Top 9 highlights in Kerala

Gorgeous and green, this region of India is really something special. We highlight the best places to visit in Kerala and why your next holiday should be here
Cruise Kerala's backwaters in a canoe for a day-trip or a houseboat for an overnight stay
Cruise Kerala's backwaters in a canoe for a day-trip or a houseboat for an overnight stay

The verdant haven of Kerala is one of India's best-kept secrets. Laced with intricate waterways, the area's lush tropical greenery is a stark contrast to the rest of India and offers a serene and relaxed holiday

1. Explore Kochi

Kochi is Kerala’s biggest city. Formerly called Cochin, it is a sprawling mass divided between modern Ernakulam on the mainland and
historic Fort Cochin across the water, with narrow, atmospheric streets. Expect to see some of India’s most impressive colonial buildings, the country's oldest European church, lovely Mattancherry Palace, as well as spice merchants and antique shops galore. Tour this and more on Insight Guides' Magical Kerala holiday: find out more here.

2. Stay on a houseboat

Cruise along Kerala's maze of backwaters and stay on a houseboat for an authentic taste of life in Kerala, both of which are included on Insight Guides' Unmissable India trip. Spot local fishermen and rope weavers at work, housewives trimming flowers or catching mud fish with their toes, schoolgirls in plaits and livestock making its way downstream... This is the only way to meet the locals.

3. Visit a spice plantation

Take a step back in time and visit a traditional working spice plantation. Fragrant and atmospheric, this is a Keralan experience not to be missed. Further inland, Munnar has an abundance of Cardamom plantations; unsurprisingly, the whole area is named the Cardamom Hills. The first plantations were established by British colonists in the 19th century and this is where a lot of today’s green cardamom and black cardamom come from. You can explore all this and more on Insight Guides' Magical Kerala tour.

4. Get up close with wildlife

Take a boat trip along Lake Periyar and spot some of the national park's amazing wildlife. The reserve is home to wild elephants and tigers, both of which are often spotted from the lake. You can also see gaur, sambar and wild boars in the grasslands along the shore, as well as darters, egrets and kingfishers perched on waterlogged tree trunks.

5. Enjoy a fragrant rice and curry

Southern India tends to favour rice dishes, and fragrant curries in Kerala often feature a local staple: coconut milk. Fish is also plentiful around here so expect to sample new and exciting dishes packed with a real punch, compared to those you'd find back home.

Inside of Meenakshi Hindu temple in Madurai.

Inside of Meenakshi Hindu temple in Madurai. Photo: saiko3p / Shutterstock

6. Visit an Indian Palace

Take a half-day city tour of Madurai, making time for the Tirumala Nayak Palace, a gracious 17th-century building in the Indo-Saracenic style famous for stuccowork on its domes and arches. Insight Guides' Magical Kerala trip itinerary includes a half-day exploration of this magnificent city and palace.

7. Relax on the beach

Take some time out to enjoy the waters of the Arabian Sea with some relaxing beach time on Kerala's golden, palm-fringed shores. The coast here extends almost 600km so there's plenty to choose from. Some of the most popular choices include busy Kovalam (be prepared for high prices and crowds), Cherai Beach in Kochi, Alappuzha, Kappad, Varkala (popular with surfers) and Chavakkad. Many are lined with shacks selling refreshments, snacks and lunch. 

8. Review contemporary Indian Art

The December art biennale takes place in the southern city of Kochi (Cochin). Its faded Rajera warehouses provide the perfect backdrop for cutting-edge contemporary art installations and video films, as well as paintings and sculptures.

9. Sample delicious street food

The food stalls lined up next to Fort Cochin’s Chinese fishing nets are a great source of delicious, local seafood. You can pick the fish you
want straight from the nets, and watch it grilled or pan-fried in front of you. The quayside is busiest just after sunset.

Varkala is on of Kerala's best beaches.

Varkala is on of Kerala's best beaches. Photo: javarman / Shutterstock

Ready to take your trip to Kerala?

You can experience all of the above and more with our Magical Kerala holiday. The suggested itinerary is fully customisable so you can pick and choose which highlights interest you most and create a unique holiday experience especially for you. Contact one of our local experts here.

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