Being the land of backwaters, beaches and forest areas, Kerala always finds place in every traveller’s bucket list. Ayurvedic spas and the variety of food made with coconut add to the attraction. The best time to visit Kerala is from August to February as there will be less rainfall and heat during this period. But for Ayurvedic treatments in particular, June to August is good time. Between June and August, Keraliites spend a month exclusively for health treatments and diet control. This is followed by the festival of ‘Onam’ which is a ten day long harvest festival. The State is filled with colorful floral arrangements and the special ‘Sadya’ meal which is rice served on banana leaf along with over 24 dishes including ‘payasam’, a sweet dish.
Kochi, also known as the ‘Queen of Arabian sea’ is one of the most developed cities in Kerala. When you plan a Kerala trip, there are a number of places to visit in and around Kochi. It would make sense to halt in Kochi and make day trips to these places.
Here is a list of popular and some not-so-popular ( which means they are not yet polluted or crowded) tourist attractions in close proximity to Kochi.
1. Athirapally, Vazhachal & Poringalkuthu Dam
Athirapally is one of the well known attractions of Kerala, being a mighty 80 feet tall. Tourists from Kerala and Tamil Nadu flock in to spend time at this visual delight. But if you are keen on escaping the crowd, about 5 KM ahead of Athirapally you can find the rushing watercourse of Chalakudy river in the Sholayar forest ranges. With permission from the forest department, this route can be further explored and would make a beautiful drive through. Apart from several road side tea shops, you can find a number of crossroads leading to dams. Poringalkuthu dam is one such place which has much in store for visitors. One can enjoy a nice view of the dam and the adjoining areas.
In a calm and serene village about 40 KM from Kochi lies this beauty where Chalakudy river divides into seven streams due to a number of islets and boulders. Hence the name ‘Ezhattumugham’ which means seven faces of a river. Ezhattumugham is on the way to Athirapally and less known to tourists. There are quite a few attractions close to Athirapally, such as the Charpa falls and Thumboormuzhi. But my personal favourite is Ezhattumugham, for the sheer untouched enchantment of nature. During the non-monsoon months, one can walk right through the shallow water and boulders towards the next river bank!
Located about 62 KM from Kochi and 10KM from the famous Malayattoor church, Illithode is an eco-tourist spot ideal to spend a leisure day trekking and playing in water. Being surrounded by hills on one side and Periyar river on the other, makes this location picturesque. The river and the forest area are the main attractions here. This location is ideal to picnic with family or just spend time in the river with friends. One has to be wary of the undercurrents though.
4. Alappuzha (Alappey)
One of the best attractions of Kerala being the backwaters, Alappey is a must visit in your Kerala trip. Other places that offer backwater boat rides are Nedumudi, Ernakulam and Kumarakom. Situated about 62 KM from Cochin, Alappey is a waterway district that is connected by road and rail as well. Apart from backwaters, Alappey is also known for its charming and picturesque villages, lagoons, canals and beaches. The major civilization of Alappey is on the river banks and the boat rides offer views of the town’s everyday life. Even kids can be seen rowing boats as every house has a boat of its own, known as ‘Vallam’. Though one can choose different types of boats for ride, the most popular is the Houseboat or ‘Kettuvallam’. The Houseboat can be hired for a day long ride through the backwaters.
It is well equipped with all amenities including bedrooms and kitchen. The steamers of the boat are usually courteous and cook customized food suiting your taste. The fresh fish caught and cooked for you will be a truly unforgettable experience for a non-vegetarian. You also get to ride through the narrow canals on smaller boats and just relax on the deck of your Houseboat while taking in the mesmerizing beauty of nature and munching through delicious and authentic snacks such as banana fritters or ‘pazhampori’. These rides are also known for the fresh Toddy and tapioca that can be bought from the local vendors during the ride. In short, Alappey is a unique and must-have experience for anyone who visits Kerala.
Vagamon is a hill-station located 1100 metres above sea level. It located in Idukki district, about 132 KM from Kochi which would take about 4 hours. Apart from the cool climate, this sleepy town is known for its beautiful valleys, meadows, small hillocks, pine-forest, tea estates, dairy farms and waterfalls. Vagamon also houses a large variety of flora and three hills that are abode to Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious centres. The scenic view from ‘Moopanpara’, a well known view point is a must try for trekkers. During rainy season, precautions need to be taken for leeches.
Located about 135KM from Kochi which would take up to 4.5 hours due to the hairpin curves on road, Munnar is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Kerala. The hill station is situated at about 1600-1800 metres above sea level. It is well known for its lush green tea plantations and pleasant climate which makes it a perfect escape to during the summers. Munnar is home for some exotic species of flora and fauna at the various sanctuaries and National Parks. Eravikulam National park is an excellent trekking location and during your lucky day you can spot some of the rare species of Nigiri Thar too! The National park is also famous for the rare and beautiful Neelakurinji flowers that bloom only once in twelve years. The last bloom was in 2006. Though a one-day trip to Munnar is possible, a stay is highly recommended. The place has a number of great resorts. Two days are ideal to see around the whole of Munnar including the streams, waterfalls, view points, National parks, Mattupetty (cattle town) and markets ( known for tea, spices and homemade chocolates). But one can extend the stay just to enjoy the weather and take in the enchanting beauty of this abode of nature.
7. Fort Kochi
This water-bound region is one of the oldest part of Kochi, next to Mattanchery. Mattanchery is known for its spice trade and Jewish town. Fort Kochi has beautiful architecture as a result of Dutch, Portuguese and English settlements. Earlier, Fort Kochi used to be the fishing village of Kochi and one can still see the huge Chinese fish nets here. With amazing architecture, shopping centres, museums and beaches, Fort Kochi and Mattanchery are a tourist’s delight. When you are at Fort Kochi, you can also visit Willington Island by road or boat.
In an around Kochi, there are quite a few popular beaches such as Fort Kochi, Cherai, Alappey and Vypin beach. There also are a few less known beaches that are cleaner and better for the obvious reasons. Some of them are:
8. Kuzhupilly Beach
Situated between Vypin island and Cherai, this beach is easily one of the best in Kochi and perfect for a quiet evening. The road that leads to the beach is equally picturesque in the last few hundred metres.
9. Marari Beach
Situated at about 44KM from Kochi at Mararikulam, this beach is one of the cleanest beaches in Kerala. This beach was listed in World’s top five Hammock Beaches by National Geographic Survey.
10. Kannamaly Beach
Situated at about 11 KM from Fort Kochi on the Chellanam – Pandikudi road, this secret beach is a feast to the eye!
Once you visit Kerala famous as “God’s Own Country”, you will definitely see the real paradise, can cook the romantic puddle & feel the backwater serenity. Serene beaches, equable climate, peaceful stretch of backwater & canals, exotic wildlife & lush green hill stations make it the best place to visit in India.