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.
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.
If you're visiting this exotic region for the first time, a classic Kerala itinerary with visits to the cosmopolitan city of Cochin, the Western Ghats and Munnar tea plantations, the Periyar National Park plus an overnight stay on a traditional houseboat is a great place to start. If you have a little longer a stay at one of Kerala's beautiful beaches is also recommended.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you fancy exploring a less trodden path now is the time to travel to North Kerala and the Malabar coast. With great places to visit from the stunning mountains of the Western Ghats to beautiful sandy beaches, North Kerala offers the chance to discover amazing culture and rituals, to step back in time and experience traditional village life, to witness wonderful wildlife in its natural setting or simple relax on a glorious beach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are some great places to visit near Kerala, close by in the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka which have their own culture and experiences to enjoy. If you have time why not enhance your holiday with a visit to the temple town of Madurai, travel to the hill station of Ooty and relish a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway or discover incredible wildlife in the award winning Nagarhole National Park.
Tamil Nadu’s inland city of Madurai is a treasure trove of personality and unique sights. Evidence of the city’s ancient character can be found in the records of trade links with the Romans dating back to the 4th Century BC. Today it offers some truly remarkable sights including the Thirumalai Nayak Palace and the Meenakshi Temple complex.
Known locally as the city that doesn't sleep it is also a shoppers paradise with bargains galore to be seized.
Merging Indian bustle with Hindu temples and charming gardens Ooty, also known as the “Queen of Hill Stations” is a popular hill resort located in the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains) region of South India. Established in the 19th Century as headquarters for the Madras government the picturesque location was given the nickname “Snooty Ooty”. With its rolling hills, tea gardens and scenery lined with trees and views described as similar in looks to the English countryside,
Nagarhole National Park is the largest protected wildlife zone in Southern India, comprised of shady forests, rivers and bamboo thickets. It’s home to hundreds of different bird species, as well as the Bengal tiger, sloth bear, giant flying squirrel and much more. The Kabini river threads its way through the park, culminating in the Kabini backwaters, a tranquil network of waterways and lakes. The Kabini is one of the best places for wildlife spotting, as you can catch sight of animals drinking and bathing at the water’s edge.
The best way to travel around Kerala is on a tailor made tour which has been designed to meet your exact requirements. Enjoy the luxury of having your own private driver and discover Kerala at your own pace. Simply let us know how long you have, if there are any particular places you would like to visit, experiences you would like to explore and the style of hotel you'd like to stay in. Then leave it to us to develop your perfect Kerala itinerary.
The tours below are just examples to help inspire you.
Price From: £970
Start: Cochin (Kochi)
Finish: Cochin (Kochi)
Breathtaking sunsets, tranquil Kerala backwaters, historic sites and bustling harbours in just 9 days.
Price From: £990
Start: Cochin (Kochi)
Finish: Trivandrum or Cochin
Sunset cruises, a tea plantation walk, tiger reserve trek and elephant spotting culminate in a backwaters houseboat stay. The Essence of Kerala Tour is an 11 day private tour showcasing the must see highlights of Kerala.
If you're planning to visit Kerala this 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.
Price Guide: From £1,600
Start: Cochin (Kochi)
Experience the history, plantations and wildlife of Kerala before finishing your tour with spiritual rest and relaxation.
Price From: £1375
Start: Cochin (Kochi)
Finish: Cochin (Kochi)
Explore the hidden gems of South India on two wheels, weaving past tea plantations, bathing elephants and spice farms.
Price From: £1585
Start: Cochin (Kochi)
Finish: Cochin (Kochi)
Tempt your taste buds sampling home-cooked authentic regional flavours at fishing villages and tea plantations.
Price Guide: £465
Trekking adventure in the Western Ghats
Go on an eco-friendly trekking and camping adventure to explore the diverse habitation of the breathtaking Western Ghats.
Boutique hotels, luxury houseboats, converted historical buildings, gorgeous tropical beach hideaways and upscale eco-friendly properties are some of the wonderful places you can stay. Whereever you travel in Kerala the choice and quality of accommodation is superb.
The hotels listed below are a small selection of what's on offer. Large chain hotels are available but most of our guests prefer beautiful properties which reflect the distinct atmosphere of their location and offer excellent levels of service. Please speak to one of our consultants for tempting possibilities in the places you wish to visit in Kerala.
Located in a former Victorian boatyard in the Fort Kochi district, the Brunton Boatyard Hotel overlooks a waterway. What once stood as the site of a boat manufacturing business belonging to Geo Brunton and Sons, the building has been lovingly restored to provide travellers with a glimpse into 19th Century life in Kochi, complete with tall ceilings and traditional low hanging fans. This is a truly beautiful colonial property in a fabulous location.
With history dating back to 1775 Malabar House became Fort Cochin’s first boutique hotel in 1996. Offering 17 unique rooms and suites, as well as an acclaimed restaurant and wine lounge, its décor showcases a fine collection of art highlighting the culture of Kerala. Situated in the historical Fort Cochin, near St Francis Church and a short walk to the Chinese fishing nets the location is ideal for sightseeing and shopping.
Thought of as one of the most sought after hotels in South India, Fragrant Nature is located within the offices of the East India Company, a landmark building in Fort Kochi due to its distinctive facade and clock tower. This boutique style hotel offers modern rooms with harbour views, a gym and Ayurveda treatments whilst the roof top infinity pool delivers majestic views of the surrounding landscape.
The Xandari Harbour hotel enjoys a prime location overlooking the Cochin waterways and very close to all the attractions of Fort Kochi. The old warehouses which make up this hotel give it a wonderful local character. The rooms are lovely and spacious and feature all the modern facilities (apart from a TV) that a discerning traveller requires.
Enveloped in mist covered mountains, Fragrant Nature offers accommodation with impressive panoramic views. All rooms benefit from a fireplace, to keep out the mountain chill, as well as a private terrace or balcony and ensuite facilities. For a unique dining experience guests can enjoy the unrivalled scenery from Glass House, a restaurant specializing in grills and steaks, where the views are endless and even more spectacular under starry skies.
Offering breathtaking and uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape, Windermere Estate is a wonderful property where guests can enjoy the fresh mountain air whilst strolling around the gardens and cardamom plantation. This family estate offers exceptional levels of service, beautiful accommodation and delicious freshly produced dishes for its guests. The well presented bedrooms are well equipped with private en-suite facilities.
The Xandari pearl hotel is a beautiful eco-friendly hotel located on Marari beach spread out over 18 acres. The laid back comfort, relaxed atmosphere, gorgeous locally grown food and excellent levels of service makes the Xandari pearl hotel an amazing place to recharge the batteries and truly relax.
Nestled in the peaceful banks of Lake Vembanad, The Kumarakom Lake Resort offers guests traditional Kerala architecture, whilst it overlooks the jade green backwaters.
The Kumarakom Lake Resort has featured as one of the most luxurious hotel destinations in the world by the BBC. It has also hosted Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall for a special birthday celebration. This retreat offers timeless luxury where your wedding day will be a very special day to remember.
Bordering the Periyar Tiger Reserve and boasting glorious views and scents of the surrounding spice plantations, Cardamom County is located in the mountains of the Periyar Forests. The beautifully presented cottages each have a private verandah or balcony and are built on different levels following the natural curves of the land. With a restaurant set in an open air terrace, gym, swimming pool and spa facilities, Cardamom County offers a truly relaxing break. It is also conveniently located close to the local town.
Situated at the edge of a teeming jungle Kaav is a contemporary Eco-friendly boutique lodge surrounded by uninterrupted nature and an abundance of wildlife. A common lounge to interact with fellow guests, viewing lounge to admire nature’s beauty and Alfresco dining overlooking the pool and scenes beyond, add to the experience. Continuing the theme of ‘untamed glamour’ luxury rooms with balconies or glamping tents offer luxurious accommodation with private decks making this a truly unique place.
Occupying a stunning position in the highlands of Thekkady, Spice Village is inspired by the dwellings of the Mannan Tribe. Using local materials rooms have thatched roofs made from elephant grass, perfect for keeping the temperature cool and allowing you to embrace the beauty of the natural surroundings. The Spice Village is a fine example of the Eco hotels on offer in India providing a unique back to nature experience combined with modern facilities.
The award-winning Coconut Lagoon is located in a charming cove in Kumarakon on the Vembanad Lake, offering a unique and delightful setting. A scenic boat ride from a private jetty to reach Coconut Lagoon will ensure you witness beautiful Kerala scenery and get a wonderful introduction to this captivating resort. No two rooms are the same, they are quirky and inspiring, offering guests an experience like no other.
Described as the 'Venice of the East', Allepey is a dreamland of interlinking canals and rivers and what better way to explore the exquisite Kerala backwaters than on a Houseboat? Offering an enchanting experience the houseboats are constructed from local and natural materials including bamboo, ropes and coconut fibre and are up to 120 feet long. With an onboard crew to cater to your needs you can sit back, relax and enjoy the cruise.
Located along the shores of the Arabian Sea, Neeleshwar Hermitage is nestled in a sheltered palm grove where guests can truly embrace the authentic Indian way of life. With the help of the treatments on offer at the Ayurvedic Spa you can leave the stresses of everyday life behind in this peaceful location where you will experience complete relaxation and rejuvenation.
Set in a beautiful cliff top location, the Niraamaya Retreat celebrates its stunning setting where guests can enjoy amazing panoramic views of the Arabian Sea. Traditional, restored Keralan cottages make up the private and peaceful accommodation and the award winning Ayurveda Spa, infinity pool and secluded beaches guarantee guests have a choice of ways to enjoy total relaxation.