The northern coastal stretch of Kerala (the Malabar region) and lush coffee-clad Wayanad, further inland, encompass a travelling experience unblemished by cliches. It is a rich mix of Wayanad’s verdant forests and the virgin coastline from Kozhikode to Kasaragod, the northernmost tip of Kerala. There is plenty of diversity here, from architecture and traditional arts, to pristine beaches and coffee plantations.
In this excerpt from the Kerala travel guide, we tell you about the best places to visit in this part of state.
This slice of Puducherry on the western edge of the country is no more than 9 sq km in size. Located 9km away from Thalassery, the town boasts a vast colonial history and a substantial connect to France (till date). An unassuming fishing village colonised from the early 18th century righ t up to 1954, Mahe makes for a superb stop in the Malabar region. Visit St Theresa’s shrine, one of the oldest Christian shrines in the region. Note the French inscriptions below the statues; Jeanne d’ Arc is one of the names that you may recognise easily. The 1000-year-old Puthalam Temple also holds special significance. Built in typical Malabar style, it has three sections and a thick un-manicured copse alongside.
The presence of a number of forts on the coastal edge of Kerala recalls the active spice trade that existed here with the Arab, Chinese and European world. Of these, Bekal Fort is one of the most famous, and offers scenic views. You can climb its ancient water tank to get a bird’s eye view of the waves lashing onto the shores.
PAYYAMBALAM BEACH, KANNUR
Palm-fringed sands stretch along the edge of Kannur town on Payyambalam Beach. Busy with camel- and horse-rides and plenty of ice-cream carts, this is a vibrant place to spend an evening. A small park sits at the edge of the beach where, apart from some nationalistic memorials, there is nothing much to see. Avoid swimming in the crowded section; instead, look for a quieter spot towards the south.
BEACHES IN KOZHIKODE (CALICUT)
Closer to the city, the Kozhikode Beach is a breezy stretch along Beach Road. It has been developed with modern sculptures and benches for people to rest on. The more scenic Kappad Beach lies 19km from the town. You can also see an inconspicuous weathered monument that is a reminder of Vasco da Gama’s entry into the city.
Built by the British East India Company to safeguard its stronghold in this important trade junction, Thalassery Fort is full of its share of glory, mystery and history, with secret tunnels, strong laterite walls and a towering lighthouse on one end.
MUZHAPPILANGAD DRIVE-IN BEACH, THALASSERY
The northern border of Thalassery stretches into a unique flat 4-km beach, on which you can even drive. Needless to say, the sandy coast is tyre-marked (but clean) as people successfully attempt to cruise their vehicles on its even stretches. From this spot, you can also see the Dharamadam Island, just off the coast.
SRI ANANTHAPADMANABHA SWAMY TEMPLE, KASARAGOD
Travel to the northern tip of Kerala, to see this tranquil water-surrounded temple in Kasaragod, dedicated to Lord Maha Vishnu. It is a soothing oasis in the middle of a vast dry, rocky and dramatic landscape. Typical Kerala architecture, ancient murals and a permanent inhabitant, a crocodile called Babiya, are the highlights here.
MUTHANGA AND THOLPETTY WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES, WAYANAD
Both Muthanga and Tholpetty Wildlife sanctuaries in Wayanad give visitors a chance to be dazzled by the many shades of green in its thick forested regions. One cannot be assured of tiger sightings but that shouldn’t be a deterrent especially since one get’s a chance to spot a variety of fascinating creatures such as Indian bison, elephants, deer and birds. A safari in the jeep amidst the wild undergrowth and sounds of the jungle can be quite therapeutic.
EDAKKAL CAVES, WAYANAD
Pictorial writings from 5000 BC in the Edakkal Caves are testimony to the presence of a prehistoric civilisation in the region. Ever since these writings were discovered in the deep fissures of the massive rockscape, the area has been regarded as a sight of great importance. Hundreds visit the caves that are perched on a steep hill to witness the remains of this extraordinary civilisation.
ST ANGELO FORT, KANNUR
The Portuguese built the St Angelo Fort in 1505 from brilliantly red laterite stone on a promontory a few kilometres south of town. At the edge of Mappila Beach, it now overlooks a small fishing harbour full of colourful boats. What is most striking is the impeccable maintenance of this historical fort especially since there is no entry fee.