Kerala is a very picturesque town in South India with much to see, do, and experience. Whether you’re interested in beautiful scenic views, wildlife and nature, walking and trekking, photography, experiencing true Indian culture and tradition, food and drink, water-parks, or architecture, there’s something for everyone of all ages. Here are six places we recommend you visit when on holiday in Kerala:
1. Bekal Fort
Located in Kasaragod, Bekal Fort is the largest fort in Kerala. Built in 1650, it has beautiful architecture and is a setting which has been used in a number of films. It’s been suggested that it’s shaped like a large keyhole. It is stunning to see the sun setting over the Arabian sea. You can look out from its observation towers where when it was used by military it would have had cannons placed. Near the beach, it has wonderful views of the sea and a coastline with coconut trees and other plants. You can see fishermen at the beach with their freshly-caught fish and seafood. It’s a perfect place to take lots of memorable photos and is ideal for families. It’s very relaxing to visit because it’s so spacious that it never seems over-crowded with tourists. The fort is surrounded by gardens that contain two sculptures of Theyyam. It’s recommended that you have at least one hour to walk around the fort.
Nearby you can find stalls selling ice cream and drinks. The ice cream in particular has been praised by a number of visitors.
2. Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary
Approximately 42 kilometres away from Kochi is a lovely sanctuary for elephants. The Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary is situated in the village of Ernakulam by the side of the Periyar River. While there you can see how the elephants are bathed and massaged with small flat stones or coconut husks under the supervision of experienced Mahouts. It’s possible to go on an elephant safari. There’s a chance to see kraal’s which house up to four elephants. You can see the elephants feeding which is how they spend 80% of their day. You will get to see baby elephants too, as the rescue centre usually has between four to six baby elephants per year. Elephants are a key part of Indian culture, tradition, and mythology; almost all Indian celebrations and festivals are rich in elephant imagery. A mini zoo is based there with rescued rare species including elephants. These rescued elephants are trained, and many eventually go on to work loading timber, moving wood, or as religious temple elephants for Hindu events and festivals.
Here there is also access to boats which allow people to get to Malayattoor Church where many go for a pilgrimage.
3. Wonderla Amusement Park
Wonderla Amusement Park is located in Kochi (also known as Cochin) at the top of a hill in Pallikkara. It’s a very affordable, clean, and safe amusement park- ideal for the family as well as thrill-seekers. The park contains lots of rides, with new rides being added yearly. Wonderla Amusement Park has a wide variety of amazing water-slides, wave pools, a log-flume, rapids, and rides including the Twin Flip Monster and Vintage Tornado. Two of the newest rides are Equinox 360 that has twists and turns and has a 360-degree view of the park, and Flash Tower which is 37 metres high and drops rapidly in a thrilling descent. Some rides give a 3D experience in an air-conditioned cinema setting. Another ride is Rockin’ Tug boat which rocks and whirls the entire family. Balarama Cave is sure to get you shrieking delightedly as it’s full of witches, wizards, and evil spirits. Two different types of dodgems exist at the park: a traditional one for crashes and another for gliding to wonderful music. A big wheel offers an eagle-eye view of the park. A fountain and laser show will entertain the family with lights and water perfectly timed to music. Visitor reviews frequently comment on the friendliness and hospitality of the staff. The park has been well-designed to include lots of trees that provide shade from the heat. The food at the park is highly recommended.
4. Snake Boat Races
These boat races take place in Alappuzha. The boats are a long, traditional war-canoe design, usually black or brown, decorated with vibrantly colourful red, orange, and blue ties on the tail and coloured parasols. Each boat can fit up to 100 people. They are long and thin which makes the boat resemble a snake which is how they got their name. The boats are also called “Chundan Vallam“. The races occur between June and September, with four main snake boat races. The Champakkulam Moolam (June/July) represents when the Hindu god, Krishna, was installed in the Sree Krishna Temple and the idol stopped at Champakkulam on the way. Thousands of boats assembled outside. The Nehru Trophy is held on the second Saturday of August in honour of the late Prime Minister Nehru. The Payippad Jalotsavam is in September and the Aranmula Boat Race in August/September is a two-day religious event representing snakes that were taken to the Aranmula Parthasarthy Temple. If you choose to do so, it’s possible to hire a boat so that you can get closer to the action of the race.
5. Abraham’s Spice Garden
Abraham’s Spice Garden is located in Thekkady. It’s a wonderful place to get up close and personal with some of the spices used in cookery. Some of the spices included are fragrant and powerful, really adding to the flavour of meals. You can see and taste spices such as vanilla pods, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom. Other things to experience include coffee, black honey made from small bees, and jumbo-sized lemons grown there. The spices are organically grown. It’s possible to speak with agriculturalists as you walk about the spice gardens so that they can tell you more about how they grow and cultivate the spices, which spices are used in Ayurvedic medicine, and the health benefits of each spice. The agriculturalists, including Mr. Abraham himself are exceptionally knowledgeable and informative about each plant. For good reason The Spice Garden is featured in Monty Don’s book about gardens of the world to visit.
6. Echo Point
Echo Point is on the way to Top Station, approximately 13 km away from the town of Munnar. It’s by the bank of a beautiful river, on a high point with scenic views of mountains and tea plantations. When you shout out a word there, it will indeed come echoing back to you across the water. If you time your visit right, you may see the rare Neelakurinji plants (Strobilanthus) which have a beautiful blue flower that only blooms every twelve years. (The next time they’re due to flower is in 2018.)
Echo Point is an ideal location for families or the young at heart. It is a beautiful location to view some of the local wildlife or to go for a nature trek. It can also be nice to have a picnic there. The mountainous slopes surrounding Echo Point are green, filled with tea plantations, trees, and spice gardens. Photographers will be in their element, with beautiful natural views and fauna and flora to photograph. Because of its unique acoustics, it can be a wonderful place for keen birders to hear the crystal-clear chirps and calls of birds. Often the mountain tops are covered in mist, with a magically mysterious look. It’s very calm and relaxing to see. The river makes for an excellent place for water sports, with boats and pedalos. Make sure you know the visiting hours of Echo Point before going.
Visiting any one of these places would make your holiday to Kerala more memorable with sights, sounds, smells, and experiences to tantalize your senses and make lasting memories. Kerala offers so much to do that these are just a small sample of its wonders. Other things to do include visiting beautiful lakes and backwaters where you can travel on a houseboat, or a Shikara ride (a double-decker boat); you could even choose to stay in a tree house!
Kerala has hundreds of tea plantations to visit, as well as some coffee plantations such as the resort in Wayanad. If you want to soak up some history you can visit forts. If you enjoy walking, you can find forests. If you want to experience Kerala culture there is a wide variety of performances to view. If you love wildlife there is plenty from tigers and elephants, to birds, butterflies, and insects. If you want to relax you have the choice of numerous beaches on which to sunbathe as well as waterfalls under which to bathe and the Arabian Sea for swimming. Kerala has something for everyone!
Featured photo credit: Amitra Kar via flickr.com