Kerala beyond the backwaters – Top 10 places to visit in Kerala
There are more places to see in Kerala, touted as God’s own country than just the backwaters. In all my travels, I have been to forests, hill stations, bird sanctuaries, temple towns, beaches, estuaries and every experience has been unique. So I decided to pen this post on top 10 places to visit in Kerala, beyond the backwaters.
My introduction to Kerala started when I was in my second standard. My parents took me to Ernakulam and I stayed with some relatives. Some memories do not go away like my first sighting of the Chinese Fishing Nets which is still vivid in my mind. I have made countless trips to Kerala before it earned the marketing tag, “God’s own country” and every time, I discovered something fascinating.
Top 10 Places to visit in Kerala
We stumbled upon Kumarakom years before it became a tourist destination and went on a 24 hour cruise along the Vembanad Lake in a kettuvalam or the house boat, floating all the way from Kumarakom to Alleppey and back. Kerala, although marketed so well is showcased as just a handful of destinations . Besides the backwaters around the Vembanad Lake, there are the tea plantations at Munnar, the beaches of Kovalam, the forests of Wayanad and the heritage of Fort Kochi. But there is more to Kerala. If you are looking at exploring beyond the backwaters, here are top 10 places to visit in Kerala
Tucked away on the banks of the Periyar river and lost to the world at large is Thattekadu where chirping of birds is all that you can hear. Barely a couple of hours from Kochi, the forests are home to several species of birds, including a few endemic species of the Western Ghats. No wonder it is a bird sanctuary today, named after the famous ornithologist, Salim Ali. I stayed here during one new year’e eve, looking for frogmouths and owls. while listening to stories of how demons built dams . Lost in a world of my own, away from civilisation, Thattekadu has been one of my most favourite destinations in Kerala and is one of the top 10 places to visit in Kerala.
I was in Trivandrum on work when I decided to take a detour and stumbled upon this beautiful estuary based on a suggestion from a local. The River Neyyar joins the Arabian Sea at Poovar as I watched the beautiful union while we gently floated on the river. It may not be a comfortable cruise on a houseboat in the Vembanad Lake but just being here felt like a divine experience.
Kerala is synonymous with the backwaters but forget the Vembanad Lake and head to Ashtamudi near Kollam, one of the best places to see in Kerala. Personally I like this lake, second largest after Vembanad, which is believed to spread out like the arms of an octopus. We went cruising in the lake, listening to the tales of fishermen who told me a trick or two about their trade. Besides Kochi, this was one of the few destinations, where I saw Chinese fishing nets and it brought back memories of childhood. I recommend it as one of the top 10 places to visit in Kerala.
Bordering Tamil Nadu and Kerala, this is one of the best kept secrets of the state. Nothing prepared me for the mighty force of this cascades when I saw it for the first time and yet I had not visited it during the season. Even better than the waterfalls is a road trip, all the way from Valparai in Tamil Nadu to Chalakudy in Kerala where you are surrounded by dense rain forest and treated to spectacular views. It is one of the best places to see in Kerala.
I was barely 21 when I fell in love with actor Arvind Swamy crooning Uyire Uyire, a romantic song from the film Bombay. As I grew older, I got over the crush but I could not forget the beautiful locale which served as the backdrop of the song. And that was my first introduction to Bekal Fort, one of the most romantic citadels that I have ever seen. The sea adds to the charm and if you are ever on a train journey from Chennai to Mangalore, do not miss the sight of the fort from the window seat. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kerala.
I have always been fascinated by the Malabar coast and while Thalassery is not a destination by itself, it is the coastline and the culture that adds to the charm. The beaches here that spread through Kannur, Thalassery, Mahe and Kozhikode have a charm of their own. Forts add to the landscape and they tell several legends of their own. My favourite is the St Angelo Fort at Kannur, This is the land of Theyyam, a ritualistic performance that fascinates me. If there is one part of Kerala that intrigues me, then it is the Malabar. Thank fully, it is sill pristine compared to the rest of the state.
Traditionally this is part of Tamil Nadu but the legendary Padmanabhapuram Palace, a 500 year old wooden palace is managed by the Kerala government and is probably one of the most dramatic and yet, quaint palaces that I have ever seen. The home of the Travancore kings, it was the capital of the entire kingdom until the capital was shifted to Trivandrum. Set against the backdrop of the Western Ghats, the palace takes my breath away as I learn about the traditional architectural style and gaze at the many carvings and paintings. In many ways, Padmanabhapuram is where Gods own country originated for me. It is not one of the tourist attractions in Kerala and hence I recommend it as one of the top 10 places to visit in Kerala.
Uru or the fine craft of boat making is a legendary craft that takes you to the shores of Kerala to Beypore in the Malabar Coast. The first thing I did after my visit to Kozhikode or Calicut was to visit this sleepy town which has a rich history. Beypore in the erstwhile period was a prominent port which was located at the mouth of the River Cheyar. It was fascinating to see these large vessels being built in small shipyards today. Closer to Kochi, however, I saw a much small scale industry at Chellanam where wooden boats were built , although they were not as large as the ones I saw in Beypore. If you are visiting Kochi, then I would recommend it as one of the best places to see in Kerala.
A small hill station near Trivandrum or Tiruvananthapuram, I had just a brief glimpse of Ponmudi when I went on work to the capital city, almost 12 years ago. It is a nature lover’s paradise. Located on the Western Ghats, it is like a base camp for treks. As a bird watcher, I was fascinated by the several species of birds that I spotted here but it is also close to the Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary. Some day I need to get back here as I was there for just a few hours. It is also one of my earliest posts on the blog and the photos were taken by an old Nokia mobile phone. Highly recommended as one of the top 10 places to visit in Kerala.
The birthplace of Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Kalady is one of the most serene and spiritual destinations I have ever been to. There are several shrines in Kerala and Kaladi is probably one of them which does not even wear its “religious” fervour on its sleeve. Legends fill the air. Stories of Adi Shankaracharya, his mother, his devotion to Krishna are all narrated here. Located near the Kochi International Airport, by the River Periyar, a visit to Kerala is not complete if you have not been to Kaladi. It may not be marketed as one of the tourist attractions in Kerala but is one of the best places to see in Kerala.
What are your favourite places to see in Kerala, especially beyond the backwaters ? Please share your recommendations.