Top Tourist Attractions and Things to do in Kerala (India)
Immersing yourself in cultural experiences, and exploring the beautiful landscape are the best ways to discover the things to do in Kerala, a state in South India.
Its abundance of natural beauty in the form of placid backwaters, lush greenery, picturesque hill towns, and lovely beaches have resulted in the label ‘God’s Own Country.’ The stunning tea plantations of Munnar and the serene backwaters in Alappuzha make it to every list of what to see in Kerala.
With several places of interest including Jew Town and Vypin Island, Kochi, a port city draws visitors too. It is also a significant base from where tourists explore other places in the state.
Cultural experiences including the classical dance form of Kathakali, and the kalaripayattu martial art are some of the other top Kerala tourist attractions. Foodies can look forward to some lip-smacking food as Kerala has a diverse cuisine, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
Ayurvedic massages and treatments too are immensely popular for those looking at mind and body rejuvenation. Some resorts and centers specialize in Ayurvedic wellness programs.
Kerala sightseeing also includes forts, spice plantations, wildlife sanctuaries, and other exciting sites. Here is a handy list of what to do in Kerala on your visit to this beautiful Indian state.
Related posts and further reads:
- Points of Interest: Where to Go and Places to Visit in India
- Points of Interest: What to See and Places to Visit in Kerala
- 15 Breathtaking Travel Photos from Kerala and My Experience!
- The 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Kerala (Travel to India’s Spice Capital)
- Twenty-nine Strangers, One Bus, and a Trip of a Lifetime to Beautiful Kerala!
Table of Contents
- 1 Experiences and top things to do in Kerala
- 2 Practical information and Kerala travel tips
- 3 Where to stay in Kerala?
- 4 Short on time? Go sightseeing in Kerala on a tour!
- 5 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Experiences and top things to do in Kerala
As you travel along the winding roads surrounded by lush tea plantations on the misty hills of Munnar, the effect of the scenic landscape is hypnotizing. A hill station with a pleasant climate, Munnar in the Western Ghats is a photographer’s delight and among the best Kerala attractions.
Stroll along the pathways to see busy women in colorful clothes plucking tea leaves. You can get a good understanding of tea production at the Munnar Tea Museum. Relax with a cup of tea.
Explore the stunning terrain by going on treks and forest walks. The Mattupetty dam is another attraction as is the Eravikulam National Park where you can see the endangered Nilgiri tahr (mountain goat).
Explore the Backwaters on a Houseboat
One of the features that set Kerala apart from most other Indian states is its backwaters with a network of canals covering a vast area of the country. Excursions to discover the backwaters on a houseboat in Alappuzha (Alleppey), Kumarakom, Vembanad Lake, and Kollam make it to every list of what to see in Kerala.
The traditional houseboats (kettuvallam) are of various types including modest boats to luxurious ones. You can enjoy an overnight stay on these houseboats that have bedrooms (ranging from one to eight bedrooms or more), kitchen, upper deck, bathroom, and other facilities.
There is a small team to look after your needs and cook fresh food for you. Laze, unwind, read and take a look at local life as your houseboat glides on the water!
Ayurvedic Massage and Treatments
Ayurvedic wellness programs that include massages and body treatments for ailments are among the most in-demand Kerala activities. An ancient system of medicine for mind and body health, Ayurveda also consists of the practice of yoga.
Although there are numerous centers and resorts for Ayurveda in Kerala, check the authenticity and research these places before you choose one. Opt for an oil and herbal massage for an hour or two at any resort/center or try week-long treatments and even those spanning a few weeks.
Some favorite places are Kairali Ayurvedic Healing Village in Palakkad, Athreya Ayurvedic Centre in Kottayam, the Nattika Beach Ayurveda Resort in Thrissur and Ayurveda Yoga Villa in Kalpetta, Wayanad. You will also find centers of the trusted Kottakkal Arya Vaidya Sala all over Kerala.
Kochi city is where most tourists start their exploration of the various places in Kerala. The town has some interesting places too where you can see Portuguese, Dutch, Arab, and British influences. An entertaining area is Jew Town with shops selling spices, antiques, and souvenirs.
Visit the 16th century Paradesi Synagogue with its charming interiors that continue to be a place of worship. Also, visit the Mattancherry Palace, a simple structure that contains fascinating murals. Photograph the Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, and take a walk along Princess Street that has cafés and shops.
You can also take a ferry to Vypin Island and visit the beaches there. Exploring Kochi is one of the top things to do in Kerala.
Kathakali Classical Dance and Kalaripayattu Martial Art
If you wish to know where to go in Kerala for a cultural experience, visit places that showcase the Kathakali classical dance, and kalaripayattu martial art. A dance drama with elaborate, colorful costumes and layers of embellishing make-up, Kathakali is all about stories that focus on various emotions accompanied with traditional songs and music.
At some centers, you can watch the fascinating process of the artists putting on their make-up. Another mesmerizing cultural experience is kalaripayattu that combines agile, acrobatic physical movements and fighting skills aided with swords, shields and other weapons.
You can watch these performances at various places including the Kerala Kathakali Centre in Kochi, Kalari Kshethra in Munnar, and Mudra Cultural Centre, Thekkady.
Dotted with captivating sites, Wayanad is a district in northern Kerala. Forested areas, hill ranges and ancient caves are some of the main points of interest. Admire the spectacular landscape as you go for guided trekking through grasslands and forested areas at Chembra Peak.
Among the best places to see in Kerala for those who like ancient sites are the Edakkal caves. It is a fair bit of a climb to the caves, but the Neolithic carvings and drawings here make the trip worth it.
Head to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in the early morning to spot elephants, panthers, monkeys, deer, and birds. Try and avoid weekends on your visits to any of these places as they can get crowded.
Kerala’s diverse and delicious cuisine is definitely among the most sought-after Kerala attractions. It is an amalgamation of Hindu, Christian and Muslim culinary influences. Coconut, rice, and spices are integral elements of several dishes.
Since Kerala is a coastal state, seafood such as pearl spot fish (karimeen), and prawn preparations are preferred. Tapioca (kappa) with fish curry too is a favorite. A must-have is the appam with stew (vegetarian or chicken). Flaky, layered flatbread (parotta) with curry also has many takers. Biryanis too are in demand.
The vegetarian dishes are scrumptious as well. Try the rice-based idiyappam or puttu with kadala (chickpeas) curry. Staple favorites, especially for breakfast, are crispy dosas (rice pancake), and fluffy idlis with sambar curry or coconut chutney. It is super tasty!
If you have a sweet tooth, try the payasam. You can have these at restaurants, and small eateries throughout the state or even at the house of a local.
The capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram too has its fair share of attractions. Kovalam beach is among the best places in Kerala to go to unwind. It consists of three beaches with various facilities.
The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo established in 1857 is also a well-maintained place with various species of animals. Numerous impressive museums too are located in the capital city. Make a trip to Poovar Island to see pristine locations, village life, backwaters and secluded beaches. You can also stay at one of the resorts here.
The state’s beaches along its coastline are among the notable Kerala tourist attractions. Besides the famous Kovalam beach, Thiruvananthapuram is also home to the cliffside Varkala (Papanasham) beach.
Vypin Island in Kochi too has outstanding beaches like Cherai, but you can also explore the less-visited Puthuvype beach, that has a lighthouse, and the Kuzhupilly beach. Alleppey’s Marari beach too scores high with tourists with its tranquility and fishermen at work.
If you like drive-in beaches, head to the Muzhappilangad beach in Kannur. Beypore beach in Kozhikode is also a good beach with a lovely pier. Some beaches in Kerala have strong currents, so swimming is not advisable.
A fort built purely for defense purposes, the mighty Bekal Fort in Kasaragod constructed during the 17th century is still well-preserved. It is one of the most inspiring things to see in Kerala.
One of its outstanding features is its scenic location with spectacular panoramic views overlooking the Arabian Sea. You can climb a flight of steps that will lead you to the observation tower.
A water tank and a tunnel are other features of the fort. Due to its dramatic landscape, the fort which is the largest in Kerala is also a favorite with filmmakers. Located close by, Bekal Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand and sea, where you can relax.
Thekkady/Periyar National Park
Thekkady is among the best places to visit in Kerala for wildlife lovers. It is also an ideal spot to explore spice plantations. You can take a tour of the Green Park Ayurvedic & Spice Plantation to get a knowledge of spices such as cardamom, black pepper, and others.
One of the significant highlights of Thekkady is the Periyar National Park/Wildlife Sanctuary. If you take a boat ride on the Periyar Lake especially early morning, you might spot herds of elephants, deer, bison, other animals and birds in the scenic area.
You can also go bamboo rafting on the lake. Although there are tigers in the Periyar National Park, it is quite rare to spot one.
Do you know what to do in Kerala if you love museums? Visit Kochi’s Kerala Folklore Museum with its magnificent architecture and craftsmanship. You can see thousands of amazing artifacts that reveal a lot about Kerala’s history and culture.
Another excellent museum in Kochi is the Hill Palace of Tripunithura, an erstwhile royal residence. Weapons, paintings, ornaments, sculptures and various other archaeological exhibits are showcased in the museum.
In Thiruvananthapuram, you can visit the Napier Museum which has captivating art and natural history exhibits. Take a look at the superb collection of artifacts. The fantastic art gallery includes works of Raja Ravi Varma and other artists.
You now know what to see in Kerala regarding its landscape, and captivating cultural experiences. With the list of things to do in Kerala, you can start planning a trip to this fabulous destination.
Practical information and Kerala travel tips
Why should you visit Kerala?
Kerala is one of the top popular destinations these days in India. A must-visit scenic destination where the main tourist attraction is the backwaters of Alleppey or Alappuzha. Kerala in South India got a lot of things to attract any travelers around. The beautiful hill stations, golden beaches, small islands, rivers, wildlife, mountains, definitely a lot to explore during your trip to Kerala. You’ll love the rich culture and tradition as well as the mouthwatering Keralan food.
When is the best time to visit Kerala?
- High season/Cool season (September to February)
- Expect a lot of crowds around this time of the year
- The climate is dry and the temperature usually does not go over 30°C
- There are a lot of exciting excursions you can partake off
- Hotel and tour prices will be a bit expensive during high season
- Mountain regions in Kerala will be a bit cooler at nights compare to its bigger cities so come prepared and bring warmer clothes if you plan to visit places such as Munnar.
- Summer season (March to May)
- Hottest season of the year and temperature will be over 30°C during the day
- Expect some thunderstorms on some nights because of the extreme heat
- Fewer tourists come to visit Kerala around this time of the year
- Hotel and tour prices will be lower
- Do not forget to hydrate properly if you plan to brave the Kerala summer as it will be hot!
- Wet season (June to August)
- Expect rainfall almost every day around this time of the year
- There will still be fewer tourists but towards the end of the season, more and more tourist will start visiting Kerala again
- Expect cooler days and cooler nights so come prepared for both the cold and the daily rain
- There will be fewer excursions and tours around this time of the year
Do you need a visa for Kerala?
It requires a visa for India. Normally a tourist visa provided for six months to visit India. You can also get a visa online prior to your travel. Some citizens are allowed to get a Visa on Arrival (VOA) at the airports. Read our tips on how to apply for an Indian e-Tourist visa!
Where to book your flights to Kerala?
Check our handy-dandy guide on how to find the cheapest flights around the world – read it here.
Do you need an insurance?
Remember this: anything can happen! Read our take on why you need a travel insurance and how it can save you money when things go unplanned – read it here.
Where to stay in Kerala?
Kerala is known for its many beautiful resorts and luxury hotels and here are some of our recommendations: Neeleshwar Hermitage, Kumarakom Lake Resort, and The Zuri Kumarakom. These hotels start from €80 per night and you’ll get amazing quality service and access to their luxurious facilities.
If you’re on a more budgeted side, we recommend you staying at hostels where you’ll be paying about €7 per night. Here are our recommendations: Zostel Alleppey, Bonfire Hostels Wayanad, and Peace and Love Boutique Hostel.
Short on time? Go sightseeing in Kerala on a tour!
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