate picnic with your loved ones, go trekking, pack extra clothes and towels, and you won’t be disappointed.
8. Kovalam Beach
One foot on its sandy shores, and you’ll want to stay here forever. With the resplendent sea, leaning coconut trees and beautiful blue sky, Kovalam offers a serene landscape – a perfect holiday getaway with your loved ones. This 17 km coastline is home to 3 prominent beaches, each separated by highlands. The Lighthouse beach is the largest of the three beaches, named so for the British era lighthouse called Vizhinjam on its rocky terrain. At night, the place takes on an old world charm when the lighthouse throws out beams of light into the sky.
Located in the middle, Eve’s beach (popularly known as Hawa beach) is a semi-circular beach. The Samudra beach completes the crescent-shaped Kovalam beach with its palm-fringed golden shores. With three beaches, the place has something to offer everyone. While the Lighthouse beach and Eve’s beach are more crowded with tourists, it’s great if you want to indulge in some adventurous sports like paragliding, surfing, etc. Or, if you’re the kind who seeks solitude amongst the waves of the sea, then the more secluded Samudra beach is the place to be.
9. Bekal Fort
A 17th-century citadel, Bekal Fort is the most massive fort in Kerala. A prominent defence station at the time of Shivappa Nayaka of Bednore, followed by Tipu Sultan in the 18th century and the British after that, it spreads over 40 acres. Caught up in a struggle for power from its very conception, the Fort has seen its fair share of history. With the sea lovingly stroking its walls, surrounded by green foliage and the vast sky for company, you can savour this history for a while on a trip to Kerala. The Fort has an observation tower which helped in observing and detecting movements of the enemy, flights of steps leading to a water tank, a tunnel, and a warehouse which was used to keep ammunition.
After exploring this delightful historical site, you can steal some moments at the Bekal beach with its beautiful walkways. At night with additional lighting, the place becomes even more surreal. You can also explore the nearby Mukhyaprana Temple of Hanuman and an ancient Muslim mosque.
10. Bolgatty Island
Also known as Mulavukad, Bolgatty Island is a popular tourist destination. The place is easily accessible by boat or jetty. A part of the city of Kochi, this place is known for Bolgatty Palace, one of the oldest Dutch mansion – it was a prominent center of Dutch administration, and when it was taken over by the British, it became the center of British administration. Although now a converted hotel, the place still exudes an old-world charm. The popular hang-out, Marine drive is also nearby. An evening here is a must – with the enchanting sea to give you company, and the sun-kissed sky resonating with love, you’ll have the most memorable romantic evening that you’ll cherish for life. Go for a boat ride here and enjoy the palm-fringed landscape, bubbling port life and overwhelming vastness of the sea. You can also indulge in some shopping at the GCDA shopping center.
The Vagamon or Wagamon Hills Station is a popular destination and hill station and is known for its refreshing climate round the year. It was made famous by the English rule as they started their tea plantations and is yet to be overpowered by urbanization, which provides ample opportunities for star gazing and simply enjoying the wonders of nature. It is would be a great idea for the entire family this winter. Kurisumala is best known for the Ashram that is located quite high in the hills. It is known for the spiritual leaders who lead a life of severity. Nevertheless, the monastery takes visitors at certain times of the year. Mundakavyam Ghat is located 8 kms away from the city center of Vagamon and is especially known for the scenic view of the sunset that one gets to enjoy. The journey to the location takes one through winding roads amidst lush greenery and it is journey that is so enticing to the visitors. The Kurisumala Dairy Farm is very well known location for being one of the most productive farms in the region. The tourists who come here get to see how the cows are kept and cared for and how the milk is processed.
Idukki is situated among the scenic beauty of Western Ghats and though it is the second largest district in the state, it also has the lowest population density, meaning there are lots of open spaces here for the tourists to rewind. It has a large area reserved for forests and wildlife sanctuaries and the villages are sparsely populated. The Western Ghats provide unmatched natural beauty and that attracts throngs of tourists each year. There are quite a few wildlife sanctuaries in the state as it is a heavily forested region. Eravikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kurinjimala Sanctuary and Pampadumshola National Park are some to name a few and one can spot a wide variety of birds and animals here. The Idukki dam is one of a kind because it is a double curvature arc dam and is situated in a narrow gorge between two granite hills. Along with two other dams at Cheruthoni and Kulamavu, an artificial lake is created of about 60 sq km and it provides a spectacular view. Hill View Park is a popular tourist destination and is one of more important locations near the Idukki dam. It is partially forested area but one that loves nature will find a lot of places of interest. It is a popular spot for weekend getaway and picnics.
Kollam is one of the oldest sea port cities, not only In Kerala but also in the rest of the world. Situated on the banks of the Ashtamudi Lake, it has always had a strong commercial base since the Roman rule in Europe. It was also a strong center of trade with China and had been the landing place of many explorers like Ibn Batuta, Marco Polo and the merchant Sulaiman al- Tahir. The Kolam Port was founded in 825 AD, and ships have always ferried here as long as anyone can remember. Kollam Tours should be on everyone’s travel list. The Tangasseri Port holds importance in the Maritime activities of the region and one of places of interest here is the St. Thomas Fort. It has largely an Anglo- Indian Settlement and likewise there are quite a few churches and cathedrals here, along with the famous Dutch lighthouse. Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam district of Kerala is a very popular backwater destination and the name is derived from the eight cones shape of the lake. The boat journey here can take eight hours and the scenic beauty along the way is captivating. One can visit fishing villages and enjoy the local cuisine. Thenmala is a popular tourist attraction and it is the first planned eco- tourism spot in India. The Ottakal Lookout provides splendid views of the surroundings and the dam on the lake is an extremely popular picnic spot for the locals.
Kumarakom is Kerala is a popular tourist destination situated about 16 kilometers away from the city of Kottayam and is mostly famous for its backwater tourism. The Vembanad Lake falls in this region and it is the largest in Kerala. There is a fort in Kumarakom which was once the site of many battles in the past and one can see their remains still now near the city gates. The region has an impressive flora and fauna and the lake is especially a haven for migratory birds. There are lots of fishes here and overall it has emerged as a major tourist attraction in the south of India. It gets south- west monsoons as well as the north- east monsoons but has a moderate climate throughout the year because of its close proximity to the beach. Mangrove forests, paddy fields and coconut trees make up for much of the greenery in the state. The backwaters of Kerala are everywhere and the one is Kumarakom near the Vembanad Lake is a sight for sore eyes. One can enjoy houseboats stays here and enjoy meals cooked with fresh fish from the backwaters. There are ayurvedic getaways where you can enjoy a simple and holistic lifestyle.
Kottayam city is the capital of the Kottayam district and it holds a special place in the hearts of the people in Kerala. It was one of the main centers of learning and literature in ancient times and was names as the Akshara Nagari, or the Land of Letters. It is the head of a lot of Malayali newspapers and bears many remnants of the English and the Dutch settlements. Many schools, colleges and other educational institutes are established here and the degree of art and craft practiced here is also higher than any other in the state, also giving it the name of Chuvarchitra Nagari or the Land of Murals. The headquarters of the Indian Orthodox Church are also located here. The Vaikom Boat jetty and the Vaikom Temple, are the two most notable places of interest here. The region is surrounded by lakes and water bodies and boating is a popular recreation here, and the vistas of the surroundings are truly wonderful. The Marmala waterfall is not only gorgeous in itself, but also provides wonderful way of trekking. It is 60 meters in height and located in a private estate where no car would directly go. One of the oldest churches in Kerala built in 1579, the church is famous for the number of murals that adorn its walls, both Oriental and Western. It is not only a popular tourist site but people of many faiths have entry here who may come in to pray.
16. Periyar National Park
Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is a major protected area near Thekkady and is widely known for its profusion of flora and fauna that is both diverse and unique. It is notable because of its reputation both as an elephant as well as a tiger reserve. The forested area is huge, with the over 925 sq km devoted to the core zone. It also forms the watershed of two very important rivers in Kerala- Periyar and Pamba and the view around these two lakes is spellbinding. Located quite high in the Cardamom Hills and Pandalam Hills in the south Western Ghats, the region is provides one of a kind experience for those who visit. The region around the Periyar Lake is beautiful and has a number of beautiful trees and orchids around to cherish. One can find a variety of storks, frogs and ducks around the region. Even a number of snakes, and amphibians like crocodiles, frogs and toads are to be found here. The watershed point between Periyar and Pamba River is also a major tourist attraction.
Thrissur is known as the Cultural Capital of Kerala and one trip to this amazing city will tell you why. Artifacts, museums and cultural centers are strewn all over the city and it is home to some of the most important cultural landmarks in the entire state like the Kerala Sahitya Academy, the Kerala Lalithkala Academy, the Sangeet Academy. It also hosts the Thrissur Pooram festival which according to many, is one of the most colorful and spectacular festival in Kerala. There are mosques and churches as well, and it can be said that it is a true cultural melting pot. In earlier times, it was also an important center for spice trade with the Arabs. One of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Kerala, the Athirapilly Falls is situated on the Chalakudy River, which has its source high up in the Western Ghats. It also acts as the entrance to the Sholayar Ranges and is about 80 feet in height. The Vazhachal waterfall is also located very close by. Located between Engandiyur Panchayat and Kadappuram Panchayat, Chettuva backwater provides the tourists with some of the most amazing views. A boat ride up the rivers will take them through mangrove forests, Chinese fishing nets, islands full of migratory birds and even a fort. Famously known as the Love Shore, the Snehatheeram beach by the Arabian Sea has lots of domestic tourists round the year and because of its popularity, Kerala Tourism maintains this beach very well.
Also known as Calicut, Kozhikode is situated on the Malabar Coast and is the largest urban area in the state. It is now known as the City of Sculptures because of the various artifacts and statues located in various parts of the city. It is famously known as the landing place of Vasco da Gama in India and since then has been a major spice trader. The Kappad Beach is made famous by the fact that it was exactly here that Vasco da Gama had landed in India in 1498 and established the sea route from Europe to India. The beach at present is quite well maintained and is now popular tourist sites who love to take pictures in this iconic site. Beypore has one of the oldest ports in Kerala and the region was names Sultan Pattanam by none other than Tipu Sultan. If one visits the beach they can see specimens of ancient designed boats known as Urus and they were the first boats used for long distance voyages by people of the region. The Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary is located on the Malappuram District in the state of Kerala and it spreads over a cluster where the Kadalundipuzha River flows in the Arabian Sea. One can see a vast number of birds here like cormorants, sandpipers, gulls, herons and terns and a good deal of checking has to be undergone as the officials are very strict about carrying any kind of disposable items inside.
The quaint little city lies on the outer fringes of the Ashtamudi Lake and it was an important center of trade and commerce in the past. The place now attracts visitors from all over the world who look for out of the way places and it is also quite a favorite among backpackers as well. The scenic beauty of the place is the primary attraction here. You can simply allow yourself to relax and let go for a while. The place is also very well known for cashew processing and it is also a principal region for coir manufacturing. Fishing here is still done in a traditional manner, which the tourists love to watch and the lunch and dinners often comprise of the fresh catch.
The Guruvayur Temple is the fourth largest Hindu Temple in India dedicated to Lord Krishna and many legends surround it, which the locals often speak of. It is said that Vayu Deva and Brihaspati reinstated the idol of Krishna here and the temple attracts huge numbers of pilgrims. The Guruvayur Ekadasi is the main festival celebrated here and the region is greatly favored by those who are looking for spiritual retreats or are simply looking for secluded places to relax.
How to reach Kerala
Kerala is well connected by roads, railways and waterways and transportation is easy from both outside the state as well as commuting from one point in the state to another for tours to Kerala. The state can be reached through two National Highways, Number 47 and Number 17- by which one can travel from Mumbai to Kochi directly via Kannur, Uppala and Kasaragod- and through others state highways through the eastern side. A Hill Highway has also been proposed to travel smoothly to the eastern hills. One can reach from Salem to Kanyakumari through NH 47 via Coimbatore, Kollam, Alapuzha, and Kayalkulam among others. The Palakkad District is known as the Gateway of Kerala primarily due o the presence of the Palakkad Gap in the Western Ghats through which the northern and southern parts of Kerala are made accessible through railway and road, with Walayar being the state’s largest checkpoint at the crossover point between Tamil Nadu. However, the highways are some of the narrowest in the country and some accidents have been reported over the past decade. The Kerala RTC buses move around the state with one of the prominent routes being Kozhikode to Mysore.
Kerala falls under the southern railways of Indian railways and Thiruvananthapuram Railway Station is one of major stations in the state along with others at Palakkad, Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Shornur and Thrissur among others. All these junctions have trains traveling to various parts of the country, and the connectivity is one of the best to make commute smooth for a large number of tourists that enter the state.
The international airports located in Trivandrum, Cochin, and Calicut and the Kannur International Airport is still under construction.
Due to the presence of the backwaters, Kerala has very extensive and efficient inland navigation with one major port and about 17 minor ports strewn around the state. There are 67 navigable rivers alone and those in rural Kerala are still traversed by handmade traditional canoes.
Best time to visit to Kerala
The best time for Kerala sightseeing is between January to April when the temperatures are pleasant. Kerala has no intense winter as such, being near to the Equator as well as the sea and the temperatures during this time of the year pleasantly hover around 20 degrees. On the other hand, those who want to visit Kerala in the monsoons and experience the lush greenery and bountiful abundance of nature can visit from June to November. The rivers are full and the trees bend with fruits. Experiencing Kerala in the monsoons is indeed an experience of a lifetime.
Kerala has something for everyone, and if you are a nature lover then, Kerala will appear nothing less than a paradise to you. Book a package and get ready to travel!
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