Kerala is an abode of nature, a destination where mankind and the beauty of nature coexist in harmony. However, there are much more things to do in Kerala than its backwater cruises and a stay in a houseboat in Alleppey or Kumarakom.
51 things to do in Kerala
If you are planning a trip to Kerala, pick your experiences from the list of things to do in Kerala below. Each one will enthrall you, making for a wholesome holiday experience.
1. Watch a Kathakali performance – and be mesmerized
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Kathakali, Kerala’s soul, is a beautiful dance form in which dancers decked up in colorful costumes tell you enchanting stories of the land with nothing but their expressions and postures. Watch a kathakali performance in Kerala, which usually takes place at night, and be enthralled by stories of passion, lust, and power. This centuries old dance form is believed to have originated from a rivalry between two kings of the region.
2. Visit the Iringal Crafts Village – for a cultural experience
Located near Kozhikode, on the banks of River Chaliyar is Iringal Crafts Village. The village is spread across 20 acres of land, where local artisans and craftsmen are encouraged to show their skills and sell their products to visiting tourists. You can pick up some beautiful works of art here made from coir, banana fibre, bamboo, coconut shells and other local materials found in abundance in Kerala. But it does not end at that. If you are curious about art yourself, you can attend art workshops here and learn to make a few art pieces yourself.
3. Watch a Kalaripayattu Bout- An exciting experience
Kalaripayattu is a form of martial arts which originated in Kerala. It is believed to be more than 3000 years old. Shaolin, the Chinese form of martial arts, is believed to have originated from Kalaripayattu too. Much like other martial arts forms, this art form too was taught in isolation in ancient times. The art form lost much of its significance in modern times. However, it is slowly making a comeback in the form of dances and fitness routines. There are about 500 schools in Kerala which train people in this magnificent form of martial arts. When in Kerala, watch a Kalaripayattu bout. You will be mesmerized by the forms and athletic moves of the fighters.
4. Explore sandalwood forests at Marayoor- Nature’s delight
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Situated 40 km from Munnar, in Idukki district, is Marayoor, or Marayur. It is famous for its natural sandalwood forests, and its rock paintings which date back to pre-historic era. There are caves to be explored and a children’s park as well for some fun and frolic. Get down at Ernakulam station and take a taxi to Marayoor for a different kind of Kerala experience.
5. Take an elephant ride- and feel like a king
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Just like Rajasthan, kerala is known for its procession of elephants decked up in beautiful colors. But even more exciting than that is a ride atop one of the elephants in Kerala. You can explore the countryside with an elephant ride by the banks of Bharathapuzha River, you can ride deep into forests for an exciting wildlife safari, or you can choose to explore the many plantations of Kerala atop an elephant- there are quite a few choices to choose from.
6. Watch a Theyyam performance- A beautiful form of art
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Theyyam is a form of God, a corrupt one at that, as believed by the people of Kerala. A Theyyam performance involves invoking the God and seeking His blessings. It is a popular art form of Malabar, which also stands for equality between the lower and upper castes of Hindus. It is an open-theatre like performance in which a lot of hymns and praises are sung, and like other art forms of Kerala, this one too involves some colorful costumes and beautiful dance postures.
7. Bamboo rafting in Periyar- For an adventurous experience
Periyar wildlife sanctuary is one of the most popular forests reserves of Kerala. You could either take a jungle safari through the reserve or take a bamboo rafting ride in Periyar Lake. Bamboo rafting in Periyar lasts for about 3-4 hours and takes you through the many delights of the wildlife sanctuary. You get to explore the flora and fauna of the region, and indulge in a bit of hiking as well. If you keep close to the banks of the lake, you have a good chance of spotting tigers, elephants and other majestic animals of the wild.
8. Ayurveda Massage- A heavenly bliss
Image S0urce:Adams Homestay Cochin
Ayurveda in Kerala is akin to gambling in Las Vegas, you just cannot miss it when visiting the destination. Ayurveda resorts dot the landscape of Kerala, offering various forms of natural treatment and rejuvenation. Take a break and get an Ayurveda massage from the experts when in Kerala. The experience is nothing short of divinity.
9. Sail down Alleppey backwaters– A romantic experience
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The backwaters of Alleppey are like the soul of Kerala. You can take a houseboat cruise on the backwaters of Alleppey, travelling through the narrow canals, and enjoying the lush greenery. It is a romantic experience, irrespective of whether you are with your partner, friends, or all alone.
10. Sip tender coconut plucked from a coconut tree- And be refreshed
Image Source:Yeoh Thean Kheng
You just cannot separate Kerala from coconut. This gift of nature is everywhere to be seen in Kerala, from housing to clothing, art forms, food and more. There is nothing like sipping a tender coconut plucked straight from the tree. It literally refreshes you from inside out, and the lush surroundings of Kerala just add to the experience.
11. Go fishing with Chinese fish nets- A different kind of tourist attraction
You may have tried angling in beautiful lakes, idling on a sunny afternoon. However, fishing with Chinese fish nets is a completely different experience. Visit Kochi and try fishing with these huge installations. Chinese fish nets are believed to have been introduced to Kochi by a Chinese ruler. They form an important part of the livelihood of people of Kochi, and make for a great tourist attraction as well.
12. Cheer a snake boat race- It is better than a cricket match!
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Every year, in the months of August and September, the calm backwaters of Kerala come alive with the energy and enthusiasm of snake boat races. Thousands throng the backwaters to cheer their favorite team on to the finish line. The 130 feet long snake boats are packed with hundred rowers each, who row in unison at frantic speeds. Visit Kerala during the months of August and September, and pick your favorite team to cheer. Champakulam and Jawahar Thayangari are two of the most popular teams in the snake boat races of Kerala.
13. Marvel at elephant pageants- Beauty in the beast
Beasts can be the beauty as well, and elephant pageants in Kerala are perfect example of that. Thrissur and Palakkad in Kerala host several elephant pageants throughout the year, the Thypooya Mahotsavam in January being the highlight. Watch beautiful decked up elephants strut their stuff in style during these pageants.
14. Spend a day with an elephant in Kerala- It isn’t confined to movies alone
Elephants are an important part of the culture of Kerala. There are about 700 captive elephants in Kerala, mostly in the Trichur region. Elephants play a part in important religious ceremonies in Kerala, apart from serving as a pride for people. You can spend a day with an elephant in Kerala, watch the mahouts bathe then, and scrub them with coconut. The elephants of Kerala are usually calm creatures which do not mind you getting close to them.
15. Athirapally waterfalls- Rich in biodiversity
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A part of Sholayar region of Kerala, close to Kochi, Athirapally forests are home of the magnificent Athirapally waterfalls. The waterfalls can be seen in full flow right after the monsoon season. It is a biodiversity region as well, home to several species of flora and fauna. Take a trek to the waterfalls and you could spot some exotic species of Kerala wildlife, including the lion tailed macaque, Great Indian Hornbill and Cochin Forest Cane Turtle.
16. Stay on a houseboat- Romanticism personified
Image source:Patrick Meyer
There are several beach side resorts and hotels in Kerala, but nothing can beat a stay on a houseboat. In contrast to the houseboat stays of Kashmir, you get to stay on the backwaters of Kerala, and enjoy the lush greenery, and the tranquil surroundings. It is an awesome experience for bird watchers as well, as backwaters of Kerala are home to some exotic species of birds.
17. Ride a Canoe- And explore the remote parts of Kerala
If you are interested in the remote villages of Kerala, one of the best things to do in Kerala is to ride a canoe. Canoeing in Kerala takes you to the countryside of Kerala and gives you an opportunity to explore the lives of people in villages, apart from some really scenic delights. Canoeing in Kerala can be a romantic experience as well, as you paddle your way through the backwaters with your special someone.
18. Elephant ride at Periyar- A “gigantic” experience
Periyar wildlife reserve is a well known habitat for various mammals and species of birds. The majestic tiger is the most popular resident of Periyar wildlife reserve. Take an elephant ride through the forest reserve, which takes you to the interiors of the forest, making for a really adventurous experience. You feel like a king as you get atop these gigantic but calm creatures.
[Also check other famous wildlife reserves in India]
19. Watch birds- And be amazed at the beauty of nature
Image Source:Siddharth Bargate
The lush green surroundings of Kerala are ideal habitat for a large variety of birds. It comes as no surprise then that there are more than 500 different species of birds to be spotted in Kerala. If you are a bird lover, you can spend hours watching birds in Kerala. Some of the best destinations in Kerala to go bird watching are Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Periyar, and Thattekad Bird Sanctuary.
20. Watch a Bullock Race- Truly animalistic
It’s rustic, it’s dirty and it’s fun. Of the many exhilarating experiences of Kerala is bullock race. Ever year, Malapurram district of Malabar plays host to the bullock race, which attracts several people from the neighboring districts and areas. Put your bet on the bull you like the most and watch it put every possible effort to finish first. It cannot get more animalistic than that.
21. Stay in a tree house- For a rustic experience
Most of us have seen it in cartoons and imagined ourselves living in one. In Kerala, you can actually do that. Stay in a tree house when in Kerala, which is made from eco-friendly materials like bamboo etc. Set atop a tree, high above the ground, you have birds for company and lush views of forests when you open the windows.
22. Walk the cobbled streets of Fort Kochi- Back to colonial times
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Slow down the pace of life and spend time walking the cobbled streets and narrow lanes of Fort Kochi. It is a city of historical significance, with a distinct colonial flavor about it. Explore the heritage of the place, and when you feel tired, stop by one of the many cafes and lounges that line the streets of Kochi, sip a hot cup of coffee while watching the sea, and let time just pass by.
23. Take a train ride- Ernakullam-Kollam-Trivandrum- as scenic as it gets
Image Source:Siddharth Bargate
If you want to have a beautiful overview of the state of Kerala, there is nothing better than a train ride from Ernakullam to Trivandrum via Kollam. You get to see the backwaters, the beautiful lakes of Kerala and coconut palms swaying in the distance on this enchanting train ride.
24. Arabian Dhow at Beypore- Skilled craftsmanship
Beypore is small town located close to Calicut in Kerala. The town is known for its ship building history, which is believed to be as old as 1800 years old. It is here that Arabian Dhows, or Uru, are made and then supplied to the Gulf. The Urus are massive ships which last for almost five decades with minimal repair and maintenance. Take a tour of Beypore and watch the skilled workers in action, making Arabian Dhows. These ships are made entirely by hand and there is no metal used, except the steel nails which are used to hold the boat together.
25. Visit Kuttanad- The lowest altitude destination of India
You may have travelled to places at great heights and watched in amazement the beauty of nature. But how about taking a trip to a destination which lies a little below sea level? Kuttanad is a town which lies about 1 to 2 meters below sea level. It is known for its rice paddy fields, and its many quaint villages. Take a tour of Kuttanad and watch the many rivers that flow through the region.
26. Explore a tharavad- An intimate heritage experience
Image Source:Vinamra Agrawal
Tharavads are heritage homestays in Kerala. If you want to experience life in the old times, complete with antique furniture, intricate woodwork etc., stay in a tharavad in Kerala. These heritage homestays stand out for their hospitality and a really warm experience they give their guests.
27. Paragliding in Munnar- For an adrenaline rush
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If you thought Kerala is all about tranquility and calmness, you are missing out on quite a lot. While in Kerala, you can fly over the majestic hills of Munnar with paragliding. You don’t need any training for this exhilarating experience. All you need is some courage and trust on your paragliding pilot. Sailing over the hills and having a bird’s eye view of the lush green plantations is a mesmerizing experience.
28. Visit the Vembanad Lake- One of the most beautiful that Kerala has
Located close to Kottayam in Kumarakom is the Vembanad Lake, the largest lake of Kerala. It is a beautiful lake and a popular picnic spot. You can take a backwater cruise in the lake, go boating, or spend your evenings fishing by the lake. Either way, it is a splendid experience.
29. Visit the Mattancherry Palace- A historical landmark of Kerala
If you love history and heritage, one of the best things to do in Kerala is to take a trip to Mattancherry Palace, which is located close to Ernakulam. The palace dates back to 1557, with renovation done by the Dutch in 1663. It is built like a typical Kerala mansion, with murals that tell stories of the ancient times. There are several artifacts on display too which date back to the royal era. You can take a boat ride from Ernakulam town to Mattancherry Palace.
30. Watch Thullal- And be enthralled
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There are several cultural and heritage art forms in Kerala, one of which is Thullal. Like most other art forms, Thullal is dedicated to the Gods to seek their blessings. The ceremony is supposed to bring happiness and prosperity. Devotional hymns and sung and girls can be seen dancing to traditional Kerala music. As the ceremony reaches its culmination, you can feel the performers entering a state of trance. The entire ceremony is mesmerizing, with all the senses coming together, almost in unison with the surroundings around you.
31. Visit Bekal Fort, Kasargod- A historical treasure
Image Source:Renjith Sasidharan
One of the most well preserved forts of Kerala is the Bekal Fort, located close to Kasargod. Back in old times, the fort was a strategic position because of its proximity to the state of Karnataka. Today, it stands as a testimony to the past, telling tales of rulers and the people that they ruled. Several excavations have been done at this historic site, revealing religious structures and other artifacts offering a peek into the ancient times.
32. Trek to Chembra Peak, Wayanad- For mesmerizing views
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If you love trekking, you would enjoy taking a trek to Chembra peak in Wayanad. It is the highest peak in Wayanad. The trek is relatively simpler, and it takes you through some lush greenery of Wayanad. The top of the peak offers some amazing views of the valley below. But the highlight of the trek is the mist which engulfs the mountain most times of the year.
33. Visit the Edakkal Caves, Wayanad- A trip back to Stone Age
Image Source:Sabarish Raghupathy
Located in Ambukuthi Hills, close to Wayanad, are the Edakkal Caves. These are natural caves which have pictorial drawings dating back to the Stone Age. Some of the drawings in these caves are believed to be as old as 7000 years old. A tour of these caves is an enchanting experience which tells us a lot about our ancestors.
34. Watch Mohiniyattam- A celebration of feminine love
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Out of the many cultural dance forms of Kerala is Mohiniyattam. It is a dance form which celebrates the feminine form of life. Watch beautiful dancers show feminine love in many forms and let them enthrall you. The dance form dates back to 16th century, when it was performed only in temples or royal courts. You will be mesmerized with all the facial expressions and the mudras of this dance form.
35. Take a stroll on Jew Street, Kochi- An eclectic experience
Image source:Emmanuel DYAN
Out of all the colonial charms of Kochi is the Jew Street. As the name suggests, it was once a bustling Jewish community. Although most Jews have shifted back to Israel, you cannot miss the distinct Jewish flavor in this part of Kochi. There are quite a few cafes on this street where you can pick up a book and get lost in time.
36. Uriyadi- Celebrate Janamashtami the Kerala way
Uriyadi is akin to the way Janamashtami is celebrated in Mumbai. Pots are hung on high wires and young boys try to break the pots and take home the winnings. But there is a slight twist involved. On the other side of the fence are people with a rope in hand, meant to protect the pots. Watch the Uriyadi festival in action at the time of Janamashtmi in Kerala. It is a cultural experience, and fun too.
37. Visit the Parassinikkadavu Snake Park- As close as you can get to King Cobra
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The crawling reptiles may seem creepy to most of us, but they are still fascinating, especially when they are kept in glass houses they cannot get out of. For a slightly different and a slightly adventurous experience, one of the best things to do in Kerala is visit the Parassinikkadavu Snake Park located in Kannur District. Various venomous and non-venomous snakes are preserved in the park, including the mighty King Cobra.
38. Cycling in Munnar- A fantastic eco-tour
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One of the best ways to explore the lush greenery of Munnar is to take a cycling tour of the region. Hire a cycle and explore the many plantations of Munnar, and get a peek into the rural lifestyle of Kerala. It is an environment friendly way of exploring the beauty of Kerala, and a tantalizing one too.
39. Get high on toddy
Toddy is an intoxicating coconut drink and an important part of Kerala’s traditions. When in Kerala, take a swig of Toddy and let it work its magic. It is a slow acting liquor which is very sweet in taste. You don’t want to have too much of it at once, unless you are trying to forget your wife!
40. Munnar tea garden tour- A refreshing tour
If you thought only Darjeeling is associated with tea in India, think again. Munnar in Kerala is an important part of India’s tea trade. There are about 30 odd tea estates in Munnar, producing high quality tea. Take a tour of a Munnar tea garden, learn about the various kinds of teas, and spend some time in the midst of nature, literally.
41. Experience Thrissur Pooram- A colorful religious festival
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One of the most colorful things to do in Kerala is witness Thrissur Pooram. It is a religious festival which takes place in the month of April in Thrissur. You can see scores of people offering their prayers to Lord Shiva, decked up in colorful clothes, and reveling in the atmosphere. The highlight of the festival is some of the best dressed elephants, and beautiful umbrella showing competition.
42. Kayaking in Backwaters- For a more adventurous backwater experience
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If you are looking for something more adventurous to do than just a backwater cruise in Kerala, take a kayaking tour of the backwaters. Row your way through the narrow canals and explore the varied flora and fauna of the region. Work up a sweat and take a tour of the many villages too which are situated by the backwaters.
43. Relax on Varkala Beach- One of the most pristine of Kerala
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For all those who are looking for an Andaman experience in Kerala, Varkala Beach is one of the best bets, apart from an Ayurveda massage. Varkala Beach is a quaint beach located on the boundary of Thiruvananthapuram. You can lounge on the beach and see the waves crash against the rocks, or you could explore the Vishnu Temple here, which is believed to be about 2000 years old. Don’t forget to take a dip in the water here, as it is supposed to absolve you of all the sins.
44. Explore Marari Beach- For rejuvenation and relaxation
Marari Beach is a little known beach, and a beautiful one at that, located close to Alleppey. The beach offers a reclusive experience, away from the maddening crowds of the city. While you are here, you can explore the fishing village of Mararikulam too and learn about the local lifestyle of the people.
45. Take a jungle safari through Periyar- An exhilarating experience in the wild
A tour of Kerala isn’t complete without an experience of the wild kind. While in Kerala, take a jungle safari through Periyar wildlife sanctuary. The forest reserve is noted for its elephant and tiger population. It is also known for its wide variety of birds, making is a haven for birdwatchers as well.
46. Explore the backwaters of Kumarakom- You will be enchanted
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The backwaters of Alleppey are enchanting, and the backwaters of Kumarakom are even more so. When in Kerala, you just cannot miss out on exploring the calmness of tranquility of Kumarakom. It is not without reason that Kumarakom is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Kerala.
47. Stay in Vythiri Tree House- Really close to nature
One of the best known destinations for honeymoon in Kerala is Vythiri resort. But even if you are all alone, a stay in a tree house at the resort is a magical experience. The tree houses here are plush, and yet very rustic. They are eco-friendly as well, made from locally available materials. They even use solar energy and spring water for power needs.
48. Onam Festival- A cultural extravaganza
Onam festival takes place sometime in the months of August and September. It is a 10 day long festival, and the most important one in Kerala, which signifies the homecoming of King Mahabali. You can see some exhilarating snake boat races during this time, witness some colorful dances, and explore the tradition and culture of Kerala.
Image Source:Joseph TI
49. Parunthumpara Trek- An exotic experience
Image Source:Navaneeth Ashok
One of the lesser known treks in Kerala, but nevertheless a magnificent one, is the Parunthumpara Trek, or the eagle rock trek. The trek takes you to a viewpoint close to Peermade in Idukki district. The viewpoint offers breathtaking views of deep trenches, lush valleys and the Trishanku Hills as well.
50. Nelliyampathy- Kerala’s best kept secret
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Surrounded by lush tea and coffee plantations is Nelliyampathy in Kerala, located close to Palakkad. You can enjoy cool mountain breeze and views of the mountains at this hill station, or take a tour of the many plantations. There are some enchanting trekking trails to be explored too in Nelliyampathy.
51. Kalamachal- Away from the crowds
Situated on the banks of Vamanapuram River, in Thiruvananthapuram district is Kalamachal. It is a scenic hill station with lush greenery and calm surroundings. If you are looking for nothing but relaxation in Kerala, Kalamachal could be a good place to spend your time. It is a little known destination in Kerala, and perfect for those who want to spend their time away from the crowds.