Kerala, God’s own country, is a favourite destination for people traveling to India in the south. With so many things that the state has to offer, no wonder it is on every traveler’s bucket list. Whether it is the backwaters or the beaches or Ayurveda, hop on with us now as take you through the places to visit in Kerala.
Places to visit in Kerala – A Travel Guide
1. Backwaters in Kerala
The picturesque backwaters are iconic and unique to Kerala, and the incredible shots of the backwaters bordered with tall palm trees in rows feel like too good to be true. But in this case, the backwaters are truly the beauty of Kerala!
The boathouses on the backwaters of Alleppey or Allephuza as called by the locals need no introduction. Boathouse tourism is one of the most sought-after tours in Kerala, especially among the couples. The boathouses come in all budgets, and you can choose how to have a holiday in the backwater. You could opt for staying in the boast amidst the waters, and you could take rides to the islands and nearby places. You could also book through any resort, which would offer you a night’s stay in the boathouse along with the stay in the resort itself. It may also include Yoga, Ayurveda and other amenities.
Due to its high popularity, the boathouses get sold out quickly during the holidays and long weekends. Hence it is better to book them in advance during the high season. Read below for some tips on the boathouse experience.
The national level boating event Nehru Trophy Boat Race is held in the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha, for which the town is also famous for. It happens during the month of August every year. Prepare because lots of people arrive at the town to witness the race.
This place comes in Kottayam region in Kerala, which is the heart of Kerala’s backwaters. It is home to Vembanad Lake, which is a beautiful sweet-water lake surrounded by homes, palm trees and farms. It is a beautiful place to spend an evening and a great destination for photographers.
The Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam is a trading point for the locals and an awesome place to explore for the travelers. Lying next to Alleppey, you can actually opt for the longest cruise that lasts for 8 hours to travel to Alleppey from Ashtamudi Lake! Isn’t it some adventure that you wouldn’t expect in a town as quaint as Kollam? Well, if this sounds too much, opt for the boathouses and soak in the beauty of the tranquil waters while savouring delicious Kerala food.
Kuttanad is surrounded by lakes, and the backwaters are a great place for spending a quiet time amidst nature. It is definitely not as expensive or crowded as Alleppey, which means that you could experience the backwaters better!
Kochi is known as the queen of the Arabian sea for its huge natural harbour and backwaters that are rugged, bustling with fishermen and the locals. This place has the most active areas of backwaters in Kerala. You can opt for a local tour that would take you through the life in the harbour, opt for boathouses or take day cruises – There is no dearth of options while in Kochi.
2. Rejuvenate with Ayurveda retreats in Kerala
Ayurveda is one of the main takeaways of Kerala, which has been an important part of Kerala’s culture and life. Over the years, Ayurveda retreat in Kerala has been attracting a lot of tourists, both local and international. From a few hours of therapy to specific, specialized Ayurvedic treatments that last for many days to workshops, there are many kinds of retreats spread across Kerala, giving you multiple options to choose the destination as well as the therapy.
There are many Ayurvedic retreats located in and around Kochi, Thrissur, Kovalam, Palakkad, Mararikulam, Trivandrum and Wayanad offering many Ayurvedic retreat packages. Some of the places for a good Ayurveda retreat are Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra in Kovalam, Carnoustie Ayurveda & Wellness Resort & Abad Turtle Beach Resort in Mararikulam, Poovar Island Resort & Nikki’s Nest in Trivandrum and The Nattika Beach Ayurveda Retreat in Thrissur.
3. Beaches in Kerala
Kerala may not be the ultimate beach destination in India, but thanks to a good stretch of a coastal line, the state is home to many luxurious resorts and quiet getaways. Here are a few of them.
Just about 20 km away from the capital Trivandrum, Kovalam is the most popular beach in Kerala. This small stretch of the beach is a hit among the foreign travelers, young locals and the backpackers for its lively vibes. The shore is lined with many fancy cafes, shops and restaurants making it a good place to hang out. The waves aren’t too rough, and hence is a perfect one for families with kids to enjoy some water activities. You can hike up to the lighthouse to get a view of the Arabian sea and the coastline.
A little away from Kovalam and about 50 km from Trivandrum is Varkala beach of Kerala popular among the tourists. You can climb up the cliff where most of the hotels, restaurants and cafes are located to get an awesome bird view of the seashore. Unlike Kovalam, this is less crowded and mostly visited by locals although it is fast catching up among the travelers in the recent days.
Known for its lavish resort retreats, Kannur is more of an elite beach in Kerala. Surrounded by many glamorous resorts, it is the beach to go if a private beach holiday is what you are thinking of. Combine this with Yoga, Ayurveda or a simple massage and you are sure to have a memorable vacation!
4. Check out the hill stations in Kerala
Kerala is home to some of the best hill stations in India, which comprise the tea plantations and the coffee estates that are spread across the towns. They are not just the places from where Kerala grows its spices, tea and coffee, but the sheer beauty of these destinations also attracts many travelers and mountain lovers.
Munnar is of the most famous hill stations in south India, known for its gorgeous landscape and valleys dotted with tea plantations that run for miles. Add to that the misty clouds that hover over the lush hills, the views cannot get more dramatic! A favourite among the honeymoon couples, Munnar has some attractions that can be visited including the reserve forest, Metupatti lake and dam, Kannan Devan tea plantation and factory. You can opt from the many budgets and luxurious resorts that combine Yoga, Ayurveda, tea plantation walks and more.
Wayanad is more popular among the families and the honeymoon couples for the many attractions the region offers. It is home to some of the best resorts in Kerala, which come in all budget options. There are a few waterfalls, cave, parks and reserve forest area to hike and explore in Wayanad region
Vagamon is located close to Munnar and is known for its lake, the pine trees valley and the tea plantations. It is not as famous or as big as Munnar or Wayanad, but Vagamon is one of the off-the-beat hill stations for people looking to go to hills without tourists or crowds.
Located in Kannur district, Paithalmala is a favorite hill station among the trekkers and photographers looking to capture splendid views of the hilly side of Kerala. It is a popular getaway from Kannur, which also has a beach too. So you can plan a hike as well as a beach holiday in this region.
5. Heritage/Historical attractions
Kerala is home to some historical attractions worth visiting although it might not be as popular as the backwaters or the Ayurvedic experiences in Kerala.
This was an important port during the time of colonization and being a natural harbour. The town was home to the Portuguese, the Dutch and the French, whose influences can be seen in the old town in Fort Kochi. The Fort has a rich story of being an important part of Indian history. There is also the Navy Museum that walks you through the achievements and the journey of Indian Navy, which is worth checking out.
Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala was the ancient capital for many kings who ruled the state for centuries, leaving interesting stories of the past in the city. There are two palaces made of wood, which are intricately designed and beautifully constructed, consisting of many rooms, gardens and the antique items of the royal dynasty, which are worth checking out. The city also has a zoo, which consists of the National Museum. The Museum has a fantastic collection of artefacts from India and overseas, some of them as old as 3000 BC.
Thekkady is home to the Periyar river national park and boasts of a rich flora and fauna. Periyar itself is the longest river of Kerala, and as such there are many lakes and resulting backwaters, making it an awesome place to explore!
6. Yoga in Kerala
Yoga retreats in Kerala are probably the most luxurious ones that you’ll find in India. If spending days in opulent resorts surrounded by the swaying palm trees by the backwaters, enjoying quiet Yoga sessions, sunsets and cocktails are your ideas of having a holiday, Kerala is the place to go.
Apart from many schools teaching classic Yoga, Kerala is known for its Ayurvedic massages and traditional spa therapies that have wonderful benefits. Combining this with Yoga sessions in the quaint towns of Kerala can’t be anything but a fantastic holiday experience!
If you want this kind of a holiday, some of the places to retreat would be Ayurveda Yoga Villa, Ayushkamy, Sivananda, Ahimsa Retreats, Hinterland Village Resort, Somatheeram, Reminiscence Ayurveda Yoga Retreat and Kairali Yoga.
Recommended read: The Best Yoga Retreats in India
7. Festivals in Kerala
Onam or the traditional new year is the most celebrated festival in Kerala. The locals wear traditional attire, perform rituals, cook special delicacies and spend time together on this day. Some other festivals unique to Kerala include the temple festival at Thrissur, the annual Snake Boat Race at Alleppey and Theyyam Festival, which is also called the dance of Gods as the rituals involve artists decorated like Gods who dance to traditional music as the worship goes on.
If you are interested in ancient temples, don’t miss visiting the Ananthapadmanabha temple in Trivandrum and Krishna temple in Guruvayur.
Weather in Kerala
Kerala is suitable for traveling throughout the year, with not many extremities in the weather. But winter is the best time to visit Kerala, and hence this is the high season where Kerala sees a lot of tourists with the prices getting expensive. The peak season lasts from the end of September to February, just before the summer begins. Monsoon makes the state beautiful, with lush greenery everywhere, but heavy downpours in some places wouldn’t let you explore any attractions.
Kerala Travel Tips & Costs
These are the costs that you could expect while traveling in Kerala.
Kerala has good options for accommodation in all budget ranges. Some smaller towns may lack backpacking hostels, but homestays and guest houses compensate for them. You would be spoilt for choice if you are a luxury traveler though, as Kerala caters exceptionally well to the luxury segment. The average price for one person assuming a single bed/dorm would cost 10 to 12 USD whereas you could get a double room from 15 USD for two people (budget rooms).
Kerala has its unique delicacies to offer for the foodies. The seafood takes a priority over regular meat in the coastal towns, with fish cuisines being the most popular ones. Some of the special delicacies that should try while in Kerala are Parathas, Appam, Idiyappam, Kerala style cooked Chicken Fry, Prawn curry, Fish Molee and Beef curry.
Cabs are a popular mode of transport in Kerala. Local buses are good to travel as well, but as the names aren’t in English it would be a task to understand the routes to use public buses. Trains connect cities and towns well in Kerala. Tuk tuk isn’t much in number in every city and shared cabs are available at some places. Overall, it shouldn’t be a problem traveling to and from Kerala or getting around in the state.
Kerala Travel Tips
Things to know before you travel to Kerala
The people of Kerala are welcoming to the tourists and are warm and kind in general. Since tourism is one of the main elements of the state, people are helpful and don’t hesitate to provide the help they can. All you have to do is ask! Of course, make sure that you take the basic precautions and exercise your common sense to assess the situations.
The public facilities in the big cities and towns are good in Kerala, with reliable bus and great train services. The medical care is good. Some of the tourist attractions have facilities for specially abled and senior citizens. The overall condition of the public facilities is still an average.
Avoid drinking water directly from the taps although you might be tempted looking at the Ganges, which is the heart of the town. Bottled water is cheap, easily available and the safest.
Here are some of the scams that are generic to India, and hence applicable to Kerala as well.
Commissions & drivers
This is one of the oldest tricks but still exists in many parts. It is always best not to ask the driver of your tuk-tuk or taxis for suggestions on hotels, places to eat, etc. Most of the time they take you to places where they get some commission from the hotels for bringing you as the customer. The best way is to book your accommodation online.
Similarly, sometimes drivers might say that a particular place that you mentioned to be closed, so as to do the same thing above. A way to deal with this is to have your Google Map handy. You can also turn on the GPS to watch where you are navigating.
Tours & Activities
Avoid buying tours and activities from strangers or people who call themselves travel agents. Most of the hotels and hostels are better connected and organize tours if you want to take any. Also, before opting for any tour, do a quick research for some reviews and mentions online. Some tours for rafting, hiking and camping can all be booked online. So just do a research on the internet, read the reviews and go for them.
Learn the art of Bargain
While most countries find this surprising, bargaining in India is a part of its culture. And it is expected that you always do a bit of haggling to bring down the quotes to its nearly actual cost.
Also, if you are a foreigner, the prices of the goods, especially things where you shop, like souvenirs and stuff would be priced at least 10 times the actual price. Again, not all shops do that and bargaining isn’t an option in big showrooms. The general thing to keep in mind is to never settle for the price that the shopkeepers first quote to you. You should discuss and bargain to get lower prices than the quote.
Strangers offering help
This one may not be a scam always and is common in many countries. But avoid people appearing out of nowhere and that who seem overly eager to be of your assistance.
Always look for an authentic exchange shop to exchange foreign currencies. There are many shops that exchange fake Indian currencies, so ensure to review, cross-check before you choose a currency exchange. It’s better to withdraw cash directly from ATM’s or get it exchanged at designated shops (avoid airports since the exchange rates might not be very good).
Solo travel in Kerala
Things to take care if you are a female solo traveler:
If you come from a place where you are not used to seeing crowds, you might feel unsafe or chaotic. This generally applies to the whole of India. You will get accustomed to it and this shouldn’t be a reason to worry.
Although the chances of theft in Kerala is unlikely, it is always better to keep a guard on your belongings. It is better not to carry any expensive stuff so that you don’t attract unwanted attention.
Kerala is neither very liberal nor too conservative when it comes to dressing, especially for women. But to be on the better side, dress modestly, covering your legs and shoulder. The beaches are an exception of course, but otherwise, go for Indian attire or the regular jeans/shirt combination.
Hitchhiking & Cabs
Hitchhiking is not that popular in India for solo woman travelers, and Kerala is no different. It is better to avoid hitchhiking if you are a solo female traveler and new to the country. A better alternative to this would be to take shared cabs or tuk-tuks. It is worth trying if you have befriended somebody or found a group. It is worth trying if you have befriended somebody or found a group though.
Recommended read: 16 Travel Tips for solo female travel in India
If you feel unsafe or find anything suspicious or think that you are in danger, don’t hesitate to seek the help of Women & Children help centre, which is operational 24/7. The number that you need to dial is 1091.
Hope you enjoyed reading this and now you know about all the places to visit in Kerala! Let us know if you have any queries and we’ll try to answer our best.
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