16 Top Attractions and Things to Do in Kerala

What to See and Do in Kerala

Village along the Kerala backwaters, India
••• Village along the Kerala backwaters. Mark Daffey/Getty Images

The unique attractions and things to do in Kerala ensure that this tropical south Indian state is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India. Its distinctive culture and extremely picturesque setting, which contrasts with the fast-paced modern world, make Kerala the perfect destination for relaxing and rejuvenating!

Visiting Kerala during the Onam Festival? Don't miss these Top Onam Attractions.

  • 01 of 16

    Cruise the Backwaters on a Houseboat

    South India, Kerala, Backwaters, Kettuvalum (houseboat)
    ••• Pierre Cheuva/Photononstop/Getty Images

    At trip to Kerala wouldn't be complete without a trip along the Kerala backwaters on a houseboat. The lush green palm-fringed landscape, diverse wildlife, and houses and villages that line the backwaters make a journey along these waterways seem like a journey through another world. It's one of the most tranquil things you can do. The Kerala backwaters are a memorable backdrop for a romantic Kerala getaway as well.

  • 02 of 16

    Experience Traditional Village Life

    Village along the Kerala backwaters.
    ••• Village along the Kerala backwaters. Mark Daffey/Getty Images

    Kerala's famous backwaters are dotted with small villages where it feels like time has stood still. Visiting them is a very different way of experiencing the backwaters and the life that exists along them. You can even have a meal with a local family there and hear their stories. Kumbalanghi Village Tours offers group tours to Kumbalanghi, surrounded by paddy fields and backwaters on the outskirts of Kochi. It's India's first model fisheries and tourism village, with most inhabitants involved in agriculture and fishing.

  • 03 of 16

    Get an Ayurvedic Treatment

    Getting an Ayurvedic Treatment.
    ••• Getting an Ayurvedic Treatment. Visage/ Getty Images

    Ayurveda is the medical side of yoga. It's India's traditional natural healing system, which has been practiced for over 5,000 years. Most places that offer Ayurvedic treatment are located in Kerala, due to the climate and abundant supply of medicinal plants and herbs there. Whether it's a simple massage that you're after, or a treatment for a medical problem, Kerala is the place to get it.

  • 04 of 16

    Get a Cooking Lesson

    Kerala cuisine, served on a banana leaf.
    ••• Kerala cuisine, served on a banana leaf. David Sanger/Getty Images

    Kerala is renowned for its cuisine, featuring delicious seafood and coconut flavors. If you're not content to simply feast on it and would also like to learn how to cook Kerala style, you'll be pleased to know that there's a wide range of options available. They range from proper residential culinary holidays to casual cooking lessons. You'll find many of the popular ones listed in this article.

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  • 05 of 16

    Catch a Kathakali Performance

    Kathakali performer.
    ••• Kathakali performer. Kimberley Coole/Getty Images

    Kathakali is a very unusual and ancient form of dance-drama that's traditional to Kerala. You won't get to see performers dressed up like this every day, that's for sure! The look, with its red bloodshot eyes, borders on grotesque. The movements of the dance are subtle, yet they tell a meaningful mythological story. Performers are required to undergo intense training, including hours of eye exercises, when learning the art of Kathakali. Try the Cochin Cultural Center or the Kerala Kathakali Center to see a performance. Classes are also offered in Kathakali and other art forms.

  • 06 of 16

    Catch a Theyyam Performance

    Theyyam performer.
    ••• Theyyam performer. Courtesy of Kerala Tourism

    The small town of Kannur, in northern Kerala, is known for its secluded beaches, mysterious masked spirit-possession theyyam rituals, and hand loom weaving. The theyyam season runs from October until May and Kerala Tourism has a comprehensive calendar of theyyam events.

  • 07 of 16

    Watch Kerala's Ancient Martial Arts

    Kerala martial arts display.
    ••• Kerala martial arts display. Courtesy of Kerala Tourism

    Kalaripayattu is an ancient martial arts from practiced in Kerala. It features strikes, kicks, grappling, preset forms, weaponry and healing methods.  One place to see it is being performed at the Kadathanadan Kalari Center in Thekkady. 

  • 08 of 16
    Snake boat race in Kerala.
    ••• Snake boat race in Kerala. Jagdish Agarwal/Getty Images

    For a few months every year during the monsoon season, Kerala comes alive with colorful snake boat races. Typical snake boats are 100 to 120 feet long, and hold around 100 rowers. Each of the villages in the region has its own snake boat, which they take great pride in. Every year the villagers get together and race the boats along the lakes and rivers.

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  • 09 of 16

    Taste Tea

    Tea plucking in Kerala.
    ••• Alvaro Leiva/Getty Images

    Tea production is big business in Kerala. The state has two of the top 5 places to visit tea plantations in India -- Munnar and Wayanad. You can stay in atmospheric accommodations on a tea plantation, see how tea is processed, and of course sample it. If you're feeling energetic, the hills surrounding both these places have great trekking opportunities as well.

  • 10 of 16

    Try Some Toddy

    Toddy tapping in Kerala.
    ••• Toddy tapping in Kerala. Sharell Cook

    Toddy, Kerala's indigenous alcoholic drink, is made from the sap of palm trees.  The sap is collected by a tapper, who climbs the tree and drains it into a container.  It's sweet when extracted but on fermentation will turn sour and give a kick.  Toddy (also called kallu) is served in small thatched shops, usually with wooden benches, all over Kerala. Tasty Kerala cuisine is dished up with the toddy. However, these toddy shops are traditionally the domain of men.

  • 11 of 16

    Explore Historic Fort Kochi

    Chinese fishing nets in Kochi.
    ••• Chinese fishing nets in Kochi. Chris Caldicott/Getty Images

    Known as the "Gateway to Kerala", Kochi is an enchanting city that's had an eclectic influence. Arabs, British, Dutch, Chinese, and Portuguese have all left their mark there. The architecture and historical sites in Fort Kochi draw most of the visitors to the area. Fort Kochi is an excellent place to explore on foot or bicycle.

  • 12 of 16

    Discover the Ancient Port City of Muziris

    Cheraman Juma Masjid mosque in Kodungallur, Kerala
    ••• Cheraman Juma Masjid mosque in Kodungallur, Kerala. Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

    Multi-cultural Muziris, located about an hour north of Kochi, used to be the most important trading port in Kerala. Business thrived there for more than 1,000 years before flood caused severe damage and Kochi took its place. The Muzuris area covers Kodungallur and Paravoor, and it's full of old churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. Notably, the first mosque in India (Cheraman Juma Masjid) was built there. This makes it a fascinating place to visit.

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  • 13 of 16
    Thrissur Pooram elephant festival.
    ••• Thrissur Pooram elephant festival. Courtesy of Kerala Tourism
    Kerala temple festivals are elaborate and exotic, with the highlight being the elephants. The festivals feature large processions of bejeweled elephants, drummers and other musicians, colorful floats carrying gods and goddesses, and fireworks.
  • 14 of 16

    Chill at the Beach

    Varkala Beach, in Kerala.
    ••• Varkala Beach. Cultura/Getty Images

    The attractive thing about the beaches of Kerala is that they're not as crowded or as developed as the beaches or more touristy areas in India, particularly Goa. Varkala beach has a spectacular cliff setting. If you're looking for action, head to Kovalam beach near Trivandrum.

  • 15 of 16

    Spot Wildlife and Enjoy Nature

    Periyar National Park, Kerala.
    ••• Periyar National Park, Kerala. Christer Fredriksson/Getty Images

    Kerala is home to Periyar National Park, one of the most popular national parks in southern India.  Unlike many national parks in India it stays open during the monsoon season, and offers a wide range of eco-tourism activities so you can really explore nature.

  • 16 of 16

    Admire Mural Paintings

    India, Kerala, Krishnapuram Palace
    ••• Aldo Pavan/Getty Images

    The art of colorful mural paintings, done on the walls of temples, churches and palaces in Kerala, dates back to the 9th century. Its roots lie in the ancient Dravidian art of Kalamezhuthu.

    Kerala has the second largest collection of mural sites in India, with the largest being in Rajasthan. The oldest murals in Kerala were discovered in the rock-cut cave temple of Thirunandikkara (now in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu). Only sketchy outlines remain though. The largest mural panel in Kerala is at Krishnapuram Palace near Kayamkulam in Alleppey district. Extensive murals depicting scenes from the Hindu epics are preserved at Mattancherry Palace in Kochi. The murals of the Shiva Temple in Ettumanoor provide insight into the earliest forms of Dravidian mural art. Other famous mural paintings can be found at the Padmanabha temple in Trivandrum and Vadakkumnatha temple in Thrissur.

When's the Best Time to Visit Kerala?

Not sure when to visit Kerala? Kerala has something to offer all year round. The weather does need to be taken into account though, as the climate is a hot tropical one that receives rainfall from two monsoons.