Kannur, at the far north of the Kerala state in India is known for the deserted beaches, never ending stretch of coconut palms, extraordinary masked dance form theyyam and people with well informed and strong political views.
The district of Kannur is predominantly is a fishing and business community. The west of Kannur is the Arabian Sea and on the east are the western ghats offering some a great sight seeing and leisure time. However the true beauty of Kannur is in its culture, cuisine and history.
Kannur was a major trading center from centuries and had strong business connections with Persia and Arabia from as early as 12th century. Kannur was invaded by the Portuguese followed by the Dutch and finally the British. Kannur became the army headquarters for British troops serving the western coast.
Some of the rulers from the South Kerala and Mysore like Pazhassi Raja and Tippu Sulthan had great influence on the history and culture of Kannur. Today, Kannur is an active political base in Kerala State’s politics.
This is a traditional spirit possession ceremony conducted though out the northern Kerala regions. During the performance the person covered in mask is said to possess the spirit of god. This is a different art form compared to Kathakali.
It was traditionally staged in small groups and was performed by the men of the lower caste from this region. It gained its popularity in the recent past and has attracted wide audience . Theyyam have three distinct phases and is performed by a dancer with a mask and a huge crown. During the performance the artist even rolls through hot ashes and fire.
Parassinikadavu, almost 20 Kms from the Kannur town is famous for these theyyam performances.
Yummy! thats all I need to say about this. Spicy, white and yellow colored with an irresistible aroma and taste.
There are several other local dishes to try at Kannur and Kerala.
Monsoon (Rainy Season)
you may not be able to enjoy the laid back and deserted beaches during this season. However, if you want to see the real power of the nature and experience the cold showers from above followed by a deafening thunder, then August to October is the season for you.
Kannur is blessed with heavy rain along with other regions of Kerala during rainy season. This is the time you may see a lot of small and beautiful waterfalls along the roads on western ghats that are usually dry during other seasons.
Check out other great places for a monsoon trip.
Payyambalum is probably the most popular beach in Kannur. The evening at the beach is usually crowded as locals come to watch sunset and de-stress after a busy day. you will notice lot of street vendors selling ice creams, popcorn and tender coconut ( water).
The beach is ideal for walks and swimming.the beach also has a park nearby which is usually crowded but enjoyable.
This is an extension of Payyambalum beach and is much smaller in length, hence known as baby beach.
This is an escape spot for the one who find the payyambalum beach a bit crowded. The beach is on the same shoreline as Payambalam beach and is only 12 KMS from Kannur town.
Meenkunnu beach is a great spot with coconut palms covering the shores of the beach. It is an area for fishing hamlets and you will always notice few men fishing at the beach with nets or rods.
The longest drive-in beach in India and Asia. If you are a driving enthusiast then this is a beach for you.
you can drive along the coast and also little into water with all water splashing on both sides of your vehicle. The tides are usually not strong in this beach and generally people and tourists come here for the ride and rarely for a dip in the water.
Occasional Muzhappilangad beach fest during the summer makes this beach even more attractive place to stay back after sunset.
Ezhara Beach, Adikadalayi Beach and Chala Beach are few other small yet clean beaches at Kannur. There are other several beaches at the country side which is little difficult to reach. However asking the locals is the best way to reach these beach.
Located in districts of Kannur and Kasargod, this is one among the least explored backwater though it offers amazing natural beauty and presence of numerous small uninhabited islands.
ValiyaParambu is not as popular as the backwaters of the south Kerala and if you prefer a least crowded place, then the place might be perfect for you.
The traffic in water is mainly from the country fishemen and you will be able to see them fishing from a distance. and if you can get close to one of them, he might also take you along for fishing. the mangroves surrounding the delta is also very attractive.
St.Angelo Fort ( Kannur fort)
St.Angelo fort was built in the 15th Century is in the Cantonment area. It is well preserved as a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India. Like any other fort in India, this fort was under the control of several rulers and finally under the British Empire.
the fort acted as a wall for any attack on Kannur from the arabian sea and there are several cannon on the top of the fort with army barracks inside the fort.
In 2015, thousands of cannonballs were discovered from the fort premises.
Arakkal fort and Museum
The palace was the residence of the royal family of Arakkal Ali Rajas. Visitors reaching the Arakkal Palace will now find a massive durbar hall which now functions as a museum. Here, you will find exhibits that throw light on the maritime activities of the Arakkal Kingdom and its monopoly on spice trade. The museum also has items that indicate the Arakkal rulers’ relationship with European colonial powers. Some of the interesting items displayed include the family seal of the Arakkal family, a bed with chamber for storing valuables, Adhara petti (document box), old style telephone, swords, daggers and telescope.
Bekal Fort and Beach
Bekal fort is located 60 kms north of Kannur town in Kasargode district of Kerala. Today the fort stands as an attraction for both domestic and international tourist.
Bekal fort was constructed in 17th Century and then passed through the hands of several kings including the Tipu Sulthan of Mysore. The beach is accessible through the fort.
Summer evenings are generally crowded with locals visitng the place for leisure and to view sunset. The rainy season makes the fort attractive with rich red and green colours.
Fort is easily accessible by road and highways connecting from both Mangalore in the north and Kannur in the south.
Folklore Museum is a small but well furnished museum. You can see Theyyam statues in full costume as well as artifacts from different folklore arts from all over the state.
A video presentation will give you an insight into the Theyyam rituals, it is a good starting point before watching a real theyyam performance.
Valapattanam Bridge and Mangroves
This small village is only seven kilometers away from Kannur Town. The main attraction are the bridge ane the scenic mangrooves. Fishing harbor is another major attraction that awaits tourists at Valapattanam.
This small town is situated on the banks of Valapattanam river. King Solomon is believed to have bought woods for building ‘The Temple of The Lord’ from Valapattanam.
Parassinikkadavu Snake Park
The snake park houses several species of snakes including the Spectacled Cobra, King Cobra, Russell’s viper, Krait and various pit vipers alongside other small animals.
Also a large collection of non-venomous snakes python and replitles like alligators are housed in this park .
The park is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of snakes, many species of which are gradually becoming extinct.
Kannur is not just beaches but is also covered by western Ghats (hills) from the East side.
The main and the most popular hill station in Kannur is Paithalmala (aka. Vaithalmala).
This is the highest geographic peak in Kannur at 1370 Ft above sea level and approximately 60 KMS from the kannur town. This is a popular destination for trekking and every year thousands trek to the peak.
The best time for trekking is after rainy season when the weather is pleasant and the grass is full grown.
A small and safe waterfalls at the valley of paithalmala and closely loclated to paithalmount cottage is active only during the rainy season. It is worth visiting this small waterfalls for a cold water bath but it dries up during the summer season.
Vismaya water theme park (Parassinikadavu)
Water theme park located at Parassinikadavu is another favorite destination among locals in the region. It is situated closed to the temple with several rides and attractions.
check the theme park website for rides, working hours and holiday list.
When to visit and weather
Best season to visit is between November to February. The weather is pleasant during this interval with some hot days.
However, if you are a lover of monsoon season, don’t miss the heavy showers of August to October. This is my personal favourite although most of the beaches are closed.
If you are not accostomed to 35+ degree celcius of temeprature and high humidity ( which will feel like 40+ degree celsius), then don’t even bother to set foot in Kannur during Mid March to Mid June.
Number of days and the cost
you need almost minimum 5 days to cover the places listed. The cost varies on your stay and place you choose to stay.
apart from stay, you may spend roughly $20 to $30/day ( Indian Rupees 1000 to 1500). Restaurants are usually are not costly and the tourist sports are either free or take an entry fee of $2 or $3 ( Indian Rupees 100) from international tourists.
transportation by Bus and train is very cheap. Taxi and 3 wheeler rickshaw takes approx $1 for 5 to 7 kms.
How to reach Kannur
Kannur is currently accessible by Road and railways. The Airport is under construction and may complete by end of 2017.
Trains are available from Kannur Central railway station and connects to major cities like Bangalore, Trivandrum and mangalore. There are several passenge trains available to nearby locations like kozhikode (Calicut) , shornur to name few.
More detailed list and schedule is available at Indian Railways website.
Kannur is well connected by roadways and can be easily reached from most of the south indian cities and towns by buses. There are literally thousands of buses to and from kannur to near-by and far places.
Using taxi and auto rickshaw is a convenient mode of transport with-in the district and many taxi’s offer a daily fare and will agree to take you popular tourist destinations.
You can talk to local taxi driver’s to find the rates charged and from my experience it is nominal when compared to many other tourist places across the country.
Where to Stay
There are several options available from five star hotels and beach resorts to pocket friendly non-commercial home stays. I personally perfer non-commercial home stays although it is difficult to find one . The home stays are usually in remote locations and usually are the best way to experience the rich culture of the locality. You may have to do some google to find these homestays.
if you can’t find one, then commercial homestays might be an option and sometimes these are as expensive as hotels and resorts. My personal choice would be a non-commercial homestay followed by a hotel or resort.
A Word of Caution
Kannur is the most politicaly active state in kerala ( probably India) with people having far right and left views. This sometimes causes turmoil between political parties.
The call for strike (harthal) is common in Kannur and happens once in a month or two which causes complete shutdown of transport, business and other activities.
The people of Kannur treat tourist well, hence, this may not impact you physically. However, it will impact your schedule and restrict your movement and may not be able to carry on your trip as planned.
Before entering Kannur and Kerala, make sure that there are no strikes.
watch out for extreme hot weather during the months of Mid march to May end or mid June.