A weekend along the beaches & forts of Kannur, Kerala

posted in: Asia, Beaches, Heritage, India, Kerala | 70

Some things don’t change. Even though it has been some time that I have left my corporate job, I still track those long weekends and when I get a drift of one, my travel planning mode just switches on. Despite my regular travels, I still need those for some fun time with my family and friends. Naturally, I wasn’t going to let my Independence Day weekend getaway. Packed and loaded with our bags, we set forth for yet another road trip – this time to the beaches of Kannur in Kerala.

Setting off for Kannur

With 4 families & kids, we wanted to try out some beaches within 7-8 hours drive from Bangalore. Kannur fit the bill perfectly. Without further ado, we booked our stay at least 2 months prior to the weekend – not wanting to take any chances. At the dawn of the marked weekend, we set forth to discover this little town in Kerala. It sure was an experience that made our weekend perfect – giving us enough to do and still have a relaxing holiday. I definitely would be recommending this as a weekend outing for any one who comes to Kerala or Karnataka and before I give you reasons why, a little bit about Kannur.

About Kannur

Kannur is also, popularly known as Cannanore, an anglicized version of the original Indian name. The name Kannur was in fact, derived from Lord Krishna’s name – Kannan, as there was a temple dedicated to him in this place. The place was ruled by the Kolathiri Kings of Kerala. Later in the 1500s, this became a Portuguese colony and the first Viceroy here built the famed St. Angelo’s fort. The Dutch took over this fort and place in the 1660s and built some more bastions within the Fort. Eventually, they sold the place to Ali Raja of Arakkal, who in turn, lost it to the British in the 1790s.

Cannanore or Kannur in Kerala

With the change of numerous hands in Kannur, there were is a fusion of cultural influences that you can still see in this town. This makes it even more interesting and attractive. And then, of course, there are my reasons for why one needs to visit Kannur.

1)The drive to Kannur from Bangalore

Drive through Mysore to Kannur

Through Mysore and the green Nagarhole forest, past Mananthavady in Wayanad right up to the sandy beaches of Kannur, our drive was completely refreshing! For one, we did not take the regular Mysore road but came through Kanakpura where the roads are lined with that cheer you on as you drive along. After Mysore, the banyan trees with their hanging roots beckoned us to stop around and swing on them as monkeys. Nagarhole forest was a completely different experience for as we entered, we were greeted by a herd of prancing deer as they crossed the road. Finally, the cool, green covers of Wayanad and its tea estates kept us company till we reached Kannur. Not for a minute, did we get bored and it helped that it was the monsoon season that brought out the best of these places.

Tea estates of Wayanad

2) Thottada Beach in Kannur

Sunset on Thottada Beach in Kannur

Our destination and the first stop at Kannur was the Kanbay resort by the Thottada Beach. One glimpse at the beach and I was transported back to Gokarna. With its rocky ledges and water splashing high against it, the Thottada Beach was quite mesmerizing. I found my favorite seat on those very rocks – just so that I could look at those waves for hours together as they gathered force to leap up those huge rocks.

My favorite place on Thottada Beach
Fun on the beach stretch

However, that was not all to this beach. A walk away from the resort was its sandy shore where one could indulge in a bit of wading and some crazy games as we did. I loved my morning runs on this beach for I discovered two hidden aspects to it – at one end, the lovely backwater stretch and at the other end, a small little entrance that lead to a hidden stretch of this Beach. The Thottada beach was perfect for adults and kids alike!

The entrance to a secret section of the Thottada beach
The secret section of the Thotadda beach
The backwaters at the Thottada Beach

3) St. Angelo’s fort in Kannur

St. Angels's fort, Kannur

St. Angelo’s fort is a symbol of the various European influences that this town had. The moss-covered fort with its huge moat had me intrigued from the time I walked through its narrow alley. The fort is quite small as compared to the huge ones that I have seen but interesting nonetheless. Being a sea fort, you are treated to the view of the Arabian Sea from all sides. As you enter, you can spot the cannons that were used by the British – which are not in its original place but out there nonetheless for us to see.

Cannon at St. Angelo fort
St Angelo's fort from within

Further on, you can spot the remains of the tall lighthouse that was used to guide the ships to the fort and below that, what remains of the horse stables. While you are at the lighthouse, don’t forget to spot this symbol of the Dutch (I think).

Dutch symbol at the Fort in Kannur

Walking through those stables with its high arches, reminded me of the many passages that I had encountered in the Mughal palaces up north. There are small cells around the stable, that were used as storerooms or possibly imprisonment cells. The lack of signage just leaves you guessing as to their original purpose.

The Horse's stables at the St. Angelo's fort
Cells within the fort


Church within the St Angelo Fort

You can walk up to the water tank and the underground cells within this small fort while passing by the old Church that was used by the European occupants. The current ASI office used to be the office of the Fort earlier and around here you can spot many bunkers like structures. My favorite part of the fort – was this arched gateway that led to the sea on the other side.

My favorite archway at St. Angelo fort, Kannur

4) Payyambalam Beach

Spend a day in Kannur just beach hopping!

Payyambalam Beach, Kannur

Among the myriad beaches that were there, one of the beaches that we spend a lot of time on was the Payyambalam beach. This is by far the longest beach stretch in Kannur – with all of 7 kms covered with soft sand and green hairy boulders that look like trolls from a fairy tale book. The beach is well developed for tourists and even has lifeguard facilities in certain parts, making it an enjoyable outing for everyone. You will find a lot of restaurants around this place. Thus, if you want to ditch running around and stay put on one sandy shore – Payyambalam beach should be your choice!

The sea weed covered stones on Payyambalam Beach, Kannur

5) Drive-in beach at Kannur

Muzhappilangad beach

While at the resort, we heard of this drive-in beach and though it was not a season for us to do the drive-in, I could not but pester my better half – Ash to just allow us a glimpse of this beach. In any season, other than monsoons, you can just drive along the shore and splash water off your tyres, just as you see in various movies. Greed prevailed when I saw the beach and I really wished that we could have zipped through the water in our Ecosport. However, better sense prevailed as we had to drive back to Bangalore and could not have afforded the car being sunk into the soft sands of this gorgeous beach.

6) Kerala Food at Kannur

Raandhal restaurant in Kannur

I am huge fan of the local food in Kerala  – the Karimeen Polichattu (Pearl Fish), the idiyappam, the appams, Ulli Theeyal (Shallots Curry), Alleppey Fish curry…I think I better stop before I drool on the keyboard! Kannur gives you ample opportunity to sample all these. The one restaurant that bowled us all over was Raandhal . Don’t miss their special drinks and desserts, besides, of course, sampling their Karimeen Biryani and Mango Fish curry. If you are a vegetarian, you cannot go wrong with their vellappam and stew.

7) What we missed in Kannur

Being an idyllic holiday, we did not want to rush around and cover the whole town in a haste. There were a few misses that we had on this trip of ours, which I know I shall set right on my next visit. One of the biggest ones was the Arakkal Museum that had relics of the Muslim kings that ruled the place. I saw it on the way to the Fort but knowing the time it would take, left it for my next visit.

Thottada Beach in Kannur

And then, there is a water park as well as a snake park that you can visit while here. They say that it is a good one for the kids but in our case, the kids were just as happy on the beach. Besides these places, there are also, the famous Theyyam Dance performances that you can see when you are in Kannur.

At the risk of repeating myself, I still say that though there isn’t too much to do, there is still enough here in Kannur and that is precisely what makes it a perfect weekend destination for anyone in Kerala or Karnataka. Don’t you agree?

Getting here:

  • Kannur is 350 kms from Bangalore (8 hours drive).
  • For those abroad looking to book flight tickets to India, you can opt for Kozhikode as the nearest airport. This is around 92 kms from Kannur and one can easily get a cab to this place.
  • Mangalore is yet another airport that is close to Kannur, at a distance of 140 kms.

Travel Tips:

  • The best season for Kannur is between October to February when the sea is not as rough.
  • Kannur has a fair number of resorts and home stays. However, it is quite full during the season. Make sure you do your reservations in advance.
  • The sea can be rough at certain beaches. Please make sure you take adequate precautions before going all out into it.

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