St. Angelo Fort
Flanked by imposing bastions, St Angelo’s Fort has gone down in Kannur’s history for many reasons, the most significant perhaps, being the fact that it changed hands between the Portuguese, Dutch and eventually the British who would remodel it into their primary military stronghold in the Malabar region. Built in 1505 by the first Portuguese Viceroy in India, Don Francesco, today’s triangular laterite structure with its sea wall that offers sparkling views of the Arabia Sea is a far cry from the picture it must have made when it served as a place of confinement for Afonso de Albuquerque after the Battle of Diu.
In addition to taking a stroll around the fort’s premises, visitors can enjoy glimpses of the nearby Mappila Bay harbour and Dharmadam Island
Kerala Folklore Academy Museum, Chirakkal
Set against the backdrop of the beautiful Chirakkal Lake, which bears the distinction of being the second largest of its kind in Asia, the Kerala Folklore Academy Museum gives visitors a glimpse into Kerala’s rich folk art traditions. The academy is housed within a traditionally built structure called a nalukettu and every effort has been made to ensure the welfare of folk artists. Those with an academic bent of mind can spend an afternoon browsing through over 1000 volumes on the folk art traditions at the academy’s library while the in-house museum showcases a collection of more than 300 objects of significance in the folk art realm including life-size replicas of theyyams and patayani, folk and tribal musical and percussion instruments, farm implements and weapons. For a more visual representation of these art forms, guests can pore over a collection of more than 175 photographs.
Distance from Kannur Town – About 7-8 kilometres
The Arakkal Museum
Dedicated to Kerala’s only Muslim royal family the Arakkals, the Arakkal Museum located in Ayikkara is actually housed within the erstwhile durbar hall section of the Arakkalkettu or Arakkal Royal Palace. The structure is an architectural marvel to behold and transports visitors to a glorious bygone era complete with heirlooms and artefacts including the family seal, the pathayam (wooden box where grain was stored), copies of the Holy Quran owned by the family, a vintage telephone, swords and daggers used by the rulers and a telescope.
The exhibits also give an insight into the Arakkal rulers’ ties with European colonial powers as well as those relating to their maritime concerns and their stronghold over the spice trade. More importantly, it gives a well-rounded depiction of the subtle nuances of cultural diversity that have shaped the region.
Distance from Kannur Town: 2-3 kilometres
Handloom Weaving Centre (Chirakkal Weavers and Loknath Weavers)
Kannur has enjoyed an enduring handloom tradition. The earliest accounts of the city’s strong weaving roots point towards the period between the 16th and 17th centuries when Kolathiri Raja, the ruler of Chirakkal in Kannur, brought some weaver families from Cheranadu in Tamil Nadu who established their first saliya theru at Kadalayi theru in Kannur. These weavers mainly produced woven fabrics and gained a name for products such as the thorthu (towel), panimundu (lower cloth) and mundu (dhoti). From being an industry that was initially conceived out of a need to satisfy the clothing needs of the ruling class to one that eventually became organised as an industrial segment through the cooperative movement, Kannur has developed a firm reputations for its looms.
The city’s Weavers Co-Operative Societies came into being post-Independence and today Kannur is home to seven such societies. Established in 1947, the Chirakkal Weavers Co-operative P&S Society Ltd. was the earliest contender in this field and visitors can make a trip here and to Loknath Weavers to get firsthand insights into how some of the finest home furnishings, drapes and textiles are made.
Located on the banks of the Valappatanam river, the Parassinikkadavu Muthappan Temple is one of north Kerala’s most sacred pilgrimage sites. Sree Muthappan – a manifestation of two gods known as Thiruvappana (Lord Vishnu) and Vellattam (Lord Shiva) – is the principal deity of the temple and he is said to have forsaken his entire life fighting for the downtrodden.
Unlike other Hindu temples in Kerala, the Parassinikkadavu temple does not follow the Satvic Brahminical form of worship and instead performs the ritual enactment of both the characters of Muthappan through a traditional dance known as the Muthappan Theyyam. Fish and toddy are the customary offerings to Muthappan and they are distributed in the temple. The three-day annual Muthappan Thiruvoppana Mahothsavam festival is the perfect opportunity to view the dance in all its splendour, but visitors can also enjoy a daily performance of the Theyyam.
Distance from Kannur Town – About 20 kilometres
Kunhimangalam - Bronze Casting
Situated near Payyanur, Kunhimangalam is a village that is renowned for its exquisitely bronze lamps and sculptures. It is no secret that Kerala is famous for its metal artisans, adept at crafting objects from bell metal, white metal, iron, brass and copper. Steeped in mythological influences, idols of deities such as Shiva and Nataraja dominate themes.
Lamps have always held a place of significance in the lives of the religiously inclined in Kerala and the one of prime importance is known as the Nilavilakku. Aside from that, different versions such as the Changalavatta, the Arati Dipa and the Archana lamp are also seen. In Kannur, most craftsmen create different kinds of metal lamps for homes – which make for perfect souvenirs or gifts to take back from your travels – as well as ones used for religious activities around Kunhimangalam and Payyanur.
Distance from Kannur Town – 31 kilometres
Kalaripayattu Martial Arts Centre
Once fabled for their superior control over their bodies and overall skill in armed and unarmed combat and traditional healthcare, the Kalaripayattu warriors of yore were the embodiment of agility and tact. Some historians trace the roots of this traditional martial art form to the 11th century when a major war was waged between the Cholas and Cheras. Kalaripayattu is such a revered art that tales of the legendary warriors of North Malabar such as the valiant Thacholi Othenan and the fearless and beautiful Unniyarcha have been immortalised in the Vadakkan Pattukal or Northern Ballads. While there are northern and southern styles to Kalaripayattu, the tradition of North Malabar is the most renowned one and this, perhaps, can be credited for the numerous Kalaripayattu centres that exist in the Kannur district. Kalaripayattu students have to undergo arduous physical training imparted by a master or teacher (referred to as gurukkal), accompanied by a medicinal oil massage.
For those eager to soak in Kannur’s maritime history, no trip to the city is complete without a visit to the Kannur Lighthouse situated within close proximity of Payyambalam Beach. Kannur was an important seaport under the 15th century rulers of North Malabar, the Kolathiris and the Arakkal Kingdom. In 1498, the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama first landed at Kappad Beach and in the 19th century, the region was controlled by the British who established a cantonment in the area. It was the British who implemented a system of hoisting a lantern with an oil wick lamp to warn ships at sea of land, as early as 1842. In 1903, a masonry pedestal was constructed on the rampart of the fort with a double wick oil lamp inside a fourth order dioptric lens and lantern with an arrangement for occultation.Many enhancements have since been made but today’s structure lights up the skies every night, offering a beacon that can be seen from Baby Beach as far as Payyambalam.
Located at Taliparamba, within the Kannur district, the Rajarajeswara temple bears the honour of being one of the 108 existing ancient Shiva temples of Kerala and within this group of temples, it is held in high esteem as it boasts the tallest shikhara amongst its counterparts and a top weighing in at about 90 tonnes. Taliparamba, also holds religious significance for believers as legend has it that the head of Sari (goddess / wife of Shiva) fell here after Shiva’s tandavam following Sati’s self-immolation.
Devotees often flock this temple when confronted with a problem to which they seek solutions through a prasna or traditional method of astrological decision making. This ritual of a rasna is conducted on a raised platform known as a peedha outside the temple. The temple is accessible only to Hindi worshippers.
Distance from Kannur Town – About 25 kilometres
Also referred to as the Thiruvar Kadu Bhagavathi Temple, Madayi Kavu is believed to be the oldest Hindu temple – possibly preexisting Vedic times – dedicated to Kali Amma in Kerala, India. Madayikavu Amma, a goddess known for her benevolence when it comes to bestowing blessings on devotees is worshipped as Mother Kali and it is said that any devotee who prays to this Goddess with faith will be purged of black magic and any witchcraft cast upon them by an enemy . An interesting custom followed in the temple is the Kozhi Kalasham, which is the sacrifice of poultry for the goddess. The temple also contains a Shiva shrine, which faces East, while the Mata Kali shrine faces towards the West.
Distance from Kannur Town – About 25 kilometres
Located near Payyanur, the Kavvayi Backwaters enjoy the distinction of being the third largest backwaters in Kerala and the largest one to bear that title in north Kerala. Locally referred to as Kavvayi Kayal, this lesser-known lake of north Kerala is fed by five rivers including the River Kavvayi and its tributary streams Kankol, Vannathichal, Kuppithodu and Kuniyan. From an ecological perspective, Kavvayi is the biggest wetland ecosystem in north Kerala and home to a variety of fauna and flora.
Comprising a cluster of small islands known as Kadappuram that directly face the Arabian Sea, Kavvayi is connected to Payyannur by a small bridge on the Kavvayi River. Access to these islands is only by small boats or traditional thonis.
Kavvayi’s harbour has even received mention in the travel accounts of travellers Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo. Kavvayi’s glory days saw it housing a large port and magistrate court, including during the British East India Company’s rule when it served as a trading hub for spices and gems from Malabar. The headquarters were later moved.
Water zorbing and other water sports, boat rides and an authentic village-life experience are just some of the activities visitors can enjoy.
Distance from Kannur Town – About 50 kilometres north of Kannur
Mappila Bay Harbour
Bordered by the St. Angelo Fort on one side and the Arakkal Palace on the other, Mappila Bay is a natural harbour situated in Ayikkara. During the Kolathiri’s regime, the bay ranked high in stature for its importance as a commercial harbour that linked Kolathunadu with Lakshadweep and other foreign countries.
Although a sightseeing spot in its own right, Mappila Bay is right next to St. Angelo Fort and the Arakkal Museum, lending itself perfectly to an entire day’s activities planned around it. A high wall extends into the sea from the adjacent Kannur Fort so that boats could anchor safely and this, perhaps, is the key factor attributed towards the success of Mappila Bay’s fishing harbour and port. A trade pact signed between India and Norway has given the fishing harbour a much-needed lift and today it once again resembles the busting regional fish hub of earlier days.
Distance from Kannur Town – 3.3 kilometres
Madayipara is a flat-topped hillock located in Kannur district Madayi and it overlooks the town of Payangadi on the northern bank of Kuppam river. It is perhaps best known for being the site of the Madayi Kavu (Thiruvar Kadu Bhagavathi Temple) as well as the Vadukunnu Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Shiva temple of Madayipara was razed by followers of Tipu Sultan in the 18th century. However, it has now been rebuilt.
The area is also of significance to Muslims as it is home to the Malik Ibn Dinar mosque, locally known as the Madayipalli. Built by Muslim preacher Malik Ibn Dinar in AD 1124, this mosque is believed to be one of the oldest mosques in India. The remnants of a fort believed to have been occupied by the Kolathiri dynasty and later by Tippu Sultan is also present here, and is known as Kottakunnu.
Another monument of importance is the Jew’s Pond, which indicates the presence of Jews in the area between 605 BCE and 490 CE. The eastern side of Madayipara with its mesmerising natural landscape played host to a British rulers’ traveller’s bungalow in 1793.
Madayipara boasts a rich diversity of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants that form carpets of blue, pink, white and yellow, making it a sight for visitors to behold during the monsoon season. Some of the rarest plants of the world such as Nymphoides krishankesara, Rotala malabarica, Lindernia madayiparense and Eriocaulon madayparense are found in this region.
Distance from Kannur Town – About 32 kilometres
Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach
Dubbed the longest Drive-In Beach in Asia and bearing the distinction of being featured as the only Asian beach among the top six best beaches for driving in the world in a BBC article for Autos, Muzhappilangad Beach (located about 7km from Thalassery) consistently draws in visitors with the pristine promise of its five-kilometre stretch of sand to drive along. It is also considered a swimming haven since its black rocks protect the beach from deep currents. Those with an adventurous streak can try their hand at activities including paragliding, parasailing, power boating and catamaran rides.
April is one of the best times to visit, as this is when a beach festival is celebrated, and the beach becomes the centre of activity for youth who flaunt their car drifting and bike-wheeling skills.
Bird-watchers from across the world are also drawn here as its long, broad shore and rocky formations on either side of the beach, lend themselves perfectly to migration during the winter months. More than 30 species of migratory birds visit, among them species such as the Pectoral sandpiper and Caspian plover were reportedly sighted in Kerala for the first time in 2013.
Distance from Kannur Town – About 14.4 kilometres
Much loved amongst Kannur’s locals and spread over a four-kilometre expanse, Payyambalam Beach with its golden sandy shores, coconut palms and gentle waves is an idyllic spot for a tranquil stroll, family picnic, surf session or swim. A cliff forms a natural border on one side and perched atop the cliff is the beach garden. This exquisite setting has also provided the backdrop to many a South Indian movie. Water skiing, parasailing and boat rides are some of the activities that visitors can enjoy.
Visitors are granted access to the beach by means of a walking bridge over a small canal and once crossed, are greeted by a section dedicated to monuments that commemorate the lives of political leaders hailing from Kannur.
Distance from Kannur Town – 2 kilometres
Situated on the Kannur-Tellicherry highway, the virgin shores of Thottada’s 800-metre beach are ideal for lazy beach days that involve well-deserved spots of sunbathing and swimming. The surrounding Thottada river flows into one end of the beach and a damn/bund built across the river keeps fresh water from salt water. Away from the sea, the river spreads to form swamps that act as a great habitat for birds and fish.
Thottada is geared towards tourists and there are a range of comfortable guest houses near the beach that pride themselves on gracious hospitality.
Kizhunna and Ezhara Beaches
The old adage “Life is a beach”, seems to have been conceived with the neighbouring Kizhunna / Ezhara beaches in mind, which are often collectively referred to as Kizhunna Ezhara beach.
Only 12 kilometres from Kannur town, the crimson cliffs and black rocks of this peaceful beach meet gentle waves to form an impressive strip of beach.
The southern side of Ezhara has a splendid rocky shore that is the perfect spot from which to feast your eyes on a beautiful coconut grove. The southern tip of the cliff, known as Munambam, houses a small green building with a quaint tiled roof and its old-world charm is hard to miss. This serene structure is a small mosque and on its other side lies the entrance to Munambam.
Kizhunna Ezhara tends to receive visitors mostly in the evenings and over weekends, making it the perfect getaway for those who want to truly experience the tranquillity of a beach holiday complemented by the gentle lapping of waves and the swaying of coconut palms.
The best places to stay are the small beachside homestays that offer a rustic setting but those who prefer the comforts of hotels and resorts can stay in Kannur and access the beach by taxi or autorickshaw in less than an hour.
Distance from Kannur Town – 11 kilometres