Get Off The Well-Known Path For This Underrated State In Asia With Enchanting Waterfalls

An antidote to the sometimes chaotic north, the south of India is all about palm-fringed beaches, serene waterways, and densely forested mountains. Nowhere encapsulates this better than the state of Kerala. The lush, rolling hills of the Western Ghats are home to vast tea plantations, which give way to fertile rice paddies toward the coast. Houseboats allow visitors to float along the tranquil backwaters toward the Malabar Coast, where traders have been snapping up spices for centuries.

Kerala's network of canals, rivers, and lakes is its main draw for tourists. But the state's verdant landscape also features several magnificent waterfalls, many easily reachable on day trips from the laid-back state capital Kochi, or the popular hill station Munnar. From the powerful, 80-foot-high Athirappilly Falls to the more gentle cascades of Thommankuthu, Kerala's waterfalls offer visitors places to picnic, swim, hike, and camp. Most lists of places tourists must visit in India begin with cities in the north, such as spiritual Varanasi or Agra, where you'll find the famous Taj Mahal. But leave the well-known path behind for a trip to Kerala, and you won't be disappointed.

Southern Kerala's falls

Southeast of Kochi, you'll find some of Kerala's most spectacular waterfalls. Athirappilly Falls is famous throughout India for its majestic setting, with water tumbling over a rocky cliff surrounded by dense vegetation. From the top pool of the falls, visitors have views of the hills and mountains in the distance. You can combine a visit to Athirappilly with a stop at Vazhachal Waterfalls, where water thunders over a rocky riverbed past jungle-lined banks. One Google reviewer recommends going during one of the monsoon seasons (June to August and October to November) when the falls are most powerful.

If you fancy escaping Kerala's sultry heat with a dip, head to Thommankuthu. The falls are made up of seven cascades, and there are pools along the river to bathe in. Further south, you can also swim below Palaruvi Waterfall, where there are even changing rooms for visitors. Finally, the most southerly destination on our list is Mankayam. These lesser-visited falls are mesmerizing and often more serene with fewer tourists.

Waterfalls in northern Kerala

Northern Kerala is even less-trodden than the south of the state. This is an area with pristine beaches and vegetation that glows an almost fluorescent green, creating the perfect setting for more stunning waterfalls. The remote Meenmutty Waterfall is well worth the 2.5-hour trek through the jungle to reach it. The falls reach almost 1,000 feet high over three tiers and crash into the emerald pool below, which is perfect for swimming.

Soochipara and Thusharagiri Falls are in the same area as Meenmutty. Soochipara, also known as Sentinel Rock, is reached by a slippery trek, but visitors who make it are rewarded with a gushing fall and the chance to try rock climbing in the area. Thusharagiri Falls, the last on our list, is actually three falls that give off a snow-like spray (Thusharagiri means "snow-capped mountains.") One enthusiastic TripAdvisor reviewer called the falls "breathtaking," though they warn that the water is freezing!