12 Best Places to Visit in Kerala, India

Kerala is a place that is blessed with incredible natural beauty and lots of lovely places and attractions. Being one of the most prominent places since historical times, Kerala encompasses a large number of cultural elements as well. So, if you are taking a trip from Chennai to Kerala, you have to meticulously plan your itinerary to avoid missing the best of Kerala.

If you love the nightlife, you will feel that your options are limited, at least in many parts of Kerala. People come home with the sunset and you can find roads deserted at around 8’o clock itself. Movies and restaurants are the only options if you want to go out in the night time, in most places. Most streets are gloomy at night times and outsiders may often feel scared to walk alone due to the sight of the trees all around.

There are many off-beat places to explore in Kerala for the travellers that wish to explore the places that don’t have a high tourist crowd. We are offering a list of some the off-beat destinations to explore in Kerala.

You can include these destinations in your Kerala trip plan from Chennai for a truly relaxing vacation like Andhakaranazhi Village and Beach, Alappuzha, Kallil cave temple, Ernakulam, Kava Village, Palakkad, Canolly's Plot, Nilambur, Sulthan Bathery, Wayanad, Meesapulimala Hills and Trekking, Idukki, Dharmadam Island, near Kannur, Brahmagiri Hills, Wayanad, Anchuthengu Fort, and Thiruvananthapuram

If you are planning for a 2-day trip, you have to include all the major attractions in a well-planned itinerary. If you are planning a short trip of 2 days or so, you won’t want to waste time in travelling via public transport. This will only reduce your exploration pleasure as you have to stick to the timetables and schedules. Take a self drive car rental to avoid wasting time and enjoying full freedom.

However, all the travellers have different interests and just one itinerary cannot suit all. This is why we have compiled a list of the must-visit places in a district-wise manner. You can then plan your visit by choosing the places that interest you. We are also offering 2 itineraries for Kerala trip plan for 2 days from Chennai that will suit most of the travelers.

Amazing Waterfalls in Kerala

So, here we go!

1. Thenmala

If you have hiking in Kerala in your mind, Thenmala Ecotourism Park in Kollam can be an ideal place. Thenmala is the first ecotourism destination planned in India and yet not many know this beautiful destination in India. One of the main attractions of Thenmala is the Thenmala dam, which offers a magnificent view of the place.

The destination promises to give you a little nature, wildlife, leisure, entertainment and adventure, all in one place! The park offers even several opportunities to practice adventure sports for children, in addition to providing a scenic spot for hiking or even picnicking.The scenic mountain station of Ponmudi (Golden Valley) just outside the capital offers another beautiful spot hiking for nature lovers.

The hill station and the entire trail from the foot of the hills have numerous small picnic spots and waterfalls, not to mention the private tea plantations. Neyyar Dam and Natural Sanctuary (32 km from the city), Veli Tourist Village (8 km from the city).

2. Palakkad

This is yet another place that you can cover in Kerala trip if you love to explore forests and waterfalls. The unknown cousin of pricey and costly Munnar, Palakkad has everything that Munnar will offer you and for less crowd and in a cheaper way.

The celebrated Palakkad Fort is located in the centre of Palakkad city. As Hyder Ali was collaborating with French for his army modernization, the entire Palakkad fort was designed in pure European sensibilities with large moats around the fort, a perfect square fort with 9 bastions and 2 minor bastions along with a huge self-contained cantonment inside.

The fort was so massive, it was hailed as the most impeccable fortress in Kerala and currently, its the best well preserved one, an icon of its own right that doubles as a perfect city square, almost a Malayalee Red Fort. It had a Mysore Army Cantonment house which now works as a museum, a huge granary, older residential barracks and a dozen of other structures.

Best places to visit in Palakkad:

Nelliyampathy, Attappadi reserve forest, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Silent Valley National Park, Dhoni waterfalls and Malampuzha I are some of the best places to visit.

Best accommodation in Palakkad:

Jungle resorts, tree houses, camps and resorts.

3. Nelliampathi

Nelliampathi is locally nicknamed as poor man’s Ooty. The high altitude, lush green tea gardens over the rolling hillsides and the surrounding tropical forest makes it truly breathtaking! Housing the famous Nelliyampathy Forest Range, the district is home to many jungle resorts, camping reserves and safaris. Toddy consumption is high. Toddy is a highly intoxicating coconut drink made from the sap of coconut flower.

4. Idukki

Idukki is a perfect destination for those who want to escape the hum-drum of the chaotic city life. The idyllic town with its picture-perfect landscapes looks more alluring during the monsoons. The sheer greenery, misty surroundings, and cold monsoon breeze make everything about this place just so perfect during the monsoons. Relax, getaway, sit back and enjoy the rains while the incessant rains beat your windows tirelessly.

Idukki is the perfect summer tourist destination in South India and places to visit in Kochi. Nestled in the hills of the Western Ghats, the city enjoys a healthy climate. How many places can really boast of forests, lakes, waterfalls, walks, picnic spots in one place? Hiking, backpacking and camping are some of the things to do in Idukki.

The reservoir of the Mattupetty dam, the reservoir of the Malankara dam and the Mullaperiyar dam make interesting outings. Idukki also has many beautiful waterfalls, a sandalwood forest naturally, and the first dam of the Indian arch. Go explore on foot or relax in your luxurious accommodation. The city of the hills has a way to calm their tired souls.

Places to visit near Idukki are Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi, Mattupetty Dam, Malankara Dam, Mullaperiyar Dam, Parunthumpara, Meesapulimala. Full of spices and tea plantations, the place is about 150 km from Sabarimala that does not allow women in the age group of 10-60. You can find numerous animals with their cubs near the lakes in the wildlife park.

Having the best peaks of Kerala under its belt, Idukki is every locals favorite place to be. The hill stations have great weather to escape the humidity. Their peaks range as high as 2000 meters. The highest of them all is the Anamudi, which is 2695 meters. It has the most famous Idukki dam, as well the Pamba river, originates from here. This place offers a wide range of treks, species, and spice plantations.

Idukki is home to many mighty waterfalls, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady and dense forests. It is also called as the spice garden of Kerala. Apart from Periyar, there are many other wildlife reserves and sanctuaries here. Gavi is a village in Pathanamthitta district. It is located 28 km southwest of Vandiperiyar, a town in Idukki. Gavi is part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. It is said that the only two gopher trees in India can be found in Gavi.

Finally nothing better than visiting Peermade, which was once the summer residence of the Maharajas of Travancore. The tranquility that is breathed in its plantations of tea, coffee and its meadows covered with forests of pine and eucalyptus are incredible. You also have to go to see the famous Peermade Waterfall doing some of the wonderful hiking trails in the area.

Thiruvalla is a small, quiet town in the Pathanamthitta district. The famous Sri Vallabh Temple, also called Dakshin Tirupati is in it.

Best places to visit in Idukki:

Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary, Thekkady, Eravikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kurinjimala Sanctuary and Pampadumshola National Park are some of the best places to visit here.

Best Accommodation in Idukki:

Camps and resorts.

5. Kottayam

This fantastic place is 63 kms away from Kochi and is known to have many things for tourists. From crafted stuff on the street to the plantations and selling commercial crops, Kottayam is the central part of Kerala. Apart from these, the place is home to the Kerala backwaters as well, prominently, the Kumarakom, the most famous backwater. Its cultural value is significant, as it is the gateway to Sabarimala.

6. Thrissur

Thrissur has a vast history. Starting with its name, it is derived from Thiru – Shiva and Peru which means town of Shiva. It has some of the most famous temples and churches. Vadakkumnathan Temple, Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple and Paramekkavu temple, Our Lady of Lourdes Syro-Malabar Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral are nice places near Thrissur. The most famous one is the Guruvayur Temple (Krishna temple), which is close by.

Thrissur is a Kerala's hub of culture and religion. Also, the biggest festival, Thrissur Pooram is held here. It is tagged by UNESCO as the worlds grandest festival, where colors, elephants, prayers, fireworks, locals, parties are combined for 36 hours. On the other hand, there are many famous rivers, waterfalls, dams, and sanctuaries here with places for couples to come and have fun.

Maruttichal is a village in Kerala. Marottichal is also known as Chess Village. In the sixth century, chess was called Chaturanga in Sanskrit, which means four divisions. Chess is believed to have first started in India. There are 6 thousand people here and 4 thousand of these people play chess almost daily.

Here people also play chess on the smartphone. This village has such popularity that people from Germany and America are also learning the nuances of chess.

7. Vagamon

Another good option could be exploring the little known hill station of Vagamon. This place is quiet and small and can be covered very well in a one day trip. There are Pine forests to get lost into, hills that you could trek to the top, meadows you can sit and relax in and horticulture you can explore. Vagamon is the perfect run away destination when Kochi becomes way too hot.

To witness and feel the best of Vagamon, a famous hill station located on the border of the Idukki and Kottayam districts of Kerala, choose summer. The place is nice at that time of year. Summer highlights all the beautiful features of the hill station.

The pleasant climate and the cold sea air are discarded by the climate of Vagamon from March to May. The clear sky, pleasant sun and the fresh fragrance of tea leaves refresh the mind and soul and make the summer a better choice for tourists who are looking for a visit to Vagamon. Vagamon is famous for green valleys, photography, green hills, crevices and majestic pine forests.

Vagamon hill station has three charming hills such as Thangal Hill, Murugan Hill, and Kurisumala. Vagamon enjoys a healthy temperature throughout the year, compared to other hill stations in Kerala. Visitors can enjoy elephant rides without problems during the summer.

Vagamon is also a sought after place for adventure lovers and secret places to visit in Kerala. With paragliding, hiking and trekking opportunities, Vagamon serves the purpose of sporting activities and gives the much needed adventure option for visitors. If you like adventure, take days off in the summer, get yourself to Vagamon and enjoy the fun-filled hiking and trekking experience.

Vagamon is also best known for kayaking, canoeing and boating. The Lakes in Vagamon are very famous and attractive.

8. Kollam

The neighboring district of Kollam also has a number of tourist places of historical relevance. About 27 km from Kollam is Munroe Island, famous for its Stone Age tools and megaliths. Munroe Islands is an island group located in the Asthamudi Lake in Kollam District. This is a must place if you are in vicinity of Kollam or Varkala.

Witnessing the sunrise in the peaceful and calm waters of Munroe with the melodious chirping of birds and sound made by the slow tides created by the boat is a gift to our senses. Its a great place for bird watchers, as one will see many birds uncommon to regular life. In Kollam is Thangasseri (about 5 km from the city) with its forts and the Portuguese churches. The 144 feet lighthouse, built by the British, is one of the biggest attractions here.

Located in the Kollam district, nearby places to visit when in Palaruvi waterfalls are Thenmala Dam and Shenduruny wildlife sanctuary. Jatayu Earth Center is here. Jatayu earth centre is also known as Jatayu Rock. It is situated at an altitude of 1200 feet above sea level. It is the largest bird statue in the world, which is 200 feet long, 150 feet wide and 70 feet high.

The Jatayu Rock in Chadayamangalam is another interesting place that has now become an ecotourism place. Cable Car is available to visit Jatayu rock, which can be booked online or offline after reaching there.

The Malanada Duryodhana temple, a unique place of worship dedicated to Duryodhana, the antagonist of the Mahabharata, is situated around 27 km from the picturesque Aryankadavu. The bustling fishing port Neendakara, located around eight kilometers from the city of Kollam, is also an interesting place.

The most mysterious village in the world, where only twins are born. Most of the children born in Kodinhi village in Malappuram district of Kerala are twins. 4 twins are born in every 1000 children born all over the world, but 45 twins babies are born in every 1000 children in this mysterious village. It is the second village in the world and the first in Asia on average.

Kattil Mekkathil Devi temple is dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali, known as Kathil Mekathil Amma. The most important part of the temple is the bell ceremony. Devotees tie bells here.

The Kerala Sea Split is located at Ponnani. This sea split was formed after a massive flood in Kerala which collected the sand at one place making a one-kilometre long sand strip that splits the sea into two halves. This phenomenon was not clear at first but along the way it was said that the swept away sand created this strip. It is a huge tourist spot in Kerala. It has great view of the surroundings and is quite an attraction.

9. Devikulam

Most tourists visiting the beautiful state of Kerala confine themselves to just Alleppey, Munnar, and Kovalam but make the mistake of turning a blind eye to some of the most amazing yet under-explored destinations like Devikulam. The place is known for its mythological significance and green hillocks.

You can visit the Keezharkuthu Falls that is known for adventure activities and medicinal plants or even pay a visit to the Sita Devi Lake. Devikulam is nothing less than a call for those who want to know why Kerala is called God's Own Country.

10. Mararikulam

If you want to have a quiet and peaceful weekend, escape to the nearby village of Marrarikulam. The place is untouched and have one of the best beaches in the country. You can stay at a homestay and just chill around the beach. Marrarikulam was listed for having one of the top hammock beaches in the world by National Geographic. What better than the sea, your favorite book, the tropical wind and some quiet time on the cool sand.

11. Kannur

Kannur is unquestionably one of the best places to see in Kerala in August. Kannur’s perfect and pristine shoreline is a reason big enough for you to pack your bags and visit this gorgeous destination. The star attraction of this place is Paithalmala, the place where you ought to spend your vacation at.

65 km from the town and 4,500 feet above the ocean level, this captivating hill town close to the Kerala and Karnataka border paints the landscape in tones of green and rich vibrant colors during the monsoons only. Spend time trekking through the slopes here and get to the best sites while appreciating nature at its best.

The most common hangout spot in Thalassery like in evening time would be visiting sea bridge locally called as Kadalpaalam which connects half way through the Sea for spending some good times having a walk and for recreational fishing. Muzhapilangad Beach is the longest drive-in beach in Asia. It is an unique experience driving amidst sea waves. Every year in the month of April, there is a beach festival.

Thiruvangad Ramaswamy temple is one of the famous temples having deity as Rama. Visiting this place early morning is pure bliss. There is an unique architectural structure of the temple having wooden carvings and mural paintings. The Vishu festival is celebrated here in grand manner.

Though Tellicherry fort is small, its one of the finest medieval era forts of Kerala in well-preserved conditions and reflects the finest British military architecture designs of 18th century. One of the first British fortifications in India, Tellicherry fort was designed in 1708 to handle and stock the fine quality Tellicherry pepper of East India Company.

Apart from cakes, the place is known for authentic Malabar style Thalassery Biriyani and must try sea foods, as it is located in Malabar coast line and usage of coconut is high in everything. Here people give preference to variety of evening snacks with Chaaya (tea) like Unniappam, Neiappam and Ari pathri.

Theyyam is form of worship performed by people across Northern part of Kerala and it is also native art for the locals who perform for consecutive generations. Theyyam has several types and the one who performs lives life of purity like fasting and following vegetarian food and regular prayers. It gives importance to nature and the locals used to get blessings and advice from the performer considering him as god.

11. Ernakulam

Firstly, the view around Idamalayar dam looks so good that tourists will feel like staying there, and never think of leaving. It is a heaven for most people for its serenity hooks onto you. The dam is 76 kms away from Kochi and is one of the most vital reservoirs for Kerala. It has a majority of unique species there.

The dam is built on the Idamalayar river, which connects to the Periyar river. There are many forests around, and tourists can enjoy bird watching, trekking, biking activities, boating etc.

12. Kumarakom

Situated on the banks of Vembanad Lake, Kerala's largest lake, Kumarakom is a cluster of many small man-made islands reclaimed from the lake. It is highly unlikely that Kumarakom wouldn’t look stunning amongst other spots to visit in Kerala amid storms and rains. You encounter the best of Kerala here Journey through the backwaters and treat your eyes to the most stunning views. It is then you would know why people call Kerala as God’s own Country.

The village of Kumarakom is a group of small islands in Lake Vembanad, and is part of the Kuttanad region. The bird sanctuary here, which stretches across 14 acres, is a favorite haven for migratory birds and the paradise of ornithologists. Herons, darts, herons, trullos, aquatic birds, cuckoos, wild ducks and migratory birds like the Siberian stork visit here in flocks and fascinate all visitors.

A lovely recreational destination, Kumarakom offers visitors many other leisure options. At the Taj Garden Retreat, an old bungalow turned resort, you can go boating and fishing. These backwaters have everything that Allepey will offer you without the cringy views of lovesick honeymoon couple on every other houseboat.

Thottapally on the other hand is still away from the plight of tourism and has been able to save the natural beauty and ecology intact to a large extent.

Anyone who visits Kerala should definitely plan a visit to this ritual and also Kalari, one of the oldest martial art forms.

If you want to explore Kerala, then the best way is to travel on your own and not to depend any tour operators from anywhere. Each district has its own beauty. None of the tour operators will show you all. If you want to depend on them, then they will show you some attractions as per their wish. But you can't say that you have completed your Kerala tour after that.

Later only you will come to know that you have missed some attractions over there and you will start blaming that particular tour operator. This happens anywhere in India. So to avoid all such issues, better make a customized plan and cover each district as per your budget and duration. It will take around a month to cover entire Kerala. So make a plan as per budget and duration.

Just check Kerala map and make a plan accordingly. You can either start from Palakkad and end at Trivandrum or vice versa, if you opt Central and South Kerala together. If you like Malabar area, then you can either start from Kasaragod and end at Palakkad or vice versa. Mangalore is the nearest airport to reach Kasargod. Coimbatore is the nearest airport to reach Palakkad. Trivandrum is having an airport.

Each above mentioned destination has railway station and bus station in that city itself. You can plan accordingly. You have a great chance to explore the nature, culture, festival, food, custom, hospitality etc. in each destination. So, what are you waiting for? You know where to go, and you know how to go. Just pack your bags and hit the road!
Kalyan Panja