Unearthing North Kerala’s Best Kept Secrets.

Thoughts of Kerala often evoke images of dome-shaped houseboats traversing the backwaters. And neatly manicured tea estates covered in mist on the slopes of the Western Ghats. The lush green beauty of God’s Own Country has stolen many a heart. The result of which was 10 million tourist arrivals in 2011. A large majority of who flocked to the familiar tourist trail in the south of the state, along the backwaters of Alleppey and Kumarakom and the hill station of Munnar. The statistic became my cue to discover places to visit in North Kerala, of which Google could tell me little.

Away from the honeymooners and ‘first timers’, this is a Kerala of virgin backwaters. Where the only boats you ever see are fishing boats, owned by residents of the sleepy villages quietly nestled on its palm-fringed shores. This is a Kerala of blissfully isolated white sand beaches, with no beachside shacks and no sunbathers. This is a Kerala of mist-adorned tropical forests, where wild elephants can be effortlessly spotted as you drive along the main highway.

Also read: What India (and the World) Can Learn From Sustainable Tourism in Kerala

Behold, offbeat and pristine places to visit in North Kerala, that are still under the regular tourist radar. As always, I try to highlight travel experiences that are environmentally conscious and benefit locals:

Thottada Village, Kannur: Places to visit in North Kerala for beach bums

On the confluence of the backwaters and the Arabian Sea, across a pretty beach, lies the sleepy hamlet of Thottada. On one side, a narrow stretch of backwaters meanders in the shade of tall coconut trees. On the other, the waves of the Arabian Sea caress the golden sands of Thottada beach. One minute, you could be spotting otters, darters, terns and kingfishers along a backwater lagoon. The other you could be strolling barefoot and playing in the waves. Such is the pace of life in this tiny corner of Kannur, reached through a narrow python road from the main town.

Also read: Offbeat Kerala: 11 Travel Experiences to Inspire the Artist in You

backwaters of kannur meeting the beach
The backwaters meet the sea across a sandy beach in Kannur, one of the most pristine places to visit in North Kerala.

The monsoon rains awaken Thottada from its slumber, whipping the backwaters and the sea in full flow. Afterwards, the village transforms with soulful festivities. The Theyyam dance festival has acquired a cult status in the region with traditions dating back a thousand years. A colourful melange of ethnic costumes, face paintings, antique weapons, gaudy masks, folk music, ancient rituals and theatrical art, best experienced in traditional village homes.

Also read: 15 Responsible Travel Tips for Authentic, Meaningful Experiences on the Road

Wayanad: for mountain lovers

In the backdrop of the majestic Western Ghats, colourful deciduous and semi-evergreen forests are interspersed with plantations of coffee, rubber, banana, coconut and jackfruit, and sprinkled with rice paddies and lush tea estates. It is here that clouds descend into the wilderness. Herds of wild elephants freely roam. Traditional tribal folk live along the edges of the jungle in houses made of bamboo and cow dung. A big cat (the tiger) may not elude you on a trek through the core zone of the forest. Tiny fresh water islands are strewn along the length of the district for an anytime dip.

Also read: God’s Own “Island” by the North Kerala Backwaters

coconut trees and the western ghats in Wayanad
The backdrop of the Western Ghats in Wayanad, not to miss places to visit in North Kerala.

The monsoon paints the countryside a chirpy green and the smell of wet earth diffuses through the air. Wayanad invites you to go out, get wet and reminisce your childhood with mud football, rain dancing and rain kabadi in the aptly named Splash Carnival.

Also see: In Photos: Hiking from Darjeeling to Sikkim!

Thekkekadu, Kasargod: Places to visit in North Kerala for the backwaters

On the northernmost shores of Kerala, along the most virgin stretch of the Kasaragod backwaters, lies a little piece of paradise called Thekkekadu (Also read: Things to do in Kasaragod to Refresh Your Connection With Nature). This, one of the few private islands on the backwaters, is nature’s most indulgent way of discovering life on the coconut countryside of Kerala. Sleepy villages hide away amid palm trees on the shores. Occasional fishing boats emerge from the mist, and eagles soar in the skies above. This isn’t your houseboat-infiltrated lagoon. Not many people speak languages other than Malayalam here. You won’t find yourself bargaining for a fresh catch of prawn here. This is the serendipity of those willing to get off the tourist trail.

Also read: Offbeat Rajasthan: 11 Awe-Inspiring Experiences

hammock and the backwaters of kasargod
Soaking in the serenity of the backwaters. A best-kept secret among places to visit in North Kerala.

On a canoe or a boat, as you sail through the vast expanse of these backwaters, you may find the eureka moment of an early explorer. The coastline adorned by the Arabian Sea across the shores of the backwaters is blessed with white sand in many places. Devoid of any signs of civilization. Wouldn’t it be pretty awesome to have a white sand beach all to yourself in a state with 10 million tourists?

Stay at: God’s Own Island by the Kasaragod Backwaters

offbeat beach in north kerala
A virgin beach in North Kerala.

Have you explored any places to visit in North Kerala? What secret spots have you discovered?

This article was originally featured on The Huffington Post.

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  1. Nice to see someone write about the less touristy shores of northern Kerala. I went to Telicherry (which has some lovely homestays) and Kannur several years ago. Ironically, I never managed to go to the backwaters!

    PS: Congrats for the Turkey trip!!

    1. Isn’t Kannur beautiful? If you didn’t make it to the confluence of the backwaters & the Arabian Sea at Thotadda, you really have to go back. And it’s worth going the extra mile to visit Kasaragod too =)

      1. hi come to kannur……….you will love it

    1. That’s great Raghu, I’m off to read your article, thanks for sharing it!

  2. I love North Kerala. Its so less-crowded. My wife and I spent our honeymoon in the beaches of Kannur and Kasargod. Totally worth it.
    Btw, would you happen to have the contact details of backwater tour operators?

      1. Thanks a bunch. I will certainly do this in the next few months.

  3. Travelled to Wayanad a year and 6 months back. The whole district is very serene and picturesque. Stayed in Kalpetta, Sultan Bathery and Vythiri. The tales of Pazhassi Raja are a must-learn over there – he’s a local legend. His tomb (a memorial park) is also there in Wayanad, near Manthanawady. Kabini river is pretty much the heart of the ghats of Wayanad. There’s a dam near Kalpetta, the river below which is very full if one goes there after the rainy season. The tea plantations on the route between Kalpetta and Meenmutty Falls are brilliant. The owners of the one we stopped to explore were very cooperative too!

    1. Wow, Gowtham, that sounds wonderful. I didn’t get to spend too much time in Wayanad on my trip, but hope to go back there and do all of this 🙂

      1. Hi Shivya, Please don’t miss out the great opportunity to visit Palakkad District in Kerala as this District is blessed with all kind of attractions except beach. Rock Garden, Ropeway, Malampuzha Garden, Hanging Bridge, Kava, Palakkad Fort, Jain temple, Thiruvalathur Temple, Chinmaya Mission Temple, Kalpathy Heritage Village, Nelliyampathy Hills, Kanjirapuzha, Silent Valley National Park, Parambikulam Wild Life, Siruvani Forest, Dhoni Forest, Meenvallam Waterfalls are few of the best attractions in Palakkad, which are much more better than other tourist attractions in Kerala. The only sad thing is Palakkad doesn’t have beach.

        Just try to visit there and enjoy tour travel a good , loving and memorable trip. Please don’t listen what others says to avoid Palakkad trip as there is a big lobby group plays in Kerala to discriminate Palakkad. You have to visit the destination to know more about the same. Then only you will get a clear picture about it.

        Happy Journey

  4. I’m from Kerala and happy to see Wayanad on the list. I believe it is the best place in the whole of Kerala to visit. Speaking of Kerala’s best kept secrets, Nelliyampathy in Palakkad district and Gavi in Pathanamthitta district could be ideal candidates.

    1. Hi Alen, you are absolutely right. People, who are visiting Kerala , avoid such beautiful spots like Nelliyampathy and Gavi. Mean time, Palakkad is also a beautiful spot like Palakkad Fort (Heritage), Temples (Kalpathy Heritage, Jain Temple, Thiruvalathur Temple, Chinmaya Mission Temple etc), Wild Life (Parambikulam Wild Life), Silent Valley (National Park), Siruvani (Forest), Dhoni (Forest), Meenvallam (Waterfalls), Nelliyampathy (Hill Station) etc

      People think Kerala means only Munnar, Thekkady, Kovalam and Wayanad. But other spots in Kerala are much more better than this. This is not my word, but this word is from tourist, whose who visited Palakkad. I know Gavi is also a very good spot. But I didn’t visit there. Awaiting a god chance to visit there

  5. hey wait. Isnt thottada closer to thalassery? I just went to this beautiful secluded beach near thalassery, watched dolphins from the sea side and fisherman scouting for early morning catch of kallumakkayi (muscle). Or are you talking of a different beach all together?

    That was such a good morning I had, the manager of the resort I went to check out gave me some good chai, I chatted up a french national who gave me an opportunity to work with the world famous photographer George Rousse in bombay early next year, had breakfast at this stopover for some really soft porottas and idiappams with chicken stew, and of course the weather was awesome.

  6. Raghunanthan says:

    ‘Hey, would like to share my experience of my travel to Kannur. I decided to enjoy the scenic beauty of KERALA by visiting, Kannur and Wayanad. RingCab.com [ http://www.ringcab.com ] , helped me to realize my dream. They are reliable, amazing, too customer friendly, thought of sharing this  useful info to my other fellow travelers. Worth giving a try to avail RingCab.com [http://www.ringcab.com ]’ transit facility ‘.

  7. I am going to Trivandrum for a friend’s wedding in December. And I hope that’s when I can strike off at least a few places you mentioned here. Interesting post. Will check out India Untravelled for stay options too.
    Much Love,
    Bharti (www.suitcaseofstories.wordpress.com)

  8. Hi Shivya,

    After reading your articles on North Karela and Kannur I’m definitely planning a trip there! 🙂 Could you email me the names of the home stays that you stayed at ? as well as any other activities/sites to visit around there? Thx much! Shan

    1. Bakel fort in Kasarkod, and Kannur’s Payyambalam Beach, Aralam Wild Life sancutary, Muzhappilangad drive-in Beach, Dharmadam Thuruth are some of the best places to visit in north Kerala. If you want to see the diversified worship of Malabaries visit Parassinikadavu Muthappan temple. Thankfully I’m from this place.

  9. Jilana antony says:

    Copy cat ————–http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shivya-nath/unearthing-keralas-bestke_b_1579130.html

  10. Set aside the crowd, Fort Kochi is a wonderful place. Though you need to show your bargaining skills a lot if you plan for shopping.

  11. Vaibhav Dolma says:

    Hey, good blog.
    It shows you have a real experience.
    Thank you

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