WORDS: AMIT GAIKWAD
PHOTOGRAPHS: JYOTHY KARAT
GREAT FROM: Chennai, Mangalore
GREAT FOR: Culture vultures and food lovers
Kannur is a bag of surprises, offering you an insight into the culture, lifestyle and major influences of the region, in fact a glimpse into a little-visited part of Kerala.
A minute’s drive from the city of Kannur will get you to Ayikkara, home to the beautiful Arakkal. The museum is dedicated to the only Muslim royal family of Kannur, the Arakkals. This influential family once ruled the Malabar region and the Lakshadweep Islands. A quick tour around the place will get you better acquainted with the Arakkal dynasty through the artefacts on display, which include furniture, musical instruments, artillery and documents relating to trade with European countries to establish a monopoly in the trading of spices. Interestingly, this museum, part of the Arakkalakettu (Arakkal Palace), belongs to the Arakkal Royal Trust and not the Archeological Survey of India.
Barely five minutes away from the museum lies one of Kannur’s most popular tourist destinations, St Agnelo Fort, built by the first Portuguese Viceroy of India, Dom Francisco de Almeida, in 1505. The triangular citadel offers stunning views over Moplah Bay (a natural fishing bay) and Dharmadam Island in the Arabian Sea. Over a period of time, this fort was captured and ruled by the French, the Dutch and then the British; it is now under the watchful eye of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Another masterpiece awaits you on the premises of the Peralassery Sri Subramanya Temple, located 16km south of Kannur city on the Kannur-Kuthuparamba Road. This is one of the oldest temples in India, known particularly for the massive stepwell at its entrance – the largest in Kerala. The intricate design of the stepwell, in many ways, overshadows the temple.
Like most coastal cities in Kerala, Kannur has its fair share of beaches, one of which is the famous C. Impeccably maintained, this is perfect for family outings, and for swimming and surfing. If being a beach bum is not your thing, visit Kerala’s only drive-on beach, Muzhappilangad Beach. You will enjoy the 4km stretch as you coast along soaking in the sights and sounds of the Malabar coast.
And, of course, there is Kannur’s smorgasbord of diverse cuisines to be enjoyed. Breakfasts are best eaten off tatthakadas where you can sample local favourites with a cup of tea as the local vendors update you on the political situation of the town. Don’t miss out on the distinctive flavours and aromas of Malabar cuisine, especially if you enjoy non-vegetarian fare. Dishes like thalassery dum biryani, varutha meen (fried fish) and unnaka meen (dry fish) and chammanty are staples, but vegetarians will be pleased with the ghee rice and coconut-based vegetable stews, with a wide range of chutneys, pickles and salads to go with them. Make sure your itinerary includes a visit to Hotel Odhens to taste its famous seafood dishes alongside regular vegetarian fare.
Bring home a bit of Kannur; local markets are a trove of spices, handlooms, jewellery, and earthenware products. Bring something back for friends and relatives that will make them want to visit beautiful Kannur too.