When thinking of Kerala, vivid palm trees, coffee plantations, majestic hill stations, pristine nature reserves, and endless stretches of rice paddies appear in my mind. With such a rich tourist offer, it’s no wonder that Kerala is already a popular tourist destination. Fortunately, there are still some beautiful hidden gems in Kerala that most tourists aren’t aware of. If you’re one of those people who like visiting places that not a lot of other tourists do, then you’ll surely like this list of off the beaten track places in Kerala. Let’s start with…
Become one with nature at Pakshipathalam Bird Sanctuary
Pakshipathalam translates as ‘Birds’ lair and there’s a good reason for that. This unfrequented, but beautiful hill station is home to a pristine bird sanctuary. The main reason why the place doesn’t get more visitors is because the only way to reach it is by taking a 7-kilometer trek from the town of Thirunelli. The sanctuary is located next to the Kerala-Karnataka border which also happens to be one of the most pristine and least explored parts of India.
Giver your eyes a treat in Nelliyampathy
Nestled between untouched forests, coffee plantations, and tea estates in one of the most untouched parts of Kerala, Nelliyampathy is the ultimate treat for the eyes. The hill station has a rich flora and fauna is a must-visit for all nature enthusiasts but the best part of the whole experience is actually getting there. The road to Nelliyampathy will take you through the unpaved hairpin turns-rich, tiny paths of the dense, misty forests of the Western Ghats. If you decide to visit, do check out Seethargundu, one of Kerala’s most amazing viewpoints. According to Indian mythology, this was Lord Rama’s favorite resting place during his exile.
Sail the Valiyaparamba Backwaters
No trip to Kerala is complete without exploring some of the region’s famous backwaters; parts of a river in which there is little or no current. With so many operators offering tour packages exploring the state’s backwaters and so many tourists fascinated by them, it’s very difficult to find a peaceful place where you can explore Kerala’s backwaters without rubbing elbows with other tourists. Fortunately, not too many people know about Valiyaparamba’s backwaters and the charming houseboats that make the place even more magnificent! Talking about more hidden backwaters in Kerala…
See the backwaters labyrinth of Ashtamudi
The backwaters of Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam is one of the most fascinating, yet lonely places in the region; hence, a list of the best unexplored hidden gems in Kerala wouldn’t be complete without it. The backwaters of Ashtamudi are the world’s second-largest and deepest wetland ecosystem. The whole structure consists of a “labyrinth” of 8 inter-winding channels, and countless lagoons and inlets. Ashtamudi’s Backwaters are home to 50 species of avifauna, 40 species of birds, and 20+ different species of butterflies.
Cool off at Vagamon
If you want to experience the finest of Kerala’s mountainesque charm but stay away from the prying eyes of other tourists, you should definitely consider visiting the idyllic hill station of Vagamon. Additionally, if you’re visiting Kerala for the first time, you might struggle with the ridiculously-high humidity. This is just another reason to visit Vagamon. The temperatures around here rarely surpass the 25 degrees (Celsius) mark which makes it a perfect day trip if you want to take a break from the hot and humid days while discovering some of its beautiful rolling meadows, charming tea estates, and hidden waterfalls.
Located deep in northern Kerala, next to the Arabian Sea coast lies a charming, sleepy village named Neeleshwar. Despite the recent tourism development and the few new wellness resorts, this beautiful town remains one of Kerala’s best-kept secrets. If you’re looking for an under-the-radar destination with beautiful beaches, tasty, fresh seafood, and divine sunsets, Neeleshwar is a must-visit.
Enjoy the jaw-dropping views of Ayyampuzha
When talking about hidden gems in Kerala, we just can’t proceed without mentioning the hill town of Ayyampuzha. From awe-inspiring waterfalls to tea plantations, mountain streams and rivers, and picturesque vistas, Ayyampuzha has everything that makes Kerala special.
This seemingly ordinary canal wasn’t noticed by travelers until recently when a group of young Indian travelers discovered that the canal leads to a serene stretch of backwaters surrounded by lush vegetation and scenic beauty. Veli Lagoon is probably the most famous area of these backwaters but still remains relatively unfrequented. Here, you can rent a boat, go canoeing or take a trip to the nearby islands of Pozhikara and Edayar.
Related: Guide to Canal Boating in France.
Hike to Ponmudi
Situated at 1,100 meters above sea level, Ponmudi, (the Golden Peak) is one of Kerala’s quietest hill stations. Geographically, Ponmudi belongs to the Western Ghats and is a haven for hiking enthusiasts. Deep in the forests of Ponmundi, you’ll find a lot of surreally-beautiful springs, lush vegetation, rivulets, and numerous gorgeous waterfalls. In addition to this, Ponmundi is also famous among the local population for ayurvedic medical treatments; a system of traditional medicine native to India.
Experience the best of Kerala’s rural tourism in Gavi
If you’re one of those people who think rural tourism is boring, Gavi will change your mind. This place one of the best hidden gems in Kerala and even though it’s very close to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, very few tourists actually know about Gari. Because of the proximity to the nature reserve, you can see a lot of tigers, bears, deer, and Indian Gaurs. Additionally, Gari has a lot of beautiful hiking trails as well as numerous great camping spots. With so many things to do and see, feeling bored in Gari is definitely not an option.
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Visit the world’s highest tea estate at Kolukkumalai Estate
Did you ever wonder what’s the highest elevation at which one can plant and produce tea? Well, here’s your chance to find out. Standing at 8,000 feet above sea level, Kolukkumalai Estate in Munnar is officially the world’s highest tea estate. While visiting the plantation, you can also go waterfall chasing, as the region is famous for being home to some of the most beautiful and pristine waterfalls in Kerala’s arguably least explored part.
Explore the forests of Ranipuram
If you’re looking for an untouristy place in Kerala where you can get off the beaten track and walk for miles without seeing anything else but lush vegetation, you have to visit Ranipuram. This hill station is located at around 750 meters above sea level and has very rich vegetation that consists of Shola Woods, monsoon forests, and grasslands. Just like the other hill stations on this list, Ranipuram is ideal for hiking, with most of its trail stretching through thick, virgin dense forests.
Discover the misty paradise of Ilaveezha Poonchira
Surrounded by three enchanting hillocks, Ilaveezha Poonchira is one of the most beautiful valleys of Kerala. Unlike some of the other places on this list, you can walk around the valley for miles without seeing a tree but you can see a lot of flowers. In fact, the name Ilaveezha Poonchira translates to “flowery lake where no leaves fall”. During the monsoon season when thick mist falls down in the valley, Ilaveezha Poonchira turns into a real paradise, leaving most visitors in awe and making them wonder whether this place is real or they’re dreaming.
Visit the first planned eco-tourism destination in Kerala
Pretty much all of the places we mentioned on this list feature getting off the beaten track and trekking through thick forests or seeing majestic waterfalls but when visiting places like these, tourist facilities are not always accessible. That’s what makes Thenmala different than the other places on this list. This is the first planned eco-tourism destination in the state of Kerala. Additionally, there are a lot of great activities for adults and children alike. Some of the most interesting activities to indulge in feature a butterfly safari, biking, paragliding, visiting the dam, and for the kids- the children park and the adventure zone.
Sunbathe at Poovar Island
If you’re planning a trip to Kerala, you probably heard about Poovar Island. However, even though Poovar Island is arguably the most famous destination on this list of hidden gems in Kerala, I still have to mention it because the local authorities chose not to let commercial development ruin the island. There are only a few resorts around and most of the golden coastline and azure blue waters remain intact.
See the most amazing sunset in Kerala in Kakkathuruthu
I’ll round up this list with my favorite sunset spot in Kerala; Kakkathuruthu Island. I warmly recommend a visit to this island if you want to experience the best beaches of Kerala minus the effects of mass tourism, commercial development, and countless resorts. The island was actually featured in National Geographic magazine but for some reason, commercial development, fortunately, bypassed this beautiful island. If you want to visit, the only way to reach Kakkathuruthu is by hopping on one of the traditional boats at the shore of Vembanad Lake. The island doesn’t have any paved roads or bridges that connect it to the mainland.
Useful tips for visiting Kerala
If you’re looking for a cheap flight to Kerala, Air France’s Oh-la-la deals have helped me save big on all flights to India.
Want to take a tour in Kerala and learn a lot about the local culture while visiting some of the most interesting tourist sights in the region? I personally recommend Trafalgar’s tours.
If you want to save on accommodation in Kerala, this special Booking.com offer gets you 15% off on all Booking.com properties in Kerala.
Finally, don’t forget about travel insurance; for the best deals on the market, go to World Nomads.
How many of these hidden gems in Kerala did you know about? Which one would you like to visit first if given the chance? Did this article change your perception of Kerala? Let us know in the comments!
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