A Weekend in the Culture Capital of Kerala – Calicut

I have always wanted to visit different places in Kerala. The food, the culture, landscapes of this state varies for every district – everything seems so different and fascinating. Last year when I got an opportunity to visit the state on a work-related trip, I said, “yes, please!” I spent my two weeks visiting Kannur and Wayanad. Throughout the journey, people reminded me of Calicut in one or the other conversation. My 1st memories about this city are from the movie Ustaad hotel, one of my all-time favorite Malayalam movies. The bustling beach scenes and the romanticism around the morning sulemani chai stayed with me long after watching the movie.

I hopped on a bus to Calicut from Waynad and started browsing Airbnb’s to find a budget place to rest my head that night and randomly made a reservation at @design.ashram. I had two days in Kerala’s food and culture capital before leaving home and wanted to make the most of it. I called Naveen from @tyndisheritage to check if they have any food tour that I can join. He said he would pass on my number to the local team. The ghat roads made me nauseous, and I don’t remember falling asleep. Three hours of drive, nine hairpin bends, and seven missed calls later, I arrived at Calicut/Kozhikode a coastal city located between the spectacular western ghats and the warm Arabian sea.

The following two days fell in place like never before and probably the most impromptu and cherished time of my life. Here’s a quick weekend guide from my experiences.

Best Time to Visit Calicut:

Calicut is a warm coastal city. The climate throughout the year is sunny except for the monsoon months. It can get pretty hot and humid during the summers. It’s best to avoid visiting from April to June. I visited in winter, and it was very pleasant.

Winters are very pleasant in Calicut

Where I stayed:

Design Ashram is this little artsy BnB run by local architects and artists. So you can imagine the aesthetics of the place. There is also a beautiful library, art gallery, a small co-working space, and a basic kitchen. The private room on the 1st floor is very cozy, with a little window that opens to vibrant Gujarati street lanes. They have dorm rooms on the ground floor adjacent to the courtyard. The Gudham cafe is just adjacent to the cafe and you can hear the live songs by local artists in your room most of the time (in the most pleasant way)

Design Ashram courtyard view

Expereinces in calicut:

Join on a food tour with @Tyndis Heritage

If there is one thing that the people of Calicut love the most and are proud of, it’s their food. It goes back a long way and links the cultural and lifestyle aspects of the city. Calicut is famous for its authentic biriyanis. A lot of food joints have been in the city for generations. Not a vegan heaven per se but a lot of traditional dishes here are accidentally vegan.

Tyndis heritage has curated food and heritage day tours accompanied by a local storyteller.

Visit the bustling market areas of this old port city

Calicut, for centuries, has been one of the important ports for trade. The city thrived during the golden age of the spice trade. It attracted merchants and traders from across the world, and the markets to date are a melting point of cultures and bustling in life. Take a walk in the Valiangadi market, also known as the big bazaar, to experience the culture and relive history.

Visit the Kappad beach

The one in the main city, Calicut beach, is usually a little crowded. There are a lot of yummiest street food options along the shoreline, though.

If you are looking for some quiet and serenity, then Kappad is a must-visit. It is said that the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama landed in India first at this port. It’s also the only beach in Kerala with international Blue Flag certification. It is only given to beaches rich in marine resources that pass stringent global cleanliness, safety, eco-friendliness, and sustainability standards.

Also Read: A Rainforest Retreat in the Nilgiri biosphere

Photo by a friend and fellow traveler Sushil Das

An evening in Gudham cafe

Calicut is high on the cafe culture. Many cafes also double as art clubs, theatres, comedy clubs, or organize open mics. Gudham cafe however has a special place in my heart.
The 1st floor of the cafe is the office of Mr. Basheer, who is an avid traveler and collector of antiques from across the world. I went bonkers to be there. To listen to Bhasheer’s stories from the road and learn about the details of his collection was truly a fascinating experience.

The ground floor is a cafe that doubles as a co-working space for artists, an art gallery, and a library. Yes, it was my kind of paradise. Plus Plus, every now and then, Prajeesh Gomathi, a wonderful human being who also runs the cafe, would play the keyboard and sing all-time classic south Indian songs. I would practically live there if they’d allow me to 🙂 Anyways you get the idea, right? It’s a beautiful place and totally worth visiting.
One other favorite cafe of mine here is Kadalas cafe. It’s by the sea. Settle down with a cup of coffee and get lost in the magical sunset hues.

Have you been to Calicut? If yes, what are some of the interesting experiences you had?

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