Private Beach Access at Haris Beach Home Kannur

From Heritage to Folklore: 10+ Best Things To Do in Kannur (2024)

Go on a charming adventure as a tourist or traveller to Kannur, where the cultural richness unfolds with every step in this coastal gem of Kerala. Each street, every story, and every tradition contributes to a narrative that smoothly stitches heritage and folklore. Offering a living example of its historical legacy and vibrant folklore, Kannur welcomes you with open arms. Discover the best things to do in Kannur and explore ancient forts steeped in tales of yesteryears.

Despite numerous visits to Kerala, including Kochi and Wayanad, Kannur had always escaped my exploration. However, on this occasion, my friend and I received the chance to travel and behold the cultural grandeur that graces this exquisite district. The charm of Kannur, with its unique blend of tradition and beauty, unfolded before me, offering a fresh perspective on the rich cultural tapestry that defines this region.

From vibrant festivals to age-old traditions like Theyyam, Kannur became a fantastic destination, adding a new layer to my understanding of Kerala’s diverse and culturally vibrant landscape. This visit marked my introduction to Kannur and left an everlasting impression, inspiring a deeper appreciation for the distinctive charm that sets this district apart within the fascinating state of Kerala.

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About Kannur

Located in the northern part of the Indian state of Kerala, on the Malabar Coast, bordered by the Western Ghats to the east and the Arabian Sea to the west, Kannur district is known for its rich cultural heritage, historical significance and natural beauty.

With a deep historical significance and an important trading centre in ancient times, Kannur has witnessed the presence of various colonial powers, including the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, which has left a lasting impact on its culture and architecture.

Kayaking - Palm Trees
Sunset at Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach

Kannur district has seven towns, and during my travel, I explored and visited three towns:

  • Kannur town,
  • Kannur Cantonment,
  • Thalassery,
  • Payyanur,
  • Taliparamba,
  • Kuthuparamba, and
  • Mattannur.

10+ Best Things To Do in Kannur

Take a Guided Heritage Walk

Exploring Kannur’s rich heritage through a guided heritage walk is an absolute must for history enthusiasts. With its diverse cultural and historical landmarks, Kannur offers a captivating journey into the past. Kannur City Heritage Foundation organises regular guided tours, providing participants with insightful narratives and stories about the city’s history, culture, traditions, and architectural gems.

Recommended Time: 3 to 4 hours
Operator: Kannur City Heritage Foundation
Contact Number: +91 79945 80619
Cost: Rupees 1500 per adult

As you embark on this immersive experience, you will discover the fascinating and bygone stories about Kannur’s iconic landmarks, from ancient forts to vibrant markets. The heritage walk unfolds the layers of Kannur’s cultural side, offering glimpses into the former eras that have shaped the city’s identity.

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Expect to be enchanted by the majestic St. Angelo Fort, witness the bustling activity at historic markets like Fort Road Bazaar, and delve into the significance of landmarks like the Arakkal Museum. The knowledgeable guides from the Kannur City Heritage Foundation bring history to life, sharing snippets and legends that add a dynamic dimension to your exploration.

Dutch Inscription at St. Angelo Fort
Dutch Inscription at St. Angelo Fort

As the owner and founder of Bengaluru Prayana, an organisation dedicated to heritage walks in Bengaluru/Bangalore, embarking on this guided heritage walk in Kannur held particular significance for me. Given my profound appreciation for heritage and history, this experience was significant. I firmly believe in preserving and safeguarding our cultural legacy for the benefit of future generations, making this journey through Kannur’s heritage an essential and fulfilling endeavour.

Whether you are a history buff or simply eager to connect with the cultural roots of Kannur, the heritage walk promises a delightful journey through time, providing a deeper understanding of this enchanting city on the Malabar Coast.

Visit the Historical Site of St. Angelo Fort

Perched majestically on the shores of the Arabian Sea, the St. Angelo Fort in Kannur is an example of the rich history of Kerala’s Malabar Coast. This imposing fort, also known as Kannur Fort, holds a strategic position overlooking the sea, and its history is convoluted with the maritime trade routes and colonial ambitions that shaped the region.

Recommended Time: 2 hours
Opening Times: 8 AM to 6 PM (Ticket Counter closes at 5:30 PM)
Entrance Fee: Rupees 25 per adult for Indians and Rupees 300 per adult for Foreigners
Purchasing of tickets is available at the ticket counter at the entrance

Constructed in 1505 by the Portuguese explorer Dom Francisco de Almeida, the fort was initially a wooden structure before being rebuilt with massive laterite stones by the Dutch in the 1660s. It eventually fell into the hands of the British East India Company in the late 18th century.

With its robust bastions and well-planned architecture, the St. Angelo Fort was a military stronghold during various colonial conflicts. Today, the fort is a well-preserved ruin where you will be transported back in time, imagining the echoes of historical events that unfolded within its walls.

St. Angelo Fort Kannur
St. Angelo Fort

With views of the Arabian Sea, the fort provides a stunning backdrop to its storied past. You can explore the remnants of the chapel, the lighthouse, and the underground chamber that once held ammunition. St. Angelo Fort has been declared a protected monument, ideal for history enthusiasts and curious travellers to delve into its fascinating narrative and discover the layers of heritage that define this iconic site on the Malabar Coast.

A cannon within the fort remains with an undischarged ball still lodged inside, preserving a historical moment frozen in time. During our visit to the fort, we had the opportunity to observe this cannon. Also, we witnessed the archaeological department routinely cleaning the cannonballs, adding a sense of authenticity to our historical exploration.

Watch the Theyyam Performance

As the day ends and the sun sets, displaying the golden glow over the rustic surroundings, the vibrant and mystical Theyyam performance comes to life in Kannur’s lush, natural setting. As the sacred grove becomes the stage for this ancient ritual, the air is filled with the heady scent of incense, and the rhythmic beats of traditional drums echo through the open space.

Recommended Time: 2 hours
To witness a Theyyam performance in its authentic setting, an invitation from the family sponsoring the Theyyam ceremony is required. Alternatively, you can enjoy Theyyam performances at temples and other sacred locations by purchasing an entrance ticket.

Dressed in elaborate costumes decorated with vivid colours and intricate designs, the performers transform into demigods, embodying the divine spirits they invoke. The torches’ flickering flames illuminate their faces, creating a magical atmosphere that blurs the line between the earthly and the divine.

Theyyam during a family ritual
Theyyam during a family ritual

The sound of traditional music intensifies, setting the tempo for the dancers who move with an otherworldly grace. Each step and each gesture is a homage to centuries-old traditions passed down through generations. The audience witnesses the convergence of art, spirituality, and nature.

With their elaborate headdresses and exaggerated expressions, the performers transport to a realm where folklore and faith combine. The natural setting, such as the forest, adds authenticity to the experience, with the rustling leaves and distant sounds of wildlife becoming an integral part of the performance.

The pinnacle of my Kannur journey was experiencing the Theyyam performance in its authentic setting and the extraordinary moment of receiving personal blessings from the Theyyam afterwards. This encounter was profoundly special and stirred deep emotions within me, making it a truly unforgettable and touching experience.

Drink the Refreshing Kannur Cocktail

The Kannur Cocktail is a refreshing blend that captures the essence of the coastal town’s vibrant culture and tropical spirit. With a base of coconut water, the cocktail is a mix of freshly squeezed jackfruit juice, ginger syrup, and fresh mint leaves.

Recommended Time: 30 minutes

Begin with a base of coconut water sourced from the pristine coasts of Kannur, providing a crisp and hydrating foundation. Add a freshly squeezed jackfruit juice splash to infuse a local twist, a fruit abundant in the region.

Refreshing Kannur Cocktail
Refreshing Kannur Cocktail; With my friend Raksha

For a hint of spice, add a touch of ginger syrup, paying homage to the region’s rich spice trade history. Muddle fresh mint leaves plucked from the town’s verdant gardens to elevate the cocktail.

Serve the Kannur Cocktail over ice in a coconut shell or a glass, garnished with a mint sprig and a jackfruit slice. The result is a harmonious blend of flavours that embodies the lively spirit of Kannur, making it the perfect libation to savour while basking in the town’s natural beauty.

The Kannur Cocktail is a substantial beverage that can serve as a meal. When my friend and I ordered the cocktail, it was notably robust, and ours even included an abundance of dry fruits.

Learn about Theyyam at Kerala Folklore Academy

Discover the fascinating world of Theyyam, where over 400 distinct forms exist, except for one performed by a female. Housed in the old Chirakkal royal family’s home, the Kerala Folklore Academy serves as a treasure trove of such intriguing details, offering a wealth of information on the rich cultural tapestry of Theyyam.

Recommended Time: 2 hours
Opening Times: 8 AM to 6 PM (Ticket Counter closes at 5:30 PM)
Entrance Fee: Rupees 100 per adult for Indians and Rupees 300 per adult for Foreigners
Additional charges of Rupees 60 per camera and Rupees 100 per video camera
Purchase tickets at the entrance

Unfolding the diversity within this traditional art form, the academy and museum share captivating insights into the unique rituals, makeup, vibrant costumes, and the significance of each Theyyam. Beyond the sheer number, it delves into the cultural nuances that make Theyyam a captivating expression of Kerala’s heritage.

Immerse yourself in the captivating narratives and explore the depth of this ancient tradition at the Kerala Folklore Academy, where every Theyyam unfolds a story of cultural richness and artistic mastery. You can also find information on other art forms of Kerala, such as Thiruvathirakali and Kathakali.

Theyyam in Folklore Museum

Kayak Your Way to Mangrove Forests

This activity in Kannur was one of my favourites. You can venture on a memorable adventure as you kayak your way to the picturesque mangrove forests in Udumbunthala near Kannur. This offbeat and quiet town offers a unique opportunity to explore the serene beauty of mangroves, providing an eco-friendly and immersive experience.

Recommended Time: 2 to 3 hours
Operator: Mangrove Vibe Kayaking
Contact Number: +91 79945 80619
Cost: Rupees 300 per person
You can also do a night kayaking (unique experience)

Setting out from one of the local kayak rental providers, Mangrove Vibe Kayaking, paddle gently along the meandering backwaters that take you to the mangrove ecosystem. The tranquil environment is a haven for birdwatchers, as you may spot various species of migratory and resident birds amid the lush greenery. It is also the best spot to see the sunset.

Kayak your way to Mangrove Forests

As you glide through the water, look for the unique flora and fauna that call the mangroves home. Mangrove roots often serve as nurseries for marine life, such as juvenile fish and crabs, contributing to the area’s rich biodiversity.

The stillness of the mangrove forests creates a peaceful atmosphere, offering a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy adds a memorable magic touch to your kayaking journey.

Whether you are an experienced kayaker or a beginner, exploring the mangrove forests near Kannur provides a refreshing and immersive experience that allows you to connect with nature uniquely. Don’t forget your camera to capture the beauty of this coastal haven from a perspective only accessible by kayak.

You can disembark from your kayak in the mangrove forests and stroll through the breathtaking and refreshing natural surroundings. Despite not being dressed for such an occasion, I was undeterred and eagerly left my kayak to explore the spectacular mangrove trees on foot. The immersive experience of walking amidst the lush mangroves allowed me to truly appreciate this ecosystem’s unique beauty.

See the family history of the Arakkal Family at the Arakkal Museum

The Arakkal Museum is a testament to the rich history and heritage of the Arakkal family, the only Muslim royal family in Kerala. The museum is situated in the Arakkal Kettu, the palace complex that once served as the residence of the Arakkal Ali Rajas.

Recommended Time: 1 to 1.5 hours

The museum has a collection of artifacts that once belonged to the Arakkal family. These include royal costumes, jewellery, weapons, and other personal belongings, providing a tangible connection to the lives of the royals.

Arakkal Museum
Arakkal Museum

Visiting the Arakkal Museum offers a unique opportunity to delve into the history of the Arakkal family, providing a cultural and historical journey through the lives of this unique Muslim royal lineage in Kerala.

Savour Authentic and Home-cooked Thalassery Biryani

Having an authentic and home-cooked Thalassery Biryani is a culinary delight that takes you on a flavorful journey through the rich gastronomic heritage of the Kannur district, mainly the Thalassery region.

Recommended Time: 2 to 3 hours
Host: Uppu Homestay for lunch
Cost: Rupees 1000 per person for the entire meal

Thalassery Biryani is famous for its strong mix of flavoured spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and bay leaves. These spices create a tantalising aroma.

What sets Thalassery Biryani apart is its layered cooking technique. The partially cooked rice is layered with the marinated chicken/meat and fried onions in a heavy-bottomed pan. Each layer is infused with ghee, enhancing the biryani’s richness.

Home-cooked Thalassery Biryani
Home-cooked Thalassery Biryani

Home-cooked Thalassery Biryani’s authenticity lies in the cook’s personal touch. Each household may have unique variations and secret ingredients, making every plate a distinctive culinary experience.

Uppu Homestay in Thalassery graciously hosted us, extending a warm and familial reception that made us feel cherished and valued. The care and hospitality we received mirrored the warmth one would expect within their own family, creating a memorable and heartwarming experience during our stay.

Savouring a plate of authentic Thalassery Biryani is a cultural experience that reflects the culinary prowess and traditions of the region. Whether enjoyed during a festive occasion or as a comforting family meal at a local home, Thalassery Biryani is a celebration of flavours that linger in the memory.

Stroll around Thalassery Heritage Street

Thalassery Heritage Street is a delightful promenade that allows visitors to indulge themselves in the rich history, culture, and architectural charm of Thalassery, a historic town in Kerala.

Recommended Time: 1 hour

With the colonial-era architecture that lines Heritage Street, the street showcases well-preserved buildings blending British, Dutch, and Portuguese influences. These reflect Thalassery’s historical significance as a colonial trading post.

Appreciate the vibrant mural art adoring some of Heritage Street’s buildings. These murals often depict scenes from Malayalam movies and Thalassery’s history, adding colour to the surroundings.

Thalassery Heritage Street
Thalassery Heritage Street

Heritage Street is a living museum offering a walk-through time with each step. Historical markers and plaques provide insights into the events and personalities shaping Thalassery’s past.

Eat Plum Cake at Mambally’s Bakery

The legacy of Plum Cake at Mambally’s Bakery in Thalassery traces back to 1883 when a significant encounter unfolded between a British planter, Murdoch Brown, and the local baker, Mambally Bapu. Brown, intrigued by the rich flavours of the plum cake he had brought from England, sought Bapu’s opinion.

Mambally Bapu, with an inventive spirit, embarked on crafting the cake using local ingredients, with one exception—French brandy. Opting for a unique twist, Bapu substituted the brandy with a concoction of locally brewed liquor derived from cashew apples and the indigenous banana variety known as Kadalipazham. The result was a delectable masterpiece that left Brown thoroughly delighted.

Plum Cake at Mambally's Bakery
Plum Cake at Mambally’s Bakery

Dressed by the ingenuity and exceptional taste, Brown declared Bapu’s creation the best cake he had ever sampled. This moment marked the inception of a renowned tradition—the Thalassery Plum Cake at Mambally’s Bakery. The recipe, blending local flavours with international influences, has endured over the decades, making this plum cake an iconic treat that reflects the spirit of innovation and cultural fusion in Thalassery’s culinary heritage.

To this day, a visit to Mambally’s Bakery in Thalassery provides the opportunity to savour the renowned plum cake that has stood the test of time. The bakery continues to offer this iconic treat to its visitors so they can taste the rich flavours and be involved in the historical significance of the Thalassery Plum Cake.

Ride or Drive on Motorable Beach

Referred to as Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach, this beach is unique because it is one of the few in the world where you can drive or ride your vehicle along the shoreline.

Recommended Time: 1 to 2 hours
Best Time to Visit: Sunset
Ensure that you wear a helmet while riding the bike.

Driving or riding along Muzhappilangad Beach allows you to witness the changing hues of the sea, from turquoise to deep blue. Seagulls and crows soar overhead, accompanying your drive with their graceful flights. The gentle waves create a soothing soundtrack, making the drive a pleasant and immersive experience.

Driving at Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach
Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach

Remember to follow local traffic rules, regulations, and guidelines, and ensure that driving or riding on the beach is permitted during your visit. Always prioritise safety and environmental conservation while enjoying such unique attractions.

Taste the Kerala Cuisine

Kerala’s cuisine boasts a wealth of rich and diverse flavours, ranging from aromatic spices to fresh seafood and traditional herbs. Immerse yourself in the comforting warmth of coconut-infused curries, savour the impeccable balance of sweet and savoury in traditional snacks, and delight in the varied textures and tastes that characterize Kerala’s culinary landscape.

Savour Kerala Cuisine at Kannur

Each dish is a gastronomic adventure, a symphony of carefully selected ingredients and expertly blended spices that display the culinary expertise of the region. From the spicy tang of traditional curries to the sweet indulgence of local treats, Kerala’s cuisine promises a journey through a palate of sensations, inviting you to appreciate the depth of flavours that define this captivating culinary tradition.

Every mouthful narrates a tale steeped in tradition, heritage, and a genuine passion for exceptional cuisine. Each dish serves as a jubilant celebration of locally sourced ingredients, culinary mastery, and the distinctive amalgamation of flavours that characterise this captivating region. Amidst this culinary journey, ensure not to overlook the opportunity to savour the renowned fish fry—a culinary gem that encapsulates the essence of Kerala’s gastronomic delights.

Watch Countless Stunning Sunsets

As the sun starts to set over the Arabian Sea, you find yourself drawn to the coastline of Kannur. The sky is painted with red, orange, pink, and purple, setting the stage for a breathtaking display of the day’s ending.

You can choose any vantage point along the shore, where the rhythmic sounds of the waves create a soothing melody. As the sun lowers, casting a warm glow across the horizon, the surroundings are coloured in a soft, golden light.

Watching Sunsets at Kannur

As the minutes pass, the colours intensify, creating a kaleidoscope of shades that decorate the water and the ocean. The palm trees lining the coast sway gently in the evening breeze, and the atmosphere is filled with a sense of serenity, providing the perfect backdrop for reflection and contemplation.

Residents and tourists gather along the beach, each finding a quiet space to appreciate the natural spectacle. The air is appreciated as everyone watches the sun’s descent with grace.

Sunset at Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach
Sunset at Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach

The sun, now a fiery orb on the horizon, gradually disappears, leaving behind a radiant afterglow. The sky transitions from warm tones to cool blues and purples as the day gives way to the tranquillity of dusk. You realize that each sunset in Kannur is a unique masterpiece, never to be replicated the same way again.

As darkness settles in, you carry the memory of countless stunning sunsets in Kannur with you. Each one is a reminder of the simple yet profound beauty that nature generously shares with those fortunate enough to witness it along the shores of this coastal gem.

Throughout our journey in Kannur, we were treated to awe-inspiring and unobstructed sunsets daily. Whether during a serene kayaking session or while enjoying activities on a private beach, each sunset was distinct and breathtaking. These daily displays of nature’s beauty provided a gratifying conclusion to our bustling days in Kannur.

How to Get to Kannur?

By Air

Kannur has its international airport located approximately 25 kilometres from the town centre. Indigo and Air India are the primary airline operators offering flights to Kannur. Upon arrival at the airport, convenient transportation options, such as taxis, are readily available. The journey from the airport to the main town typically takes about an hour, ensuring a smooth and accessible transition for travellers.

By Road

Reaching Kannur by road offers a convenient and scenic travel option. The town is well-connected by a network of highways, making road travel accessible from various nearby locations.

By Public Transport

  • Government bus operator Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and private bus operators, like Sugama and Golden Travel, run regular services to Kannur from neighbouring cities and towns.
  • Kannur has its railway station, Kannur Railway Station, which is centrally located in the town. Major trains from cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, and Delhi have stops at Kannur.

Places to Stay in Kannur

Kannur offers many accommodation choices, including numerous heritage properties that encapsulate the rich cultural tapestry of the district. Throughout our journey, we had the privilege of staying at three distinct resorts and homestays, each surpassing the previous one in charm and authenticity. You can stay at:

Click here to check for accommodation on the MakeMyTrip website

Niraamaya Retreats Vaidekam Kannur
Niraamaya Retreats Vaidekam

The variety of heritage stays in Kannur allows tourists to immerse themselves in the cultural ambience, offering an experience that goes beyond conventional accommodation. Whether nestled within historic structures or adorned with traditional architecture, these heritage properties contribute to a unique and memorable stay, making Kannur the perfect destination for those looking for a mix of cultural immersion and peace.


Best Time to Visit Kannur

To be honest, Kannur maintains a warm climate even beyond the summer months. However, the most tolerable weather occurs between October and February when temperatures range from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius. It is worth noting that the monsoon season, stretching from June to September, brings heavy rainfall, and I recommend avoiding this period for travel to Kannur.

SummerMarch to May
MonsoonsJune to September
WinterOctober to February
Season and Months in Kannur

How many days are sufficient for Kannur?

Kannur has captivating tourist spots and sightseeing wonders, presenting a wealth of attractions for its visitors. Even with a four-day stay in this enchanting destination, we realised that we had only begun to explore its vast offerings.

Theyyam in Kerala

I wholeheartedly recommend dedicating a minimum of four days to fully immerse yourself in Kannur’s charm, allowing ample time to discover its main landmarks and notable places. This extended stay provides a more comprehensive and enriching experience, ensuring you can delve into the diverse facets of Kannur’s cultural, historical, and natural wonders.

Is Kannur Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Kannur stands out as one of the safest destinations in South India, characterized by excellent hospitality and a welcoming community known for its warmth and friendliness. We encountered no issues throughout our travels in Kannur, and a sense of security marked the overall experience.

Riding a Bike at Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach
Riding a Bike at Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach: Ensure you wear a helmet while riding the bike

Although my visit wasn’t solo, I can confidently assert that Kannur is a safe haven for solo female travellers. However, as with any location, it’s prudent to exercise caution, particularly during nighttime excursions. While Kannur’s inherent safety is evident, it is always wise to be mindful of general safety practices, ensuring every traveller a secure and enjoyable experience.

Closing Notes

From the captivating Theyyam performances to the serene beaches, historic forts, and the warm hospitality of the locals, the best things to do in Kannur promise a journey that transcends the ordinary. Kannur is a gem with plenty of experiences waiting to be discovered.

We had the privilege of being hosted by the Kannur City Heritage Foundation, along with their partnering homestays and resorts. A heartfelt appreciation goes to Shihad for expertly organising, hosting, and coordinating our entire trip. It is important to note that, despite being hosted, the opinions conveyed in this post are entirely my own and are presented with impartiality and honesty.

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