Places to visit in South Kerala and South Kerala Itinerary
Kerala state in Southern India is rightly known as ‘God’s Own Country’. The state is blessed with abundant natural beauty in lush greenery, a vast coastal belt, picturesque hills (the Western Ghats), and beautiful backwaters. Kerala has always been a popular place for travelers of all kinds. The state can be divided into three parts. For ease of your understanding, we will list down a few tourist places in each of these parts.
North Kerala houses popular tourist places like Kannur, Wayanad, and Kozhikode (Calicut), whereas Central Kerala includes Kochi and Thrissur. South Kerala is the most popular belt amongst tourists visiting the state and has famous places like Munnar, Thekkady, Alleppey, Kollam, Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kovalam, and Poovar. The best thing about Kerala is that each of these parts harbors an airport – Kannur and Kozhikode airport in the north, Kochi airport in central, and Trivandrum airport in the south of the state. This allows travelers to easily reach the place of their choice.
Since the Kochi-Munnar-Thekkady-Alleppey circuit is the most visited and most talked about, you will find abundant information about these places on the web. We noticed that the localities south of Alleppey (Kollam, Varkala, Trivandrum, Kovalam, and Poovar) are often neglected; hence, we will list down places to visit these areas of South Kerala. We will also include an ideal itinerary that you can follow for your visit to these places, along with recommendations on stay options.
South Kerala Itinerary:
The Trivandrum airport is the nearest airport to places to visit in South Kerala (Kollam, Varkala, Kovalam, Poovar). Trivandrum is also a major rail junction that lies on the Western Railway Line. You can follow the below-mentioned Kerala itinerary after arriving in Trivandrum. You can also reverse this itinerary based on the accommodation availability.
Trivandrum (1N) – Kollam (1N) – Munroe Island (1N) – Varkala (2N) – Kovalam (2N) – Poovar (1N) – Trivandrum (1N)
In case you have more time, you can include Kanyakumari in your itinerary which is as such in neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu
Places to visit in South Kerala:
This article lists sightseeing places in each town (Kollam, Munroe, Varkala, Trivandrum, Kovalam, and Poovar) and recommendations on the best properties to stay.
Kollam is a town referred to as the ‘Gateway to backwaters in Kerala’. With travelers realizing its potential off lately, the town is slowly gaining popularity. The best place to visit in Kollam is the Mahatma Gandhi beach, also called as the Kollam beach. The beach stretches for miles and is a perfect sunset spot. The other tourist places in Kollam includes Thangassery Lighthouse, St. Thomas Fort, Paravur Lake and Ashtamudi Lake.
Do not miss out on a houseboat ride or a country boat ride along the several canals of Paravur Lake. We highly recommend staying at the Fragrant Nature Resort in Paravur, Kollam district. The resort is surrounded by beautiful backwaters, and all the rooms overlook the waterbody.
About 40 kilometers from Kollam town is the Jatayu’s Earth Centre that houses the world’s largest sculpture of a mythological bird named Jatayu on a hilltop. It is a must-visit place to include in your South Kerala itinerary. You could also visit the Thenmala ecotourism site as a day trip from Kollam.
Munroe Island is located at a distance of 25 kilometers from Kollam town at the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River. The island is the starting point of the very popular Kallada boat race. Munroe Island’s main attraction is cruising in the backwaters through narrow canals and passing under the naturally formed mangrove arch. You will spot wonderful birds at Munroe Island. You can also go fishing and get your catch cooked. If you haven't included Munroe Island in your South Kerala itinerary, you are already missing out on a lot. Take our word, you will find Munroe Island to be the most fulfilling place to visit in South Kerala.
Other places that you must visit on the Munroe Island are the Munroe viewpoint, the 1878 AD Dutch Church, John Munroe Museum and the Perumon railway bridge. You will be able to watch incredible sunsets and sunrises from the island. Also, try out the very delicious beverages at Munroe mocktails and buy hand-painted landscape artwork from the Raghu Munroe art gallery. You can go around exploring the island on a rented bicycle.
Often referred to as the ‘Venice of India’, Munroe Island is a network of 8 islets, out of which you can book an entire islet. Vini’s Farm is a homestay located on a tiny islet in Munroe, and it lets you own the whole islet to yourself. We highly recommend this property to couples, especially honeymooners, who wish to seek some privacy, solitude, and peace. Vini’s Farm is also ideal for artists and writers.
For budgeted travelers, we recommend staying at Green Chromide Homestay. It is located right on the banks of the Kallada River, and they have a wooden chalet overlooking the river. The hosts are lovely people and great to talk to. They prepare delicious food that is served in the garden dining area right next to the river.
Varkala is a famous beach town in South Kerala amongst surfers, beach-bummers, digital nomads, and backpackers. While on your trip to this beautiful town, you should visit the 4 beaches (Kappil beach, Edava beach, Black Sand beach, and Papanasham beach), each unique in its own way, the Janardhana Swamy temple (from where Varkala got its name), and of course the North cliff and South cliff (the most happening places in Varkala filled with souvenir shops and restaurants). Varkala will offer you an opportunity to view unparallel sunsets each day. Varkala is amongst the best places to visit in South Kerala for all kinds of travelers.
Varkala’s charm, however, lies across its seashore, and it is highly known as one of the best-surfing destinations in India. You can opt to learn surfing from one of the many surf schools in the town. We did a 3-day beginner surfing course from Soul and Surf – a surf school cum accommodation located on the picturesque edge of the South cliff. We highly recommend staying with them even if you don’t take part in surfing. Varkala’s cliffs are also ideal for paragliding, and you can participate in this sport at the Helipad, North cliff.
Varkala is an ideal base to travel to a few nearby places, including Anjengo Fort and lighthouse located 15 kilometers south of the town, and Jatayu Earth’s Centre (world’s largest bird sculpture) situated on a hill in Chadayamangalam area, located about 30 kilometers from Varkala. The town is also a paradise for food connoisseurs who love to taste different cuisines. Your South Kerala itinerary is incomplete without hopping the global restaurants of Varkala.
Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala state, is a major IT hub now. On your trip to South Kerala, it is advisable to book your flights to and from Trivandrum. And do not forget to spend some time in this ‘evergreen city of India’ as tagged by Mahatma Gandhi. Must-visit places in Trivandrum include the Chitra Art Gallery that showcases the incredible paintings of Raja Ravi Verma, the Napier Museum exhibiting the unique Mughal artefacts, and the Padmanabhaswamy temple, claimed to be one of the wealthiest temples in the world.
We rented a two-wheeler from one of the motorcycle rental agencies near Trivandrum airport and rode across the city, visiting places of interest and hopping lovely cafes. We highly recommend watching the sunset from the Shangumugham beach located near the airport. For stay, you will find a variety of accommodations in this capital city, ranging from low-budget to luxurious ones.
Kovalam has a special place in South Kerala’s tourist circuit. The town is dotted with pretty beaches that are worth visiting. The lesser-known ones include Samudra beach, Ashok beach, and Grove beach. These beaches are safe for swimming and water sports. Although the number of tourists on these beaches are less, you will find plenty of local boatmen offering you parasailing and snorkeling packages. The other set of beaches includes Kovalam beach, Hawa beach, and Lighthouse beach. These are very popular amongst tourists.
Another must-visit destination in Kovalam is the Vizhinjam lighthouse that you can easily spot from the Lighthouse beach. You are allowed to climb to the top of the lighthouse and enjoy the incredible bird’s eye view of Kovalam from there. For a perfect sunset, head to the Vizhinjam harbor.
If you have some more time in Kovalam, visit the Chowara beach and the Aazhimala Shiva temple close by. The 58-feet tall statue of Lord Shiva at this temple with the Arabian Sea behind has the power to immediately calm your senses. Give this place a chance in your South Kerala itinerary.
Rockholm at the Lighthouse beach is the best property to stay in Kovalam. It is located close to the Vizhinjam Lighthouse and the Lighthouse beach and has private access to a small stretch of secret beach nearby. All their rooms have a sea-facing balcony with an excellent view of the sea.
Poovar is a small beach town located close to the borders between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The town is known for its golden beach, the unique sand bar, and the backwaters created by the Neyyar River. Though the Poovar beach is unsafe for swimming due to intense wave currents, a walk along the sand bar separating the sea and backwaters will make up for all the lost water adventures.
In Poovar, we stayed at the Poovar Island Resort located on a tiny isle bordered by swaying palms and backwaters. We spent our time eating wholesome food, getting authentic Ayurvedic massages, relaxing in the squeaky-clean swimming pool, admiring the backwater views, sailing the backwaters, and taking long strolls at the Poovar beach. Without a doubt, Poovar Island Resort is the best resort in Poovar.
If you have ample time in Poovar, do not miss out on visiting the Chenkal Maheshwaram temple that boasts of the tallest Shivalingam (111 feet) in India, which you can climb up to the top. This is one of the most unique places to visit in South Kerala.
Follow our itinerary to make the most of your South Kerala trip. Read up our dedicated blogs on each of the places mentioned above to find more information about the places to visit. Do let us know if you need help in planning your South Kerala trip itinerary. Happy travelling!