My Pick Of The 10 Best Things To Do In Kerala, South India

Luscious, tropical, laidback Kerala in South India is very different from the rest of the country. It is the perfect introduction to India and there are plenty of beautiful places to visit and things to do in Kerala.

Kerala is known as ‘God’s own country’ and is one of my favorite places to visit in India. It’s perfect for first-timers and solo female travelers, as traveling here is a more relaxed experience than in the busy cities of North India.

Is Kerala Worth Visiting?

If you’re wondering ‘is Kerala worth visiting?’ the answer is undoubtedly yes, even if you are unsure about visiting India, the southern state of Kerala offers a different experience and is well worth visiting in it’s own right.

Travelers and explorers from all over the world have been drawn to Kerala for centuries drawn to this slice of tropical South India by spices which left an interesting and multi-cultural history that is still evident in places like Fort Cochin.

Nowadays there are even more reasons to visit and unique things to do in Kerala, from exploring the luscious landscapes, spotting wildlife, cruising the backwaters, enjoying the beaches, tasting the tantalizing cuisine, and experiencing the healing of yoga and Ayurvedic treatments.

And not forgetting perhaps the most enchanting ingredient travelers encounter when visiting Kerala – the warmth of Indian hospitality and the smiles that linger long in the memory after leaving Kerala’s tropical shores.

In my opinion, the best place to start your Kerala trip is in Fort Cochin. If you want to plan your Kerala itinerary and save time and hassle negotiating with rickshaw drivers and travel agents, then book your tours and activities on Viator before you go. That way you can read reviews so you know what you expect and avoid getting scammed.

Here’s 10 of the best things to do in Kerala, South India

Visiting Kerala was one of my highlights of India and I have returned many times. In this blog I’ll give you plenty of reasons why Kerala is worth visiting and show you the 10 very best things to do in Kerala.

1. Cruise the Backwaters in a Houseboat

Cruising the Kerala backwaters on a houseboat is an expereince you can't miss when in Kerala
Cruising the Kerala backwaters on a houseboat is an experience you can’t miss when in Kerala

One of the very best things to do in Kerala is cruising the backwaters. The Kerala backwaters are one of the most amazing waterways in the world and spending a few days cruising the backwaters in a house boat made like a traditional rice barge is simply a must do experience while in Kerala and was a real highlight of my visit.

While drifting along the backwaters you can relax as the days slip away as you witness life carry on as it has done for centuries under a canopy of a luscious emerald palm trees. Wave as fishermen pass by in small canoes and experience peace, beauty and serenity found no where else in India as you become mesmerized by the nature and beauty of these amazing waterways.

Whatever your budget you can enjoy cruising the Kerala backwaters, whether you splash out of a luxury houseboat or take a budget friendly boat trip. I have personally tried both and had a great experience each time. If you can afford it the houseboat it’s well worth it, but don’t miss going on a smaller boat through the narrower canals as you see more this way.

2. Explore the multicultural history of Fort Cochin

Sunset over Fort Cochin's Chinese fishing nets
Sunset over Fort Cochin’s Chinese fishing nets

One of the best places to visit in Kerala is Kochi also known as Cochin. The Old Fort Cochin part is Kerala’s most historical and interesting city.

The spice trade, first with the Arabs and Chinese, and later with the Europeans brought trade, cultural exchange and prosperity to this important Arabian sea port and you can still see the history and multicultural influences here.

The best things to do in Fort Cochin include simply wandering through the historical old town and strolling along the waterfront at sunset watching the Chinese Fishing Nets in operation, one of Kerala’s most iconic scenes.

You can also shop for crafts, spices and souvenirs in the colourful lanes of Jew Town, visit the oldest Synagogue in the Commonwealth and admire the Ramayana murals adorning the walls of the Mattancherry or Dutch Palace.

3. Laze on Tropical Beaches

Looking down over the cliffs to stunning Varkala Beach
Looking down over the cliffs to stunning Varkala Beach

Tropical, luscious Kerala is also home to some fine stretches of sand and a day (or more) relaxing and enjoying the beaches is another thing not to miss when visiting Kerala.

Some of the best beaches in Kerala are found at Kovalam (close to Trivandrum), Varkala and Cherai Beach (close to Kochi). Relax as you watch the days slip into one, sun bathing and cooling off swimming in the turquoise waters, dining of fresh seafood and enjoying glorious sunsets over the Arabian Sea.

4. Explore the tea plantations in Munnar

Stunning views over the tea plantations of Munnar
Stunning views over the tea plantations of Munnar

If the tropical climate is becoming a bit too hot and humid for you then escape to a hill station and be rewarded with fresh, cool air and stunning views.

One of the most popular things to do in Kerala is to visit the hill station of Munnar and for good reason – the rolling, misty hills are blanketed in a million shades of green and I just couldn’t get enough of the mesmerizing views over the tea plantations.

As well as trekking and admiring the views and scenic tea plantations, you can also visit the Tata Tea Museum to find out how tea has been made here since colonial times. And of course, you need to indulge in a cup or 2 while in Munnar.

5. Spot Wildlife

The wildlife in Kerala is incredible especially the elephants!
The wildlife in Kerala is incredible especially the elephants!

Nature has really blessed Kerala from top to toe. Keep your eyes open for cheeky monkeys and graceful peacocks that you can see all over the state. There are also several national parks that are also sanctuaries home to some incredible wildlife.

One of the most popular national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala is Periyar Tiger Reserve near Thekkady where you can take a boat ride and see if you can spot any elephants, tigers or even leopards. Perhaps you will be luckily enough to spot some.

If you want to get more off the beaten track head to Wayanad, one of the best places to spot elephants in the wild! I loved my plantation homestay experience in Wayanad and it’s still a fantastically unspoilt area and maybe the most beautiful part of Kerala.

6. Watch a Kathakali Show

Amazing costumes and facial expressions at a Kathakali show
Amazing costumes and facial expressions at a Kathakali show

Kathakali is Kerala’s traditional dance that form dates back to the 17th century and is as enchanting as it is unique. Watching a Kathakali dance show is one of the best and most unique things to do in Kerala. Prepare to be amazed by the elaborate and colourful make up, costumes and incredible facial expressions that accompany the spirited music for an unmissable experience.

7. Heal with Ayurveda

Plants and spices used for ayurveda
Plants and spices used for ayurveda

Due to the abundant supply of spices and medicinal plants Kerala is the home of Ayurveda, an ancient, natural healing science that has been practised in India for over 5000 years.

It’s like the medicinal side to yoga and can involved complex treatments to healing many complex problems. There are plenty of yoga and ayurveda retreats in Kerala if you want to try the full experience, or you can just enjoy a relaxing Ayurvedic massage at a spa or hotel.

8. Try Kerala’s Cuisine

Try eating this tatsy traditional kerala meal on a banana leaf with your hands
Try eating this tatsy traditional kerala meal on a banana leaf with your hands

The food in Kerala certainly takes full advantage of the regions bounty of spices and proximity to the coast so one thing you must do in Kerala is try the local cuisine.

Many dishes are spicy and coconutty, you must try a traditional fish molee ( a spicy yellow fish curry) and a traditional vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf – a tantalizing assortment of flavours of rice, curries and chutneys. It’s fun to try eating it in the traditional way too – with your hands!

Also try delicious fluffy pancake like Appams and Toddy – a coconut palm wine’, even more fun if you see the guy climbing up the tree doing the toddy tapping.

9. Visit a Spice Plantation

Take a tour of a spice plantation to learn about all the uses of the plants
Take a tour of a spice plantation to learn about all the uses of the plants

Kerala was a major port in the Spice Trade and Spices were in huge demand. You will understand why when you visit a Spice Plantation and learn about all the different properties and uses of the plants and spices. Nature really is amazing!

Kerala is famous for it’s pepper, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and so many more so don’t forget to leave room in your bag to buy some spices to take home.

10. Enjoy Indian Hospitality

Being greeted with gits, music and dots on the head!
Being greeted with gits, music and dots on the head!

Despite being blessed by nature, Kerala’s best asset is it’s people. The incredible warmth, welcome and open smiles that I experienced throughout Kerala blew me away.

Nothing was ever too much of an effort and people here are so welcoming and helpful, many people even want their photo taken with you – it makes you feel like being a celebrity!

So know you know what to do in Kerala

As you can see there are so many unique experiences you can have in Kerala and this is just the 10 best – there’s many more places to visit and things to do in Kerala.

And while this south Indian state is very different from the rest of the country, you can still experience all the colour and energy of India. You can feel the thrill of taking a crazy rickshaw ride, marvel at elaborate Hindu temples, and be mesmerized by the bright colourful sarees of the women.

Whatever you decide to do in Kerala I’m sure you will also fall in love with the exotic and colourful culture and be enchanted by the colour, the beauty and the magic of Incredible India that keeps me coming back again and again!

I hope this blog has given you plenty of inspiration to visit Kerala. If you want more tips to plan your trip check out my other posts about Kerala here

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10 Reasons To Visit Kerala in South India

 

Btw – one of my trips to Kerala was generously organised and sponsored by Kerala Tourism as part of the Kerala Blog Express but of course all views are my own. For any help organising your own trip of a lifetime don’t hesitate to contact Kerala Tourism and look out for more posts from Kerala and tips for traveling in India.

With other bloggers and the Kerala Blog Express bus!
With other bloggers and the Kerala Blog Express bus!

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23 comments

Rosemary Neave March 24, 2015 at 12:36 am

great summary anna! What a trip it was

Reply
Jose Mathew March 24, 2015 at 2:09 am

thank u for being with us as part of Kerala blog express2

Reply
Anna Phipps March 29, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Thank you so much for having me in your beautiful country!

Reply
Anna Phipps March 29, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Thank you!

Reply
Sarni Swarn June 30, 2015 at 10:05 am

Ready to visit Kerala without any reason Always

Reply
Tînöy Rökşş June 30, 2015 at 10:27 am

sat sri akal

Reply
LAXMINARAYANA Yamasani June 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

Thanq for good information

Reply
Max Anni Annette Re June 30, 2015 at 11:10 am

2 Things i didnt till right now but the other Things i know very well. But the best reason is to Visite my Family there. 😉

Reply
Simon Lazarus June 30, 2015 at 11:31 am

Must read

Reply
Arushee Pillai June 30, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Tanisha Erappa.. i shall take u there..!! 🙂 🙂

Reply
Binoy Thomas July 1, 2015 at 5:00 am

Kerala is the best good tourist destination place in India and world also, so why kerala is known as Gods own country. Here iam also working tourism filed. So anyone wish visit Kerala tour i will help and arrange good enjoying tour depond upon there budject. So welcome to Kerala. contact [email protected]

Reply
Prasida Nair July 1, 2015 at 4:26 pm

gods own country like gujarat

Reply
Natasha Sinclair August 6, 2015 at 10:36 am

Great list of one of my favourite states in India. However I wouldn’t bet on seeing Tiger in Periyar it is not known for Tiger sightings. I would recommend missing the boat cruise on the reservoir and do a jungle walk instead.

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Global Gallivanting August 6, 2015 at 11:08 am

Thanks for the tips! I’d like to do more trekking and walking next time! The advertise it as Periyar tiger reserve but no I did not see any tigers. Did not see any in the Sundarbans either.

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John August 6, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Just returned from India. We travelled in Rajasthan mostly which which we really enjoyed. Like the idea of spotting elephants in the wild and cruising around on a houseboat.

Reply
Anna August 6, 2015 at 2:38 pm

Sounds great. I think Kerala is one of the nicest regions in India for travellers and relaxing on a house boat is a real highlight! Rajasthan is also great- I’m looking forward to exploring that region in more depth later on this year! So do you think you will be back to India for another visit?

Reply
Megan Indoe September 17, 2015 at 4:03 pm

Wow, you sold me on Kerala! I love that boat! We will have to make this a priority when we go to India! Thanks for sharing!

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Anna September 18, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Awesome! Kerala is really nice it should be on your India list for sure! Hope you enjoy India and let me know if you want anymore tips 🙂

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Nadine January 24, 2018 at 9:34 pm

Thanks for the information! We’d like to go to South India mid July (I know, it’s not ideal) and we only have 2.5 weeks. We’d like to go to Kerala, but we are wondering how long it will take us to see the highlights. Could we maybe even spend the whole time there without getting bored? What do you think?

Reply
Anna August 16, 2018 at 10:00 pm

You could easily spend 2.5 weeks just in Kerala and not get bored. Check out this post – https://www.global-gallivanting.com/8-unmissable-places-to-visit-in-kerala/

Reply
Maxi Koenig -Reich February 19, 2018 at 6:24 pm

I would love to visit Kerala. It will be my first time to India. The hauseboot trip seams very interesting.

Reply
faseeh July 16, 2018 at 3:02 pm

very nice and attractive article

Reply

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