Kannur fort tombstone snippet

Lily's Mini Travel Guide | North Kerala Coastal Forts By Train

North Kerala

The Kerala coast is laced with old mosques and forts. Reminders of the millennia old trade with Arabia and the battles between Indian kingdoms, sultanates and colonial powers.
They are set in the natural beauty of palm trees, beaches, rivers and backwaters.

This article covers things to see and do along the North Kerala coast between Mangalore and Kozhikode, based on our own trip there. We will also advise you how to move around, where to stay and where to eat.
It focuses on the practical side of how to get things done. For a more personal account go to this blogpost.

Things to do and see

kerala fort collage There are ten coastal forts to see between Kasargod and Kozhikode. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the English, the French and various regional warlords fought each other for centuries for influence over the prosperous coastal strip. They all left their traces.

  • Arikady fort in Kumbala, early 17th century, still has foundations and one overgrown corner tower.
  • Kasaragod Town fort is very neglected, but some ruined walls and a tower are visible if you are willing to battle the overgrowth. It's on a hill beyond (south of) Kote Shri Hanuman Temple.
  • Chandragiri fort® just south of Kasaragod, early 17th century is beautifully restored and has stunning views over the river and the sea.
  • Bekal fort®, mid 17th century, is one of the highlights. It is large, well maintained and is set stunningly right by the sea. Alas the tunnels are closed, but there's a walkway between the fort and the sea.
  • Hosdurg fort in Kanhangad, 17th century, isn't maintained well but there is still a lot to see.
  • Madayi fort in Pazhayangadi, 18th century, is in ruins but the outline is still visible.
  • Saint Angelo’s fort® in Kannur, early 16th century, has had lots of rulers and hence lots of history. See below for a section on the tombstone of Susanna, the wife of a Dutch ruler.
  • Thalassery fort, early 18th century, offers a lot to see.
  • Tipu’s fort in Ferok, south of Kozhikode, mid 18th century, is in ruins, just some remains are visible

A note on Bekal and Kannur being ASI sites. That means they are wll maintained but admission is a steep 300 rupees for foreigners. Theoretically a cheaper ticket is available online, but the website does not accept foreign credit cards, so it is useless for foreigners.

Mangalore wooden mosque There are many old wooden mosques in North kerala.

  • In Mangalore 7th century Zeenath Baksh Juma Masjid, commonly known as Masjid Zeenath Baksh is the 3rd oldest mosque in India. The central part, now hidden behind a modern hall, was upgraded by Tipu Sultan and has stunning wood carvings.
  • In Kasargod the Malik Deenar Juma Masjid may be the most important mosque dedicated to Malik Deenar. The old part is overshadowed by modern extentions.
  • In Madayi the Malik Ibn Dinar mosque (also known as Madayi Palli) is believed to have been originally built by Malik Deenar. A block of white marble in the mosque is said to have been brought from Mecca by him.
  • In the western suburb of Kozhikode are several fascinating multi-tiered 14th century wooden mosques, set around a huge green pond: Mishkal mashid, Jami mashid, Munchunthi palli. They are built by Yemenite merchants.

Bekal beach, just south of Bekal fort, is one of the best accessable beaches in the region. The northern stretch is a landing place for fishing boats, the next stretch charges a small admission fee, which makes it one of the cleaner beaches of India.

kerala backwater ferry The best way to see the beautiful backwaters of North Kerala is to board a local ferry. A good place to do so is in Payyanur. The Kotty jetty, about 15 minute walk from Payyanur railway station, has a departure at 10h30. The boat zigzags between numerous jetties on both sides of the water. Around 13h it reaches Ayitti. There you can either take a bus, or have a quick snack and take the same ferry back to Kavvayi Jetty, 3km from the railway station.

The Dutch tombstone of Susanna in Kannur Fort

Kannur fort collage

Kannur fort old dutch map St. Angelo’s fort in Kannur is set right by the sea. The first wooden version was built in 1505 by the Portugese. Later it was rebuilt in rock. It was the biggest Portugese fort at the time, and the base from which Goa was conquered. In 1653/1663 the Dutch took over the fort with the help of local warlord Ali Raja. The Dutch shrunk the fort to save money, and built the horse stables and ammunition house. They added bastions such as Hollandia, Zeelandia and Frieslandia.
In 1771 the Dutch sold it to one of Ali Raja's heirs. In 1790 the British took control. It was their main basis in Malabur until Indian independence in 1947.

Nowadays it is a well maintained and popular site. There are views over the harbour and the sea and big trees in the central area provide shade. You can see 35.000 British cannonballs in a cellar.

Kannur fort Susanna tombstone A remarkable artefact is the 1745 tombstone of Susanna Weyerman, the late wife of the then Dutch commander Godefridus Weyerman. Susanna was born the 12th of August 1727, she was the daughter of Matthijs Pfeiffer, commander of Porto Novo (now Parangipettai, Tamil Nadu), and Margaretha Hackaart. So she already lived in India when at the age of 16 she married mr Weyerman. A year later she died while giving birth.
Mr Weyerman remarried but again two children died young. They were burried next to his first wife.
Mr Weyerman later married a third time and became commander of Malabar (1760-1764); he died in 1779 in Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia).
Alas the text is deteriorating fast as it is exposed to the weather. We managed to retrieve the words and translate them into English. Below is the Dutch text as spoken word.

Susanna tombstone Dutch text Susanna tombstone English text

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reservation form The best way to travel along the Kerala coast is by train. Most of the mid-range trains mentioned below have an “unreserved” coach for which you can buy a ticket on the day. Still, Lily’s advice is to try and get a seat a couple of days in advance, as “unreserved” may get you into an extremely crowded and uncomfortable situation.

Various apps can help you find a suitable train plus an alternative. Be prepared and go and get your ticket at the railway station. Take a pen and get hold of a reservation form. Fill that in, including your address and phone number, and queue up. Defend your place in the queue, a small opening will allow an intrusion. Have your form and cash ready.

A note on SIM cards It’s worth the trouble to try and get a local SIM card. You are asked for a local number lots of times and wifi in hotels can be mediocre. We got ours at Airtel Mangalore including a data plan for four weeks.

Station / Train number






Mangalore Central MAQ


Kasaragod KGQ


Bekal fort BFR


Payyanur PAY


Kannur CAN


Kozhikode CLT


railway ticket office


Hotels are expensive, compared to how cheap food and transport is. The quality you get for your rupees is so-so, even in mid-range hotels. Only some accept foreign credit cards, so carry enough cash.
Having said that, we also found some really nice places to stay.

A note on money and credit cards Money is expensive in India. ATMs charge fees, may be out of order and only give 10.000 rupees, so you have to go often. International credit cards are often refused, though it is worth trying at your hotel.

In Kasargod the City Tower Hotel is the best place in town.

In Bekal Fort the Oaks Residency on the main road is OK.
Shrigo spa and resort ® is a very pleasant place right next to the fort, in a lovely garden setting.

In Payyunar Riverside hotel is basic, but its location close to the railway station and the Kotty boat jetty is very convenient.
The Skanda Residency is your other option.

In Kannur the Mascot Beach Resort is the best place to stay. But if you prefer a more affordable option more in town, you may consider the Clyford Inn.

Hotel Anakapuri Kozhikode In Kozhikode the Anakapuri ® is an absolute jewel, an oasis of peace and quiet in the busy town.

Vegetarian food in North Kerala

Vegetarian food is not as abundant in Kerala as it is in most of India. But you should manage.

Kasargod has some decent vegetarian restaurants near the New Bus Stand: Century (in a basement) and Vasanth Vihar Kasaragod.
Just north of the latter is a small strip of stalls that has a variety of food and drinks, which makes a nice mini foodcourt.

SVC veggie kitchen Bekal In Bekal Fort Apple restaurant on the main road is OK.
We highly recommends SVC veggie kitchen ®. It's 250 meter south from the junction to the fort, it's almost underneath the fly-over, from above it doesn't look much but the food is superb.
The Bekal Fort Bus Stop 1 just north of the junction is a nice spot for a drink.

Near Payyunar railway station the basic but ok FM is your best bet. Much more upmarket is the Skanda restaurant.

Kannur has some excellent restaurants: We Desi Dhaba ® serves North Indian food in a semi-garden setting.
Hotel Sree Vaishnaves ® has the best lunch thali/meal of North Kerala, and is a good dinner option as well.

In Kozhikode try Vinayaka on Tali road for a great lunch. Have dinner on the lawn at the Anakapuri.


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® => Lily's recommendations

Source for mr Weyerman's bio: de VOCsite.

*last update May 2023*

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