Must see attractions in Kerala

  • Top ChoiceSights in Wayanad Region

    Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

    Wayanad's ethereal 345-sq-km sanctuary is accessible only by two-hour jeep safari (₹680), on which you might spot langurs, chital deer, sambar, peacocks, wild boar or wild elephants; the odd tiger and leopard wanders through, though you'd be incredibly lucky to spot one. Jeeps are arranged at either of the sanctuary's two entrances, Tholpetty and Muthanga; during the November-to-March high season, arrive at least an hour before the morning or afternoon openings to register and secure a vehicle.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Periyar Tiger Reserve

    Periyar Tiger Reserve

    Bison, sambar, wild boar, langur, around 2000 elephants and 35 to 40 tigers wander the lushly green hills of South India’s most popular wildlife reserve, which takes in 777 sq km of glorious Western Ghats country, including a 26-sq-km artificial lake created by the British in 1895. Established as a sanctuary in 1934, Periyar was declared Kerala's first tiger reserve in 1978. All reserve access is through Kumily's Ecotourism Centre. The best months for wildlife-spotting are December to April.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kochi (Cochin)

    Pardesi Synagogue

    Originally built in 1568, Mattancherry's synagogue was partially destroyed by the Portuguese in 1662, and rebuilt two years later when the Dutch took Kochi. It features an ornate brass bimah, elegant wooden benches, and elaborate hand-painted, willow-pattern floor tiles from Canton, China, added in 1762 during major remodelling under Ezekial Rahabi. It’s magnificently illuminated by Belgian chandeliers and coloured-glass lamps. The graceful clock tower dates from 1760, with inscriptions in Malayalam, Hebrew, Roman and Arabic script.

  • Sights in Southern Kerala

    Matha Amrithanandamayi Mission

    The incongruously salmon-pink Matha Amrithanandamayi Mission, 30km northwest of Kollam, is the famous ashram of one of India’s few female gurus, Amrithanandamayi, also known as Amma (Mother) or ‘The Hugging Mother' because of the darshan (audience) she offers, often hugging thousands of people in marathon all-night sessions. The ashram runs official tours at 5pm daily (check details online or download the Amma app). Many travellers stay overnight or longer term.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kochi (Cochin)

    Mattancherry Palace

    Mattancherry Palace was a generous gift presented to the Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma (1537–65), as a gesture of goodwill by the Portuguese in 1555. The Dutch renovated it in 1663, hence the alternative name, the Dutch Palace. The building combines European and Keralan styles, but the star attractions are the royal bedchamber's astonishingly preserved Hindu murals from the 17th to 19th centuries, which depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranic legends in intricate, colourful detail.

  • Sights in Kumarakom

    Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

    This reserve on the 5-hectare site of a former rubber plantation on Vembanad Lake is the haunt of a variety of domestic and migratory birds. October to February is the time for travelling birds like the garganey teal, osprey, marsh harrier and steppey eagle; May to July is the breeding season for local species such as the Indian shag, pond herons, egrets and darters. Guides cost ₹300 for a two-hour tour; there are also motorboat (₹650) and speedboat trips (₹1200).

  • Sights in Kochi (Cochin)

    Kerala Folklore Museum

    Created in Kerala style from ancient temples and beautiful old houses collected by its owner, an antique dealer, the family-run folklore museum houses a priceless collection of over 5000 artefacts and covers three architectural styles: Malabar on the ground floor; Kochi/Portuguese on the 1st; and Travancore on the 2nd (top). The fine top-floor theatre has an 18th-century wood-carved ceiling depicting Hindu gods, as well as colourful Ramayana and Mahabharata murals. It's 4.5km south of Ernakulam Junction.

  • Sights in Wayanad Region

    Thirunelly Temple

    Thought to be one of the oldest temples on the subcontinent, Thirunelly Temple huddles beneath the Brahmagiri Hills 15km southwest of Tholpetty. Non-Hindus cannot enter the temple itself, but it’s worth visiting for the otherworldly cocktail of ancient and intricate pillars backed by mountain views. Follow the path uphill behind the temple to the stream known as Papanasini, where Hindus believe you can wash away all your sins; a trail branches off halfway up to an ancient Shiva shrine.

  • Sights in Kochi (Cochin)

    Hill Palace Museum

    Around 13km east of Ernakulam, this impressive 49-building palace complex was formerly the residence of the Kochi royal family. It now houses the collections of the royal families, as well as 19th-century oil paintings, old coins, sculptures and paintings, jewellery and temple models. Keep an eye out for the diamond-studded, 1.75kg gold crown – a gift from Portugal via Vasco da Gama. Autorickshaws from Ernakulam charge ₹350 return with one-hour waiting time.

  • Sights in Wayanad Region

    Edakkal Caves

    These remote hilltop 'caves' – more accurately a small series of caverns – are celebrated for the ancient collection of petroglyphs in their top chamber, thought to date back over 3000 years. From the car park near Ambalavayal (12km southwest of Sultanbatheri) it's a steep 20-minute walk up a winding road to the ticket window, then another steep climb up to the light-filled top cave.

  • Sights in Kannur

    Fort St Angelo

    One of the earliest Portuguese settlements in India (constructed with permission from Kannur's rulers), the 1505 St Angelo Fort looms tall on a promontory 3km south of town, displaying a fusion of Portuguese, Dutch and British architecture. Wander the well-preserved walls and gardens within.

  • Sights in Wayanad Region

    Wayanad Heritage Museum

    In the village of Ambalavayal, 12km southwest from Sultanbatheri near the Edakkal Caves, this small but fascinating museum exhibits tools, weapons, pottery, carvings and other artefacts dating back to the 9th century, shedding light on Wayanad’s significant Adivasi population. Displays of note include Neolithic axes, 13th- to 14th-century hero stones and a fine stone-carved Rama from the Vijayanagar era.

  • Sights in Kochi (Cochin)

    Indo-Portuguese Museum

    The heritage of one of India’s earliest Catholic communities – including vestments, silver processional crosses, altarpieces from the Kochi diocese and 19th-century sketches of Santa Cruz Basilica – is on show at this thoughtfully presented museum hidden in the tranquil garden of the Bishop’s House. The basement contains remnants of the 16th-century Portuguese-built Fort Immanuel.

  • Sights in Kerala's Western Ghats

    Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

    Encompassing 644 sq km of glorious Western Ghats terrain and wildlife, nestled behind three dams in a valley at altitudes of 300m to 1440m, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is possibly the most protected space in South India – and one of its least-touristed reserves. It's encircled by Kerala and Tamil Nadu sanctuaries, and home to elephants, leopards, sloths and about 26 tigers, as well as more easily spotted sambar, crocodiles, chital and some of Asia's largest and most ancient teak trees.

  • Sights in Bekal & Around

    Bekal Fort

    The huge laterite-brick Bekal Fort, built between 1645 and 1660, is the largest in Kerala and sits on Bekal’s rocky headland with fine views. It passed into British hands in 1792, having originally been seized from the Ikkeri Nayaks by Hyder Ali in 1763.

  • Sights in Around Munnar

    Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary

    A serene 25-sq-km park in the foothills of the Western Ghats, cut through by two rivers and two streams, Thattekkad shelters around 300 fluttering species – unusual in that they are mostly forest rather than water birds – including Malabar grey hornbills, Jerdon's nightjars, grey drongos, darters, kingfishers, flycatchers, warblers, sunbirds, tiny 4g flowerpeckers and rarer species like the Sri Lankan frogmouth.

  • Sights in Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary

    Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary

    Rising to 1868m at Agasthya Peak and surrounding an idyllic lake created by the 1964 Neyyar Dam, 30km east of Trivandrum, this 128-sq-km sanctuary has a fertile shoreline forest home to gaurs, sambar deer, sloth, elephants, lion-tailed macaques and the occasional tiger. Access is via 'boat safari' trips taking in its Lion Safari Park (a fenced forest enclosure), Crocodile Rehabilitation Centre (named for Australian legend Steve Irwin) and Deer Rehabilitation Centre.

  • Sights in Around Munnar

    Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

    This 90-sq-km sanctuary, 50km northeast of Munnar, protects deer, leopards, elephants, gaur, langurs and endangered, Nilgiri tahr and grizzled giant squirrels. Entry is by three-hour trek with tribal guides (two tribal groups live here). Tree house (₹4000), mud hut (₹5000) and log house (₹4000) accommodation within the sanctuary are available; rates are per couple, including breakfast and dinner. For details contact Munnar's Forest Information Centre or DTPC. Coimbatore- and Udumalpet-bound buses from Munnar stop at Chinnar (₹60, 1½ hours); return taxis cost ₹2000.

  • Sights in Around Munnar

    Eravikulam National Park

    Around 11km north of Munnar, Eravikulam's 97 sq km of grasslands and shola conceal the world's largest population of endangered, but almost tame, Nilgiri tahr; 700 to 800 of these mountain goats roam its wilds. Safari buses take you into the Rajamala tourist zone where the likelihood of sightings is high. The park also hosts Anamudi, South India's highest peak (2695m), though it was closed to climbers at the time of research, as were all Eravikulam treks (these may reopen).