In a land steeped in football where Che Guevara has more posters than Mohanlal or Mammooty, I discovered history, beaches and traditions that fascinated me. Temples, churches, cemeteries and forts greet me as we drove around Mahe, Thalassery and Kozhikode. There is a unique blend of colonial influence and rustic charm, even as French Pondicherry meets Malabar Kerala and the entire region is steeped in legends and history. There are so many places to see in Kannur, starting with the scenic beaches in Kannur and the formidable Kannur fort.
So, next time on your trip to Gods own country, forget the backwaters and head to Kannur, the land named after Lord Krishna . The British may have changed the Malabar town to Cannanore, but Kannur takes its origins from Kannan’s Oor , referring to the place belonging to Kannan or Krishna . We were there for just a couple of days driving around, relaxing in some of the beaches in Kannur and exploring some of the tourist and offbeat places to see in Kannur. Here are five experiences that you must not miss in Kannur.
- Visit a 500-year-old fort
Overlooking the Laccadive Sea and located about three kilometres from the city is the 16th century St Angelo Fort built by the Portuguese who ruled over it for over 150 years. Built by Francisco De Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy in India, the original fort has almost been destroyed as the Dutch took over and restored it. What one sees today are the three bastions built by the Dutch – Hollandia, Zeelandia and Frieslandia . The imposing Kannur fort has changed hands, bought over by the Royal Arakkal family and then taken over by the British. Look out for the chapel, the old staircases and the ancient lighthouse besides a stunning view of the Moppila Bay.
- The Arakkal Museum with its 300-year-old artefacts
Just a stone’s throw from the Kannur fort is the museum of one of the royal families who had ruled over Kannur and a few Laccadive islands 300 years ago. In the 19th century, the family had briefly owned the fort as well. The Arakkals were the only Muslim Rulers in Kerala and today, the museum is one of the few legacies that they have left behind. Standing in a quiet corner is what is left of their palace and the durbar hall is filled with furniture, weapons, telephones and telescopes besides paintings and other memorabilia of their regime. This is undoubtedly one of the fascinating places to see in Kannur.
- Take your car to the largest Drive-in Beach in Asia
The famous Malabar coastline offers itself to you as virgin beaches greet you. Drive a bit outside the town and you can cruise down the Muzhappilanghad driving beach Beach, the only “drive in “ beach in India and the largest in Asia. It’s a rainy day when I visit there and cyclists are busy plying on the beach while cars are packed. In a land made famous by maritime trade, bays and beaches greet you everywhere. There are so many beaches in Kannur like Payyambalam Beach, Baby Beach, Thottada Beach, Ezhara Beach, Meenkunnu Beach surrounding the towns and villages in Kannur. We stayed in a beach house on the shores of Ezhara Beach as well.
- Watch a Theyyam and get blessed by a deity
A traditional ritual that is entrenched in trance, a rich tapestry of dance, drama and a colourful pageant, theyyam is a form of cult worship that is performed largely in the Malabar region. There are several varieties of theyyam that invoke various deities and it is believed that God speaks through the theyyam artiste on the day of the performance. Although theyyam is largely seasonal, it is performed every day in the Parassinikadavu Muthappan Temple, located about 20 km from the town. And while you are there, you can pay a visit to the famous snake park. In some villages, one can see theyyams performed as well in the smaller temples. A theyyam calendar is usually published every year and you can plan a visit around the year. We were grateful to have had the chance to see a Theyyam in one of the Bhaghavathy temples in a village located between Kannur and Thalassery and was blessed by the “deity”,
- Drive through the Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
When you drive into Kannur from Coorg, you cross the dense Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary that carpets the western slopes of the Western Ghats and is contiguous with the forests in Coorg, About 55 kms from Kannur, the closest town is Iritty, as you enter the border of Kerala from Karnataka. Look out for leopards and gaurs if you are lucky. The Malabar giant squirrel and the flying squirrel have been spotted in these areas. More than 180 species of birds flock here of which a few are endemic to the Western Ghats. Look out for Malabar pied hornbill, Nilgiri wood pigeon, Srilankan frogmouth among others. The journey itself is rather breathtaking with the forests converging around you .
What would you recommend as some of the fascinating experiences in Kannur or are there are other places to see in Kannur besides Kannur fort and beaches that we may have missed ? Do let us know which is your favourite among the many beaches in Kannur too .