History identifies Kannur as Naura, from the shores of which King Solomon's ships collected timber to build the great temple of Jerusalem. The abode of Theyyam, the oldest ritualistic art form of Kerala, this region has some of Kerala's most inspiring tourist spots including Muzhappilangad in Thalassery, the only drive-in beach in the State.
Under the Kolathiri rajas, Kannur was a major port bristling with international trade - explorer Marco Polo christened it a 'great emporium of spice trade'. Since then the usual colonial suspects, including the Portuguese, Dutch and British, have had a go at exerting their influence on the region.
Theyyam-Dance of folk gods
Aadi Kadalai beach
Today it is an unexciting, though agreeable town known mostly for its weaving industry and cashew trade, with some stunning, off-the- beaten track beaches nearby: bear in mind you can't swim during the monsoon season because of rough seas.
This is a dominantly Muslim area, so local sensibilities should be kept in mind: wear a sarong over your bikini on the beach. It is also a great base for seeing incredible theyyam procession performance.
Mangarove in Kannur
Telephone access code: +91 497
Air: Nearest airport Kozhikode (93 km)
Rail: Kannur is an important railhead of the Southern Railways.
Kannur Tel: 0497 2705555
There are several daily trains to Mangalore (sleeper/3AC/2AC, three hours), Calicut (2nd class/AC chair, two hours) and Ernakulam (six and half hours).
Road: An excellent road transport system connects Kannur to all the major towns of South India
There are daily buses to Mysore (eight hours), Mangalore (four hours), Ernakulam (eight hours), and Kalpetta (four hours) for Wayanad. There is one daily bus to Ooty (via Wayanad, nine hours).
Kannur Tel: 0497 2707777
District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC)
Near Civil station
DTPC Tourist Information Centre
9.30am- 6pm Mon-Sat. 11am-1pm Sun
Office changes traveller's cheques and cash; it is located in City Centre mall, five minutes from the train station.
Sights and Activities
Kannur is the best place to see the spirit- possession ritual called theyyam; on most nights of the year there should be a theyyam ritual on somewhere in the vicinity. The easiest way to find out is to contact Kurien at "Costa Malabari".
At Parssinikadavu Temple, 20 km north of Kannur, performances (Dec-Mar) of ritual dance theatre at dawn and often late afternoon to dusk Pilgrims sometimes seek blessing from the principal dancer who may go into a trance after taking on the role of Mutthapan, a manifestation of Siva as Hunter.
Alternatively, you can visit the Kerala Folklore Academy (Tel: 0497 2778090), near Chirakkal Pond, Valapattanam, 20km north of Kannur, where you can see vibrantly coloured costumes up close and sometimes catch a performance.
St Angelos fort
The down-at-heel PVA provides training courses in Ayurveda as well as rejuvenation. Purification packages and direct treatments for ailments like disc prolapse, psoriasis and obesity. The 3 doctors here are highly regarded.
St Angelo's Fort
(3 km from Kannur, 9am-6pm) This seafront laterite fort was constructed in 1505 AD by the first Portuguese Viceroy, Don Francisco De Almeda. The fort, which is now under the Archaeological Survey of India, offers fascinating views of the Mappila Bay fishing harbour. Tel: 0497 2732578
The Portuguese built the St Angelo Fort in 1505 from brilliantly red laterite stone on a promontory a few kilometres south of town. It has a serene garden and excellent views of nearby palm-fringed beaches.
Loknath Weavers' Co-operative
Established in 1955, this is one of the oldest cooperatives in Kannur and occupies a large building busily clicking with the sound of looms. You can stop by for a quick tour and visit the small shop here that displays the fruits of their labours. It is 4km south of Kannur.
Kerala Dinesh Beedi Co-operative
Tel: 0497 22835280
This region is also known for the manufacture of beedis, those tiny Indian cigarettes deftly rolled inside green leaves. This is one of the largest and purportedly best manufacturers, with a factory at Thottada, 7km south of Kannur.
Tel: 0460 2243460
20km north of Kannur, offers rice-barge trips on the unspoilt northern Kerala backwaters; you can rent a barge by the hour but it is worth enquiring about day trips.
Places to Visit
(2 km from Kannur Town) This beach is famous for its flat laterite cliffs that jut out into the sea. The well-laid gardens and the massive landscaped sculpture of Mother and Child make it extremely captivating. The nearby Baby Beach accessed through the Burnassery Cantonment is delightfully quiet.
Arakkal Kettu Museum
(3 km from Kannur Town, opp. Ayikauru Mapilla Bay, closed on Mondays) This was the residence of the former Arakkal Ali Rajas, Kerala's only Muslim royal family. Tel: 0497 2731039.
Kizhunna Ezhara beach
(7 km from Kinnur) The small town on the Valapattanam River is well known for its industries and timber trade. The port of Azhikkal and the Azhikkal Beach are located nearby. DTPC Kannur offers motorboat and houseboat cruises on the river.
Kizhunna Ezhara Beach
(11 km from Kannur) This beautiful stretch of sand is one of the most secluded beaches in Kerala. Meenkunnu Beach: (12 km from Kannur) Uncrowded, the beach is a tourist's paradise, with golden sand and surf.
Kanhirode Weaving Co-operative
(13km east of Kannur. Open 9.30am-4.30pm. Closed on Suturdays and Sundays) About 400 workers create high quality furnishing fabrics, shirts, saris as well as Khadi fabric. Tel: 0497 2857259
(18 km northeast of Kannur) The only village in Kannur district where you can be guaranteed of theyyam is Parassinikadavu, half an hour's drive north, where temple priests don elaborate costumes, dance and make offerings to the god Muthappan each morning and evening (5am-10pm and 4pm-8pm). With an early enough start, it is possible to catch the morning session and still have time to continue north to explore the little visited Valiyaparamba backwater region.
The DTPC provides pleasure boating and houseboat cruises along the Parassini River. Local ferries criss-cross this fascinating necklace of lagoons, and there is even a company running rice-barge trips-though foreign tourists are few and far between.
A Kathakali Club in the temple arranges shows on request after 11 pm that lasts for two and a half hours.
(15 km from Kannur and 8 km from Thalassery) A swimmer's paradise, this is Kerala's only drive-in beach. Adventure sports like paragliding, parasailing, micro-lite flights and a variety of watersport options are possible here.
Parassinikadavu muthappan temple
This is one of the finest beaches in Kerala, stretching for 4km along a bay with a wide strip of white sand. The palm trees to the north and the rocks to the south make it ideal for photographs of picture-postcard sunsets. However, the Muzhappilangad is being promotes as a 'drive-on' beach by the tourist authorities, and so it can get very crowded during holidays.
(100 m away from the mainland at Dharmadom and 3 in from Thalassery) The small five acre island covered with coconut palms and dense hushes is a beautiful sight from the beach. Permission is required to enter this privately owned island.
(22 km from Kannur, open 10am-5pm) The fort constructed in 1708 by the British is now a historical monument. An old Muslim mosque, the Jagannatha Temple and the Thiruvangad Sree Rama Swamy Temple are other attractions nearby.
(37 km east Kannur) An ideal retreat for tourists, the dam site is famous for its scenic beauty. The DTPC provides pleasure boating facilities at the reservoir.
(65 km from Kannur) This enchanting hill station, situated 4500 ft above sea level near the Kerala Karnataka border, is rich in flora and fauna. It is a 6 km trek to the top of the hill.
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary
(35 km from Thalassery) At this 55 sq. km sanctuary, nature walks, soft trekking, bamboo rafting, coracle boating, stay at tree houses in Pariputhodu and Bhoothainkallu etc. are possible.
Kannur has less number of eateries catering to the tourists, and many hotels and guesthouses make up for this by feeding visitors themselves, with meals included in the room rates.
Vegetarian fare is the thing at this intimate and low-priced hotel eatery. The cuisine is old-school Kerala, with the local bread getting special plaudits.
Chakara Drive in Restaurant
Cliff Exotel International
Specials are sizzlers plus spicy fried kallumakais mussels and Malabar biriyani.
Indian Coffee House
Local outlet of the famous cooperative chain serving its standard range of coffees, teas, juices, breakfasts, snacks and Indian staples. At these prices, you just cannot go wrong.
Mascot Beach Resort's Restaurants
near Baby Beach
Some of the best top-end eating in town.
A local institution which has been packed from its opening 50 years ago, thanks to its commitment to fresh, home- ground spice mixes for its biriyanis, their rice grains steeped in ghee. Serves beautiful, potent lime tea too.
Your Choice Restaurant
Authentic Malabari food.
Regency Snacks and Fast Food
Opposite Sangeetha Theatre
Popular cafe with locals.
Traditional Kerala and north Malabar desserts are served along with a selection of rolls and pastries.
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