The appealing thing about Kerala is that it's a year-round destination, with things to do even during the rainy season.

Month-by-month

January is peak season in Kerala and the waterways around Alleppey become congested with houseboats. Less touristy destinations such as the beaches and backwaters of northern Kerala, or Monroe Island in the south, are good alternatives for getting off the beaten track at the start of the year.

By February, the crowds have dissipated and the energy-sapping humidity is yet to set in, making it an ideal month to visit the state.

Kerala's tourist season ends in March, as humidity rises to uncomfortable levels in coastal areas. The Western Ghat mountains provide the best respite, with tea plantations in Munnar and Wayand popular — and cooler — attractions.

By May, the humidity is brutal. Kerala is best avoided at this time, as it's also busy with Indian families on school holidays. Cheap deals are possible if you can take the heat. Head to Kovalam beach, on the state's southern tip, to watch the southwest monsoon roll in at the end of May.

The monsoon rains gather in intensity in June, with heavy rain and sometimes flooding over the next few months. However, the monsoon season is optimal for Ayurveda (a holistic mind and body approach to healing), as the heavy atmosphere makes the body more receptive to treatment. If you don't mind getting wet, Periyar National Park remains open, offering tiger and elephant sightings.

There's a brief reprieve from the rain in September, humidity is bearable, and off-season discounts are still available. This shoulder season is an attractive time to enjoy Kerala's verdant nature and waterfalls. Go hiking or explore the Western Ghat mountains and hill stations.

The tourist season resumes in October and prices rise accordingly. Diwali school holidays bring an influx of domestic tourists to Kerala in November. Prices increase further in December as the balmy, dry winter sets in and peak season commences.

Kerala Tea plantations and Muthirappuzhayar River in hills near Munna

Tea plantations and Muthirappuzhayar River in hills near Munna, Kerala

Festivals and events

Kerala's iconic temple festivals take place from January to May with vibrant processions of drummers, gods and goddesses and elephants. Kerala Tourism holds a state-wide folklore festival in early January, which showcases 200 folk art forms. The 10-day Swathi Sangeetholsavam classical music festival at Kuthiramalika Palace in Trivandrum is another highlight in early January.

Traditional snake boat races are a feature of the monsoon season in Kerala, from June to September. The races now continue through to November as part of the new commercial Champions Boat League.

Onam, the state's biggest festival, falls across two weeks in August or early September. Onam is a harvest festival, celebrated by all the state’s religions despite its Hindu origin. Expect boat races, feasts and dance processions featuring performers dressed as tigers and hunters.

From October to May, fascinating costumed theyyam rituals are performed at temples in northern Kerala's Kasaragod and Kannur districts.

Head to Fort Kochi during the last week of December for the popular Cochin Carnival. It culminates with a grand street procession on New Year's Day. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale also happens every second year in and around Kochi, from December to March. It's Asia's largest exhibition and contemporary arts festival.

Kerala traditional Indian dance drama Kathakali in Fort Cochin

Traditional Indian dance-drama Kathakali in Fort Cochin, Kerala

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