1) Fort Cochin
Once a prominent trading and fishing center, this quaint village is now more of a popular tourist destination. Sprawling with the architecture of a colonial past, the streets of Fort Cochin are filled with Portuguese, Dutch and British influences. The place is famous for St Francis Church, Mattancherry Palace, Chinese fishing nets, spices, Jewish Synagogue, cozy cafes, quiet streets and a lot more. An early 16th century Portuguese Catholic church, the St. Francis Church once housed the remains of Vasco da Gama and is now considered a national monument. The more inviting Chinese fishing nets, considered to be influenced by Chinese traders who came here in the 14th century, creates 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 filled with inviting cafes, modern galleries, spice markets and an amazing mix of myriad cultures, Fort Cochin is a captivating paradise; needless to say, you’ll never want to leave this place.
Strategically located at the confluence of the Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers; this lush green land with hovering clouds is simply put, paradise on Earth. Its subtle curves draped with exhaustive tea plantations is a perfect setting for a romantic trip with your beloved. And if you chose to travel alone, then despair not – romance with nature, because this beautiful place will definitely get you in the mood. Apart from the tea plantations, you can explore the countless wildlife sanctuary that Munnar houses – Kurinjimala Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Amaravati reserve forest, Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, etc. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll be able to spot Nilgiri Thar, 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
Lord Curzon once called it ‘Venice of the East’, and the phrase has unfortunately stuck on. With all due respect to Venice, this thoughtless comparison only erases the distinct beauty and unparalleled charm that is Alappuzha. With extensive networks of fresh water lakes, brackish lagoons, narrow canals, verdant valleys, and paddy fields the place is one of a kind. It needs no Venice to substantiate its place in the tourist map of the world. Get lost in this labyrinth of nature and enjoy the company of otters, turtles, crabs, frogs, mud-skippers; 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 heart-racing 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 a “Land of Paddy Fields”, Wayanad, with its myriad hues of green and blue will take your breath away. Set aloft 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 Mayakshetra, this enchanting land will hook on to your memory for as long as you live. You can just repose in the abundance of nature or better still, indulge in long drives with your beloved. 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 harbors. Or explore the Jain temples, now in ruins on the Kalpetta- Mananthavady road. You can also pay a visit to the largest earthen dam of India, the Banasura dam. Here you can hike up the surrounding scenic landscape or just explore the dam. Other prominent attraction is the Wayand Wildlife Sanctuary.
Tucked deep inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, Gavi is one of the rare gems of Kerala. Unspoiled by progress and rich in natural beauty, it is one of the major eco-tourism centers 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 Deers, and Nilgiri Marten also frequent this place. With an extensive treasure trove of birds, Gavi is a haven for avid birdwatchers – the great pied horn bill, woodpecker, and kingfishers are but a few of the 260 species that can be found here. And of course, there’s Kerala’s majestic elephants (wild) that throng this place in abundance. It is also home to the only 2 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 places promises the best of everything that Kerala has to offer. With a beautiful beach, historical temples, lakes, a 924 ft long tunnel, Ayurveda centers, and a lot more, Varkala does not have any dearth 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 alluring seawater. Located on the Papasnanam beach, the 2000 year old Janardanaswamy Temple is an important Ayurveda treatment center – 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) Athirappally Falls
A perfect place for a family outing on your trip to Kerala, kids will absolutely 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 Athirappally are simply 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 with lush green landscape to the roar of nature which beacon you to the falls, and the final view of the majestic falls 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 high lands. The Lighthouse beach is the largest of the 3 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 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 largest fort in Kerala. A prominent defense station at the time of Sivappa Nayaka of Bednore, Tipu Sultan in the 18th center 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 savor this history for a while on a trip to Kerala. The Fort has an observation tower which basically 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 in 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, Bolghatty Island is a popular tourist destination. The place is easily accessible by boat/jetty. A part of the city of Kochi, this place is known for Bolghatty 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 of KTDC, the place still exudes an old world charm that has to be seen to be believed. The popular hang-out, Marine drive is also nearby. An evening here with your beloved 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.