Kerala is known as 'God's own country'. There are mainly three reasons for which the state has been given such a description. One being that, according to Hindu mythology, Kerala was created by Lord Parasurama who is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that this creation took place when Lord Parasurama threw his axe across the sea to create a new land for his devotees to live in a peaceful manner. This is one of the reasons. Another reason is that, in every nook and corner of Kerala, one can see Hindu temples, Muslim mosques and Christian churches. Thus, unlike many other parts of India, people live happily without communal riots and great religious tolerance. The third reason being that Kerala is nestled between the pristine waters of the Arabian Sea on the west and the lush greenery on the Western Ghats. It has a wide network of rivers and lagoons, dense forests, exotic wildlife, calm and serene emerald backwaters and a number of beautiful beaches which makes it as a traveller's paradise.
Kerala has a large number of tourist attractions and is also a great place for pilgrimage trips. Many parts of Kerala also provide excellent services of ayurvedic treatments which relax and rejuvenate the body from the daily tensions which is what one would mostly look out for during a vacation. Some of the places worth a visit in Kerala are Alappuzha, Munnar, Thiruvananthapuram, Guruvayur, Wayanad, Kovalam, Thekkady, Kochi, and Athirappilly-Vazhachal waterfalls.
Tourist attractions in Thiruvananthapuram
2. Alappuzha - Alappuzha also known as Alleppey is a one of the most well known tourist destinations in Kerala with its scenic backwaters and calm atmosphere. Alappuzha is home to a 140 year old pier which extends into the sea. Due to its calm and romantic atmosphere, Alappuzha is also known as the Venice of the East. It is the perfect place for one to de-stress and rejuvenate before returning back to the rush of daily life. It is this peaceful atmosphere that makes Alappuzha the most sought after place in whole of Kerala. Alappuzha is most popular for its backwater tourism on the luxurious houseboats that provide every basic as well as additional facilities for its tourists. These houseboats provide all the facilities that one would find in a good hotel such as bedrooms, bathrooms, dining area, living area and even a balcony for angling and uninterrupted views of the backwaters. One can opt for either a day cruise or an overnight stay in the houseboats as the oarsmen take you on a wonderful journey through the charming lagoons of Alappuzha with amazing sights such as wading birds, fishermen carrying out the day's activities, local villagers who wave at you as you pass their homes and the vast paddy fields of Kerala which are filled with lush green which soothe the eyes. Many tour operators in Kerala offer good holiday packages with backwater cruise. Some of the other attractions of Alappuzha are its boat races, marine products and coir industry. The Alappuzha beach consists of an old lighthouse which is breathtaking as well as a Vijaya Beach Park which offer entertaining activities for adults as well as the young ones.
Kuttanad is situated in the district of Alappuzha in Kerala. The place is popularly known for its paddy fields. For this reason, Kuttanad is also known as the 'Rice Bowl of Kerala'. The lowest altitude in India is found in this region. A unique aspect of Kuttanad is that farming here takes place below the sea level. This type of farming is seen in very few places around the world. The green landscapes and beautiful backwaters of Kuttanad place are a must-see when you visit Kerala. The path of the backwaters are irregular and crisscrossed. The waterways wade along paddy fields. Other crops such as cassava, banana and yam can also be found. These crops are grown on the low-lying areas of the region. One can hire a houseboat or a motorboat and enjoy the scenic charm of the rustic countryside as the boats run on the numerous channels, waterways, streams and lakes. On the way, you can spot trails of ducks, wildlife coir workers making coir, parrots and water birds. You can also see vendors on small boats selling their vegetables and fish to the houses on the banks of the canals. There are traditional rice boats called Kettuvallams on which items like coconut husks, rice grains etc are sold in bulk to the markets on the banks. Another common sight in this area is that of fishermen fishing with their nets and traditional cane baskets called Ottal. The canals are lined with tall swaying coconut trees which mostly bend towards the backwaters giving a lot of shade. There could not be anything more relaxing than to lie in the houseboat and admire the stunning views along with the soft sound of rippling water. The local dishes such as fish delicacies and tapioca can be eaten from the small eateries found on the shore. Toddy, which is naturally extracted, is a beverage found in plentiful here. Four major rivers of Kerala namely Pampa, Meenachil, Achankovil and Manimala flow into Kuttanad. The Alappuzha-Changanassery road goes through the centre of Kuttanad and is the best route to enjoy the views of the backwaters. On this route, one can watch the farmers carrying on with their daily farming activities. The QST and R Block Kayal (backwaters) is located in Kuttanad and offers an added enchantment to your cruise.
Visit www.alappuzhaonline.com for all the information and provisions at Alappuzha.
Houseboats in Kerala
3. Kumarakom - Kumarakom is situated near the city of Kottayam in Kerala and is another favourite destination for backwater tourism. It is the most suitable place for people who wish to relax and rejuvenate their body by taking a break from the hectic life and daily hassles. The Vembanad Lake, which is the longest freshwater lake in Kerala, is set in Kumarakom. A vast network of rivers and canals empty into this great expanse of water known as Vembanad Lake. Kumarakom is basically a village with clusters of small islands located on the Vembanad Lake. Apart from the captivating sights, sounds and sweet smells, the place also has a large variety of birds and plants. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a famous sanctuary which is flocked by migratory birds throughout the year. Rare migratory birds such as egrets, herons, wild duck and the Siberian Stock visit this area during specific times in the year. Activities such as boating and fishing are available at the various resorts found in Kumarakom. Numerous species of fish including karimeen (pearl spot), shrimps, kanambu (mullet) and prawns can be found in abundance in this region. A houseboat experience in Kumarakom will be unforgettable and a memorable time to cherish lifelong. During the Onam festival, snake boat races known as the Kumarakom boat race, takes place in these canals using various kinds of boats. Kumarakom also offers many choices of ayurvedic massages which will help you to refresh your mind before returning to your normal rushed life.
4. Munnar - Munnar is one of the most popular hill stations of Kerala and also South India. It is in the Idukki district located on the Western Ghats. It is a converging place for three rivers namely Muthirappuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers. Munnar is a very beautiful place located at 1600 m above sea level. It is also known as the Kashmir of the South because of its beauty and charm which can be compared to those of Kashmir situated in the north of India. Munnar is filled with lush greenery and covered with tea and coffee plantations. One can witness the nurturing of tea plantations from the process of manufacturing till its packing takes place. One will feel like he/she has reached heaven as the place looks like a paradise especially for nature lovers. The place can be exciting for adventure lovers too with waterfalls and some trekking spots. With its beautiful sceneries and calm and serene atmosphere, it is a hot spot for honeymooners. Exotic varieties of flora and fauna can be seen here amidst the unspoiled valleys and mountains. During the British rule in South India, Munnar was considered as the best summer resort by the rulers of that time.
Sight-seeing attractions in Munnar
* Mattupetty which is situated at a height of 1700 m above sea level located about 13 km from Munnar Town. The Mattupetty Lake and Dam are perfect locations for picnicking. One can relax and enjoy a picnic with family and friends in the midst of the lake and tea plantations. Some of the attractions in Munnar are the Indo Swiss diary farm project, lakes and the dams. The lakes offer splendid boat rides. One can see different high yielding breeds of cows at the Indo Swiss diary farm.
* Echo Point - It is a mountain peak from where a natural echo comes when one shouts out anything from the mouth.
* Anamudi Peak - It is the highest peak in Kerala at 2695 m and is located about 13 kms from Munnar town. It is the highest Indian mountain south of the Himalayas. People who love trekking can reach the top of the peak after getting prior permission from the Forest Department at Eravikulam. Many varieties of flora and fauna can be found on this mountain range. One of the most rare inhabitants of this peak is the Atlas Moth which is the largest moth in the world.
* Eravikulam National Park and Rajamala - This park is a sanctuary made specially for the preservation of the Nilgiri Tahr, the rare mountain goat which is endangered and is on the verge of extinction. The park is situated about 15 kms from Munnar. Rajamala is a natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahr. This animal species which is on the verge of extinction can be found here. Almost half of the world's Nilgiri Tahr's have their home here in Rajamala. Other than the Nilgiri Tahr, many other species of rare animals, birds and insects can be found in Eravikulam National Park. It is the perfect spot for trekking with a wide variety of flora and fauna. It also houses the famous flower Neelakurunji which blooms only once in twelve years and when it blooms, the slopes of the hills are covered in a carpet of blue colour.
5. Wayanad - Wayanad is another haven of tranquillity and serenity in Kerala which is fully natural and not interfered with man-made attractions. The main streams of Kaveri river called Kabini river flows through Wayanad district of Kerala. The place is filled with mountains and lakes making it an ideal location for trekking and hiking. This makes it a good attraction for both nature lovers as well as adventure lovers. The forests which are filled with bamboo trees are a great destination for picnicking. The waterfalls found in Wayanad are Meenmutty waterfalls, Sentinal Rock (Soochippara) waterfalls, Kanthanpara waterfalls and Chethalayam waterfalls. Some of the temples of Wayanad are Thirunelli temple, Jain temple, Manikavu temple and Glass temple and Seetha Lava Kusha temple.
Sight-seeing attractions in Wayanad
* Thirunelli temple - This is a very ancient temple located on the side of the Brahmagiri hills 32 km away from Manathavady in Wayanad. The main deity of this temple is Lord Vishnu. The architecture of the temple is worth seeing. Many people come to this temple to perform last rituals of a deceased person. Other inclusions near the temple are Papanasini (a holy mountain stream near the temple. People believe that one dip inside the cold waters of Papanasini will rid oneself of all sins and impurities) and Panchatheertham (a holy temple pond).
* Edakkal caves - These are actually two natural caves located 1200 metres above sea level. Inside the Edakkal caves, one can admire some 4000 years old paintings and stone age carvings. It is one of the best locations for trekking and infact the caves can only be accessed by a 1km trek from Edakkal.
* Muthanga wildlife sanctuary - The Muthanga wildlife sanctuary is a home to many animal species such as Indian elephants, spotted deer, bisons, tigers and leopards.
* Meenmutty falls - Meenmutty falls are the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in Wayanad and also Kerala's second largest waterfall. It is located 29 km from Kalpetta in Wayanad district. The most unique quality of these waterfalls is that the water falls about 300 metres over three stages as it is three-tiered. One must go through a 2 km walk through the jungle from the main Ooty road to reach the waterfalls. Though the walk can be a bit dangerous and can also cause fatigue, it is still worth the trouble as the waterfalls are simply mesmerising and not to be missed.
* Pookote lake - Pookote lake is a very scenic lake located in Wayanad district. Surrounded by forests, there are boating facilities within the lake and this lake is one of the few places in Wayanad which have been commercialised and developed by humans. Unfortunately this encroachment has reduced its natural beauty. Close to the lake, there is a Sree Narayana Ashram. Other specialities of this place includes a gallery of paintings, natural house hold items, a children's lake and a garden.
* Pallikunnu Church - This church is located 12 kms north of Kalpetta near Wayanad district of Kerala. The famous festival of this church takes place in the month of January.
* Varambetta mosque - This mosque is located 15 kms southeast of Kalpetta near Wayanad. The mosque is almost 300 years old and it is also the oldest mosque in Wayanad.
* Chembra Peak - Situated 2100 m above sea level, Chembra peak is the highest peak in Wayanad and is the perfect place for trekking. Climbing this peak is no easy task and will require almost a full day. But the climb will be worth because after reaching its peak, one can view the enchanting beauty of Wayanad. The peak is also a great spot for camping. On this peak, there is a lake which never dries up even in the heights of the summer season.
Other attractions of Wayanad are Wayanad Heritage Museum, Neelimala View Point, Banasura sagar project, Pakshipathalam, Nagarhole Elephant Sanctuary, Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary, Muniyaras and Kuruva Island.
6. Thekkady - Thekkady is the perfect place in Kerala for people who are in love with the wilderness and wildlife. A number of animal species of various kinds can be found here in Thekkady such as lion tailed macaques, boars, deers, elephants, tigers and leopards. One can sit on top of the elephants and have a ride along the forests of Thekkady. One can trek right into the middle of the forests with he guidance of the tourism department at Thekkady. There is a resort located within the island in the middle of the lake and it is the best place to visualize and observe the wild animals. Boating facilities are also provided in the lake which gives the perfect opportunity to see some of the water birds. The best time to visit Thekkady is between September and March.
Sight-seeing attractions in Thekkady
* Periyar National Park - This is one of India's biggest wildlife sanctuaries with an area of 777 sq km which is mainly a tiger reserve. It is one of the main attractions and a pride to Kerala. You can also spot other animals such as wild elephants, leopards, wild dogs, deers, mouse deer, Nilgiri langur, bonnet macaque, porcupines, Indian bisons, wild boars, sloth bears and Nilgiri Tahrs. The park is also home to a large species of reptiles and birds which includes monitor lizards, pythons, king cobras, flying lizards, darters, ibises, mynas, flycatchers, wood pigeons, kingfishers, ospreys and parakeets. These animals can be spotted while on a trip in a motorboat along the lakes or from a watchtower which needs prior permission. If you like a closer observation and proximity with the animals, you can take a walk along the forests and jungles with the help of the local guides. The sanctuary is located on the banks of the Periyar lake which is actually an artificial lake. The herd of elephants which come to this lake is an enchanting sight. Elephant rides are also possible here. The 120 years old Surki dam which is built across Periyar is a major attraction of Thekkady.
* Murikkady - This is a beautiful picnic spot located 5 kms from Thekkady and is close to Periyar National Park. The area is filled with rich plantations of pepper, cardamom and coffee. The place is famous for its pleasant atmosphere and lush green plains.
* Mangala Devi Temple - This temple sits high atop a thickly wooded hill and gives an unobstructed view of the surroundings. It is a very ancient temple which is almost 2000 years old and is located 15 km from Thekkady. It is situated amongst the dense forests of Thekkady and is built in Pandian style of Kerala architecture. The temple is opened for prayers only once in a year on Chithra Purnima which is the full moon day in the month of April and May.
* Chellar Kovil - Situated 15 kms from Kumily near Thekkady, Chellar Kovil is a small village which is known for its lush greenery and cascading waterfalls. The place is less explored which helps it to remain neat and natural.
7. Thrissur - Thrissur is known as the cultural capital of Kerala and is famous for the Thrissur Pooram which is the mother of all poorams and is one of the biggest festivals of India. A hundred elephants are decorated and adorned with ornaments on the day of Thrissur pooram on both sides of the Vadakkunnathan temple which is situated at the heart of Thrissur city. The pooram takes place in May and an exhibition is also opened on the grounds of the Vadakkunnathan temple during the entire month of May. A major pilgrimage place located 29 kms northwest to Thrissur called Guruvayur, which is the abode of Sri Guruvayoorappa, receives many visitors almost every day of the year. Some of the famous attractions in Thrissur are Kerala Sangeetha Nadaka Academy, Kerala Sahitya Academy, Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple, Paramekkavu temple, Vadakkunathan temple and Lourdes Cathedral Church.
Some of the worth visiting places in Thrissur
* Vadakkunathan temple - The whole city of Thrissur has been built around the beautiful hillock atop which the Vadakkunathan temple has been built. Trichur is basically a sea of temples and Vadukkunathan is one of the most famous among them. One can say that the glory or charm of Trichur is the Vadakkunathan temple. As mentioned before, the primary deity worshipped in this temple is Lord Shiva though the idols of many other Lords are also present here. The architecture of this temple is really mesmerizing. It stands majestically on an elevated small hill and the most unique feature of it is that it is situated at the heart of the town with a large ground around the temple where many people come daily to take a stroll or to just relax in the proximity of the temple. This ground is known as Thekkinkadu maidan. The famous temple festival called Thrissur pooram takes place in this area which surrounds the temple. Some other rituals that take place here are Gajapooja, Aanayoottu and Maha Shivrathri. Since it has such a vast area, there are many entrances (gopurams) to the temple, one facing each direction (North, South, East and West). The main entrance faces the West direction. The Vadakkunathan temple is also known by two other names namely Thenkailasam and Vrishabhachalam. Non-Hindus are not allowed into this temple.
* Guruvayur temple - Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple is a famous Krishna temple located in Guruvayur town of Thrissur district. The temple is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus and many people from around the country come here to offer their prayers and pujas to the lord. It is the holy abode of Vishnu on Earth and is thus referred to as 'Bhooloka Vaikuntam'.
* Athirappilly and Vazhachal waterfalls - These waterfalls are located inside a forest. A trip to Thrissur must definitely involve a visit to these enchanting waterfalls. Situated in the Sholayar range, both the waterfalls are near to each other and fall into the Chalakkudy river. The beautiful waters and scenic surroundings makes the waterfalls a picturesque place. One can also find a large variety of flora and fauna in the vicinity of these waterfalls. Athirappilly is an 80 feet high waterfall which is literally breath taking. The waterfall starts off in a calm manner from the high ranges and ends up with a wild force as it falls through the gorges and trees. Vazhachal falls are located 5 km away from Athirappilly.
* Anakkayam Lake - This lake lies about 20 kms from Chalakkudy. The place is breathtaking with its beautiful lakes and serene environment. It is an ideal spot for a picnic. The name Anakkayam means 'a death pit for elephants'. It is believed that once upon a time a herd of elephants fell into the lake when quenching their thirst. A place covered by coconut palm groves, one can also go boating in the traditional Kerala style boats in the lake.
8. Vagamon - Vagamon is a mixture of everything that a person would want in a vacation trip. It is a pilgrimage spot, a picnic spot and at the same time a place for adventure. Vagamon is a hill station of Kerala and has a very cool climatic atmosphere. It is situated near the Kerala-Tamil Nadu boundary, in the Kottayam district at 1100 m above sea level. The main attraction of this place is the small hills which stretch over a vast area. There is a beautiful lake amongst the hills making it an ideal family picnic spot. The best part is that the entire place is still unspoiled and the natural beauty remains intact. During winters, the hills of Vagamon are covered by thick mist. So thick is the mist that you cannot even see a person who is standing 5 feet away from you. It is surely a must-visit place in Kerala for those who are in love with nature and wish to experience all the kinds of climate amidst the nature such as the mist, rain drops and the gentle breeze. The area is filled with tea plantations and lakes and is a perfect place for trekkers. Romantic couples also love this place and choose it as a honeymoon destination to be amongst the pine forests. The Kurishumala church atop a hill is a famous place for pilgrimage to Nazrani Catholic. The trekking needed to be undergone to reach the church is a very adventurous task. Adventure lovers will also fall in love with Vagamon. The attractions at Vagamon include the Indo Swiss Project dairy farms, tea estates, pine forests, grass lands, enchanting meadows, shola forests, the cool mists, the famous suicide point of Thangal hill, a peculiar formation of rocks at Thangal Para and the Live Stock Board.
9. Kochi - Kochi is referred to as 'The queen of Arabia' and is also known as the Gateway to Kerala. There are many places of interest in Kochi for tourists. The best feature of Kochi is that it is well connected to all major places in Kerala by air, road and rail because of which accessibility is made very easy. Kochi is adjoined by the Western Ghats in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west. A lot of boating and rafting activities are possible here as it is a place for the confluence of backwaters with the sea. Some of the attractions of Kochi are Marine drive, Fort Kochi beach, Kumbalangi backwaters, Bolghatty palace, Jewish Synagogue, Cherai beach, Hill Palace, Thripunithara Palace and Vasco House. There are also places of pilgrimage like the Santa Cruz Basilica and the St Thomas Church at Malayattoor. In the entire central region of Kerala, Kochi is the best place for shopping as it is known as a cosmopolitan city of Kerala.
Fort Kochi is part of the city of Kochi in Kerala. The region consists of a vast water body. This body of water (estuary) was formed when a major flood filled the region in AD 1341. Before this period, it was a region dominated with land and had no access at all to the sea. Currently, it is one of the best natural harbours in the world. Some of the attractions of Fort Kochi are Chinese fishing nets along the Vasco Da Gama Square, Santa Cruz Basilica, St Francis Church, VOC Gate and Bastion Bungalow. St Francis Church is one of India's oldest churches where Vasco Da Gama was buried in 1524.The Fort Kochi beach is a popular destination for beach lovers. The fort located here has a major historical significance. The beach's highlight lies in its beach carnivals. The place is filled with many historical forts, monuments and architectural figures.
Kumbalangi is a suburb in the city of Kochi in Kerala. The place, surrounded by backwaters, has been declared as a model tourism village by the Government of India under a project called Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village. The model village is the first of its kind in India. The project undertook the transformation of the small village into a model fishing and tourism village. The modest livelihood of the villagers can be seen and understood here. With a serene and calm landscape, tourists can leisurely savour the scenic beauty of this place. Cherai beach is located in Ernakulam district of Kerala and shares a border with the Vypeen Island. It is an ideal place for swimming and if one's luck permits, he/she can even spot dolphins in the sea. The beach is just a 30 minute drive from Ernakulam and is also easily accessible by boat. The western part of this beach consists of the sea whereas the eastern part homes the backwaters. This unique feature of this beach will enable it to become a major tourist spot in the future. Tall coconut groves are lined on the shore of the beach and one can also find Chinese fishing nets on the shores.
Bolghatty Palace is one of the oldest existing palace in India and it was built by the Dutch traders. The palace is situated within the Bolghatty island in Kochi. Currently, the palace has been converted into a heritage hotel with a golf course in the vicinity and an international marina. The island can be reached within a short time from Kochi city through a boat ride.
10. Kollam - Kollam is known as the land of cashews. Formerly known as Quilon, it has the right proportion of everything comprising of hills, backwaters, religion and culture. The Picnic Village is a tourist village situated in Ashramam about 3 kms from the town of Kollam in Kerala. Picnic village is located on the backwater-front and offers a variety of recreational activities for tourists. A 200 year old Guest House campus, where once Lord Munroe used to stay, is situated in this village. Activities include a boat club, an adventure park, a children's traffic park and a Yatri Nivas for accommodation. One can cruise through the backwaters in a houseboat, luxury boat or a speed boat. On the farside of Kollam, there is the Thenmala hills which hosts the first ecotourism project in Kerala. Near to Thenmala, one can witness the Palaruvi waterfalls which has herbal ingredients mixed with the water. Kollam has many activities to offer to its tourists including adventurous activities such as rock climbing and mountain biking.
Ashtamudi Lake is located in Kollam district of Kerala. The lake is called the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. After the Vembanad Lake, Ashtamudi is the second largest and deepest wetland region. This vast body of water is in the shape of the palms. The name Ashtamudi means 'eight-coned' in Malayalam (the local language of Kerala) and it indicates that the lake has clusters of eight tiny islands. This lake is serene and calm throughout the year. Houseboats are provided for tourists to cruise through the backwater lakes. Good quality accommodation is also available which will make your trip much more comfortable. There are many islands around this lake which includes Munroe island, Chavara South and Thekkumbhagom island. The Kallada river flows into the Ashtamudi lake. Thousands of fish species are found in this area which is the main source of livelihood for the fishermen living at the banks of the lake. It is the second largest fish centre after the Vembanad lake.
Thangasseri beach is located in Kollam district of Kerala. It is famous for its historical importance. Its beaches are charming with its golden sands and tall palm trees bordering the beach. It is a very small beach of just about 3 kms. The beach is famous for an old lighthouse called Thangasseri lighthouse which has historical importance and was built by the Portuguese, the sports activities that it provides such as scuba diving, catamaran rides and fishing. Thirumullavaram beach is situated 6 km north of Kollam district. Though it is an isolated beach, it is still quite famous as a picnic spot. A major attraction in this area is the Mahavishnu temple located near the beach. Another highlight of Thirumullavaram beach is the Nyarazhcha Para, meaning Sunday rock which can be seen about one and a half kilometre into the sea. This rock can also be witnessed from the shore itself during the low tide. Its shallow waters allow people to take a bath in the water.
Another important pilgrimage place in Kollam is the Mata Amritanandamayi Ashram in Vallikkavu. The Ashram is world famous and many travellers including foreigners come here to seek religious refuge at the ashram.