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Top 12 Places to Visit in Kerala

 

Referred to as "God"s Own Country", Kerala has some extremely beautiful destinations that capture the attention of global travelers. This South Indian state is blessed with the emerald backwaters, sprawling tea estates, pristine hill stations, and the azure Arabian Sea.

Kochi is the most popular city to visit in Kerala. Here, you can explore the famous Fort Kochi and Mattancherry Palace or watch a show at the Kerala Folklore and Theater Museum. The state is also well-known for its beautiful beaches such as Varkala and Kovalam.

Highlights

  • Kochi is a bustling commercial port city that serves as the financial, commercial, and industrial capital of Kerala.
  • The idyllic hill station of Munnar serves has some of the world’s largest tea estates.
  • Alleppey is a city known for its backwater canals, luxury houseboats, and serene beauty.
  • Periyar National Park is considered to be one of the best wildlife reserves for wild elephants and tigers.
  • Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of the state of Kerala and where the 16th-century Padmanabhaswamy Temple is located.
  • Varkala Beach is well-known for its quiet shores and provides a peaceful alternative to the now commercialized Kovalam Beach.
  • Kovalam is Kerala"s most famous beach town and is known for its three adjacent crescent-shaped beaches with shallow waters.

1. Kochi

Recommended visiting time: 1-2 days

Located on the southwest coast of India, Kochi is a bustling commercial port city that serves as the financial, commercial, and industrial capital of Kerala. Known as the ‘Gateway to Kerala’, the city is marked by the influence of many different cultures including Arab, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, and British.

The city’s top attraction is Fort Kochi. Fort Kochi is a seaside town known for its old-world colonial charm. The St. Francis Church here was built by the Portuguese in 1502 and is considered to be among the oldest churches in India.

Mattancherry Palace is also another popular place to visit. Also known as the Dutch Palace, Mattancherry is now a museum displaying items that once belonged to the princes of Kochi such as swords, daggers, axes, and ceremonial spears decorated with feathers.

To learn about Kerala"s culture, you can head to the Kerala Folklore Theater and Museum. The museum"s three floors are packed with interesting artifacts related to the state"s heritage including weapons, sequined gowns, and Dutch maps of old Kochi. Kerala art and dance shows are also performed daily at 6:30 pm.

Perfect for: People who like learning about culture and history

Insider tip: Kochi is a conservative city with a large Islamic community so it is a good idea to wear conservative clothing and respect the local population. Shirts that cover the shoulders and pants that go past the knee should do the trick.

2. Munnar

Recommended visiting time: 4 hours

The idyllic hill station of Munnar is located in the region of the Western Ghats, which is an area at higher elevation also known as the High Ranges. Munnar was once a summer resort for the British government in South India and later became one of the top locations in the country for growing tea.

Munnar is blessed with the natural beauty of winding lanes, misty hills, and forests full of exotic plants and wildlife but it is most famous for its tea plantations. While visiting, travelers will get the chance to meet the tea workers who will show them how the tea leaves are harvested.

Tea is typically harvested from April to December when the weather is hot and wet. Each worker collects between 100 and 120 kilograms of tea leaves a day.

After exploring the plantation, travelers will get the chance to sample some of the freshly brewed tea.

Munnar remains a popular destination for local visitors from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. As a result, the town and its environment have witnessed an increase in the number of hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers.

The Panoramic Gateway and Fragrant Nature Resort offer great service and excellent views of the surrounding town. Here, you can savor some traditional South Indian food like dosas, an Indian crepe, and idlis, a savory rice cake, at the Saravana Bhavan and Silver Spoon Restaurants.

Perfect for: Tea lovers

Insider tip: Munnar is also famous for growing spices such as cardamom, black pepper, and cloves which often grow alongside tea plants. In Munnar, the best souvenirs are locally grown tea and freshly ground spices.

3. Alleppey

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Alleppey, officially called Alappuzha, is a city in Kerala that is also known as ‘the Venice of the East’. Alleppey is famous for its backwater canals, luxury houseboats, and the serene beauty of its local villages.

Travelers can explore the peaceful backwater villages by renting a houseboat where you can spend your day cruising the canals, taking in the green paddy fields, and witnessing the life of the locals. On your houseboat, you can also stop by Alleppey Beach where the famous snake boat races are held.

Travelers should be cautious when renting a houseboat and make sure to do a lot of research on the company. Some houseboats are built with inferior wood and have poor electrical wiring and faulty electrical appliances on board. It is best to rent a houseboat from the companies that offer luxurious and safe experiences.

Perfect for: People looking for a peaceful vacation

Insider tip: Stay a few nights at a homestay or resort along the backwater canals to make the experience even more enjoyable.

4. Periyar National Park

Recommended visiting time: half-day

Kerala"s Periyar National Park is one of the most popular national parks in southern India. Unlike most other parks in the country, Periyar stays open during the monsoon season. This park is famous for its beauty, greenery, and wildlife.

Periyar is considered to be one of the best wildlife reserves for elephants and tigers. You can also find wild pigs, sambars, gaurs, mouse deer, barking deer, and Indian wild dogs here.

A safari with a park expert is a great way to see these animals. Safaris are ideal for individuals, small groups, and photographers. Travelers can choose between a day safari from 6 am to 3 pm and a night safari from 11 pm to 3 am.

Another great way to see wild animals is to take a two-hour boat ride on the Periyar Lake. Out on the lake, travelers will get the opportunity to see animals such as wild boars, elephants, and sambar deer along the banks. The first boat leaves at 7:30 am and the last leaves at 3:30 pm every day. Boat cruises are not available during the monsoon season.

Perfect for: Wildlife lovers

Insider tip: The best time to visit India’s national parks is during the hot season (March to May) because that is when the animals are the most active as they come out looking for water.

5. Wayanad

Recommended visiting time: 2 to 3 days

Wayanad is a rainforest region that stretches along the Western Ghat Mountains. It is full of coconut palms, thick forests, paddy fields, and lofty peaks and is famous for its spice plantations and wildlife.

Here, travelers can trek the tallest peak of the region, Chembra Peak, which stands at 2100 meters (6890 feet) tall or explore old Jain temples, climb the Edakkal Caves, and see wildlife at Muthanga and Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The most sought-after trek in Wayanad is the trek to Chembra Peak. On the way to the peak, visitors can stop by a natural heart-shaped lake called Hridhayathadakam. Another great trek in Wayanad is the trail to Neelimala which offers breathtaking views of the Meenmutty Falls the surrounding valleys.

The treks in Wayanad are relatively difficult journeys and are likely to test the physical fitness of most travelers . During a trek here you can expect a lot of walking and one trekking route can take around a full day to complete.

Perfect for: Nature and adventure lovers

Insider tip: Adventure enthusiasts should visit during the monsoon months of July and August to enjoy the best trekking.

6. Trivandrum

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Thiruvananthapuram, formerly known as Trivandrum, is the capital of the state of Kerala. Despite being the capital, the city has managed to keep itself far removed from the busy streets that are typical of an Indian capital city. Trivandrum is a posh metropolis with urban charm and plenty of scenic places to visit.

The main attraction of the city is the 16th-century Padmanabhaswamy Temple which is located in the city center. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and has a striking mix of Keralan and Dravidian architecture. Travelers can visit the temple to pay their respects and see the 18-foot tall statue of Lord Vishnu.

Perfect for: People who want to learn about culture and history

Insider tip: Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, but it is still beautiful to see from the outside.

7. Muzuris

Recommended visiting time: half-day

If you love history, a visit to Muzuris should be at the top of your list. Located about an hour north of Kochi, this multicultural district is an ancient seaport that was once the heart of the spice trade in the Indian Ocean.

Muzuris was developed by the Keralan government as a heritage project to showcase the historical and cultural significance of this legendary port city.

Some of the key sites you can visit here include Cheraman Juma Masjid, India"s first mosque, and Paravur Synagogue, one of the largest surviving synagogues in India.

Perfect for: History buffs

Insider tip: Cochin Magic offers a full-day private Muzuris Heritage Tour which covers some of the best sites to see in the city.

8. Vagamon

Recommended visiting time: 1 day

Vagamon is an enchanting hill station in Idukki that is still quite hidden from the public. Full of lush meadows, enchanting gardens, aromatic tea plantations, and misty valleys, Vagamon provides beauty and serenity for every visitor.

For nature-lovers, Vagamon Pine Forest is the place to go for long walks and views overlooking the entire Vagamon valley.

The Marmala Waterfall is another great attraction here. Located among lush greenery, this waterfall is a tucked-away oasis of serenity and tranquility.

Perfect for: Nature lovers

Insider tip: In Vagamon, travelers will only find simple restaurants that serve South Indian food and local dishes.

9. Varkala Beach

Recommended visiting time: half-day

Varkala Beach, also known as Papanasam Beach, is renowned for its quiet beauty and is the perfect peaceful alternative to the now commercialized Kovalam Beach.

The dazzling coastline of Varkala has cliffs on one side and lush greenery on the other. This beach attracts travelers and water-adventure enthusiasts who want a more off-the-beaten-track beach vacation.

Varkala is full of coconut palms, quaint shops, beach shacks, hotels, and guesthouses. Travelers can also participate in activities such as boating, surfing, parasailing, jet-skiing, and horseback riding here.

Perfect for: People looking for a peaceful beach vacation

Insider tip: This is also a great place to take yoga classes or get a traditional Ayurvedic massage.

10. Kovalam Beach

Recommended visiting time: half-day

Kovalam Beach is Kerala"s most famous beach town. Unlike the quieter Varkala, Kovalam is quite developed with plenty of resorts, restaurants, and nightlife options. Famous for its three crescent-shaped beaches, Kovalam is quite spread out and is dotted with many resorts and Ayurvedic massage centers.

Of Kovalam’s three main beaches, Lighthouse Beach is the largest. Other beaches include Hawa Beach and Samudra Beach which are located in the northern part of Kovalam. Water sports such as snorkeling, parasailing, and windsurfing are the most popular activities in Kovalam.

One of the best places to celebrate Onam is at the Thrikkakara Temple in Kochi. The highlight of the festivities is the grand procession during which the main deity, Vamana, is carried around the temple grounds on a decorated elephant.

Perfect for: Water sports enthusiasts

Insider tip: Hiking to the lighthouse at the southern end of the beach is a great way to get incredible sunset views.

11. Marari Beach

Recommended visiting time: half-day

The little-known Marari Beach is located in Alleppey and is a pleasant destination for a serene beach vacation. This beach is an undeveloped "hammock beach" that is perfect for lazing around and holidaying with family or friends.

Aside from lounging on the beach, travelers can also engage in some water sports activities such as swimming, fishing, parasailing, water-skiing, and surfing. You can also enjoy the fresh seafood that is caught every day by local fishermen and taste some of the traditional local dishes.

Perfect for: People looking for a relaxing and quiet beach vacation

Insider tip: Marari Beach is a popular place to visit in August when travelers can see the famous Alleppey snake boat races.

12. Kizhunna Beach

Recommended visiting time: half-day

Kizhunna Beach is located in the northern coastal town of Kannur and is one of the quietest and most-secluded beaches in the state. Kizhunna stretches for 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) and is bordered by cliffs and lush green palm plantations.

The main attraction of this beach is relaxation. This is the perfect place to unwind and listen to the rhythmic sound of the waves and spend your time sunbathing, swimming, walking, and relaxing.

Perfect for: People looking for a peaceful and quiet beach vacation

Insider tip: While this beach is rather secluded, it does get more crowded in the evenings and on weekends.

Best Time to Visit Kerala

Kerala experiences three seasons during the year. The cool season is from December to February, the hot season is from March to the end of May, and the monsoon season is from the end of May to the end of November.

Generally, the best time to visit Kerala is during the cool season from December to January. The weather at this time is comfortable and just right to visit the many attractions and beaches in the state. However, traveling to Kerala during the peak season means dealing with larger crowds and higher travel expenses.

The monsoon season is not a good time to visit Kerala for those who wish to spend time on the beach or hiking, but it is the best time to go for yoga retreats and Ayurvedic treatments. The cool, damp, and dust-free atmosphere helps the body"s pores to open up, making it more receptive to herbal oils and Ayurvedic therapy.

Travel Within Kerala

When traveling to Kerala, the best way to enter the state is to catch an international flight to Kochi. If you book your travel through Asia Highlights, upon your arrival at the Cochin International Airport you will be picked up by our representative and personally transferred to your hotel.

In Kochi, you will then get to explore the many attractions of the city such as the aromatic spice shops of Fort Kochi and the Mattancherry Palace.

While in Kerala, the best method of travel from city to city is by private chauffeured car. As Kerala is a hill covered state with dense forests, the train and bus systems often take a long time to transfer travelers to their destinations.

The travel time between most cities in Kerala is around 3 to 4 hours by private car.

Explore Kerala with Asia Highlights

One thing we know about ‘God’s Own Country’ is that it is a destination that has something for everyone whether it is the beach, forested mountains, adventure sports, rare wildlife, ancient heritage, or unique culture.

Plan your trip to Kerala with Asia Highlights and our experts can tailor-make your itinerary based on your preferences. Leave the stress and planning to us so that you can just sit back and enjoy your trip.