Top 10 Places to Visit in Kerala, India

Kerala is a region in India that is rich with attractions and beautiful scenery. There is no shortage of incredible places to visit. Here are the Kerala India Travel recommendations for the top 10 places to visit in Kerala.

1) The Backwaters – Wherever and however you choose to explore the backwaters, this emerald watery paradise is a definite highlight of Kerala. Find out more with our introduction to the backwaters and best ways to experience the backwaters guides.

2) Fort Cochin –
The oldest part of this seaside city is more laid-back than other Indian cities and features Portuguese and Dutch colonial architecture, art galleries, churches, spice markets and the famous Chinese Fishing Nets.

3) Munnar – A beautiful, tranquil hill station with a cool climate, plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities and visits to tea plantations. Read our Guide to Munnar, Kerala and Quiet Alternatives to Munnar, Kerala.

4) Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary –
A fantastic place to take boat, jeep or hiking trips to spot elephants, monkeys and even the elusive tiger. Read our Guide To Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and some Quiet Alternatives to Periyar.

5) Kollam – This small market town isn’t an obvious attraction, but it’s the southern gateway to the backwaters, and a quieter alternative to Alleppey for organising houseboat and canoe trips. We also enjoyed the untouristy and authentically Indian feel of the town.

6) Varkala – A gorgeous beach below rocky cliffs lined with chilled out cafes- the perfect place to watch the spectacular sunsets. Read more about beaches in South Kerala.

7) Kumarakom –
At this bird sanctauary near Kottayam you can walk or take a boat ride to spot comorants, herons, egrets and storks.

8) Thrissur – A religious and cultural centre featuring one of the largest temples in Kerala.

9) Kozhikode –
This historic town is the gateway to the quieter beaches and backwaters of Northern Kerala, with temples and museums to visit too.

10) Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary – A quieter alternative to Periyar as a great place to spot elephants in the wild. We also featured it as a Quiet Alternative to Munnar, Kerala as a more peaceful hill station retreat.

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Kerala, India – Travel the Backwaters by Canoe

<em>A canoe in the Kerala backwaters</em>

A canoe in the Kerala backwaters

Travelling the Keralan backwaters by canoe is a fantastic way to explore. It’s cheap, easy to arrange, and you can see the village life and wildlife of the backwaters up close. We featured a canoe trip as one of our favourite ways to experience the backwaters in the last Kerala India Travel blog post. Here’s some more information on our backwaters canoe adventure.

We arranged our first canoe trip from Kollam (Quilon), a typical small market town in southern Kerala. We were here to arrange our houseboat trip to Alleppey, but while we were waiting we decided to visit Munroe Island by canoe. The trip was easily arranged at the DTPC tourist information centre by the jetty and bus station next to Ashtamudi Lake. The half day tour costs 300 rupees per person (US$6), and is well worth it. Children under 12 even ride for free.

The day began with an hour’s rickshaw journey by road (included in the price) through the rural landscapes on the outskirts of Kollam, to a backwaters village where we met our boat. The traditional wooden canoe could seat up to 20 people but luckily we had it to ourselves, along with a boatman and our guide Suji. We began meandering slowly through the network of tiny canals and rivers, our canoe gently propelled by punting with a long bamboo pole. It was very peaceful and relaxing, amongst the green coconut palms, blue kingfishers and still waters.

One of the most interesting parts of the canoe trip is getting to see village life up close and learn more about life here. We saw how people make a living by numerous means: collecting sand by hand from the river bottom to be used for making cement; fishing from canoes; prawn farming; and keeping cows and goats. We got so close that a goat even jumped into our boat at one point!

It was fascinating to see aspects of village life that have remained unchanged for centuries. Boats (including the canoe we travelled in) are made using sustainable and local materials –  wood from a jack fruit tree, woven together with coir (a coarse fibre found on the outside of a coconut shell) and sealed with fish oil. The boats last for up to 65 years, with a yearly application of fish oil.

We took a break from the canoe at one point, to explore the village on foot. Here we saw (and tasted) the locally grown spices – vanilla, tumeric, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper, grown in gardens alongside pineapples, bananas and more. It was a fascinating experience, and far less commercial than a visit to a spice farm.

A canoe trip through the backwaters is definitely recommended as an affordable and fascinating way to explore this wonderful part of Kerala. In later Kerala India Travel blog posts we’ll be telling you all about our houseboat trip, and another magical canoe trip at our backwaters homestay. Sign up to our RSS Feed so that you don’t miss out.

Kerala India Travel Guide – The Best Ways to Experience the Backwaters

In the last Kerala India Travel blog post we gave an introduction to the beautiful Kerala backwaters. Now that you’ve decided to visit, here are our recommended ways to experience the Kerala Backwaters. We’ll be giving you the complete lowdown on our favourite backwater adventures (Canoe trip, Houseboat and Homestay) in later blog posts.

Canoe Trip

There are plenty of locals willing to take you out in a traditional dugout canoe propelled by a bamboo pole, and this is a great way to explore the smaller waterways. Many trips give you the opportunity to visit villages along the way and learn more about traditional life here. You can even hire a canoe from many guesthouses and resorts to explore on your own. Recommended for everyone – a range of trips are available to suit all budgets and timescales.

Kerala Houseboats

One of the most popular ways of exploring the backwaters is in a houseboat designed like a kettuvallam (rice barge), typically on an overnight trip from Alleppey. All worries disappear as you watch the world go by from the luxurious comfort of your own private floating home. Recommended for honeymooners, travellers with limited time, and those wanting to experience the backwaters in comfort.

Homestay

There are plenty of opportunities to stay with Keralan families and really experience backwater life and culture. Nothing beats some of the finest home-cooked food in India and the chance to meet the locals. We’ll be revealing our best-loved homestays (and our favourite place in the world!) in later posts. Recommended for sociable travellers with more time who want the full backwaters experience. Budget and more comfortable options are available.

Lake Resort

There are many luxurious backwater resorts offering comfortable, private accommodation in tranquil locations. They offer a wide range of facilities and activities including air conditioning, swimming pools, boat trips, Ayurvedic treatments and yoga classes. Recommended for honeymooners, and those wanting to experience the backwaters in comfort.

Local Ferry

Travelling through the backwaters by local public ferry is a cheap and untouristy way to explore. You’ll witness many of the same sights as on a houseboat and have the opportunity to meet the locals. Some boats can be noisy, crowded and uncomfortable, but they are fine for shorter journeys. We travelled by local ferry to our backwater homestay. Recommended for adventurous travellers and those on a budget.

Tourist Day Cruise

The most popular backwater cruise is the eight hour trip from Kollam to Allappuzha or reverse. These are set up specifically for tourists and include stops for lunch, chai, a temple visit and a kathakali demonstration. Visitors can also be dropped off at the Matha Amrithanandamayi Mission to visit one of India’s only female gurus, known as Hugging Mother. You can stay at the ashram and pick up an onward or return cruise a day or two later. Recommended for travellers on a budget, and those who want to travel between Kollam and Allappuzha.

At Kerala India Travel we recommend combining as many of these as possible, to get a fuller experience of the backwaters. In particular, a homestay, houseboat and canoe trip should not be missed (you can read more about these in later posts). We really recommend that you allow plenty of time for the backwaters. Do this place justice by taking the time to soak up the luxuriously slow pace of life, and really get to know the people and culture. If you are anything like us, you’ll never want to leave.

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Have you travelled in the Kerala backwaters? Leave a comment and let us know what your favourite way to explore is.

Have you travelled in the Kerala backwaters? Leave a comment and let us know what your favourite way to explore is.

Kerala India Travel‘s Introduction to the Kerala Backwaters

In our first two posts here at Kerala India Travel we gave our Top 10 Reasons why we think Kerala in India is a fantastic, unique place to visit. One of these reasons was the Backwaters – a highlight for most visitors to the state.

The Keralan Backwaters are a vast interconnecting system of rivers, canals, lagoons and lakes, lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast, and forming more than 900km of navigable waterways. They connect tiny villages and farms on islands with the mainland, and are used by the locals as aquatic highways.

They are a wonderful way for visitors to travel too – it’s an incredibly relaxing experience to float along the rivers lined with swaying palm and coconut trees, watching village life go by. This lush green world is instantly enchanting, and a great respite from the dust and hassle of other parts of India- we didn’t want to leave.

The Kerala backwaters have a unique ecosystem, as freshwater from the rivers meets seawater from the Arabian Sea, and there is a vast array of aquatic and birdlife. On our houseboat trip we were amazed at the number of eagles and kingfishers we spotted along the way – they were commonplace. On canoe trips we even witnessed water snakes gliding by, and got to see the beautiful water lillies and lotuses up close.

One of the best aspects of travel through the backwaters is being able to witness Keralan village life without feeling intrusive. Whether you take a local ferry, hire a canoe or rent a houseboat, you’ll discover a colourful lifestyle hidden from the roads. Life is focused around the rivers and you’ll see women in bright saris washing clothes; grinning children waving hello; fishermen in lunghis raising Chinese fishing nets; canoes overflowing with freshly picked coconuts; and toddy-tappers implausibly high in the coconut palms collecting sap for the local brew.

Another highlight of the backwaters (and a reason to visit India during the monsoon) is Alleppey’s Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race which takes place each year on the second Saturday in August. Thousands of locals and tourists line the river banks to see the huge chundan vallams or snake boats race through the waters powered by up to 100 oarsmen, shaded by colourful silk umbrellas.

The backwaters are commonly reached from the towns of Alappuzha (also known as Alleppey), Kollam (Quilon), or Kottayam. Much less explored are the backwaters reached from Kozhikode (Calicut) in Northern Kerala – we’ll be talking more about discovering this little-visited part of Kerala in a later blog post.

So, you’re convinced – the Kerala backwaters sound amazing, but how do you go about exploring them? In the next Kerala India Travel blog post we reveal our recommended ways to experience the backwaters. Don’t miss out on future posts by signing up to the Kerala India Travel RSS Feed to receive new articles direct to your reader.

Kerala India Travel – Top 10 Reasons to Visit Kerala (Part 2)

A village in the Kerala Backwaters, India

A village in the Kerala Backwaters, India

At Kerala India Travel we previously started our Top 10 Reasons to Visit Kerala, which included: Diversity of Attractions, The Backwaters, Fantastic Homestays, Delicious Food and Beautiful Scenery. Continuing with the top 10, here are even more reasons to visit Kerala.

6) Keralan People – Keralan people are incredibly laid-back, friendly and welcoming. There’s much less hassle here than in other parts of India – the locals are more likely to give you a big smile and try to find out more about you, rather than try to sell you anything.

7) Easy to Get Around – In such a huge country, Kerala’s compact size makes things much easier for the traveller. Attractions are never too far apart (no 24 hour train journeys here!) and with such beautiful scenery to enjoy, the journey is part of the fun (especially on Kerala houseboats). It also helps that English is commonly spoken throughout the region. Even if you don’t fancy trying out the local buses and trains (although we do recommend them for the more adventurous traveller), you can hire your own car and driver inexpensively.

8 ) Perfect Introduction to India – Many people are worried about travelling in India, and have heard plenty of horror stories. Most of these just don’t apply in peaceful Kerala. It’s the ideal place to adjust to Indian life before moving on to other parts of the country. Kerala suits all types of travellers, from independent backpackers to those who would rather stay in a luxurious resort.

9) Weather – In this tropical climate, from November-April there is guaranteed sun and 28 degree celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures. If you prefer cooler temperatures, then the Hill Stations aren’t far away. While the monsoon season sees higher temperatures and plenty of rainfall, it doesn’t rain all day, and you’ll find fewer tourists, lower prices, and even greener, more luscious scenery.

10) Ayurvedic Medicine – Kerala is the home of Ayurvedic Medicine, one of the oldest forms of traditional medicine in the world, which focuses on a holistic approach to wellbeing. Important Ayurvedic techniques include yoga, meditation, diet, massage and the application of oils. There are plenty of opportunities in Kerala to try Ayurvedic treatments, as well as to learn and practice yoga. Many hotels and resorts offer treatments in luxurious, peaceful settings.

So, there you have our top 10. Have you been to Kerala? What are your top 10 reasons to visit? Post a comment and let us at Kerala India Travel know!

Here at Kerala India Travel we’ll be providing you with all the information you need to plan an amazing trip to Kerala. Subscribe to the Kerala India Travel RSS Feed and get all of the latest information direct to your reader.

Kerala India Travel – Top 10 Reasons to Visit Kerala (Part 1)

Kerala is one of the most beautiful regions of India, and certainly the most laid-back and easiest to travel around, without losing any of the exoticism and vibrancy that makes India unique. Located in the far southwest of India, Kerala is one of its smallest states, making up only 1% of India’s total landmass. Kerala was our favourite part of an incredible country, and here at Kerala India Travel we want to share with you our top tips for making the most of a trip there.

Let’s start with our two-part series on the top 10 reasons why we think Kerala is such a wonderful place to visit.

1) Diversity of Attractions – Where else can you indulge in a range of activities such as floating on a houseboat in the tranquil, lush green backwaters; relaxing on tropical beaches; spotting elephants and tigers in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary; practising yoga in an ashram; or hiking in the cool mountains and tea plantations.

2) The Backwaters – Cruising through the emerald backwaters, an interconnecting system of rivers, canals and lagoons is one of the most relaxing experiences on earth. All worries disappear as you watch the world go by in this stunning unspoilt environment from the luxurious comfort of your own floating house.

3) Fantastic Homestays – There are plenty of opportunities to stay with Keralan families and really experience the culture. Nothing beats some of the finest home-cooked food in India and the chance to meet the locals. We stayed in some incredible homestays, including a village in the backwaters that remains to this day the number one experience of our entire year-long round the world trip (a trip not short on amazing experiences!). You can read more about this wonderful homestay here.

4) Delicious Food – Keralan food is gorgeous, using plenty of fresh vegetables, exotic fruit, and locally-grown aromatic spices (don’t miss a visit to a spice farm). It’s nothing like the Indian curry we eat here in the West – it’s much less saucy, with subtler flavours and the inclusion of unusual ingredients such as jackfruit and tamarind. The most delicious and authentic feast is the sadya – dozens of different dishes served up on a banana leaf, and eaten like the locals do with the fingers. It’s fantastic for vegetarians, but there’s plenty of fresh fish too for the more carnivorous among you.

5) Beautiful Scenery – Enjoy the lush, green scenery of swaying palm and coconut trees, rice paddy fields, huge stretches of river and long golden beaches. Such incredible views and most of it unspoilt, just itching to be explored by the more adventurous traveller.

So, there you have the first part of our top 10. Have you been to Kerala? What are your top 10 reasons to visit? Post a comment and let us at Kerala India Travel know!

For more reasons to visit Kerala see Part 2 of the Top 10 Reasons to Visit Kerala

Here at Kerala India Travel we’ll be providing you with all the information you need to plan an amazing trip to Kerala. Subscribe to the Kerala India Travel RSS Feed and get all of the latest information direct to your reader.