Places to visit in Kerala
About About Bekal
There is little to make Bekal a typical tourist destination. Located in the Kasaragod district of Kerala, it is at first glance, a sleepy little town of small distinction. Yet Bekal inevitably captures the imagination of many an adventurous soul who seeks the road not taken.
Part of the charm of Bekal lies in the journey. The best way to get there is to try the old-fashioned route. You can catch a bus to Bekal from Mangalore and Manipal in Karnataka or Calicut and Kannur in Kerala. It’s the best way to experience India’s scenic west coast in all its splendour in a journey by road.
Your final destination is the Bekal Fort, which is Kerala’s largest fort, and among its many picturesque beaches. But the joy lies not just in the beauty of this rugged locale soaring above the sea. It is in the trek to a remote faraway town, cut away from the modern trappings of civilization.
WHAT TO SEE
Bekal Fort: Your first stop during any visit to Bekal remains the fort that bears the name of the town. Known for its mesmerizing views, which were also captured on celluloid in the Hindi cinema classic Bombay, the fort has towered over the Arabian Sea for over 300 years old after it was first built by Shivappa Nayaka of Keladi in 1650 AD. While it was never an administrative centre, the Bekal Fort remained a crucial strategic base from which successive rulers defended the Malabar coast. In later years, the fort would fall under the kingdom of Haider Ali and Tippu Sultan. The latter built its water-tank and observation tower, which remains the most defining feature of the fort today.
Kappil Beach: Just six kilometres from the Bekal Fort, the Kappil Beach allows you to continue your exploration of Bekal’s scenic coastline. It is a second glimpse of the Arabian Sea in all its glory.
Valiyaparamba Backwaters: If you would like your visit to Bekal to be about more than the west coast’s scenic beaches, we would recommend a visit to the Valiyaparamba fishing villages. Considered among Kerala’s most beautiful backwater destinations, it offers you a unique perspective on the state’s fishing culture.
Chandragiri Fort: Like the Bekal Fort, the Chandragiri Fort is one of a series of seven forts built by Shivappa Nayaka to maintain a line of defence along the Malabar coast. Towering 46 m over sea level, the fort looks down on the Chandragiri River, with which it shares a name. While the fame of the Bekal Fort eludes Chandragiri, it is not wanting in the mystique of yesteryears.
Nityanand Ashram Caves: An extension of the century-old Nityanand Ashram, and at an elevation of 46 metres above the ground, these 45 caves are spread across seven acres, and are a peaceful, often frequented meditation spot among travellers to Bekal. Add it to your itinerary on a day with empty spaces. It will be time well spent.
WHAT TO DO
Bekal is where travellers head to sit back, relax, and perhaps read a book. It’s also a favourite haunt among photographers for its unparalleled views. But its confluence of religious, cultural, historical, and beach locations means that there is something here for everyone.
What to eat: Like elsewhere in Kerala, try its diverse, unique fish preparations. For vegetarians, it is also the best place to explore the Malayalee art of making avial. Only in this part of the country will you find a generous sprinkling of coconut over most vegetarian dishes. Like in the rest of India, but especially in Bekal, a thali is a good option for those who want to sample a mix of the state’s offerings. Wash it all down, with one of the many varieties of Kerala payasam available here. They make the best desserts.
What to buy: Shopping at Bekal is more oriented towards the town’s locals than tourists. If you want to buy something typical to the state of Kerala, try buying this in the state’s bigger towns.
Getting around: Bekal is a small town. We recommend you explore the beaches on foot. For the Nityanand Ashram and the Chandragiri Fort, you could also hire an autorickshaw or a cab. But if you chose an autorickshaw, be prepared to haggle though. The first price you are offered is unlikely to be the best price.
Where to stay: Bekal does have many modern resorts. Look out for properties close to the Bekal Fort and beach. These usually have the best views. Our recommendation would be to choose a nearby town like Manipal, Mangalore, or Calicut as your base. Plan a visit to Bekal as a day trip. Remember, the drive down to Bekal is part of the experience.
The best time to visit: A visit to Bekal during the monsoon July-September months gives you a chance to experience the Arabian Sea in all its raging glory. But the winter months, between November and February, also promise you a memorable but more predictable travel experience.
How to get there: Bekal is connected to the rest of India by road and rail. You could hire a cab or drive down either from Mangalore and Manipal in Karnataka or Calicut and Kannur. The nearest railway station is the Bekal Fort Railway Station. While Bekal does not have its own airport, you could use the airports at the nearby towns of Mangalore and Kannur.