Kerala has a well connected road network. The 8 National Highways ( NH) connects major cities and towns of the state as well as to the cities of its neighboring states. More than 50 state highways (SH) crisscross the state connecting every nook and cranny of Kerala.
The quality of the roads varies. Generally the National Highways are wider and well maintained, though some of the state highways too are in excellent condition. The trouble for Kerala is climate. The Monsoon season is comparatively long and strong in Kerala. It creates havoc on the road condition, year on year. Together with its relatively high density of vehicle usage, a long bus ride in Kerala can be bumpy affair.
NH 17 is the longest national highway in Kerala with 417 kilometers of its passes through the sate. In fact NH 17 starts from Panvel , located south of Mumbai and joins NH 47 at Edappalli, a northern suburb of Cochin. Thus NH 17 connects four states – Maharastra , Goa , Karnataka and Kerala. This highway almost passes along the western cost linking the Konkan, Malabar and Cochin regions.
As you drive from south to north along NH 17 it passes through regions were different languages are spoken. For example in kerala (Malayalam) , Karnataka (Kannada & Tulu) , Goa (Konkani) and Maharastra ( Marathi). As is along the coastal line , the calimate is practically uniform with humid sea breeze . So is the scenery peppered with coconut grooves, hills, paddy fields and rivers. Though it is straight and broader at many places NH 17 has innumerable curves, up hills and occasional humps.
As you come out of the Cochin city via the NH 47 bypass, you can spot this huge signboard at the Edappalli junction showing direction to NH 17. It’s a 4-way junction. Straight ahead is NH 17, towards your right NH 47 continues to Trissur ( Trichur) , towards left is Cochin City.
Initially NH 17 zigzags through a thickly populated narrow section of road. After about 20 kilometers the driving is less taxing.
The route along Kerala stretch is Edappalli -Paravoor – Kodungallore – Pallippuram – Gururvayur – Ponnani – Valakkulam – Tiruangadi – Kozhikode – Vadakara – NadapuramRoad – Thalassery – Kannur – Cherukunnu – Kokkanisseri – Hosdurg – Pallikara – Kasaragod -Kurchipalla (exit Kerala) . The next major town is Mangalore in Karnataka.
NH 47 connects two towns in Tamilnadu – Salem and Kanyakumari ( Cape Comorin ) .However most of the route passes along Kerala. NH 47 is one of the busiest highways in Kerala. Traffic jams are not unusual especially when it passes through some busy cities. Though it is bypassing the city , driving along the Cochin bypass of NH 47 can take even 1 hours for a short distance. NH 47 runs very close to a number of major railway stations and airports. For example Cochin and Trivandrum airports. Also it runs along the backwater tourism gateways of Kerala like Alleppy (Alappuzha) and Kollam ( Quilon). A small stretch of this highway is 4 lane (in Ernakulam section) , otherwise it is two lane. By and large the highway passes through the planes of coastal Kerala. There are some Ghat sections near Palghat-Trichur stretch.
NH 47 route in Kerala : (Tamilnadu border) Kaliyikkavilai – Parassala – Neyyattinkara – Thiruvananthapuram city – Kazhakkuttam – Attingal – Chathannur – Kottiyam – Kollam – Karunagappally – Kayamkulam – Haripad – Ambalappuzha – Alappuzha – Cherthala (bypass) – Aroor – Ernakulam (bypass) – Kalamassery – Aluva – Angamali – Chalakkudy – Thrissur (bypass) – Mannuthi – Vadakkumchery – Alathur – Palakkad (bypass) – Walayar (Tamilnadu border) . The next major city is Coimbatore in Tamilnadu.
NH 49 is the Cochin-Rameswaram National Highway. In other words it connects the east coast to the west cost. NH 49 starts from Cochin near the NH 47 bypass road. NH 49 follows a NW direction till Muvattupuzha before it turns to a SW direction to Rameswaram. It passes through a number of scenic spots, especially the high ghat sections Bodimettu to Neryamangalam . This saddles the tea growing regions of Kerala and Tamilnadu. There are a number of wildlife parks in this area. Munnar in Kerala is a popular hill resort.
NH 49 route in Kerala : Cochin – Thripunithura -Muvattupuzha – Kotamangalam- Adimali – Devikulam – Bodimettu ( Tamilnadu border)
NH 208 connects the Backwaters town of Kollam with Thirumangalam in Tamilnadu. At the Kerala end NH 208 mearges with NH 47 . The Kerala stretch is uneventful . However as the NH 208 nears the Kerala-Tamilnadu border the environment is scenic, especially when the road sneaks through the stunning Aryankavu pass and through the middle of the forest. This is the ideal road to reach Thenmala where India’s first Ecotourism Park is located. The areas bordering the forest is packed with rubber tree plantations.
Route of NH 208 in Kerala : Kollam – Kottarakara – Thenmala -Aryankavu (Tamil Nadu border )
Beyond Kerala NH 208 passes via Sengottai , Tenkasi , Sivagiri , Srivilliputtur , Kellupati and ends at Thirumangalam.
NH 212 connect the north Kerala city of Kozhikode ( Calicut) with Mysore in Karnataka. The highway negotiates some of the treacherous peaks of the Western Ghats and pass through a wildlife reserve spread across many states. It is no unusual to spot wild animals including elephant herds and spotted deers along the way. The highway passes through Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala and Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary on the Karnataka side. Both are Tiger reserves, though you would be extremely lucky to spot a tiger near the highway. Obviously this is the best road to reach these sanctuaries.
The highway is riddled with steep climbs and many hairpin curves. NH 212 passes through a number of tea plantations on the Kerala side, while the Karnataka side is reserve forest with bamboo canopy over the road.
NH 212 route in Kerala : Kozhikode – Thamarassery – Kalpetta – Sultan Battery -Muthanga (Karnataka Border) See also Bagnalore to Wayanad road map for more of NH 212 on Karnataka side.
NH 220 connects Kollam with Teni in Tamilnadu. It follows a path same as NH 208 till Kottarakara ( about 26 kilometers from Kollam) and then follows the MC Road (SH1). In Teni NH 220 joins NH 49 . NH 220 passes near Periyar National Park at Thekkady in Kerala.