Along the coast of the Arabian Sea stands Kannur, once an important trading port in the Malabar region of Kerala. The city is now well known for its authentic food and historical significance. Throughout the invasions by the Dutch, the Portuguese, the Mysore Sultanate, and the British, Kannur played an essential part in Indian history.
Loved for its pristine beaches, hill stations like Palakkayam thattu, and a significant traditional temperament, a holiday in Kannur promises a surprise-filled family-friendly respite like no other.
How to reach Kannur?
Airways – The Kannur International Airport is 26.8 km from Kannur city, and several flights from various parts of the country arrive here daily.
Railways – The nearest railway station to the city is the Kannur Railway station. It is well-connected with various major cities of India.
Roadways – Many private and KSRTC buses run from major cities in and around Kerala to Kannur regularly. Getting a bus to Kannur is reasonably straightforward.
Where to stay?
From luxurious hotels and resorts to hostels like Zostel, Kannur has a good variety of accommodations available for all budgets.
Hotel Blue Nile Residency near the Kannur Railway station provides excellent and reasonable accommodation. They are service apartments which are easy to access, as it is in the city center. The railway station is nearby, and there are many restaurants and eateries at a walking distance, making it a convenient stay for out of town travelers.
Some other options to stay in Kannur are Green Park Residency, Hotel Rainbow Suites, and Broad Bean Kannur.
Moving around in Kannur is fairly simple as buses and auto-rickshaws are available at all times. Since most tourist places are well connected, you can bargain with auto drivers to show you around the city, by hiring them for an entire day. This is the cheapest form of transport you’ll find in Kannur.
Things to do in Kannur on Day 1
Since Kannur is rich in history, historical sight-seeing is one of the main things to do in Kannur. The following are the essential tourist spots close to Kannur city that can be explored on your first day in the city.
Straight out of the colonial era, St. Angelo Fort is one of the most popular tourist spots by the shore of the Arabian Sea. The Fort was built in 1505, as a settlement for the Portuguese, but was later seized first by the Dutch and then the British. The large stone structures of the Fort loom over the heads as travelers walk through the stone path, allowing visitors to appreciate the ancient history of the Fort and its rich heritage. St. Angelo Fort is open from 8 AM to 6 PM, and there are no entry tickets.
The golden sands of this perfectly maintained beach is a great place to enjoy the tropical charm of the Arabian Sea. At 3.7 km, Payyambalam Beach is close to the St.Angelo Fort, and a must-visit tourist destination when in Kannur. The beach has options for adventure water sport activities, like water skiing and parasailing. Else, you can simply take in the rays and have a lovely beachside picnic with the family.
Located approximately 1.9 km from Payyambalam Beach, Kannur lighthouse is Kerala’s first lighthouse. Built-in 1903, the lighthouse tower now serves as a museum, showcasing technological advancements in modern-day lighthouses.
The Arakkal Museum is at a distance of 3 km from the Kannur Lighthouse. The museum used to be a palace belonging to the only Muslim royal family in Kerala, the Arakkal family. A section of the durbar hall is now a museum showcasing the various family heirlooms and artifacts to the public. Arakkal Museum opens from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM. The entry fee for Indians is Rs. 20.
Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach
Famous for being the first drive-in-beach in Kerala and the longest drive-in-beach in Asia, Muzhappilangad Beach has both tourists and locals taking in its charm daily. It is also a venue for the famous “beach festival” held in April every year. The festival sees daredevils come out and perform tricks in their vehicles, whereas for the rest, there are food stalls, amusement rides, and live shows.
Furthermore, it is possible to see Dharmadam Island from the sands of Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach. During low tide, beach lovers can even walk to the island!
Things to do in Kannur on Day 2
If you manage to visit all the tourist attractions within Kannur on your first day, the second day can be devoted to the unique hill station in Kannur, Palakkayam thattu
Palakkayam thattu, situated at an elevation of 2500 feet above sea level, is relatively new to tourists. Ideal for those who enjoy being out in the open and amongst nature and landscapes, visitors are privy to spectacular mountain views, lush greenery, and endless tress, a rare sight, especially for city dwellers.
A Jeep Safari is the only way to reach the top, and cars are available at different prices depending on which package suits you the most. With additional charges, you can also cover the waterfalls and caves in the area.
The Palakkayam Thattu Adventure Park also has some fun activities like zorbing and zipline, for those in need of an adrenaline rush!
What to eat?
Kannur is known for serving deliciously authentic Kerala food. From mouth-watering refreshing snacks to soul-satisfying meals, Kannur is definitely the place to be if you are a foodie.
Neychoru and Kozhi curry (Ghee rice and chicken curry) is, without a doubt, the most favorite meal among the locals. The rice made with ghee and spices has a unique aroma. When served along with the traditional Kozhi curry, it becomes a killer combo.
Thalassery Biriyani is another popular dish. Surprisingly, many people claim that it is extremely difficult for amateurs and even professional chefs to get the flavors right of the biryani every time.
Erachichor is a meaty rice dish that mirrors a biryani but has a different way of cooking. Raw rice is added to the pre-cooked meat and then further heated until it is ready to eat. Erachichor is a popular non-vegetarian dish in the entire Malabar region.
Evening tea in Kannur is a special time, and thus, includes delectable snacks. Unnakaya made with smashed bananas stuffed with cashew nuts, raisins, coconut and rice flakes, or Kaipola made with a mixture of bananas and nuts in ghee, combined with an egg-sugar mix is a must with your tea.
Arikadukka, which are stuffed mussels with a mixture of boiled rice, flour, and coconut paste, is a unique snack found here and a must-try.
Most of these dishes are available at almost all the restaurants in Kannur, but the snacks are best enjoyed at traditional tea shops.
When to visit?
The ideal time to visit Kannur is from October to March. The winters are comparatively more cooling than the hot and humid summer and wet rainy monsoons.
Those visiting from November to March will also get a chance to experience the exclusive and colorful Theyyam festival, which happens only in North Kerala. Theyyam is said to be the ‘dance of the Gods’ and is performed to worship Hindu Goddess Kali. It is mostly performed by men, adorning extremely colorful costumes and face paints.
The Parassini Kadavu Sri Muthappan Temple in Kannur is one of the primary venues for Theyyam, and thus the perfect excuse for tourists in Kannur to experience this beautiful ritual.
Kannur is a genuinely fascinating city in the North Malabar region of Kerala, and the ideal destination for all types of travelers, whether they want to indulge in good food, history or traditions.
Photos: Author and Unsplash