There are so many wonderful places to visit in Kerala which you could be enjoying on a specially designed Kerala holiday. Visit the stunning Western Ghats and the Munnar tea plantations, explore the wonderful Periyar National Park with the opportunity to see amazing wildlife including elephants, indulge in some retail therapy and captivating culture in cosmopolitan Cochin, relax on one of the many idyllic Kerala beaches and of course the highlight of any trip cruise the famous Kerala backwaters on a private houseboat.
Renowned for its scenic locations and natural beauty, Kerala is sure to enchant any visitor with its hills, backwaters, beaches, waterfalls and wildlife. The state also has a rich heritage and thriving culture which can be explored by visiting the various forts, palaces, museums, monuments and pilgrim centers.
In addition Kerala is a great area to indulge in your favourite pastimes with many interests catered for. Choose from special interest and activity holidays such as cookery courses, bird watching or cycling. Or maybe enjoy one of the many cultural events and art festivals. It is also home to ayurveda and yoga retreats offering an amazing selection of wellness holidays.
Kerala is an incredibly diverse state with an endless list of tourist destinations to explore so it can be difficult deciding where to go. It is a large state and most visitors choose to visit either the popular region of south Kerala or the lesser known Malabar coast and north Kerala. Travel distances tend to be longer than in the UK so our tips for the first time visitor with a week to 10 days to travel are to include the following must see places in south Kerala:
And if you have longer why not include
For an idea of the geography please refer to the map of south India.
Known as the land of rivers, forests and waterfalls, Athirapally is home to Kerala’s largest waterfall standing at 80 feet tall and 330 feet wide. Set in the beautiful and tranquil forests of the Western Ghats, nature lovers will be in their element at this wondrous place. Exotic plants and trees as well as a wide range of indigenous and migratory birds can be witnessed here. Nicknamed The Niagra Falls of India this location truly is a must see.
In the Middle Ages the coastal city of Calicut (Kozhikode) was known as the ‘City of Spices’, as it’s here that the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama first landed and established a spice trading route. Despite being suffused with history, the Calicut of today is a thriving modern metropolis with plenty of malls, restaurants and museums. Calicut also boasts several beaches, Calicut Beach and Kappad Beach, both of which are perfect for an evening promenade.
Cochin, also known as Kochi, is a port city located on an extensive network of waterways in the state of Cochin. It has been one of the primary gateways to the region for distant merchants and travellers since 1341. Cochin is a great place to start your Kerala holiday offering beautiful hotels, wonderful culture and architecture, friendly people and the opportunity for some retail therapy.
Known as the ‘Venice of the East’, Alleppey is the gateway to the Kerala backwaters, an intricate network of lakes and waterways. Here you’ll find thousands of houseboats, converted rice barges with distinctive curved roofs. Float along the backwaters on one of these luxury boats, gazing out onto the lime green paddy fields, coconut palms and tranquil villages that line the water’s edge. Watch the sun set on the water and fall asleep lulled by the gentle rocking motion of the boat.
What do you picture when you imagine a Kerala beach? Coconut groves speckling the shoreline, golden sands stretching away from you, azure waves lapping your feet as you stroll along, the sound of fishing boats bobbing in the distance? Well, you’re in luck because Kovalam is all of the above and so much more. If simply relaxing on a sunbed is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of watersports to keep you busy. Then, after a long day’s relaxation, sampling the day’s catch at one of the restaurants overlooking the sea is a must. Kovalam truly is a perfect rest stop.
Hidden in the backwaters off the South Eastern end of Vembanad Lake in Southern Kerala is the small village of Kumarakom. Calm waters, lush greenery and abundant wildlife ensure that this is the perfect spot for total relaxation. The area offers beautiful quality award winning hotels and is ideally located to enjoy the Kerala backwaters. As you drift peacefully up and down the canals, spot the storks and flamingos from the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary soaring overhead and watch the fish schooling in the clear waters beneath you. Local merchants conduct their business in canoe-like craft on the water, while expert fishermen dive to catch coveted karimeen with their bare hands.
This village is known for the authentic and quiet Mararikulam beach lined by coconut trees. It’s aptly nicknamed the ‘secret beach’ and is a favorite of the Keralan beaches on offer among locals. Mararikulam also boasts the stunning Sree Mahadeva Temple, one of the oldest temples in India, and the only temple where the deities Shiva and Parvati sit facing each other.
Standing at a heady 1,532m above sea level, the majestic town of Munnar is sure to captivate even the most sceptical visitor, just as it did the British colonial settlers generations ago when they visited each summer seeking reprieve from the heat of the Keralan valleys below.
Nileshwar, also referred to as Nileshwaram, is known as the cultural capital of Kasaragod, the northernmost district of Kerala. With a rich heritage and abundance of temples to visit this lesser known destination is peaceful and quiet. Add to that the mixture of plantations, meandering rivers, beaches and backwaters that this town provides and the result is an idyllic getaway where authentic Indian experiences can be savoured at every turn.
If you've ever dreamed of seeing elephants roaming free, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary offers you the chance of experiencing these beautiful animals in the wild from the comfort of a covered boat or car tour, without disturbing their way of life.
Claimed to be mentioned by Marco Polo, Tellicherry was once the most important European trading centre of Kerala, famous for the pepper and cardamom trade. The Tellicherry Fort, built in 1708 by the East India Company, as well as the lighthouse, provide a tourist attraction where views of the surrounding landscape can be enjoyed.
Located on the foothills of the Western Ghats and surrounded by 25km of beautiful forests, Thattekad Bird Sanctuary was the first of its kind in Kerala. This paradise for birds was declared a sanctuary in 1983 after Salim Ali the ‘Birdman of India’, a renowned and world famous ornithologist, described the sanctuary as the ‘richest bird habitat’ he had seen.
One of the most unspoilt locations in Kerala, Wayanad district is nestled amongst the lofty ridges of the Western Ghats. It’s a hugely diverse region, comprised of mountains, remote areas of forest, emerald tea plantations and rows of spiky lime green ginger plants. If you want to experience a wildlife sanctuary in Kerala the district has many wildlife sanctuaries that are the perfect place for trekking or observing elephants and other animals, while Wayanad is also home to many different tribes, each with their own cultures and customs.