Top 7 Scenic Rivers in Kerala

There are 44 rivers in Kerala mostly originating in the Western Ghats as rivulets, later joined by tributaries to grow into large rivers and flowing westwards ending up in the Arabian Sea or in the famous backwaters of Kerala.

Some of these are great rivers worth the name, but quite a lot are big streams or river-turned-into stream because of unwise usage. Still, this river-tributary -distributary system is spread over most of the State bestowing the beloved greenery on Kerala and serves as means of irrigation, waterways and hydro-electric power generation. Being rain-fed many of them unfortunately shrink into rivulets or bare riverbeds during the hot season.

Periyar River

Periyar River

Image by Challiyan Via Wikipedia

With a length of 244 kms, this “Big River” is the longest and serves as the lifeline for Keralites giving precious drinking water to the towns of the region. It originates from the Sivagiri Hills and flows through the Periyar National Park into the Periyar Lake. The Mullayar is a large tributary which joins Periyar before it enters the Reserve. This area is one of unmodified rain forests. Mullaperiyar Dam much in the news is constructed at the confluence of the two.

One of the tributaries is directed to Tamil Nadu as part of an agreement. Downstream the river flows 35 km North West and joins the Idukki reservoir. The Idukki Dam hydro-power station along this river is the largest supplier of electricity to the State of Kerala. In summer the water level at Idukki reservoir is a big concern for the Electricity Board. There are other power projects also on the river, but not of such magnitude.

At Aluva the river bifurcates, one branch flows into the sea and the other into the Kochi backwaters. Sivarathri is celebrated grandly on the Aluva sands.


BharathapuzhaImage by Dhruvaraj S via Flickr

Puzha means river, it is the river of Bharat – India. Also known as Nila, the river originates in the Anaimalai Hills. She rushes through Palakkad Pass and flows westwards blessing Palakkad, Thrissur and Malappuram districts before joining the sea at Ponnani. This river is the lifeline for many towns and villages. Most of it is not navigable. During summer it almost becomes dry and non-existent.

It is no wonder as there are 11 reservoirs along its course. Malampuzha dam is the largest; it is a place that attracts many tourists, to spend a day or stay for a couple of days. All the dams are for irrigation, so one can imagine what a great gift this river is!  A new Regulator cum bridge has come up for the dual purpose of supply of drinking water as well as shortening distance between Thrissur and Kozhikode. The shutter has caused abundant water to collect; the fish species almost extinct have come back, specially the Vaala the king of fresh water fishes.

River Nila has inspired many a poet some famous names among them. Kerala Kala Mandalam for training in Indian performing arts is on the bank of the river, so is the birthplace of Kunjan Nambiar the most renowned satirist poet and the founder of humorous Ottamthullal.

There are some famous temples on its banks. The ceremonies to pay homage to ones ancestors are done at Thirunavaya near Navamukunda temple on the bank of the river. The place has historic importance too, as an arranged fight between the warriors of Zamorin of Kozhikode and  Raja Of Valluvanad used to take place here once in 12 years. The fight would end only when all the members of one group die. It was originally a trade fair, but became a venue for fracas for asserting rights of the respective rulers. Due to avaricious sand mining, the river is slowly dying.
Pampa River

pampa-riverImage by Noblevmy via Wikipedia

Pampa called Dakshina Ganga  is considered holy by Hindus, but even that denomination has not succeeded in keeping it clean. This 3rd longest river originates from the cold Pulachimala Hill 1650m  above sea level in Peermedu plateau and flows through a lot of populated areas such as Ranni, Kozhencherry, Pathanamthitta and so on. It empties into the Great Vembanad Lake. Ten tributaries merge with Pampa during  her course. The river contributes to the agricultural wealth of Kuttanad, the ricebowl  of Kerala.

The shrine of Sabarimala of Lord Shastha (Ayyappan) which draws millions of  pilgrims stands on its hilly bank. A bath in Pampa is a must before “darshan” of the Lord. Mnay consider it equal to a dip in The Ganga.

Manimala River

manimala-riverImage by Chippu Abraham via Flickr

Originating from the Muthavara hills in the Western Ghats at 2500ft, this river flows through Kottayam and Pathanamthitta, joins the Pumba near Thiruvalla. It also ends up in the Vembanad Lake. The river basin is to the north of Pampa river basin.

At the confluence of both rivers was an ancient port Niranam. Manimala River has been an important waterway of central Travancore. It flows through the midland plains giving the precious gift of water to the population.

Chalakudy River

IMG_5776Image by Trilok Rangan via Flickr

 Strictly speaking it maybe a tributary of Periyar but its importance gives it a special individual existence. originating from Anamalai hills, It flows through  Palakkad, Thrissur and Ernakulam districts in the course of 145.5 km. The riparian forests and the high diversity of fish in the river makes this river unique. The riparian vegetation covers an area of 58.5 hectares. More than 300 species of flowering plants, some of them rare, adds to the scenic beauty.

Diversity of fish in this river could be the highest in India. There are nearly 100 varieties of fresh water fish. A lot of them are ornamental used in aquariums. The stunningly beautiful Athirappilly waterfalls is on this river. It is a spot of tourist attraction. There are 2 Hydro-electrical Projects based here. The Parambikulam Dam for irrigation purposes is built on its tributary.

Kabini River

Kuruva islands On Kabini River

Image by Challiyan Via Wikipedia

Kabini is a native of Wayanad, formed by the confluence of  Panamaram and Mananthavady rivers in Wayanad. Farther Kabini flows eastward to join the Kaveri River and empties into the Bay of Bengal. One branch of the Panamaram river starts from Banasura Sagar reservoir and the other from Lakkidi hills.

Two kilometers from the confluence, Kabini forms the Kuruva Island  a fairly large one with diverse flora and fauna. Kuruva Island is a nice spot to spend a day. Within another 20 km the river reaches the Kabini Resrvoir bordering Kerala and Karnataka. Before that Kalindi river in which the rivulet Papanashini near Tirunelly temple has merged, joins Kabani.

The backwaters of the Kabini reservoir recedes in summer forming grassy meadows. Then it becomes a haunt of wild life, specially elephants. The large lake, green landscape and the wild life makes the place very attractive.

 Chandragiri River

Chandragiri River

 She comes to a conclusion, I mean the river ends up in Kasargod district of Kerala and empties into the Arabian Sea. It is a great view to see this river joining the sea as it is a huge mass of water. The 17th century Chandragiri fort stands on her banks. Her origin is in Kodagu district of Karnataka State. On her way the river becomes the major source for domestic and agricultural needs in Sullia Taluk.  The river has also another name Payaswini.

Kerala is crisscrossed by many more rivers and lakes. It is indeed a place to relax and enjoy the green nature at its closest. Hope you will take time to visit one of the above mentioned rivers when you travel to Kerala!


  1. Shiva kumar on June 8, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Kerala is really God’s own country. Beautiful western ghats on east and Arabian sea on its west, a land of breath taking rivers. I have posted about chalakudy river and Athirapally falls in my blog.

    • Sunu Philip on June 9, 2014 at 4:07 am

      Yes, Shiva..Kerala is indeed beautiful!!

  2. Savar Pandey on June 30, 2014 at 10:57 am

    These river may be the reason behind the beauty of Kerala during my last visit in Kerala, I went on a couple of boat tours so know Periyar and Pampa. Thank you Sunu, for letting us know about this rivers. I would definitely check them out during my next trip.

  3. nivil on July 15, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Good …………article….thank you for the information……..

    • Sunu Philip on July 21, 2014 at 4:51 am

      Glad you liked this article..Nivil!

  4. Indrajith on August 7, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Hi need 7 river package please mail me the total cost details for couples

    • Sunu Philip on August 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Thank you for your interest Mr Indrajith. I will pass your request to our travel team. They will let you know!

  5. Sreekumar V.Menon on November 13, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Hi Sunu,

    Nice to read an article of my interest and surprisingly found that it was written by you. Good writing keep it up.

    Sreekumar V.Menon

    • Sunu Philip on November 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      Thank you Sreekumar for your kind words!!

  6. shan on October 5, 2016 at 5:48 am

    Hiii… Good post to read, I really enjoyed this post. I get the new information about the listed rivers.

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