All the Best Places to Visit in Kerala: The Complete Travel Guide

Kitchen shelves stay decorated with fish and prawn and whole mango pickles. The air in the front yard swings under the scents of jasmine, coconut oil and the sea, mangoes, jackfruit and betel trees. Meals are fiestas with kappa and meen curry, appams and avial with chammandi podi. Vacations call for a mini trip to ammachi’s home in the village, probably amongst a tea plantation or a field of banana and cashew trees. Vishu comes with prosperity for the children and Onam unfurls with happiness and love in its coming. Kerala is made up of many such trinkets, big and small, all adding up to the overwhelming emotion it portrays.

This travel blog on Kerala is my effort to delineate all of its best experiences for you. From the 8 best tourist places in Kerala like Kochi and Wayanad to offbeat escapes like the Idukki district and Kasargod, I have all the best places in Kerala charted out for you. With it, there’s information on best time to visit Kerala, the Kerala temperature, festivals, and the food you should try.

So, get yourself a cuppa chai (you’ll have lots of it there as well!) and read on. 😊

Kerala Weather

Probably the best part about this place is that the Kerala temperature is always moderate, shuffling between 24 and 28 degrees. The highest it goes in Summers is 32C and the lowest it goes in winter is 22C. So, as you can imagine, it’s pretty much always a good time to visit Kerala.

Summers are sunny and humid at the coasts, whereas monsoons bring with them pleasant downpours with a lot less tourist crowd. Winters, on the other hand, have a different charm. Sweet chills, fragrance of the sea and the greens in the air, and a light mist take over Kerala, and the magic then is better felt than said.

Best Time to Visit Kerala

So, to answer your question about the best time to visit Kerala, most people will recommend Winters (I do too). But if you want to go lighter on the pocket and plan to avoid the tourist crowds at popular hubs like Kochi, Alleppey, and Wayanad, you can pick the transitional months between monsoon and winter. Read: August and September.

Our Top Picks

From the popular tourist hubs of Munnar and Thekkady to the offbeat gems of Vagamon and Poovar, we've got you covered for all things Kerala!

Refer to this quick map to have a better idea of the locations. :)

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Your guide to the top places to visit in Kerala

Jump Straigh To

Kochi
Alleppey
Kumarakom / Kottayam
Wayanad
Varkala / Kollam
Munnar & Thekkady
Kozhikode
Vagamon & Idukki District
Poovar
Kannur-Nilambur
Palakkad 
Kasargod

Top 8 Places to See in Kerala if You Have
10-12 Days’ Time

Kochi

Fort kochi

While one half of Kochi is blooming everyday with concrete and glass skyscrapers, the other half is still as quaint and chic as it used to be a decade ago. This other half is popularly known as Fort Kochi and is the ideal area to stay for a traveller.

A town in itself, Fort Kochi boasts of British architecture and is painted with mild yellows and bright reds, thoughtful graffiti, and stunning art installations. Most of it is thanks to the revered Kochi-Muziris Biennale Festival, which is held for 2-3 months annually in the city. I like to believe that the Kochi tourism has really picked up after this, and it is worth it.

A good way to explore this town would be on foot or on a bicycle, taking in the bustle of the Jew town with its market of art, antiques, spices and more, trying the local food (Poli Chathu and Fish Fry) and filtered coffee at chic cafes, and admiring beautifully painted walls wherever you find them.

Chinese Fishing Nets at the Fort Kochi Beach

This is easily one of the most popular places to visit in Kochi and for all the right reasons! The evenings here are particularly dreamy, with the Chinese nets flowing in the winds as a bright orange sun sets right behind them, made nearly perfect with the cobalt blues of the sea.

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The Chinese Fishing Nets at the port harbour, Kochi

Travel Trivia: These Chinese fishing nets were brought to the port town of Kerala, Kochi, by Chinese explorers. It also gave the town its second name, Cochin, which means ‘like China’!

Jewish Synagogue

This 450+ years old Synagogue was made for the Jews who were exiles from other parts of the world. Commemorating the lives of the foreigners back then, the place is also known as Pardesi Synagogue locally.

Mattancherry Palace

This palace traces back to the time when the Portuguese used to reside in Kerala. The Mattancherry Palace was a gift to the then king of Kochi by the Portuguese, and thus reflects their style of architecture and décor inside. Also a museum of murals and paintings, it is one of the finest places to visit in Kochi for history and art lovers.

Hill Palace Museum

A complex where in past the Cochin Maharaja used to reside, the Hill Palace is also an archeological museum in Kerala, and the largest one at that. Made in the 19th century, this is yet again a treasure of a place for the history buffs.

Heads up- The timings of this palace are a little tricky, so look them up before you make a plan.

St Francis Church and the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica

A pale-yellow structure, the St Francis Church is believed to be the oldest European church in India. And the Santa Cruz Cathedral is one of the treasured heritage structures of Kerala, the most loved of the eight cathedrals in the town.

Cherai Beach

The Cherai Beach gives occasional sightings of dolphins, which makes the place worth a visit.

Willingdon island

At the heart of the Kochi or Cochin Port is a manmade island, which is where all the ferry trips and backwater boat tours originate. The island also has a heritage museum if you’d like to spend some time on there.

Planning an escape to Kochi? Book your stay here at the coolest backpacking hostel for DIY recommendations, food and drink suggestions, games, parties, and unforgettable travel memories!

Athirappilly Falls

A two-hour drive from Kochi is merely what it takes to visit one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kerala, the Athirappilly Falls. Nestled in between abundant greenery with a lace of palm and coconut trees is a gushing flow of stark white water, something that leaves everyone spellbound with its grandness and beauty.

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Athirappilly Falls in their Monsoon glory

Visiting Kochi? Make it your best one. Check out the coolest backpacker hostel of Kochi here.

Alleppey

The Alleppey Backwaters

The backwaters top the list of places to visit in Alleppey any day! Row through the sinewy canals built over the tranquil backwaters, cuddled from all sides by rice fields and dense forests.

The experience of the Alleppey backwaters is moving in a way, with the frequent wisps of air soothing your senses, the occasional stories of the boatman and the generations of his family serving in the same way, the traditional food that they serve you in the Kuttanad village that you curve upon, and then, the witnessing of the idyllic houseboats that have their own charm.

Alappuzha Beach

The Alappuzha Beach, the main beach of the town is only a 5-min walk from Zostel Alleppey. Houseboats and trade ferries passing parallel to the horizon, a brilliant orange and pink sunset, and the local boys playing frisbee on the beach set up a mood worth diving in.

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The view from the terrace of Zostel Alleppey

Vembanad Lake

The longest lake in India, the Vembanad lake is popular for its bird perspective. Also the largest lake in Kerala, it spreads across Alleppey, Kuttanad, and Kochi! At the heart of Kerala tourism, this lake is a gateway to the backwaters as well as the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary.

Marari Beach

A rather quiet and peaceful beach on the weekdays, this beach has shacks for snacks and drinks along with umbrellas and loungers. So if you’re planning on chilling on the beach for couple of hours, this beach is a pretty good option for you.

Alappuzha Lighthouse

Allowing visitors only between 3 and 4.30 in the afternoon, the Alappuzha lighthouse offers a gorgeous view of the Alappuzha beach. Head here for some quiet time looking at the vastness of the ocean.

The Snake Boat Race

The Nehru Trophy, popularly known as the Alleppey snake boat race, happens in the month of August every year. At this time, travellers from all over the world gather up to witness the world’s biggest team sport, as entire villages compete against each other on their traditional 120 ft snake boats! Without saying, this is the best time to visit Alleppey.

Alleppey calling? Book your escape to Alleppey here.

Kumarakom / Kottayam

Kumarakom backwaters

A small village on the Vembanad Lake, Kottayam gives you a unique experience of the backwaters. Away from the crowds of tourists, if you’d like to indulge in a photo shoot or soak in the quiet, take a boat ride through the backwaters of Kumarakom. They make for one of the finest places to visit in Kerala.

Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls

Active only during the monsoons, these 30 ft waterfalls are as sprawled as they are high. While the river dries up in Summers, monsoons are a delight here. You can also hike up to the falls on a 2km trail that takes you through a rocky terrain full of bushes all around.

Pathiramanal Island

The name translates to ‘Sands of the night’. This island is a peaceful, mini escape from Kottayam, which also provides the opportunity of spotting rare birds.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Resting on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, this sanctuary is thickly populated with birds and tagngled jungles alike. A part of the backwaters itself, it is a great place to spot migratory birds.

Wayanad

Chembra Peak

One of the most popular treks in Wayanad, the Chembra Peak takes you through a trail of greens, tea plantations, misty meadows, and even a heart-shaped lake. The trek begins with the first rain fall and requires a permit to finish.

Edakkal caves

Hailing from the Neolithic period, the etchings on this cave are mesmerising as they give you a peek into the lives of our far begone ancestors. The caves are open between 8am and 4pm with a basic ticketed enrtry.

Other places of interest: Soochipara falls, Wayanad wildlife sanctuary, Banasura Dam

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The sun sets behind Chembra Peak as Zostel Wayanad lights up for the evening

Wayanad tourism has been on the rise as people are still getting to know about places to visit in Wayanad. Did you know, Wayanad is professional off-roaders’ heaven? If you’d like to know more about the place and more things to do in Wayanad, read our travel blog on Wayanad here.

Varkala or Kollam

Kollam Beach / Varkala Beach

The Varkala beach kisses the waters of the Arabian sea, making for a pristine scene with its clean and unending waters. Bustling with travellers, locals, and pilgrims alike, this beach holds importance for many people for different reasons.

Varkala Cliff

The Varkala Cliff is the only one of its kind on the otherwise flat beaches of Kerala, thus making it one of the most gorgeous places to visit in Kerala.

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The Cliff at Varkala, a wonder in Kerala

Standing 15m tall and overlooking the mesmerising Kollam beach, this sandstone cliff is ornated with the colours of cobalt blue and parrot green and mud brown and all things beautiful. With shacks and restaurants close by, the Varkala Cliff is one of the finest hang-out places for travellers in Kerala and for all the right reasons!

Kappil Pozhi

One of the most stunning places to visit in Kollam, Kappil Pozhi is a lake bracing coconut groves, stark blue waters, and clean beige sands. The lake meets the Arabian Sea, extended towards a navy-blue horizon.

Other places to visit in Kollam: Golden Island, Anchuthengu Fort, the Temples of Kollam

Munnar & Thekkady

Anamudi

The highest peak of the Western Ghats falls on the border of Munnar and Idukki District! At 2695m, you can trek up to the peak of Ana Mudi, and this may as well be one of the most adventurous things to do in Munnar. The region also has a lot of smaller hiking trails and is rich in wildlife. So, if you’re lucky, you may get to spot an elephant in the wild!

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The stunning green landscape of Munnar

Eravikulam National Park

One of the most nature-bound places to visit in Munnar, this park is full of a green landscape frequented by wild goats and other wild animals of the region.

Matupatti Dam

With a mountain in the backdrop, this dam makes for the most picturesque landscape with its deep blue waters and lush greens all around. It draws animals like elephants and deer, which are easy to spot.

Periyar National Park

One of the most prominent places to visit in Thekkady, the Periyar National Park is a Tiger Reserve that homes many other wild animals. Some of them are Sambar deer, macaques, bison, and even leopards. The park also has a lake where tourists indulge in boating.

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Boating at the  Periyar National Park in Thekkady

Kozhikode

Kozhikode Beach

Hailing with a glorious past, the spice market at Kozhikode still thrives. The best place to visit in Kozhikode is the Kozhikode Beach, which promises a breath-taking sunset. The Dolphin’s point at this beach is a good place for sighting dolphins indulged in their everyday play, whereas the quaint old lighthouse adds to the rustic vibe of the place.

Kappad Beach

Another beach that is worth mentioning is the Kappad Beach, which shies away from the eyes of tourists. This beach is where Vasco De Gama along with his troop landed first in India, some 500 years ago.

A Traveller’s Guide to the 5 Must-Visit
Offbeat Places in Kerala

Idukki district, Vagamon

The Idukki District is by far one of the most unexplored regions of Kerala. With not much footfall of travellers and ample of greenery and wildlife, it makes for the perfect rejuvenating escape away from the tourist crowds. But of course, there are some Idukki tourist places that you shouldn’t forget to explore.

Vagamon

A very green town in the Iduki district, Vagamon is rich in greenery, hikes, and unexplored trails. The Moonmala and Ginamala treks are loved or the sunset views, whereas the Marmala Waterfalls come with yet another soothing experience. While Vagamon tourist places are not that explored, they’re still prominent and beautiful, which makes it all the more welcoming.

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Zostel Vagamon, nestled in 900-acres of tea plantations

Vagamon is also a great place to stargaze and enjoy abundance of fireflies. The sun makes the sky go wild with colours as it sets whereas full moon days treat you with a spectacular moon rise.

Did you know, Vagamon also offers the best paragliding experience in Kerala? To know more about Vagamon and what to do there, you can read our travel blog on Vagamon, Kerala here.

Would love some alone time with like-minded travellers and not much else to bother you? Check out Zostel Vagamon for a jumble of a happening and relaxing experience.

Poovar

Poovar Beach

A silent place not entertaining too many tourists, this beach is a hidden gem of Kerala. If you’re planning on a weekend getaway which includes only relaxing, Poovar would be a refreshing choice for sure.

Arjuna Backwaters

One more backwater destination of Kerala, Arjuna provides a very calming boating experience. If you loathe people’s company and want all the beauty by yourself, this is where you should head!

Thirparappu falls

These falls are an hour’s drive from Poovar and fall in the state of Tamil Nadu. With a fall of 50ft,this one is a manmade beauty, visited frequently on a daytrip.

Kannur-Nilambur

St Angelo Fort

Built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, this fort faces the beach! Near Mappila bay, these two places are a must-visit in Cannanore. The teak plantations of Kannur are also quite popular, so you can make a round there as well.

Kannur & Payyambalam Beach

The city beaches have sandy shores, giant rocks, and soothing waters. The math is simple. If there is a beach in a town, you go to it.

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The view from the Kunnur Lighthouse

Paithalmala & Palakkayam Thattu

Hill stations close to Kannur, Paithalmala and Palakkayam Thattu make for good weekend escapes for the locals of Cannanore and daytrips for travellers.

Palakkad

Dhoni Waterfalls

Nestled in between the forests of the Western Ghats, these falls are just 15km from Palakkad. If you’d like to spend a day picnicking and lazing out, Dhoni waterfalls is a worthy candidate.

Palakkad Fort

Built by Hyder Ali, this fort is one of the best-preserved ones in Kerala. It includes a garden, walking paths, and a temple, peeking into the lives of the royals back then. The MalamPuzha Dam falls just by it and is also one of the Palakkad tourist places.

Parambikulam Tiger Reserve & Silent Valley National Park

Kerala is one of the best places to encounter wildlife, hence the abundance of national parks and animal reserves. Parambikulam is yet another wildlife sanctuary that homes Tigers and other wild animals, whereas the silent valley national park is a beautiful bouquet of landscapes like waterfalls, streams, hills, and jungles with abundant wildlife in the Nilgiris.

Kasargod

Ananthapura Lake Temple

Sitting in the middle of a lake, this temple is rather amusing, known as the temple on water. Giving out quaint vibes blended with tranquillity, this is an interesting place to visit.

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The Ananthpura Lake Temple in Kasargod

Chandragiri Fort

A hilltop fortress covered in coconut and palm trees; the Chandragiri Fort looks out at the blissful waters of the Chandragiri Puzha river. Although in ruins now, the place is rich in history and is still visited for the marvellous views.

Ranipuram

A two-hour drive from Kasargod, Ranipuram bathes in a green landscape. Places to visit: Ranipuram peak, Ranipuram National Park, Theanvarikallu Falls.

Traditional Food of Kerala

The very coastal areas of Kerala make for the best regions to try seafood in coconut flavours. Fish and prawns in coconut curry (Kappa and Meen) with appam, avial (pumpkin and other vegetables in coconut milk) and rice, idiyappam and sambar, spicy chicken fries, and Malabar parotta make for some scrumptious items when it comes to lunching and dining. It should be easy to find these delicacies at popular restaurants in the best tourist places in Kerala.

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A traditional Kerala platter called Sadhya

Kerala has a variety of chutneys and pickles too, very different from what we get in the rest of the country or in those packaged pickles and relishes. Chammandi Podi is a dry chutney made from dried mini prawns. You’ll also end up licking your fingers over the authentic coconut chutney along with lime, and even chicken and fish pickles. Kadu manga accharam (whole mango pickles) are also a unique delicacy, worth a try if you love pepping your rice dish up.

Toddy, a local alcoholic drink is also an attention-grabber for all the right reasons.

So, this time around, move over from the dosas and utthapams- there’s so much more to relish. Travel tip: You’ll get the most authentic food at a local home or a small shack-like restaurant in the small villages of Kerala.

How to get around in Kerala

The best and the most comfortable way to cover all of Kerala, is of course, by a road trip on your bike or car.

If you’re hailing solo, you can stick to state buses, although, they’re not extremely well-connected to the smaller villages and you’ll have figure out a way to know the frequency and timings of the buses. If you’re planning to only cover the tourist places in Kerala, you will most likely find multiple state and private buses.

Auto rickshaws generally take you from one small village to another at a bargained price, but shared taxis or tuktuks are not that frequent.

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Palms, coconuts, and other greens lace the roads of Kerala

Moreover, avoid travelling during the evenings and in the night. Why? Kerala is still dense with forests and hence, wild animals. While daytime is a different tale, it can get unsafe to commute at night in the State.

A budget trip across Kerala

In for a long odyssey? A backpacking trip through all these places in Kerala should take a generous 20-25 days if you plan to explore each one. To save money, you can try resorting to local transport buses, stay at homestays in small villages, and of course, make the most of backpacking hostels in Kerala.

Zostel, a chain of backpacking hostels and experiential stays across India and Nepal is present in multiple small and big towns of South India, including some of the best places to visit in Kerala. You can check us out here.

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The open cafe and hang-out area at Zostel Kochi

Have questions or thoughts? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you right away!

Writer, Pranavi Chhikniwala.


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