Welcome to a journey through the urban delights of Kerala, where modernity meets tradition and nature embraces urban life. Kerala, often referred to as “God’s Own Country,” is not only renowned for its serene backwaters, lush green landscapes, and pristine beaches but also for its vibrant and enchanting cities. In this blog, we will explore some of Kerala’s most captivating cities, each with its unique charm and allure.
From the bustling capital city of Thiruvananthapuram to the historical town of Guruvayur, and from the picturesque hill station of Thekkady to the coastal haven of Bekal, we will uncover the stories behind their names and delve into the popular attractions that make these cities truly special.
Join us as we unravel the mysteries of Thekkady, where the wilderness of Periyar National Park invites you to witness its abundant wildlife. Discover the spiritual aura of Guruvayur as thousands of devotees flock to seek the blessings of Lord Krishna in its sacred temple. Experience the historical grandeur of Bekal Fort and embrace the soothing serenity of its beautiful beaches.
But the wonders don’t end there. From the culture-rich town of Thrissur to the backwater paradise of Alappuzha, from the majestic beauty of Kochi to the tranquil landscapes of Wayanad, each city in Kerala has something unique to offer.
Whether you are a nature enthusiast seeking a rendezvous with wildlife, a culture specialist intrigued by ancient temples and traditions, or a traveler yearning to explore the harmonious blend of old and new, Kerala’s cities have it all.
So fasten your seatbelts as we embark on an unforgettable journey through the heart of Kerala’s urban delights, where every city has a story to tell, and every moment promises to be a cherished memory. Let’s dive into the enchanting beauty of Kerala’s cities and immerse ourselves in the essence of this incredible state!
Thiruvananthapuram, often referred to as Trivandrum, is the capital city of Kerala and holds a rich historical and cultural significance. The name “Thiruvananthapuram” is derived from the Malayalam words “Thiru” (meaning Lord or God), “Anantha” (referring to the deity Anantha Padmanabha, the presiding deity of the famous Padmanabhaswamy Temple), and “Puram” (meaning city).
Legend has it that the city was named after the presiding deity of the temple, Lord Padmanabha, who is seen reclining on the serpent Adi Shesha. The temple, an architectural marvel, is one of the richest religious institutions globally and attracts devotees and tourists alike.
Apart from its religious heritage, Thiruvananthapuram boasts a vibrant cultural scene. The city has various art forms, such as Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, and Koodiyattam. The Napier Museum, Kuthiramalika Palace, and the Kanakakunnu Palace are among the many historical landmarks that provide insight into the region’s past.
Trivandrum’s beautiful beaches, like Kovalam and Varkala, are popular tourist destinations, offering picturesque views and water sports activities. The city’s lush greenery is also complemented by the serene backwaters, which provide an opportunity to unwind on a houseboat and explore the tranquil surroundings.
Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, is a coastal city on Kerala’s southwest coast. The name “Kochi” is said to have been derived from the Malayalam term “Kochu Azhi,” which means ‘small lagoon.’ Another theory suggests that it could have been named after a local deity called “Kochu Ayya.”
Over the centuries, Kochi has been a bustling port and a significant center for trade and commerce, attracting traders from various parts of the world. Its strategic location on the Arabian Sea has earned it the title “Queen of the Arabian Sea.”
Kochi’s diverse history is evident in its architecture, with the city showcasing a blend of various influences, including Dutch, Portuguese, and British. The Mattancherry Palace, Fort Kochi, and Jew Town are some places that reflect this historical heritage.
The famous Chinese fishing nets along the waterfront add to the city’s charm and provide a unique photo opportunity. Additionally, Kochi is known for its spice markets and is a paradise for food lovers. Influenced by the different cultures that have settled here, the local cuisine offers a delightful culinary experience.
Kozhikode, historically known as Calicut, is located on the Malabar Coast of Kerala. The name “Kozhikode” is believed to have originated from the Malayalam words “Koyil” (meaning palace) and “Kotta” (meaning fort), which together translate to “Fortified Palace.” This name is attributed to the historical presence of the Zamorins (local rulers) and their fortified regional palace.
Since ancient times, Kozhikode has been an essential trading center for spices like pepper and cardamom. The city’s historical significance lies in its prominent trade hub attracting traders from Arabia, China, and Europe. It was also where the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed in 1498, marking the beginning of European trade with India.
Today, Kozhikode is a bustling city with old-world charm and modern amenities. Visitors can explore Beypore Beach, known for its traditional shipbuilding, or venture into the lush countryside to witness the magnificent Kappad Beach, where Vasco da Gama is believed to have first set foot in India. Other popular attractions include the Tali Temple, Kozhikode Beach, and the Regional Science Center & Planetarium.
Thrissur, often called the “Cultural Capital of Kerala,” is steeped in history and cultural heritage. The name “Thrissur” is believed to be derived from the Malayalam words “Thiru-Shiva-Perur,” meaning “the city of Lord Shiva.” The city got this name due to the presence of Vadakkunnathan Temple, an ancient and prominent Shiva temple located in the heart of Thrissur.
The cultural significance of Thrissur can be witnessed during the annual Thrissur Pooram festival, one of the most vibrant and grand festivals in Kerala. It features a spectacular display of caparisoned elephants, traditional music, and a mesmerizing fireworks competition. Another cultural gem is the Kerala Kalamandalam, a premier institution for learning traditional art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniyattam.
Thrissur is also home to the iconic Athirapally Waterfalls, often called the “Niagara Falls of India.” Its breathtaking beauty attracts nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. The Archaeological Museum, Vadakkunnathan Temple, and Punnathurkotta Elephant Sanctuary are some other attractions that offer glimpses into the city’s past and vibrant cultural heritage.
Alappuzha, also known as Alleppey, is a picturesque city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The name “Alappuzha” is derived from two Malayalam words – “Ala” meaning “broad” and “puzha” meaning “river.” True to its name, Alappuzha is famous for its intricate network of backwaters, lagoons, and canals that crisscross the region, providing a broad expanse of waterways. These backwaters have played a crucial role in shaping the city’s culture, economy, and lifestyle.
One of the most popular attractions in Alappuzha is the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held on the Punnamada Lake. This spectacular event showcases traditional snake boat races, where long wooden boats with beautifully adorned prows race against each other with synchronized rowing and chanting. It is a thrilling sight that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Additionally, Alappuzha is known for its serene houseboat cruises through the backwaters. Traveling on these traditional houseboats, locally known as “kettuvallams,” offers a unique experience to witness the picturesque landscapes, lush paddy fields, and quaint villages along the waterways. The soothing journey allows visitors to immerse themselves in the tranquillity and beauty of the backwaters.
Kollam, also known as Quilon, is an ancient port city on the Ashtamudi Lake banks in Kerala. The city’s name “Kollam” is believed to have originated from the Sanskrit word “Kolam,” which means “peacock.”
This name reflects the city’s rich cultural heritage and historical significance as a major trading center for spices, particularly pepper, often referred to as the “black gold” in ancient times.
One of the city’s prominent landmarks is the Thangassery Lighthouse, a beacon of history and maritime trade. Tourists can climb to the top to enjoy panoramic views of the Arabian Sea and the surrounding areas. Another must-visit attraction is the Ashtamudi Lake, offering delightful boat rides and breathtaking sunsets.
For those seeking spiritual experiences, Kollam is home to the ancient Kollam Sree Krishna Swamy Temple and the Mahaganapathi Temple, both revered pilgrimage sites attracting devotees yearly. The city’s vibrant culture comes to life during festivals like the Kollam Pooram, where traditional art forms, processions, and elaborate rituals captivate visitors.
Kannur, located on the northern Malabar coast, is steeped in history and natural beauty. The name “Kannur” is believed to have been derived from two Malayalam words – “Kannan,” meaning “Lord Krishna,” and “Ur” meaning “place.” Legend has it that Kannur got its name due to the presence of an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Krishna.
The city’s rich heritage is evident in traditional art forms like Theyyam, a vibrant ritualistic dance form performed in temples. Kannur is also renowned for its handloom industry, producing exquisite handwoven textiles like Kannur cotton and Kasavu sarees.
Kannur’s stunning beaches, such as Payyambalam Beach and Meenkunnu Beach, are ideal for relaxation and witnessing breathtaking sunsets. The St. Angelo Fort, a 16th-century Portuguese structure, is a testament to the city’s historical significance and offers a glimpse into its colonial past.
Kottayam, nestled amidst the Western Ghats, is known for its natural beauty and educational prowess. The name “Kottayam” is believed to have originated from the combination of two words – “Kotta” meaning “fort” and “akam” meaning “inside.” It is believed that the city was named so due to a fort-like structure at the heart of the town in ancient times.
Kottayam is famous for its contributions to the field of literature and is often called the “Letter Capital of Kerala.” The city boasts a rich tradition of publishing and is home to many Malayalam-language newspapers and publishing houses.
Visitors to Kottayam can explore the nearby hill station of Vagamon, known for its lush greenery, tea gardens, and pleasant weather. The Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple, an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, attracts devotees with its stunning architecture and religious significance.
The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, located near Kottayam, offers birdwatchers a chance to spot various migratory and resident bird species.
Palakkad, also known as Palghat, is a picturesque city in Kerala, India. The name “Palakkad” is derived from two Malayalam words, “Pala,” meaning barren land, and “Kadu” meaning forest. The region was once covered with dense forests and was known for its arid landscape.
The city is renowned for the Palakkad Gap, a natural mountain pass in the Western Ghats that serves as a vital corridor between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. This gap has played a significant role in shaping the region’s historical and cultural exchanges.
Palakkad is steeped in history and is home to several historical monuments and landmarks. One of the prominent attractions is the Palakkad Fort, built by Haider Ali in the 18th century. The fort showcases a mix of Kerala and Mughal architecture and has witnessed many battles and sieges.
The city is also known for its rich agricultural heritage, with lush paddy fields and coconut groves adorning the landscape.
Visitors to Palakkad can explore the famous Malampuzha Dam and Gardens, a beautiful reservoir surrounded by gardens, amusement parks, and ropeways.
Trekking enthusiasts can venture into the nearby Nelliyampathy hills, known for their stunning vistas and pleasant climate. Palakkad also offers a glimpse into Kerala’s rural life, with traditional festivals and cultural events celebrated with enthusiasm.
Wayanad is a captivating hill district in northern Kerala, nestled in the Western Ghats. The name “Wayanad” is believed to be a combination of two words: “Vayal” Meaning paddy fields and “Naad.” Meaning landSignifying the region’s abundance of paddy fields Wayanad is renowned for its lush green forests, mist-covered mountains, and exotic wildlife.
The history of Wayanad is rich and dates back to ancient times. Before becoming a part of the British Raj, the region was ruled by various dynasties, including the Vedar Rajas, Hoysalas, and Vijayanagara Empire. The Edakkal Caves, located in Wayanad, bear ancient rock engravings believed to be from the Neolithic Age, making them a significant archaeological site.
Wayanad offers a plethora of attractions and activities for tourists. The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts, offering a chance to spot elephants, tigers, and other exotic species.
The region is also known for its numerous trekking trails, with Chembra Peak being a favorite among trekkers. The Banasura Sagar Dam, India’s largest earthen dam, and the serene Pookode Lake are must-visit spots.
Idukki is a mesmerizing highland district in Kerala known for its beauty and abundant wildlife. The name “Idukki” is believed to have originated from the Malayalam word “Idukku,” which means a narrow gorge. Its rugged mountains, deep valleys, and dense forests characterize the region.
Idukki is home to the famous Idukki Arch Dam, one of the tallest arch dams in Asia. The dam serves as a significant hydroelectric power source and attracts visitors with its captivating views of the surrounding landscape.
The district’s natural beauty draws nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a major attraction, providing opportunities for wildlife safaris and boat rides on the Periyar Lake. Idukki’s hill stations, like Munnar and Vagamon, offer a tranquil retreat with tea and spice plantations, misty mountains, and picturesque valleys.
Kasaragod, the northernmost district of Kerala, is known for its unique cultural heritage and scenic beauty. The name “Kasaragod” is believed to have originated from the combination of two words: “Kasaara” Meaning lake and “Kotta” Meaning fort Indicating the presence of several lakes and forts in the region.
Kasaragod is famous for its historical landmarks, such as the Bekal Fort, the largest fort in Kerala, and offers stunning views of the Arabian Sea. The Chandragiri Fort, constructed by Sivappa Nayaka, is another notable attraction.
The region’s cultural diversity is evident in its art forms, festivals, and cuisine. The Theyyam ritual art form is a significant cultural event in Kasaragod, attracting visitors with its vibrant performances. The district’s cuisine reflects its coastal and Malabar influences, with delicious seafood and unique dishes like “Pathiri” and “Puttu.”
Nature lovers can explore the unspoiled beaches of Kasaragod, such as Bekal Beach and Kappil Beach. The nearby Ranipuram and Madhur Temple are also worth visiting for their natural beauty and religious significance.
Malappuram, located in northern Kerala, has a rich historical significance and cultural heritage. The name “Malappuram” is believed to have originated from the combination of two Malayalam words: “mala,” meaning hill, and “pura,” meaning town.
The city’s landscape includes undulating hills and lush green valleys, hence earning its name. The region was once part of the ancient Mamankam festival, where warriors showcased their valor in combat. Today, Malappuram is renowned for its diverse traditions and practices, including the art of Kalaripayattu, one of the oldest martial arts in the world.
Visitors to Malappuram can immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture and savor traditional Malabar cuisine, famous for its flavors and spices. The city is also known for its numerous mosques, with the imposing Jama Masjid being a prominent religious landmark.
Adventure seekers can explore the nearby Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, home to rare flora and fauna, and trek to the picturesque Ponmudi hills for breathtaking views. Malappuram is a true testament to Kerala’s rich heritage and natural beauty.
Nestled in the southern part of Kerala, Pathanamthitta is a picturesque district with a unique name that reflects its topography. The name “Pathanamthitta” is derived from two Malayalam words: “pathanam,” meaning an array of houses, and “thitta,” meaning rows.
This points to the town’s historical significance as a settlement of rows of houses in a scenic landscape. Pathanamthitta is renowned for its religious diversity, with the Sabarimala temple, one of the holiest shrines in India, attracting millions of pilgrims annually.
Beyond its spiritual significance, Pathanamthitta offers serene backwaters, verdant forests, and wildlife sanctuaries. Adoor, a town in Pathanamthitta, is famous for its vibrant theatre culture and hosts the annual International Film Festival of Kerala.
Adventure enthusiasts can explore the pristine forests of Konni and engage in elephant rides. The region’s natural beauty and cultural significance make Pathanamthitta a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a blend of spirituality and nature’s bounty.
Munnar is a captivating hill station in the Western Ghats of Kerala, known for its stunning landscapes and tea plantations. The name “Munnar” is believed to have originated from the Tamil words “Moonu” (three) and “Aaru” (river), referring to the confluence of three rivers – Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni, and Kundala – that flow through the region.
Munnar’s tea estates have a fascinating history, as the British developed them during the colonial era. Today, the picturesque tea gardens offer visitors a surreal experience, especially during the misty mornings.
Munnar is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure-loving People. Tourists can trek through the Anamudi Peak, the highest in South India, or visit the Eravikulam National Park to glimpse the endangered Nilgiri Tahr.
The Mattupetty Dam and Echo Point are popular attractions that offer scenic boat rides and the opportunity to hear your voice reverberate through the hills. Munnar’s serene beauty and pleasant climate make it an idyllic retreat for those seeking tranquillity amidst nature. You can explore while travelling beaches in Kerala.
Located along the Arabian Sea coast in southern Kerala, Varkala is a charming coastal town famous for its pristine beaches and striking cliffs. The name “Varkala” is believed to be derived from two Malayalam words: “Var,” meaning “gift,” and “Kallu” meaning “stone.”
Legend has it that a sage, upon being advised by the divine to offer a “gift” to get rid of his sins, threw a “stone” into the sea, and a natural spring emerged at the very spot, now known as the Papanasam Beach.
Varkala’s main attraction is Papanasam Beach, renowned for its natural mineral springs and believed to have therapeutic properties. The famous Janardanaswamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is perched atop a hill, offering panoramic views of the Arabian Sea.
For a unique experience, visitors can walk along the cliffside and indulge in the vibrant local culture. Varkala is also a hub for water sports, including parasailing and windsurfing, making it an exciting destination for adventure seekers.
Nestled in the lap of the Western Ghats in Kerala, Thekkady is a picturesque town renowned for the Periyar National Park, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world. The name “Thekkady” is believed to be derived from “Thekku” and “Idi,” which translates to “Teak Forest” in the local language, referring to the vast expanse of teak trees that once covered this region. The town’s name is an apt reflection of its natural beauty and abundance of wildlife.
Periyar National Park is the crown jewel of Thekkady, attracting nature enthusiasts and wildlife lovers from across the globe. The park is home to various flora and fauna, including elephants, tigers, sambar deer, and an incredible bird species.
The Periyar Lake, formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam, offers boat cruises, allowing visitors to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the sanctuary and spot animals quenching their thirst along the water’s edge.
Beyond wildlife, Thekkady offers a rich cultural experience as well. The local indigenous communities, like the Mannan tribe, have lived in harmony with the forest for generations.
Travelers can learn about their unique way of life and ancient customs, providing a glimpse into the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature.
Guruvayur, situated in the Thrissur district of Kerala, is an important pilgrimage town for Hindus, dedicated to Lord Krishna. Legend has it that the temple was created by Guru (Brihaspati) and Vayu (the God of Wind) as a tribute to Lord Krishna. The name “Guruvayur” itself signifies the union of these two deities.
The centerpiece of Guruvayur is the Sri Krishna Temple, one of the most sacred and revered temples in South India. The temple is adorned with intricate carvings and beautiful murals depicting various Hindu mythology stories. Every day, thousands of devotees throng the temple to seek the blessings of Lord Krishna.
Apart from its religious significance, Guruvayur offers a vibrant market and bustling streets filled with shops selling traditional handicrafts and souvenirs. The town’s unique charm lies in its serene atmosphere and the sound of temple bells resonating through the air.
The town of Bekal in Kerala’s Kasaragod district is famous for its historical Bekal Fort, one of Kerala’s largest and most well-preserved forts. The name “Bekal” is believed to have originated from “Baliakulam,” meaning “Big Palace” in the local language. The fort is a testament to the region’s rich history and the strong maritime influence it once held.
Bekal Fort, perched on a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea, offers breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline. The fort’s architecture showcases a blend of Indian and European influences, with its observation towers and intricate carvings adding to its charm. Bekal Fort has also been a backdrop for many Indian films, adding to its cultural significance.
Beyond the fort, Bekal boasts serene and pristine beaches that provide a perfect escape for travelers seeking tranquillity and solitude. The Bekal Beach Park and nearby backwaters offer opportunities for leisurely boat rides, sunset views, and beachside picnics.
20. Ponnani: A Confluence of Rivers, Culture, and Harmony
Ponnani, situated at the confluence of the Bharathappuzha River and the Arabian Sea, is a unique town known for its rich cultural heritage and communal harmony. The name “Ponnani” is believed to be derived from “Ponnu” (gold) and “Aani” (elephant), symbolizing the town’s historical wealth and the abundance of elephants that once roamed the region.
The town’s history dates back to ancient times and witnessed various dynasties’ rise and fall. Today, Ponnani is known for its vibrant religious festivals, with temples and mosques coexisting harmoniously. The centuries-old Juma Masjid in Ponnani is a major landmark and a testimony to the town’s religious diversity.
In addition to its cultural appeal, Ponnani offers scenic beauty with coconut groves lining its shores and the picturesque estuary formed by the river and the sea. Boating in traditional “Vallam ” (boats) along the tranquil waters of Bharathappuzha is a popular activity among tourists.
Each of these cities in Kerala has its own distinct identity, offering a delightful mix of nature, history, and culture. Whether it’s exploring the wilderness of Periyar in Thekkady, seeking blessings in the divine abode of Guruvayur, experiencing the historical charm of Bekal, or embracing communal harmony in Ponnani, Kerala’s cities promise unforgettable experiences for every traveler.
In conclusion, Kerala’s urban delights offer a fascinating blend of nature, culture, and heritage that captivates the hearts of travelers from all corners of the world. From the tranquil backwaters and lush forests of Thekkady to the divine abode of Lord Krishna in Guruvayur, from the historical charm of Bekal Fort to the harmonious coexistence of different religions in Ponnani, each city in Kerala has something unique to offer.
As you wander through the streets of Thiruvananthapuram or Kochi, you’ll witness a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity. The rich cultural heritage is preserved in every nook and corner, reflected in the beautiful temples, mosques, and churches that grace the cities. The bustling markets, adorned with handicrafts and spices, offer a glimpse into the vibrant local life that thrives in these urban centers.
For nature lovers, Kerala’s cities are an absolute paradise whether it’s the wildlife encounters in the Periyar National Park, the serene beaches of Guruvayur and Bekal, or the enchanting backwaters of Alappuzha, Kerala’s natural wonders never leave visitors in awe.
Beyond the picturesque landscapes and historical treasures, what truly sets Kerala apart is its warm and welcoming people. The locals, known for their hospitality and friendly demeanor, make every traveler feel at home. Immersing oneself in local culture and participating in vibrant festivals and events provide unforgettable memories and meaningful connections.
Kerala’s urban delights beckon explorers to embark on a journey of discovery, where every city holds a unique tale to tell. Whether you seek adventure in the wilderness, spiritual solace in the temples, or wish to unwind amidst nature’s tranquility, Kerala’s cities have it all.
As you bid farewell to this enchanting land, you’ll carry cherished memories of Kerala’s urban beauty, captivating stories, and soul-stirring experiences that will linger in your heart forever. So, pack your bags and embark on an unforgettable adventure to Kerala, where the true essence of India awaits you in its magnificent cities.