God's own country, Kerala, is a popular tourist destination in India. Known for its verdant landscapes, roaring waterfalls and calm backwaters, Kerala is one of the best places to visit in India if you are looking for a quiet yet exciting holiday.

Kerala is well known for a variety of spices available here. In fact, Vasco da Gama first came to Kerala to trade in spices. Rich in culture, Kerala is home to the kathakali dance form which is a unique blend of dance, drama and music. Kerala boasts of a 99% literacy rate and a high female to male sex ratio, making it one of the most progressive states in the country. The things to do in the tourist places in Kerala are guaranteed to be some of the best experiences of your life. Lined with perennial stretches of coconut trees, the word Kerala translates to ‘land of coconuts’ in Malayalam, where Kera means ‘coconut’ and Ala is a shortened version of the word Alam, meaning ‘land’. Kerala is a magnificent state replete with beauty and grandeur, and has rightfully been identified as one of the ten paradises in the world by National Geographic.

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Places to visit in Kerala: Beaches

Kovalam Beach

A beach lover’s paradise, Kovalam Beach is one of the most famous tourist places in Kerala, and sees thousands of visitors every year. Popular for its pristine and shallow water, Kovalam Beach is the ideal location if you wish to admire a mesmerising view of the setting sun. This beach is undoubtedly one of the most relaxing places to visit in Kerala.

 

There are a number of restaurants and small shops behind Kovalam Beach that provide some of the most mouthwatering seafood dishes in Kerala, and should definitely be on your itinerary when you are there. A walk along Kovalam Beach, whilst enjoying a sublime view of the waves crashing against the shore, is bound to recharge your batteries  and calm your mind. If that is not enough, you can always get an Ayurvedic massage at one of the hotels near the beach known for their spa treatments.

 

Varkala Beach 

Varkala Beach lies about two kilometers away from the tiny hamlet of Varkala, and is one of the most favoured tourist places in Kerala. This beach is also known as the as Papanasham means destruction of sins in the vernacular, owing to the legend that says anyone can wash away their sins by taking a dip in the sea here. There are a few mineral springs further along the northern side of the beach that are known to possess medicinal qualities, further making Varkala Beach one of the most interesting tourist places in Kerala. 

 

With a crystal blue sea on one side and sprawling green cliffs on the other, Varkala Beach is a treat to the eyes. Varkala Beach is one of the best places to visit in Kerala to unwind and enjoy the beauty of the state, and receives thousands of tourists all year round. The beach’s calm and blue waters make it a great place to go swimming or for trying out adventure water sports such as parasailing and snorkelling. However, it is important to be safe while on sea because of strong currents in the region. If adventure sports is not your thing, then go sunbathing, visit an Ayurvedic centre, or grab some seafood delicacies from the eateries on the cliff that backs the beach.

 

Alappuzha Beach

Alappuzha Beach, also known as Alleppey Beach, is one of the most renowned tourist places in Kerala. A vacation to Kerala would be incomplete without a visit to this beach. With a wide variety of activities to participate in, we recommend adding Alappuzha Beach to the list of places to visit in Kerala.

 

A famous structure on the beach is the lighthouse, which has stood in its place for almost 160 years, and serves as one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in Kerala. This place’s charm is accentuated by a 150-year-old pier stretched out to sea, and has been captured beautifully in numerous pictures of the beach. While Alappuzha Beach is a splendid spot for relaxing, it is also an adventure sports lover’s paradise. There are ample opportunities to parasail, surf, or go for motorboat rides and boat races here. Alappuzha Beach is not only famous for its beauty, but is also well known for the events that are hosted here, making it one of the most amusing tourist places in Kerala. The Vallam Kali, or the snake boat races, is a renowned event that takes place here during the harvest festival of Onam. Laden with natural beauty, Alappuzha is a picturesque location with backwaters, canals, lagoons and beaches. With a stunning view of the rising and setting sun, Alappuzha is fittingly called the Venice of the East.

Places to visit in Kerala: Hill Stations

Munnar

It is widely believed that North India is the ideal place to witness the glory of India’s alpine landscape. However, the southern states of India are home to some of the best hill stations of the country. Munnar is one of the finest places to visit in Kerala if you want to experience the serene and quieter side of this gorgeous state. Enveloped by thick fog, the undulating green hills and valleys of Munnar make it one of the most interesting tourist places in Kerala. Munnar is located at the banks of three rivers: Nallathanni, Periavaru and Mattupetti.

 

This lovely place boasts some of the world’s largest tea estates and is the largest tea-producing region in South India. Situated at a height of 5,200 feet above sea level, Munnar is a breathtaking place nestled in the Western Ghats. With winding roads, pretty cottages and sprawling tea plantations, Munnar is one of the many tourist places in Kerala that is sure to charm you with its scenic beauty. Munnar is home to a wide variety of exotic flora and fauna, including the Neelakurinji, which is a shrub that flowers once every 12 years.

 

Wayanad 

Known as the spice garden of India, Wayanad is set on the lush hilly terrain of the Western Ghats. Wayanad enjoys pleasant weather throughout the year, ideal for visitors to relax and explore this lovely tourist attraction in Kerala. Wayanad is not only famous for its natural beauty, but is also renowned for its cultural and historical offerings. With the delightful aroma of spices and coffee, a jaw-dropping view of the majestic hills, and a cool breeze, Wayanad is one of the few tourist places in Kerala that cater to and rejuvenate all your senses.

 

The green forests of Wayanad serve as wildlife reserves and are home to elephants, leopards and bears among many others. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most renowned places to visit in Kerala owing to the diversity of animals found here. The country’s largest earth dam, Banasura Sagar Dam, is situated in Wayanad, and attracts tourists from all across the country. When you are here, do not forget to go on a trek to Chembra Peak, the highest peak in Wayanad, and go see the heart-shaped lake there. One of the most intriguing historical tourist places in Kerala is undoubtedly the Edakkal Caves, where the walls are adorned with prehistoric engravings. A trip to Wayanad is bound to remain with you for years to come.

 

Idukki

Idukki is a quaint district that mesmerises tourists with its spectacular natural beauty highlighted by rugged hills, flowing rivers, serene lagoons and gushing waterfalls. Arguably one of the most stunning tourist places in Kerala, Idukki flaunts emerald hills and valleys that go on as far as the eyes go. Idukki is the second largest district of Kerala, a majority of which is occupied by a thick forest cover. Anamudi, the highest peak in South India, is situated in Idukki. The rural and forested areas of this district are characteristic of true natural beauty of the place, and you would definitely remember your days here.

 

Idukki is surrounded by the rivers Thodupuzhayar, Thalaya and Periyar, which keep this district green and lively. The dense forests of Idukki are home to a diverse pick of wild animals such as the bison, wild elephant, deer and tiger. There is a wide array of flora here such as the aforementioned Neelakurinji shrub. The presence of these animals and the wildlife sanctuaries together make Idukki one of the most exciting tourist places in Kerala. The Idukki Dam across the Periyar River is one of the highest arch dams in Asia, and is visited by tourists from all across the country. Visitors can opt for boat rides here, a facility which makes the Idukki Dam a famous tourist place in Kerala.

Places to visit in Kerala: National Parks

Silent Valley National Park

The tourist places of Kerala are all laden with natural beauty, yet  Silent Valley National Park offers a unique experience. It is truly a nature lover’s paradise. Situated in Palakkad district, Silent Valley National Park is a distinct world altogether. Unexplored and pristine, this national park is one of those tourist places in Kerala which connect you to nature. The silence of the park, occasionally disrupted by the calls of an animal, has an otherworldly effect on visitors that they cherish for a lifetime. Established as a national park in the year 1984, Silent Valley covers an area of almost 90 square kilometers. Out of all the places to visit in Kerala, Silent Valley National Park is renowned for being the home to one of the largest rainforests in Kerala. 

 

Perennially fed by the River Kuntippuzha, Silent Valley is thought to be the place where the Pandavas and Draupadi sought refuge from their wicked cousins. Silent Valley National Park is one of the greatest tourist places in Kerala due to the plethora of amazing flora and fauna found here. The forest shelters about 40 species of mammals, 50 species of reptiles, 400 species of moths, 210 species of birds, 200 species of butterflies and 128 species of beetles, of which 10 were previously unknown to the world. Animals such as tigers, elephants, leopards, deer and roam free without a care in the world. Silent Valley is especially famous for the lion-tailed macaques, which are endemic to this region. Various indigenous tribal groups live in Silent Valley, and all of them practise shifting agriculture to retain the soil quality of their home. One of the most riveting tourist places in Kerala, Silent Valley National Park is definitely worth a visit.

 

Periyar National Park

Periyar National Park is a wildlife sanctuary located in the Thekkady district of Kerala. Covering an area of 357 square miles, this park is one of the most prominent tourist places in Kerala to witness the wide array of flora and fauna of this southern state. Periyar National Park is best known as an elephant and tiger reserve, however, there are many other animals here such as sambars, gaurs, sloths, flying squirrels, and Nilgiri langurs. This national park must be in your list of must-visit tourist places in Kerala.

 

There are a number of activities held in Periyar National Park aimed at the promotion of nature conservation. These activities are not only informative, but are also thrilling. Periyar also provides a wide variety of adventure activities to its visitors. Trekking and bird watching are ideal for wildlife sightings. There are opportunities for guided treks that take you close to the forest to help you learn more about the life thriving in it. There is a two-hour boat safari which attracts numerous tourists every year. You may catch a glimpse of the elephants or the reptiles in their element on your boat ride. 

 

You can opt for bamboo rafting, a three-to-four-hour long ride where you can admire a view of magnificent hills and the wild animals strolling leisurely. Bamboo rafting is an authentic experience, making Periyar one of the most sought-after tourist places in Kerala. Another such activity is spending a night in the jungle lodging, where tourists can stay in tents or tree houses made out of bamboo and grass. Seated atop an elephant, you can also go for a safari to the spice plantations of Kumily. You can learn more about the lives of elephants from the mahouts (elephant caretakers) here.

 

There is a walking and camping programme for adventure seekers who wish to encounter tigers. Conducted by pardoned poachers-turned-protectors, this thrilling project is a unique idea and should be experienced when in Periyar. 

 

Eravikulam National Park

Eravikulam National Park is located in Munnar, Kerala's first national park. The main focus of this park is to provide shelter to and protect the Nilgiri tahr, a mountainous goat endemic to the Nilgiri hills. This is one of the major tourist places in Kerala to catch a glimpse of this rare animal. This 97-square-kilometer park is home to more than 750 tahr and many endangered species of butterflies. 

 

Apart from the tahr, there are about 26 other species of mammals in Eravikulam National Park, including leopards, tigers, jungle cats and sambar. This park offers a stunning view of the rolling hills and tea plantations in the region. If you visit in season, you can witness the blooming of the neelakurinji flowers that carpet the slopes of the park. An exceptional tourist place in Kerala, Eravikulam National Park is the origin point of the Lakkam Waterfall that then flows into the Pamba River. Anamudi, the highest peak in South India, is situated in this park and trekking to its base is a highly enjoyable activity.

Places to visit in Kerala: Historical Places

Mattancherry Palace

Mattancherry Palace is located in Kochi, and is also called the Dutch Palace. Presented as a gift to King Veera Kerala Verma of the Kochi dynasty, the Portugese built the Mattancherry Palace around 1545 AD. One of the top places to visit in Kerala, this palace now serves as a museum where valued artefacts that belonged to the kings are stored. Swords, daggers and axes used by the erstwhile kings are on display here, making it one of the most historically informative tourist places in Kerala.

 

Mattancherry Palace is two-storied, and is built in the Nalukettu, a style of architecture special to Kerala. The paintings on the walls of the palace depict Sanskrit poet Kalidasa’s works, excerpts from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, and images of Lord Krishna. There are three temples in the courtyard of the palace dedicated to Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva, and Pazhayannur Bhagavati, the royal deity. Historical tourist places in Kerala, such as the Mattancherry Palace, are indicative of the vibrant past and deep-rooted culture of the South. 

 

Bekal Fort

Established in Bekal village in Kasaragod district, the Bekal Fort is one of the most intriguing tourist places in Kerala. This fort was built around 1605 AD by Shivappa Nayakka, and is famed as the largest fort in Kerala. There are no palaces within the fort grounds since it was used solely for defence purposes.  Covering an area of 40 acres, the Bekal Fort is the best-preserved fort in this state and is a prominent site for history enthusiasts. 

 

With numerous tunnels and magazines for storing ammunitions, the Bekal Fort is a true example of the extreme intelligence of the fort’s planners and builders. There are several holes in the outer walls meant for aiming at enemies standing at a distance; the holes in the middle were used to target closer enemies, and the holes at the bottom of the walls were used to aim at enemies that were closest to the fort. Bekal Fort is not only interesting for its battle preparation designs, but is also one of the most scenic tourist places in Kerala. The high observatory towers of the fort, where cannons were once placed, provide a breathtaking view of the Arabian Sea and the neighbouring towns. 

 

Palakkad Fort

The Palakkad Fort served as a military base during Tipu Sultan’s reign. Reconstructed by Hyder Ali in the 18th century, this fort is also known as Tipu’s Fort. Another important historic tourist places in Kerala, the Palakkad Fort is maintained and protected by the Archeological Survey of India.

 

The Palakkad Fort covers an area of almost 61 square meters. The thick walls of this square-shaped fort are impenetrable, and are indicative of true French craftsmanship. Located in the foothills of the grand Western Ghats, the Palakkad Fort is an ideal tourist place in Kerala for you to delve deep into the history of this state. The enormous fort grounds that served as the resting place of elephants and horses during Tipu Sultan’s times host numerous important public meetings and cricket matches today.

Places to visit in Kerala: Temples

Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple

When in Kerala, you cannot miss this renowned temple. Located in Thiruvananthapuram, Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the most attractive tourist places in Kerala. It is one of the oldest temples in the country and is visited by thousands in hopes of absolving their sins. The gold-plated upper portion of the temple is a fascinating sight exuding grandeur. Lord Vishnu is worshipped here in the form of Lord Padmanabha, whose idol is almost 18 feet long. Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the 108 Divya Desam (holy abodes) of Lord Vishnu. Please note that this temple grants entrance only to Hindus. 

 

Home to plenty of myths and legends, Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is easily one of the most mysterious tourist places in Kerala. With no exact age, it is believed that this temple was built on the first day of Kali Yuga, about 5,000 years ago. Some say this temple was built in the 6th century and was later renovated by the rulers of the land. There are references of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the puranas. You will find beautiful wall paintings inside the temple all of which depict various aspects of Hinduism. Recently, six vaults have been discovered under the temple, five of which were opened in 2011 to find heaps of gold coins, diamond necklaces and rare gemstones. All attempts at opening the sixth vault has failed leading to speculations that this particular door was sealed shut by an ancient sage with strong spells, and opening it would only invite misfortune. This discovery has made Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple one of the most intriguing tourist places in Kerala.  

 

Vadakkunnathan Temple

Situated in Thrissur, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Vadakkunnathan Temple is easy to find since it is located in the heart of the city on a small hill. Not only that, the brilliant architecture of the temple makes it hard to miss. The Vadakkunnathan Temple is one of the many must-visit tourist places in Kerala owing to the beauty and spiritual aura that it emanates. Men are required to wear a dhoti and go shirtless inside, while women are expected to wear a saree and cover themselves well. There is a museum within the nine-acre temple grounds that displays ancient paintings.

 

It is believed that a shiva linga was seen under a bamboo tree which was then carried to the location of the temple. Lord Parashurama is said to have built the Vadakkunnathan Temple, which is revered as the first Shiva temple constructed by him. This gorgeous temple has been recognised as a heritage site by UNESCO, due to which the Vadakkunnathan Temple has become one of the most popular tourist places in Kerala for Indian and foreign visitors alike. An interesting phenomenon revolves around the ghee that is offered to the shiva linga here. It has been observed that this holy ghee does not melt even during the hottest of summers. The decorations during Shivratri are bound to mesmerise you—one lakh burning lamps adorn the temple, making it even more attractive. The festival of feeding elephants known as Aanayoottu, is observed in the Vadakkunnathan Temple. This tourist place in Kerala should definitely be on your list if you wish to experience the cultural heritage of the state.

Written by Baishali Dutta. She finds solace in words and her ukulele, and would rather be living in the hills.



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