Backwaters of Kerala are a maze of lagoons criss-crossed with rivers, shallow pools and canals, all separated from the sea by a narrow strip of sand banks. In many places, the backwaters connect to form large lakes. Backwaters are present throughout the state but Alappuzha and Kottayam are most notable in this regard. There more unexplored backwater stretches in Malabar, particularly in Kannur District. The Vembandu lake is the longest lake in the country, which is also one of the largest, while Astamudi Lake is highly unique due to its topography.
Vallam Kali boat races
The annual Vallam Kali boat races take place in the backwaters. The boats are large wooden canoes that can accommodate 60 to 100 rowers. The most famous race is for the Nehru Trophy Vallam Kalli, held on the second Saturday of August as a tribute to the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who had a keen interest in this sport.
The Blue Mountains of the Western Ghats, popularly known as Nilgiris which has numerous hill stations in this area. The most popular is Munnar, the honeymoon capital of the state. The highest peak of the Western Ghats is located at Anamudi (2,695 meters) and is good for trekking. The area is also home to several sanctuaries and forest reserve areas. Several small and big Hill stations, spread in Eastern Districts of Kerala are highly popular picnic spots. Wayanad and Idukki offers several such idyllic picnic spots.
Periyar National Tiger Park, Eravikulam Reserve, Silent Valley Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad Reserves are some of the most popular tourist destinations, offering spectacular insights to the rich flora and fauna biosphere of Kerala. Many of these parks are well known internationally due to presence of exotic animals like Nilgiri Tahr, Gaur, Indian Muntjac, Sambar Deer, Golden Jackal, Jungle Cat, Dhole, leopard and the Indian Tigers, which many are endangered rare species. Kerala also has several bird parks, with more than 132 species of birds on record. Thattekkad Salim Rajan Bird Park is one such famous destination along with Malayatoor Forest Reserves. Many popular hill-stations like Nelliyampatty, Peechi Dam, Ranipuram, Vythiri and Kumarakom offers unique natural wildlife parks, with lots of rare flora and fauna to be explored.
Kerala has 650 km of coastline and numerous beaches. Some of the more notable are:
Kovalam Beach- It is near Trivandrum has a good bathing area, clean environment and plenty of accommodation. This was a centre of Hippy counter-culture in sixties, and is today well known for hedonistic beach parties.
Varkala Beach- It is in Thiruvananthapuram district - A long cliff makes the beach more natural (no restaurant behind you). It is long beach with natural springs from the cliff.
Alappuzha Beach and Kollam Beach are both well known for beach sports and tournaments.
Cherai Beach near Kochi city has a large sand beach.
Kozhikode Beach is where Vasco da Gama first landed in India, marking the start of European colonization and the Age of Discovery.
Muzhappilangadu near Kannur is the country's lone drive in beach in Kannur district with lush greenery around. This beach has a naturally clean and closely packed sand which makes it drivable. Beach is very long 4-5 km and is a pleasant place to spend time. Lots of adventure activities like para gliding/ para sailing etc. are arranged in this beach regularly.
The Palaces at Sree Padmanabhapuram is located 30 km from Trivandrum are the largest Palaces ever constructed from wood and granite in India. This was the Royal Headquarters of Travancore until early 20th century.
The Hill Palace in Kochi, houses more than 200 artifacts including the hugely valuable Cochin Crown as well as other rare Crown Jewels.
Mattancherry Palace, Cochin is a Portuguese palace popularly known as the Dutch Palace, in Mattancherry, Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala features Kerala murals depicting Hindu temple art, portraits and exhibits of the Rajas of Kochi.
Kerala was the first state to formally embrace the eco-tourism concept in South Asia, and has made considerable strides in this respect.
Akkalum Tourist Village in Trivandrum is set in a very clean and green environment. There is a floating bridge and beautiful landscaped gardens. Many famous statues and sculptures dot the area.
Thenmala Eco-Tourist Village in Kollam is the first such place in India, with an intense focus on the natural environment. Exhibits include 27 rare trees, a butterfly garden, nature trail, a deer park, lotus garden, jasmine garden, many sculptures and a large musical fountain. Adventure sports, trekking, boating and fishing are some of activities offered.
Kumbalangi Model Village for Sustainable Tourism near Kochi was once a sleepy fishing village. Today it is a popular visitor attraction with a planned focus on sustainability. There are many small homestays where visitors can interact with locals, understand their lifestyle, go fishing, learn recipes etc.
A cruise on the Backwaters of Kerala is a popular visitor pastime. Try getting a houseboat from either Kumarakom or Alleppey. Try using village canoe yourself in Canals of Kuttanad, Pathiramanal island, Changaserry, over Nila river in Ottapalam in Palakkad, Kallayi river in Kozhikode and Periyar river in Aluva. It’s surely going to make you try again and again. Speed cruise available in Akkulam Tourist Village in Trivandrum as well as Sasthamkotta Lake in Kollam or Kochi backwaters is a good choice.
Kerala is considered as land of festivals, with numerous festivals falling across the year. The national festival of Kerala is Onam, marking 10 day long festivities across the state, happening between August-September. The second biggest festival is X'mas due to large Christian population in the state, celebrated in grand zest in many cities, particularly in Kochi and Kottayam. All Muslim festivals are celebrated among the community in grand way, especially in Malabar where they form majority. Apart from major religious festivals, most of temples hosts annual festivals as part of anniversary celebrations, famous for large parade of decorated elephants, temple orchestration and fireworks. The most famous among them is Thrissur Pooram celebrated in the Thrissur town during April-May. Other major festivals celebrated are Vishu (Malayalam New Year day mostly on April 14th), Thiruvathira (considered sacred for Hindu women celebrated during December) and Holy Easter Week.
Ayurvedic treatment, a key USP of Kerala
Kerala is world famous for its Ayurvedic treatment. Due to tourist boom, light Ayurvedic Spas have became popular for light massages and pleasure treatments. However in case if you have any serious aliment it is recommended to go to any of the famous Ayurvedic hospitals.
Trekking is a good option. Lot of trekking options prevails in Palakkad and Kottayam districts, which are safer.
Rock Climbing – A popular in the Munnar mountains, which are more rocky in nature and have cliffs that make for a real adventure. Areas near Poojnar in Kottayam also have options for rock climbing.
Mountain Biking - Popular in hill station areas, especially for racing. Ponmudi in Trivandrum, Munnar, Thekkady, Vagamon, and Nelliyampatty are main centres for mountain biking and racing.
Para gliding - Para gilding are available at Munnar and Varkala.
Canoeing- Canoeing is a favorite sport among the tourists of Kerala and among the local inhabitants of the state. A canoe is a small 2-3 seater boat which is rowed by the sailors. Canoeing expeditions are undertaken in Kerala by groups of tourists and such sashays are often arranged by tourist operators on request. One can find many canoe races among tourists in Backwaters of Alleppey.
Kayaking- Kayaking requires high levels of physical fitness. The backwaters of Kerala are extremely conducive to such sea kayaking. Kottayam and Alleppey Backwaters, particularly Vaikom has many good areas for Kayaking. Small rapids near Vagamon and Pala and Thenmala Eco-tourism village are centres of Kayaking.