Things to do in Kerala

Although most commonly associated with sedate boat trips through beautiful, labyrinthine waterways, Kerala does have a variety of tourist attractions. It is true that things to see and do in Kerala tend to revolve around the lush landscapes and natural assets of the region, but as India's most populous state Kerala is also an ideal destination for those seeking insight into local customs and lifestyles.

Kerala is endowed with more than its fair share of nature's bounty, with stunning rivers, lagoons and backwaters, numerous wildlife sanctuaries and reserves, and sublime beaches. In fact, one of the most famous attractions in Kerala is the coastal resort area of Kovalam, which some insist has the best beach in India. Other much-loved beaches include Varkala Beach and Papanasam Beach on the southwestern coast. For those interested in the local wildlife, there are five national parks and thirteen wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala, making it an amazing destination for animal lovers. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary are both favourites. And, of course, a trip to Kerala would be woefully incomplete without meandering through the backwaters in a boat.

As visitors explore the beautiful landscapes of Kerala they will also witness the day-to-day activities of locals and for many the region's laid-back, rural lifestyle is fascinating. Although not celebrated for its cities, Kerala does boast some decent urban sightseeing as well. The capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram (still commonly known as Trivandrum), has some cultural attractions to explore, including the Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the Puttan Malika Palace, and the Padmanabhapuram Palace.

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) photo

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

Situated on a hilltop at the southern end of India is Kerala's capital, Thiruvananthapuram (still commonly known as Trivandrum). For most visitors the capital is simply a transit-p…

Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

Situated on a hilltop at the southern end of India is Kerala's capital, Thiruvananthapuram (still commonly known as Trivandrum). For most visitors the capital is simply a transit-point on their way to Kovalam, the popular beach resort a few miles to the south. However, it is worth lingering for a day or so in this easy-going city to explore the narrow backstreets, old gabled houses and expansive parks. The most fascinating part of Trivandrum is the Fort area, around the Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple (closed to non-Hindus); and Puttan Malika Palace, seat of the Travancore Rajas. Some of the palace has been turned into a museum, and displays a collection of heirlooms and artefacts.

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary photo

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Situated in the Cardamom Hills region of the Western Ghats, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most popular wildlife reserves in India. It is home to a great variety of g…

Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

Situated in the Cardamom Hills region of the Western Ghats, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most popular wildlife reserves in India. It is home to a great variety of game, including elephant, sambar, wild pig, mongoose, the Malabar flying squirrel and almost 300 species of bird. Leopards and dwindling numbers of tigers are also here, but are, unfortunately, rarely glimpsed by visitors. The park lies 75 miles southeast of Cochin at cool altitudes, between about 3,000 and 6,000 feet (900 and 1800 metres). Most people view Periyar from a boat on the lake; however, many visitors prefer to explore the area on foot. Local guides take small groups on treks of various lengths.

The Backwaters of Kerala photo

The Backwaters of Kerala

One of the most memorable experiences for many travellers in Kerala is a boat journey on the state's famous backwaters. The best known of these areas is Kuttanad, situated between …

The Backwaters of Kerala

One of the most memorable experiences for many travellers in Kerala is a boat journey on the state's famous backwaters. The best known of these areas is Kuttanad, situated between the hills in the west and the Arabian Sea, and stretching for 50 miles south of Kochi (formerly Cochin). This extraordinary maze of rivers, lakes, canals and estuaries is lined with dense tropical greenery and reveals a Keralan lifestyle that is totally hidden from the road. Boats are the only way to explore this area, billed as Kaleidoscope Kerala, where views change around every bend.

Website www.keralatourism.org/destination/backwater

Varkala photo

Varkala

Located on Kerala's southwestern coast, just 32 miles (50km) from the state capital of Trivandrum, Varkala is one of those tourist destinations that get more and more popular each …

Varkala

Located on Kerala's southwestern coast, just 32 miles (50km) from the state capital of Trivandrum, Varkala is one of those tourist destinations that get more and more popular each year, as word of its stunning coastline and lively atmosphere gets out. Varkala is considered a less-crowded, less-commercial alternative to the beautiful Goa; although Varkala's main beach (Papanasam Beach) cannot boast the white sand and towering palm trees of some of its Goan counterparts, it is flanked by a steep and staggeringly beautiful cliff-face. In between relaxing on the beach and shopping at the markets in town, tourists can also take an enjoyable walk to the nearby Janardanaswamy Temple, a 2,000-year-old structure.