A heartwarming destination where nature, pristine beaches, backwaters, ayurveda, and vibrant culture awaits you, Kerala is a state in Southern India, situated in the southwestern end of the Indian subcontinent. With a deep history of cultural heritage, Kerala is the state with the highest literacy rate in all of India, and where women have outnumbered men.
Endowed with emerald backwaters, sprawled scenic tea estates, lush green hill stations, and the Arabian Sea, Kerala boasts of numerous tourist places that make people fall in love with them instantly. Not just the natural beauty, its multi culture, exotic cuisine, historical and architectural structures, traditional art and craft, dances, and festivals are all part of the reason Kerala sees a pitfall of thousands of tourists from across the globe.
Kerala Language and Population
The primary language spoken in Kerala is Malayalam, which is its official language. But apart from this, English is also widely spoken, along with some Tamil in few parts that are close to the borders of the state Tamil Nadu.
There are 3.47 crore (34.7 million) people in Kerala, out of which 54.7% are Hindus, 26.5% are Muslims, 18.38% are Christians. These are the three predominant religions in the state (Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity). Kerala’s people are also often referred to as Keralites. The state has the maximum literacy rate in all of India and, and most of the people here can speak and understand basic English (excluding in some rural areas).
Culture of Kerala
People in Kerala are known as Malayali (after the language spoken there). The culture that exists in Kerala today is said to have evolved through Sanskritization of Dravidian ethos, and revivalism of religious movements and reform movements against caste discrimination.
Onam - a harvest festival celebrated extravagantly by the people of Kerala, is an important part of the traditions here – mainly for Hindus. Carnatic music (an Indian classical music form that originated in South India) is prevalent here. Apart from this Kerala has its own native music system called “sopanam”, which is a kind of step-by-step rendition of raga-based songs.Sopanam also provides the background music used in Kathakali – which is the state’s most popular dance form, which includes elaborately colorful make-up, costumes and face masks worn by the performers.
With some of the richest temples in the world, Kerala has a strong hold in its religious ethnicity and people practice old religious customs and traditions with vigor. Men are only allowed to enter in the Hindu temples if they are wearing dhoti and women must wear a saree of salwar suit.
The lands in the place of Kerala today are said to have been recovered from the sea by the sage Parasurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu. Though the latter is a part of mythology, it is believed that a substantial portion of Kerala may have been under the sea in ancient times, as marine fossils have been found in an area called Changanassery in the state, thus supporting this hypothesis.
Rock engravings that exist in the Edakkal Caves, in Wayanad, Kerala date back to the Neolithic era (around 6000 BCE). Sites dated back to Mesolithic and Megalithic eras were also discovered in the state.
Since around 3000 BCE, Kerala is said to have been a major exporter of spices, thus also gaining a nickname - "Spice Garden of India", and attracting international trade from outer kingdoms like Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt to the Malabar coast, and in later years, the Greeks and Romans, and eventually other countries too started importing spices from Kerala. This spice trade flourished through the colonial and medieval eras and exists in Kerala to this day. The state also has a major role in introducing Islam and Christianity to India and is one of the most religiously diverse states in India.
Kerala was formed on November 1st, 1956, and has 14 districts – Kasargod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Malappuram, Palakkad, Idukki, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta, Kollam, Kottayam, and Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), with Trivandrum being the capital city. The state has a land area of 38863 sq. km with 580km of coastal area bordered by the Arabian Sea on the west.
The four important cities of Kerala are Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kollam, and Kozhikode and the top developed cities of the state in terms of GDP are Kochi, Kannur, Kottayam, Thrissur, and Kollam.
TOURIST PLACES in Kerala
Known as the ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala is the place where nature, culture, and heritage mingles to form a delightful paradise and amuses you with several spectacular scenic views, dance forms, cuisines, music, handicrafts, beaches, age-old temples, and what not. Named as one of the ten paradises of the world Kerala is recognized by long palm trees beaches, beautiful backwaters, and extraordinary temples. Every city in Kerala has something to offer to its visitors but some are just not to be missed and here are some of the best places to visit in Kerala.
- Alleppey/Alappuzha - The Venice of India : The breathtaking Alleppey, tops every list of the places to visit in Kerala because of its pristine backwaters, lush green surroundings, and the romantic houseboats.
- Munnar – The Tea Heaven of the South: A view to reminisce forever, Munnar is one of the most beautiful hill stations in Kerala and the tea estate paradise of the south. The pleasant weather adds to the existing charm of the place and is ideal for a tea and spice plantation tour which is spread in 80,000 miles.
- Kovalam – Kerala’s Beach Paradise : One of the best towns to visit in Kerala for a relaxed vacation with a picturesque surrounding, Kovalam is known for its pristine beaches and beautiful shores with some of the best ayurvedic massages and water sports opportunities.
- Wayanad – Nature’s Very Own Garden : After making a tour of Wayanad, you will know why Kerala is known as the God’s Own Country. The land of paddy fields, Wayanad is the greenest place in Kerala which makes it a scenic beauty with some thrilling adventures that is loved by all.
- Thrissur – The Cultural Capital of Kerala : After all that greenery and backwaters and stunning locations, visit Thrissur to delve yourself in the culture and heritage of Kerala and explore various temples, cultural centers, churches, and celebrate the colorful and cultural festivals.
- Thiruvananthapuram – Beach City Built on Seven Hills : The capital city of Kerala thriving with modernity and yet co-existing with ancient history, Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum is a spiritual city offering delight, blissful indulgence, and a peek into its cultural heritage.
- Kochi – The Port City : A melting pot with perfectly blended cultural values, traditions and modern outlook, Kochi is one of the most developed metropolises of India lined with scenic views, monuments, and lovely beaches.
- Varkala – A Surfer’s Paradise : One of the favorites among the tourists, Varkala flaunts its beaches and its beauty and being the only place in Kerala where cliffs are found alongside the sea. It is also one of the best destinations for surfing and has a temple dating back to 2000 years.
- Kumarakom – Houseboat Destination : Another beguiling backwater destination in Kerala, Kumarakom is adorned with the charm of Vembanad Lake and welcome visitors to explore its beauty in the exciting houseboat ride.
- Vagamon – For the Ones Searching Solitude : For an offbeat yet captivating holiday experience, head to the least explored hill station of Vagamon known for its salubrious beauty, pleasant climate, and adventure sports activities.
- Poovar – A Conjunction of Water Bodies : It is in the Poovar beach that you witness the sea meet a river and a lake which is a captivating sight. Poovar estuary also serves as a confluence ground of the beach and land and is a great picnic spot.
- Nelliyampathy – God’s Own Village : A quaint hamlet and a stunning hill station in Kerala, Nelliampathy captivates visitors with its lofty hills, rugged trails, and alluring backwaters.
- Ponmudi – A Lush Green Paradise : Nestled on the Western Ghats, Ponmudi is a blissful hill station with a new scenery full of lush green vegetation, lofty hills, stunning sunsets and sunrises, and streams, unlike the backwaters, coconut groves, beaches, or spice gardens in other parts.
Places to Visit in Kerala
- Krishnapuram Palace : An ancient palace with beautiful architecture; it also has an archaeological gallery within, with many delightful works of art displayed.
- Thrikkakkudi Rock cut temple : Another ancient temple; has a 3-foot long Shivalinga for which it is known.
- Pazhassi Raja’ tomb : A memorial to Pazhassi raja (of Kottayam’s royal family), who was also known as “Lion of Kerala”.
- Thalassery Fort, Thalassery (Kannur district) : Also known as Tellicherry, the fort comprises a larges gateway and a lighthouse with a stunning view surrounding it.
- Edakkal Caves, Nenmeni: Known for their exquisite rock and wall carvings, the pre-historic caves are two naturally occurring alcoves in Wayanad district.
- Palakkad Fort : Built by Haider Ali in 1766 AD, this is one of the most protected forts and is famous for its architecture and houses Hanuman temple, Marty Column, Anjaneya Swami Temple, Vatika Shilavatika, and a sub-jail.
- Thusharagiri Waterfalls : Located in the Kozhikode district, the Chalippuzha River diverges into three waterfalls creating a snowy spray, giving the name ‘Thushagiri’, meaning the snow-capped mountain.
- Kuruvadweep : A group of islets forming 950 acres of protected river delta and home to rare flora and fauna, which can be explored through fiber boats and bamboo rafts.
- Bekal Fort: One of the largest and well-preserved forts in Kerala and dates back to 300 years ago, Bekal Fort is nestled on a hill overlooking the Arabian Sea.
- Monroe Island : A cluster of islands straight out of a fairy tale, Monroe Island consists of a collection of 8 distinct islets and is surrounded by turquoise network of canals.
- Kavvayi Backwaters: A surreal and enchanting backwater location fringed with lush greenery, shimmering water, and a pleasant weather for a perfect getaway.
- Punnamada Lake : A part of Vembanad Lake which is the largest lake in Kerala and is known by different names in different places. When it reaches Kuttanad, it is called Punnamada Lake and is thronged by house boats.
- Athirappilly Waterfalls: Largest waterfall in Kerala with a height of 81.5 feet and surrounded by lush greenery.
- Vadakkunnathan Temple : Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is an ancient temple in Thrissur and is believed to be the middle point around which the city is established.
- Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple : Fourth largest Hindu temple of India, this temple town is believed to be chosen by Lord Krishna to conceal his Dwarka temple and thus his idol was established here by Vayu Deva and Brhaspati making it a sacred temple.
- Malampuzha Garden and Dam : Located in Palakkad district, the Malampuzha dam and garden are situated side by side and the garden is the only rock-cut gardens in South India made from broken bangles, tiles, plastic cans, tins, and other waste materials.
- Meenmutty Falls : The largest waterfalls in Wayanad in Kerala featuring a triple-decker effect as the water cascades down from nearly 1000 feet over three stages making it look mesmerizing.
- Kerala Kalamandalam : A premier public institute of India preserving the performing arts heritage of Kerala through rigorous training and performance.
- Sabarimala Temple : Dedicated to the son of feminine incarnation of Lord Vishnu – Mohini and lord Shiva, the temple is located atop a hill and the town is the largest temple town and second largest in the world in terms of the pilgrims visiting it every year.
Kerala’s cuisine includes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared using many spices like chilies, Black pepper, curry leaves, coconut, mustard seeds, turmeric, tamarind, and asafetida. The flavor of coconut is found in almost every dish here as it is available and used abundantly – in the form of coconut milk, fresh or dry coconut and coconut oil too. In non-vegetarian dishes, seafood, especially many varieties of fish are used (being a coastal state, it gets lot of fish), along with poultry, red meat, and beef. Rice is usually served with main course as the typical accompaniment for the curries and stews. Some of the most popular dishes or food in Kerala are:
- Sadya : a vegetarian cuisine served on a plantain leaf and consists of several vegetarian dishes, usually made during Onam.
- Idiyappam with Veg/Non-veg Curry : idiyappam is made from a batter of rice flour, salt, and water with several thin strands entwined to make a soft sphere and taste delicious with any gravy.
- Erissery : pumpkin and lentil-based curry made with spices and coconut.
- Puttu and Kadala Curry : puttu is a cylindrical rice cake cooked with grated coconut and can be devoured with any kind of curry such as Kadala curry (black gram curry)
- Appam with Ishtu : appam is a thin pancake with crispy edges and thick center and is made with a batter of fermented rice four, coconut milk, coconut water.
- Dosa Ghee Roast : dosa roasted in ghee from both sides.
- Idli Sambar : fermented rice cakes with tangy curry of lentil and vegies
- Fish Molee : fish curry made with coconut and kocoumspice.
- Karimeer Pollichathu : Pearl spot fish marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, red chilies, and spices and then wrapped and baked in plantain leaves, giving it a unique flavor.
- Malabar Porotta with Kerala Beef Curry : Spicy beef curry eaten with layered flat bread made with plain flour, eggs, and oil and then shaped into a spiral with thin layers before rolling.
- Palada Payasam : A sweet rice kheer made with rice, milk, jaggery, and ghee.
- Thalassery Biriyani : The biriyani uses a thin, fragrant, small-grained rice called Kaima and then layered with spicy meat gravy. Hot charcoal is placed over the lid.
- Pazham Pori : Banana fritters made from a ripened plantain called NendramPazham which is dipped in sweetened flour batter and fried till golden brown and crispy.
- Kerala Prawn Curry: Prawn curry made with a blend of fenugreek, black mustard, fennel seeds, coconut milk, green chilies, and kudampuli (brindleberry for sour taste). Innatedted and fried prawn, raw mango and drumsticks are used in the gravy.
Kerala has a number of restaurants serving cuisines from the state, south India, other Indian cuisines, as well as from around the world. From sea facing restaurant to perched atop a hill, Kerala restaurants are a delight to eat and enjoy. Some of the best and famous restaurants in Kerala are:
- The Rice Boat : A beautiful restaurant at Vivanta By Taj and known for its fine dining seafood all over the state.
- The Asian Kitchen by Tokyo Bay : A chich restaurant in Kochi and Madurai, it is renowned for its delectable dishes covering the entire Asia.
- Oberoi Hotel : A five-star hotel with many restaurants serving delectable world-class dishes in a trendy setup.
- Trilogy Restaurant : One of the most famous restaurants in Kerela for the traditional Kerala dishes and has a peaceful ambiance.
- Paragon : One of the oldest restaurants in Kerala and famous for its authentic taste of South India and cuisines.
- Ginger House Restaurant : A restaurant with beautiful interiors and facing seaside view along with a view of Kochi Fort, the restaurant offers multi-cuisine from all over the world and authentic Kerala cuisine.
- Sky Grill : A restaurant with candle-light dinner facility, good ambiance, and facility to order dish according to your taste apart from the already established menu.
- Fort House Restaurant : A fine dining place to eat along with a sea view and delicious assortment of seafood.
- Bait : A beach restaurant located in Kovalam with soothing ambiance, sea view, delicious food, and drinks.
- Kashi Art Café : Located in Fort Kochi is one of the oldest and famous restaurants in Kerala with delicious cuisines, stunning interior, and artwork.
Museum and Art Galleries
The museums in Kerala are a way to glimpse into its ancient past, culture, and heritage along with that of south India. Visiting a museum is always better than reading a history book and Kerala does not disappoint when it comes to some great museums and art galleries which depict the ancient and modern artistry of the state. Here is a list of some of the best and famous museums and art galleries in Kerala:
- The Napier Museum :A museum with stunning architectural design and showcases several bronze idols, artifacts, stone carvings, Tanjore paintings, and ancient ornaments.
- Kerala Folklore & Cultural Museum :A museum depicting the folklore and heritage of the state through folk art puppets, traditional musical instruments, and samples of architecture inside it.
- Science & Technology Museum :A great place for science and technology buffs with various models explaining disciplines of science, fun science games, and science and space shows.
- Priyadarshini Planetarium, Trivandrum :A museum showcasing models of the universe and planets and space shows where you can see the milky way galaxy and stars up above your head.
- Archaeological Museum Thrissur :A history museum showcasing treasures such as hero stones, ola granthangal, temple models, manuscripts on leaves, and megaliths.
- Bay Island Driftwood Museum :The museum showcases a stunning assortment of high-quality masterpieces of eminent artists such as root sculptures carved from driftwood that shored across the sea.
- The Teak Museum :The first teak museum in the world, it has all information about Teak which is carefully collected and displayed in the building.
- Sree Chitra Art Gallery :A famous art gallery showcasing artwork of several Indian artists and depicts artforms from Bengal, Rajasthan, Rajput, Mughal, and Tanjore school of arts. It also has a collection of international works, miniature, and manuscripts from various parts of the world.
- Kashi Art Gallery :Originally a Dutch home, this art gallery exhibits artwork from various European artists as well as Indian artists. It also has a café where you can sit and enjoy the artwork while sipping a cup of coffee.
Events / Festivals
The ‘God’s Own Country’ Kerala is abundant with mesmerizing greenery and a stunning landscape featuring beaches, hills, ghats, and streets lined with coconut and palm trees. The state has any historical temples and architectures and celebrates its rich culture and heritage through various rituals and festivals. Some of the best and popular festivals and events celebrated here are:
- Adoor Gajamela : It is a ten-day long festival/fair held in Parthasarthy temple with elephants decorated with accessories.
- Machattu Mamangam : Elegantly decorated effigies of horses are taken out in grand procession in this five-day festival at the MachattuThiruvanikkavu temple in Thrissur dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy.
- Chettikulangara Bharani : The festival is dedicated to goddess Bhagavathy and is held in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (Feb-Mar). The giant Kettukazcha structures are decorated with cloth, flowers, and ornaments and placed outside the Chettikulangara temple.
- Pulikali : One of the folk-art forms of Kerala celebrated on the fourth day of Onam, where artists paint there bodies like tigers with stripes of yellow, red and black and dance to the traditional percussion instruments.
- Onam : The national festival of Kerala and falls in August-September, it is celebrated for the coming of King Mahabali and has a history associated to it. People make Onam Sadya and visit relatives and exchange gifts.
- Vishu : It is one of the important festivals of Kerala as it marks the new year which usually falls on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of April.
- Guruvayur Aanayottam : A one of a kind event celebrated in Guruvayur temple in Thrissur where elephants take part in race which marks the beginning of the annual Guruvayur Festival celebrated in Feb-March.
- Cochin Carnival : It is a visual extravaganza celebrated in the last two weeks of December signifying the glorious history of Fort Kochi.
- Thrissur Pooram : One of the most famous temple festivals in Kerala and is celebrated in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. It is organized in the Vadakkunnathan temple in Thrissur with huge, decorated elephants outside the temple and ends with firework display at night.
Art and Dance
Kerala is also known as the pilgrimage for art, craft, and traditional dance forms, many of which have been birthed from the cultural heritage and religious influence. The state is known to have unique styles of art forms consisting of mythological dance dramas, colorful costumes, heavy makeup, ornaments, and dance mudras. Some dance forms also exhibit craft skills and even martial art expertise. Some of the most popular art and dance forms of Kerala are:
- Kathakali : It is the main dance form of Kerala which is a 300-year-old classical dance consisting of unique dance movements, mudras, remarkable and grad costumes, and splendid presentation of human emotions through expressions.
- Mohiniyattam : A classic and elegant dance form performed solo by women wearing a beautiful costume and jewellery, it used to be performed in temples by devadasis to please the audience in ancient times.
- Theyyam : Theyyam is mostly performed in North Kerala which has evolved from temple rituals involving stories of gods and goddesses and has 400 variations. The dancer dresses beautifully and dances to the tunes of various instruments.
- Ottamthullal : This art form was used to be performed to criticize the kings and leaders of the society in a humorous way. The dancer wears costumes and entertains the audiences with hand movements, expressions, and jumps.
- Kutiyattam : Kuttiyattam is a popular temple art form which is presented by men from the Chakkiyar community and women from Nangiyar community together and is based on Natyasashtra. The recitations are in Sanskrit with musical background of drums and cymbals.
- Kalaripayattu : It is called the father of all martial art forms and was practise by warriors in the ancient times to gain strength and self-defence.
The wildlife of Kerala is worth to witness which you can only admire if you visit the national parks and sanctuaries here. From national parks to forest reserves and animal reserves, wildlife parks in Kerala boast of unique, abundant, exotic, and rare species of flora and fauna. Some of the best wildlife national parks and sanctuaries in Kerala are:
- Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary : Also declared as a national park, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is known for its lush vegetation and bountiful flora and fauna. It also features a Tiger Reserve and an Elephant Reserve and is a renowned national park in all south India.
- Begur Wildlife Sanctuary : One of the most beautiful places to see in Wayanad, Begur wildlife sanctuary is home to several beautiful fauna and flora and the region has a pleasant climate as well.
- Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary : Located in Palakkad, it is the most scenic wildlife sanctuary in Kerala and is known for luscious flora with scientifically managed teak plantation and a 350-year-old world’s oldest teak.
- Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary : Also a national park, Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary is an ideal place to do bird watching and is home to exotic species of snakes. It also has some great fauna as well.
- Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary : Nestled on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, this wildlife sanctuary was upgraded to national park and is home to the unique and endangered Great Grizzled Squirrel of India along with other exotic fauna species.
Malls in Kerala
Kerala is pure beauty, authenticity, and care which is dipped in traditional culture while harmoniously blending with the modern world. Shopping in Kerala is a shopper’s delight whether it’s the traditional markets or the big shopping complexes. Kerala has some of the best malls in India with all national and international brands and with some amazing structural designs. Here are six best malls in Kerala you should visit:
Market Places (Traditional Markets)
Kerala is one of the most visited states in India by locals and by foreign tourists as well and for all good reasons. Its natural exquisiteness and rich culture and tradition makes it a traveler’s delight. Along with the marvelous temples and backwaters, Kerala has some fabulous markets with products such as rich spices, rare silk items, gourmet coffee, fragrant herbs, or intricate jewelry. Hare is a list of some of the best markets Kerela has:
- Spice Market in Kochi : Kerala’s best spice market in Kochi lined with several retailers and stalls of spices of all kinds and in reasonable rate.
- Connemara Market in Trivandrum : A market full of household items, vegetables, seafood, textiles, groceries, fruits, and spices along with some handicrafts.
- Chalai Bazaar : The market sells several items including daily grocery items, ready made clothes, and local beverages.
- Broadway : Street-long dry market selling mostly home goods, known for spices, footwear, and hanging lanterns.
- Sakthan Market : A bustling market in Thrissur known for fresh vegetables, fish, meat, and spices.
Kerala has as several shops and departmental stores that are famous for their specific product. Although the number is large, these are some of the best shops in Kerala to shop from for your distinct desires.
- LuLu Hypermarket, Kochi
- Pulimoottil Silks, Thrissur
- Paris De Boutique, Kochi
- Garggy Fascino Boutique, Thrissur
- Fatiz Bridal Emporio, Thrissur
- Kuthampully Handloom centre, Thrissur
- Kalyan Silks, Thrissur
- Jayalakshmi Silks, Thrissur
- Malabar Gold and Diamonds, Ernakulam
- Elite Supermarket, Thrissur
- Radisson Blu Kochi
- The South Park Hotel
- Forte Kochi
- Ramada Alleppey
- The Raviz Calicut
- Kochi Marriott Hotel
- Vivanta By Taj
- Brunton Boatyard
- The Leela
- Golden Peak
- Grand Chaithram
- Ripple Land
- Folk Land
- Periyar House
- Loom Land
- Garden House
- Pepper Grove
- Rain Drops
How to Reach
- By Air: Kerala has three main airports in Trivandrum, Kochi, and Kozhikode which connects all the major cities and serve international flights as well. buses and cabs are easily available from the airport to commute.
- By Train: There are around 200 train stations in Kerala, and it is connected to several major and minor cities as well as districts within the state via trains.
- By Road: Kerala has well established and maintained roads with NH that connects neighboring cities and states. The state-run buses are available 24/7.
With an enchanting charm and a mystical vibe that is supported by breathtakingsurroundings and diverse culture, Kerala is the land where culture and heritage combines with nature which demands and holds the attention of visitors with a promise to leavethem spellbinding and in awe.