India is a country full of culture and traditions. But a place within India with the most distinctive culture and indulgences is what is known as “God’s Own Country”, or Kerala. Kerala is one of the most popular tourist spots in India. And there are tons of things to do in Kerala that travellers can look forward to.
Located along the Malabar Coat of India, Kerala is famous for its picturesque settings in combination with its fast-paced cities. It is often compared with Bali when it comes to sightseeing and other attractions. But Kerala offers much more than just scenic views. This magical place has no shortage of activities and experiences including cultural events, exotic snacks, mind-boggling landscapes, unique treatments and more. So, here is a list of the top 30 things to do in Kerala for tourists to pick from:
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Top 30 Things to Do in Kerala, India
Go on a houseboat cruise
Any time you hear about any tourist’s experience in Kerala, you will surely hear about their stay at a houseboat, because a visit to Kerala would not be complete without it. Cruising through the backwaters is one of the best things to do in Kerala. There is no better way to experience the journey to a whole new world than on an unforgettable houseboat cruise.
You can rent a backwater tour from a place called Alleppey, which will take you though the palm trees, the wild life, the villages and the people adjacent to the waters. This cruise is a very popular romantic getaway for couples on their honeymoon because of its tranquil ambiance and memorable charms.
Witness a Kathakali performance
Kathakali, known as the soul of Kerala, is a traditional dance form where people doll up in colourful outfits and vibrant makeup, and dance along to local tunes to depict stories about their life and land through their movements. Watching a kathakali performance is a must and one of the top things to do in Kerala.
After a long day of exploration, you can head over to the Kathakali center to witness stories of power, passion and lust – all presented through this centuries-old dance. You can also check out the open theatre performance of Theyyam, another traditional dance form that denotes stories about castes through hymns, costumes and postures and gestures.
Pay a visit to the tea gardens at Munnar
Munnar is a place in Kerala that is well-known for its tea plantations and most tourists will tell you that visiting this place is one of their favourite things to do in Kerala. You had to have seen Kerala visitors post pictures of them in the greenery of the tea gardens because it is a popular photography spot. Families as well as honeymoon couples are often seen here hanging out within the enchanting hills.
You can travel to the tea plantations through the winding roads, explore the hypnotizing terrain, enjoy the soothing climate of the hills, catch the sight of women dressed in colourful clothes picking tea leaves and even have a relaxing cup of hot Kerala tea.
Try Ayurvedic massage and treatments
Ayurvedic treatments are high in demand in this part of India and they are one of the customary things to do in Kerala. It is basically a traditional healing treatment in India that involves massages with oils and herbs as well as treatments like detoxing. It is a very relaxing and enlightening experience to try Ayurveda.
You can head to Kairali Ayurvedic healing village, Athreya Ayurvedic cetre, Ayurveda Yoga Village, Nattika Beach Ayurveda Resort and more to try treatments like panchakarma, shirodhara and even yoga for both physical and mental upliftment.
Take a Traditional Village tour
Exploring a traditional village is one of the best things to do in Kerala. Along the backwaters of Kerala lies an array of small villages that house local people whose lives are full of colours and customs. You can visit them to have a real rural experience while you live a day in their lives.
You can try the Kumabalanghi Village tours to try a variety of experiences like having a traditional meal with the locals, fishing, crab farming, canoeing, paddy cultivation and even stay at their homes.
Witness a Snake Boat Race
One of the most fun things to do in kerala is to watch the snake boat races held at Alleppey. It is a very colourful display of culture that can be seen at the Onam festival during the monsoon season. During these displayes, you can witness canoes that are as long as 100 feet carrying over a hundred rowers each.
Every village household has their own snake boat, each with its own design, style and sizes, to race against the other locals during this festival. You can rent a boat to view this Olympic like event from up close and cheer for your favourite boat as they all try to overtake each other in a colourful array of synchronized rowing.
Bathe an Elephant
Kerala offers a lot of exotic activities to experience but one of the most exotic things to do is probably bathing an elephant. The Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary in Kerala is a popular tourist spot that is only about 42 kilometres away from Kochi. This sanctuary offers visitors the opportunity to spend time with the most intelligent animal on earth, which is an elephant.
You can buy a ticket to this place and enjoy bathing an elephant, feeding them, communicating with them, playing with them and even watch adorable baby elephant spray water at each other.
Explore the city of Kochi
The city of Kochi, otherwise known as Cochin, is a place that captures the true essence of the grandeur and the heritage of Kerala and exploring this wondrous place is one of the top things to do in Kerala for tourists. This place depicts the diversity of cultures within Kerala through its British, Dutch, Portuguese and Arab influences.
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You can visit Jew town for shopping antiques, spices and souvenirs, Paradesi synagogue for its splendid interiors, Mattancherry palace for its fascinating murals, Fort Kochi for a walking tour through colonial mansions, Princess Street for cafes and shops and, last but not the least, Vypin island for the beautiful sea beaches.
Stay in a Wayanad treehouse
On our list of the top things to do in Kerala, the next activity is having a stay at a Tree house. And you can do so in the district of Wayanad in the north of Kerala. Wayanad is well-known for its forests, hills, ancient caves and more.
You can stay at a Tree house in this area to indulge in different adventurous activities like rock climbing, rappelling, mountain biking as well as the scenic sights of the landscapes. It is a popular honeymoon activity for couples to stay at tree houses in Waynad, Sthirapally, Thekkady or Munnar. During your stay, you can go trekking through the Chembra Peak, visit the Edakkal caves, witness Neolithic drawings and carvings, visit the wildlife sanctuary etc.
Try Kerala’s Special Coffee
Have you ever wondered where your cuppa Joe originates? Much to the surprise of many visitors, Kerala is the home to several coffee as well as tea plantations. Some of the most popular plantation can be found at Wayanad and Munnar of Kerala.
You can stay close to one of these gardens at a resort, explore the never-ending hills, go trekking through the landscapes, have a night safari, enjoy a campfire, learn about the history of tea or coffee production, witness the entire process through which green coffee beans turn into a perfect brew and even taste different types of teas and coffees.
Visit sea beaches
Most sea beaches located in tourist destinations can be intolerable because of how crowded they are. But Kerala beaches are relatively crowd-free and, hence, much more tranquil. So, visiting the beach is one of the best things to do in Kerala. A stunning coastline with shimmering soft sand, soothing sunshine and pleasant water – all make for an amazing beachside atmosphere.
You can head to Kovalam beach, Varkala beach, Cherai beach, Puthuvype beach, Kuzhupilly beach, Beypore beach and more for swimming, exploring the lighthouse, boating, visiting the cliffs and more. If you are a party person, you would love Kovalam beach while a more laid bad person would prefer Marari beach for its serenity.
Try Paragliding in Vagamon
Kerala is clearly famous for its mesmerizing sceneries within its hills, forests, waters and landscapes. A more fun way of viewing all of these stunning sights is through paragliding, which is one of the most exciting things to do in Kerala.
While an activity as adventurous as paragliding can seem scary to some people, the experience can be very enjoyable and enlightening, one that you can tick off your bucket list. You can have a bird’s eye view within the calmness of the Kerala air as you glide over the hills of Munnar and so on. You can try this exhilarating experience at Vagamon.
Try the local food
Kerala is known to offer the world’s best breakfast because of how healthy, fresh and delicious their meals are. Kerala has a diverse set of cuisines that combine Muslim, Hindu and Christian influences. Besides that, the cuisine is full of fresh seasonal ingredients including coconut, local spices, rice and more.
You can have seafood dishes such as karimeen, tapioca along with fish curries and the traditional appam at the beach. You can also try scrumptious vegetarian dishes like idiyappam, masala dosa, idly, upma and Kerala’s famous desert, payasam.
Experience the waterfalls
Kerala has two amazing waterfalls, known as Athirappally and Vazhachal, located close to the Cochin airport. One of these waterfalls is so high and enchanting during the rainy season that it can be mistaken for the Niagara Falls! So, visiting these waterfalls is a must and one of the top things to do in Kerala.
You can take a trek to one or both of these waterfalls and spend time enjoying the spectacular waters, take a dip within in the waters, hike through the forests surrounding the waterfalls, have a picnic close by, spot several species of exotic animals and simply have a great time.
Go birdwatching at the sanctuary
Kerala is a home for more than a hundred species of birds, making this place a premier destination for bird watching, which is one of the most fun things to do in Kerala. Even if you are not an avid “twitcher”, a birdwatching experience within the greenery and wildlife of Kerala can be really enjoyable.
You can visit the Kumarakom Bird sanctuary or the Thettekad Bird sanctuary to spot beautiful birds like egrets, Nilgiri fly-catchers, Malabar Grey hornbill, Grey-headed bulbul, White-bellied Treepie, Nilgiri Wood pigeon, Malabar lat, Crimson-backed Sunbird and more.
Ride a canoe
If you love exploring the nature, one of the best things to do in Kerala for you would be to take a canoe ride. Riding a canoe can allow you to delve into the villages of Kerala that are more remote. There is no better way to experience the countryside of Kerala and learning about the lives of the local people than through paddling your way around the backwaters.
To indulge in this delightful experience, you can head over to Kollam and rent a canoe for yourself and for a partner to paddle with. Not only can you discover scenic marvels that are easy to miss, but it can also be a romantic getaway for couples on their honeymoon.
Try a drink of toddy
Toddy, also known as palm wine or traditionally as kallu, is an alcoholic drink that is indigenous to Kerala and made from the sap in palm trees. The sap is drained into a container and fermented to form a tart tasting drink with a kick. Drinking this intoxicating coconut nectar is one of the customary things to do in Kerala.
You can find these drinks at small shops along with delicious Kerala meals. It is quite euphoric and goes great with the Kerala cuisine. In fact, the locals have a saying that translates to: “the hotter the food, the more you need to drink”.
Observe Wildlife at Thekkady
Exploring the wildlife is one of the top things to do in Kerala because of how many rare species of flora and fauna can be sighted here. There is a number of sanctuaries to observe wild animals in their natural habitat. You can even spot a herd of deer from up close when you go rafting in the Thekkady area. It might as well be a heaven for photographers since they can capture images of calm elephants, running deer, fierce tigers or migratory birds within the stunning greenery, blue skies and enchanting waters of Kerala.
Watch a Kalaripayattu show
Karalipayattu is basically a form of self defense as well as a martial art that originated from Kerala itself. It is quite ancient and is known to have led to the creation of Shaolin as a martial art. Witnessing a Kalaripayattu show is a must and one of the most fun things to do in Kerala.
There is a number of Kalaripayattu schools where the art is taight in the form os a fitness routine and dance movements. You can enjoy a show of athletic moves including weaponry, stunts, forms, fights and more.
Try Bamboo rafting in Periyar
One of the top things to do in Kerala is bamboo rafting, which is a popular adventurous activity. You can indulge in this fun experience at the Periyar Wildlife sanctuary that offers you the opportunity to go on a bamboo-rafting ride along the Periyar Lake. A 3-hour ride through the pristine waters will allow you to observe the flora and fauna from up close. You might even spot a tiger or an elephant during your ride!
Trivandrum, otherwise known as Thiruvananthapuram, has a lot of major attraction of Kerala. It is the home to three different beaches, including the famous Kovalam beach, with a diverse set of amenities and experiences.
Trivandrum also has a well-known zoo that houses different spcies or animals as well as an impressive museum. You can head to the Poovar island within the same area to experience the pristine sights, backwaters, villages and beaches, You can also try a variety of bananaa and banana snacks like puzhugiyathu, upperi, pazhampori etc.
Ride elephants in Thekkady
A personal interaction with the largest mammals on earth is definitely a memorable experience and undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Kerala. When you go on an elephant ride, you will surely feel like a royal king. Besides, learning how to communicate with elephants can be quite fun. You can ride an elephant at the Elephant junction located in Thekkady. You can take a tour package that can include the ride along with sightseeing, photo session, complimentary snacks and even a bathing session with the elephants.
Watch a bullock race
If you have never witnessed a bullock race, you have to check it out because it is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Kerala. Each year, the local people gather at Malappuram for the bullock race where people can have fun gambling over which bullocks should win. You can place bets and cheer for your player while rejoicing in the fun of the locals!
Go fishing at Fort Kochi
Fort Kochi is well-known for its amazing style of catching fish through fishing nets. The local people of Kochi use a sort of Chinese fishing net in an unusual method of fishing. These nets are said to have originated from the Mongolian king, Kublai khan. You can witness the beautiful sunset, take pictures of the local people catching fish and even try your hand at this fun way of fishing as well.
Take a train ride
If you want to enjoy a different view of the beauties of Kerala, you have to take a train ride that starts from Ernakullam, moving through Kollam, to reach Trivandrum. This magnificent train ride can allow you to view the palm trees, the backwaters, the lakes and more to the fullest. It is one of the best things to do in Kerala.
Visit Bekal fort
The Bekal Fort of Kerala is a huge fort covering more than 35 acres of land, situated over 100 feet above the sea level. Visiting this large fort is one of the top things to do in Kerala. This red structure consists of stunning panoramic views along the Arabian Sea, which can be sighted from the observation tower. You can also spend time at the Bekal beach and enjoy the dramatic landscapes.
Go on a bike ride at Idukki
The hills of Kerala make for a fun ride when you travel along the winding roads. But the most fun way to experience it is through a bike ride. You can rent a two-wheeler from Kottayam and take three different routes to explore the different places in Idukki. It not only rejuvenates your senses but also provides a dazzling view of the pristine beauty of the place, making this ride one of the top things to do in Kerala.
Attend a temple festival
The Temple festivals in Kerala are centred around India’s favourite animal, the elephant. Its purpose is to pay a tribute to their local gods and goddesses. You can attend this festival at Thrissur and Palakkad to witness bejewelled elephants, music, colourful decorations, and even fireworks! Watching the fireworks light up the sky over the lighted temples is one of the best things to do in Kerala.
Visit the heart shaped lake
The Chembra peak, which is the highest peak in Wayanad of Kerala, is a beautiful heart shaped lake. It is said to be perennial and is known as the most popular honeymoon destination in possibly all of India. So, it is one of the top things to do in Kerala for new couples. To visit this lake, you have to hike through about a kilometre or two of misty dense trees, which is also an enjoyable experience.
Admire the mural paintings
The temples, palaces and churches of Kerala contain numerous beautiful mural paintings on their walls. These age-old paintings are not only mesmerising to look at but also depict the culture of the ancient people living in the area. You can find murals at Thirunandikkara cave temple, Mattancherry palace, Ettumanoor Shiva temple, Padmanabha temple and Vadakkumnatha temple. The largest mural painting can be found at the Krishnapuram palace in Kayakulam.
Whether you are on a solo trip, a family trip, friends’ trip or a honeymoon, Kerala has attractions to offer for every group and individual. And this list should guide you in figuring out what things you should look forward to on your Kerala trip!
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