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Under the Kolathiri rajas, Kannur (formerly Cannanore) was a major port bristling with international trade – explorer Marco Polo christened it a ‘great emporium of spice trade’. Since then, the usual colonial suspects, including the Portuguese, Dutch and British, have had a go at exerting their influence on the region, leaving behind the odd fort. Today Kannur, 80km north of Calicut, is an unexciting, though agreeable, town known mostly for its weaving industry and cashew trade. For travellers, this area's appeal lies in its entrancing theyyam rituals and untouristed golden beaches (particularly Thottada Beach, overlooked by a smattering of easy-going guesthouses).

This is a predominantly Muslim part of Kerala, so local sensibilities should be kept in mind: wear a sarong over your bikini on the beach.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Kannur.