Off The Beaten Track: 15 Ways To Explore Kerala, India - Updated 2023

Off The Beaten Track: 15 Ways To Explore Kerala, India - Updated 2023

Kerala possesses a unique diversity of attractions that ensures this tropical southern state is given the recognition by tourists looking to see the natural side of India.

Its interesting culture and panoramic setting make Kerala the perfect tourist destination for the simple things in life like relaxing and rejuvenating. Rather than taking another shopping trip, experience what Kerala has to offer!

Bekal Fort

1. Cheer on a snake boat race in Alappuzha (from $57 USD)

Aranmula-boat race- Kerala-India
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Arun Sinha used under CC BY 2.0

Vallomkali, or Kerala Boat Race, is an annual event that falls on the second Saturday of August. Among the many boat races held during the race season, the Nehru Trophy Boat Race is the most famous amongst both tourists and locals.

With over 100 rowers, drummers, and cheer-chanters on one boat, this sport has built a reputation as the largest team sport in the world.

Cheer on a team while they battle it out on the waters of Alappuzha. You even have a choice of an air-conditioned houseboat or a normal one that might give you a better chance at soaking in the atmosphere.

Alappuzha Houseboat and backwaters

Price: from $57 USD

Duration: around 5 hours required.


2. Experience a waterfall on your back (from $40 USD)

Athirapally Waterfalls, Chalakudy - The Mighty Falls
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jan J George used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Majestic waterfalls like Athirapally Falls, or better known to tourists as the Niagara Falls of India, is one of the main attractions in Kerala.

Dip your feet in the pristine water and listen to the musical sounds of the falling water. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get drenched under the waterfalls and experience the water beating down on your back, a truly refreshing affair.

Athirappilly Falls

Price: from $40 USD

Duration: around 8 hours required.


3. Bathe an elephant in Kodanad

Elephant Kodanad India1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Amolnaik3k used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary is one of the most popular attractions in Kerala for tourists. Located about 42 kilometers (26 miles) from Kochi, it is a perfect destination for animal-lovers and adventure-seekers alike.

Families with young children will also enjoy this destination as children can take part in activities such as elephant feeding, bathing, and watching baby elephants at the safari.

Riding elephants is not uncommon, but bathing an elephant? That would probably be a first.

Elephant Care Centre

Address: Elephant Sanctuary, Elephant Camp Rd, Kodanad, Kerala 683544, India

Opening Hours: 8am to 5pm daily.

Duration: around 5 hours required.

Access: Nearest railway station: Ernakulam, about 45 km Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, via Vallom - Kodanad Rd, about 20 km

Contact: +91 9447979053

Website: Elephant Care Centre

4. Plough through a tea plantation (from USD 110.0)

Munnar Tea Plantation
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Raj used under CC BY 2.0

Tea plantations are a big source of revenue for India, and many different types of leaves are exported to western countries. Rather than paying for overpriced teas, have a sip of tea at the very place the leaves were plucked and interact with the local tea workers in Munnar, Kerala.

You can even soak in the atmosphere further by booking a stay on a tea plantation. Watch how workers harvest the leaves and make the amazing product that we generally know tea to be.

Don’t forget to sample it too of course!

Private Day Trip to Munnar from Kochi (Cochin)

Duration: 13 hours

17 reviews

5. Surf and catch the sunset at Kovalam Beach

Kovalam Beach
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user mehul.antani used under CC BY 2.0

The Arabian Sea borders the west coast of Kerala, so naturally, the stunning beaches along the state are aplenty.

Kovalam Beach, Fort Kochi, Varkala, and Cherai are more popular, but there are definitely plenty more unexplored clean beaches.

Love surfing? Kovalam Beach is among the best destinations to surf in India. For those looking to learn how to ride the waves, surf schools located on the beach are willing to teach enthusiasts for a fee.

Kill two birds with one stone and check out the iconic Lighthouse of Kovalam, and make memories with the scenic backdrop of the lighthouse. Otherwise, just walk on the pristine beach, splash around, and have fun at this free attraction with a stunning sunset background.

6. Marvel at architecture in Fort Kochi

Cheenavala Fort-kochi
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Shinu Scaria used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Fort Kochi owes its popularity and grace to its old buildings and worshipping centres built during the period of the colonial powers.

Over the period, three different colonial powers occupied the area, all of which left marks of their culture in the architecture of Fort Kochi. While some of the buildings are in ruins, many are still well-maintained for their age and have been converted into themed restaurants, offices, or even homestays for tourists.

Marvel at these intricately designed monuments, which can probably never be recreated again.

7. Go backwater rafting in Alappuzha (from USD 160.0)

Your Kerala holiday would definitely not be complete without going backwater rafting in its remarkable water bodies. These lagoons and lakes lie parallel to the Arabian Sea, making them some of the most scenic water routes around.

You can choose to hire a private luxury Kerala houseboat and leisurely enjoy your journey along the backwaters, overlooking lush greenery and river life at close range.

Kochi Private Tour: Kerala Backwater Houseboat Day Cruise in Aleppey

Duration: 6 hours

17 reviews

8. Indulge in a traditional Ayurveda Massage
Source: Photo by user Adams Homestay Co... used under CC BY 2.0

A soothing experience for the body, mind, and soul, traditional Ayurveda Massage originated about 5,000 years in India. The locals believe that this form of massage not only cures ailments but also prevents diseases too, avoiding the need for medication.

Similar to the use of hot springs to alleviate pains, the way of thought has become increasingly more accepted in western countries. Best experienced during the monsoon seasons, Ayurveda makes use of various flora and fauna abundantly available during this period as treatment for ailments.

Whether you are looking for a massage or treatment for a specific medical problem, Kerala is the place to go!

9. Wash away your sins at Papanasham Beach

Varkala Beach, Varkala, Kerala
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Devender Goyal used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Varkala Beach, otherwise known as Papanasham Beach, lies along the Arabian Sea and is part of the vast Indian Ocean. Being one of the only places in Southern Kerala where cliffs can be found just adjacent to the Arabian Sea, this place is a popular destination for tourists.

While the beach is a haven for sun-bathing and swimming, the evening sunset is definitely a sight worth waiting for. Several restaurants and snack shops litter the coast line, giving hungry tourists more reason to stay to watch the sun set.

There is a belief that by dipping yourself in the sea at Papanasham Beach, you will be cleansed of sin. Who knows? Give it a go!

10. Catch your own dinner with the Chinese Fishing Nets at Fort Kochi

Chinese Fishing Nets Cochin
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Brian Snelson used under CC BY 2.0

Originating from the court of Kublai Khan, a Mongolian King, these Chinese Fishing Nets are an unusual method of fishing.

These fixed land installations are operated from the shorelines and are normally made of bamboo and teak poles held by giant mechanisms.

While the structure appears difficult to use due to its formidable size, locals welcome tourists to try their hand at using this contraption to get their own fish, which can be made into pretty sumptuous meals.

11. Take a scenic train ride from Ernakulam to Trivandrum

Marine Drive Kochi Ernakulam Kerala
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Dhruvaraj S used under CC BY 2.0

There is no faster way to take in the sights of Kerala than by taking a train ride from Ernakulam (Cochin) to Trivandrum via Kollam (Quilon).

Similar to those all-in-one packages you may find at the travel agencies, this train ride will definitely give you everything rolled into one, Kerala’s best kept secrets lie outside the window.

As the train moves along the countryside, you will take in views of the enchanting backwaters, still lakes, coconut palms swinging in the wind, and, if you’re lucky, a peek into the rural life of locals living on the islands.

12. See the King Cobra up close at Parassinikkadavu Snake Park

King Cobra 25
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Greg Hume used under CC BY-SA 3.0

With snake pits and up to fifteen glass cases with different species of snakes, reptile-lovers are bound to find this place interesting.

For those that are not such fans of these slithering creatures, visit it for the experience of viewing the King Cobra up close with the two dedicated glass cases for them. Moreover, you wouldn’t want to miss the snake show conducted hourly.

Parassinikadavu Snake Park

Address: Parassinikkadavu - Mayyil Rd, Dharmasala, Parassinikadavu, Kerala 670563, India

Opening Hours: daily, 9.30am-5.30pm

Duration: around 5 hours required.

Contact: +91 75589 94766

Website: Parassinikadavu snake park

13. Catch the rare Niligiri Tahr at Eravikulum National Park

Nilgiri Tahr, Kerala
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jiths used under CC BY 2.0

The most sought-after destination in Munnar is Eravikulam National Park, home to the largest population of Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered species.

This endangered caprid (goat-antelope) is endemic to the hills of the southern parts of peninsular India. With an estimated 700 - 800 creatures from this species inhabiting Eravikulam National Park, it can be considered the largest wild population in the world.

Also at Eravikulam National Park, kill two birds with one stone and look out for the Neelakurinji, a plant endemic to the Western Ghats. If you do spot it, count your lucky stars because they only bloom once in twelve years!

Eravikulam National Park

Address: Udumalpet Rd, Munnar, Idukki, Kerala 685612, India

Price: from 6 USD

Opening Hours: daily, 8 am - 4.30 pm. Closed from February to March

Duration: around 2 hours required

Contact: +91 4865 231 587


14. Cruise along Lake Vembanad

Scenes fom Vembanad lake en route Alappuzha Kottayam49
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Vinayaraj used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Hailed as the longest lake in India and the largest in the state of Kerala, this is the site of the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race.

Take a cruise along Lake Vembanad and remember to stop to visit the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary located on the north fringes of Kumarakom village.

At the bird sanctuary, you can see wildlife like never before. Not the normal pigeons you often see hanging around, but the sight of majestic doves, owls, and the stunning Siberian crane will greet you.

15. Enjoy local cuisine: sadhya from a banana leaf and toddy

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Augustus Binu used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Enjoy a traditional meal, sadya, served with rice, pickles, vegetarian dishes, pappadam, and payasam. Sadya is a vegetarian meal and is normally served on a tender banana leaf.

While it is generally served during lunchtime in most places, you can put in requests to the hotel you are staying at to prepare this local delicacy in advance.

Sit cross-legged on a mat and enjoy the delicious local meal with your bare hands for the full experience.

Additionally, try out the Kerala’s alcoholic beverage, toddy, to end your meal on a sweet note!

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Amber is a content writer at Trip101 and has a passion for travelling to unique destinations around Southeast Asia. A faithful believer of unicorns and all things animal, she can be considered a...Read more

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