Thiruvananthapuram is called 'the city of Snake God'. Caressed by the Arabian Sea at the west, it is a popular transit destination for Indians and foreigners alike who like to visit south India. Thiruvananthapuram is an important entry into India with communication link to Maldives, Sri Lanka and many countries to the west of Arabian Sea.
“Thiruvananthapuram” (City of the Sacred Serpent) is the mouthful of a name given to Kerala’s seaside state capital, but thankfully almost everyone calls it Trivandrum. Although the city has some interesting museums and a temple that’s of great significance to Hindus (and off-limits to non-Hindus), the only reason to find yourself here is to utilize the city’s excellent transport connections and head for the beautiful beaches that lie north, at Varkala, or south, to Kovalam and beyond. While Varkala has certainly been “discovered,” it’s a more laid-back alternative to Kovalam, which— no doubt due to its proximity to Trivandrum (a mere 10–20-min. drive south)—has been a popular seaside vacation spot for more than 70 years, and as a result has become overcommercialized and saturated with tourist-hungry businesses. If you’re looking for Kerala’s most stunning, upmarket seaside options, many with more-or-less private beaches, you’ll have to travel farther south of Kovalam.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN TRIVANDRUM
Trivandrum, to put it bluntly, is a dump, but it has a number of interesting buildings, including the stately Secretariat and Legislative Assembly, situated along Mahatma Gandhi Road, which is the main boulevard and center of activity through town. M.G. Road runs more or less north to south and links the two most significant areas of tourist interest: the Museum Complex, to the north of the city; and the Fort area, which houses Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and Puthen Malika Palace Museum, to the south. It is possible to walk from one area to the other (about 45 min.), and there are numerous shops en route. Alternatively, auto-rickshaws continuously buzz along the road’s length, and you will have no trouble catching a ride from one area to the other. Aside from the attractions reviewed below, Chacha Nehru Children’s Museum is sure to draw parents traveling with children with its collection of nearly 2,000 dolls.
Padmanabha Swamy Temple
This Dravidian-style Vishnu temple, said to be the largest in Kerala, may be off-limits to non-Hindus, but the “temple guides” manage to target foreigners with great ease, leading them to the obligatory spots from which to photograph the seven-story-high entrance tower, or goparum, which is pretty much all that can be viewed from the outside. The temple is believed to have come into existence on the first day of the Kaliyuga era (3102 B.C.)—legend has it that the temple “materialized” after a sage prayed to Vishnu asking him to appear in a form that he could comprehend with his limited human vision—but the greater part of the complex was built during the 18th century. The temple is fronted by a massive tank, where devotees take ritual dips. Alongside a promenade are stalls selling ritual items, religious souvenirs, and flowers for use inside the temple. It is known for its mural Paintings and stone carvings. One among the 108 sacred Vishnu Temples in India, the presiding deity in here is Lord Vishnu reclining on Anantha, the serpent.
This small historical town is set amidst Lakshadweep Sea and Anjengo Kayal. The British East India Company established a factory here in 1673 and also built a fort with the permission of Queen of Attingal in 1695. The beach, relics of the fort and flagstaff, tombs of Dutch and British are some places of interest.
It is famous for the ancient Bhagavathi temple. The stream in front of the temple has large fishes, which are fed by the devotees.
The sheltered natural bay of Kovalam, flanked by two natural headlands is regarded as one of the finest beach resorts of the world. Its four famous beaches Samudra, Ashok, Eve’s or Hawa and Lighthouse of Kovalam are located in close proximity and attract a large number of tourists from all over the world. The beautiful beaches are considered to be ideal for surfing and water-skiing. Kovalam is also a famous health and yoga centre.
Neyyar Dam & Sanctuary (32km)
The dam-site enroute to Ponmudi is noted for its scenic beauty. The Neyyar Wildlife sanctuary covers an area of 128km in the Western Ghats. There is also a Lion Safari Park and a Crocodile Protection Centre.
Ponmudi, an idyllic hill resort is known for its bracing climate, tea plantations and scenic splendour. The deep forest trails are ideal for hiking and trekking.
The charming sea-side resort and pilgrim centre is popularly referred as ‘Southern Varanasi’. There are a number of sacred shrines and beautiful beaches at Varkala. It is also an important nature care centre.
Sree Janardhana Swami Temple
The ancient shrine believed to be over 2000 years old is one of the holiest temples of Lord Vishnu.
The crescent shaped beach is considered to be very scared, as it is believed that one is absolved of his sin by taking a dip in the sea water here.
It is the final resting place of Sree Narayana Guru, one of the most illustrious spiritual leader and social reformer of Kerala.
The idyllic site at the confluence of the beach and back waters is noted for its scenic charm and tranquillity. Boating facilities at the backwaters are provided at the Priyadarshini Boat club.
The Napier Museum
Built in the 19th century, the indo-seriocomic structure boasts a "natural" air-conditioning system and houses a rare collection of archaeological and historic artifacts, bronze idols, ancient ornaments, a temple chariot and ivory carvings. The use of plastic is banned in the museum premises.
NORTH OF TRIVANDRUM: THE RED CLIFFS OF VARKALA
A 55km (34-mile) drive north of Trivandrum (an hour by train), the seaside resort of Varkala draws numerous Hindu pilgrims who come to worship in the 2,000-year-old Sri Janardhana Swami Temple and ritualistically cleanse themselves in the mineral spring waters that gush from Varkala’s ruby-red laterite cliffs. The cliffs overlook the rather aptly named “Beach of Redemption.” Varkala attracts scores of backpackers searching for an untouched beach paradise—and several years ago, they might have found just that. Today, hawkers and shack-dwellers have drifted in and set up shop along the tops of the cliffs; the coconut palms have been replaced by cheap guesthouses and open-air cafes; and children flog cheap jewelry, yards of cloth, and backto- nature hippie gear. Nonetheless, being a holy beach, the sand at the base of the cliffs stays relatively free of human pollution—it’s neither a convenient public ablution facility nor a wastedumping ground. Instead, devotees of Vishnu attend to earnest puja sessions, offering banana leaves piled with boiled rice and brightly colored marigolds to be carried away by the ocean. Usually, the sand is soft and lovely, and you can find a quiet cove for sunbathing without the crowds that are inescapable in Kovalam. In fact, you can find relative peace and calm if you restrict your beach activities to the morning; by lunchtime the gawkers (female bathers are advised to be discreet), hawkers, and dreadlocked Europeans start to file in, and it’s time to venture back to the pool—with any luck, at the Taj Garden Retreat. Other activities for visitors here include Kathakali demonstrations, elephant rides, village tours, and backwater trips. You can also take a pleasant evening walk (or autorickshaw ride) to the cliffs to visit Sunset Point. If you don’t want to walk back, keep the rickshaw for your return trip.
Pallivetta (Royal Hunt) and Aarattu (Holy Bath) are part of the rituals of the festivals of some of the major temples of Kerala. The specialty of the Arattu at the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is that the head of the royal family of erstwhile Travancore still provides escort to the procession of idols.
The Swathi Festival is a gala event music organized by he government of Kerala, every year in the last week of January. The venue is the famous Kuthiramalika Palace. Thiruvananthapuram, where once upon a time the great poet-king of Travancore. Sri Swathi Thirunal, composed many of his verses.
Nisha Gandhi Dance Festival
Every year, from February 21 to 27, renowned classical dancers perform at the Nisangandhi, an open-air theatre in TThiruvananthapuram city. Classical dances of almost all the states of India are staged during the festival.
Kerala is also known for its traditional crafts, the most notable being intricately crafted ivory products, carved wooden containers and furniture’s, hand woven textiles, bronzes, masks of the characters from the classical dances, coir products etc. Cashews, species, tea and coffee produced in the State are also some of the most important items on the shopping list of the visitors.
M.G.Road extending from East Fort to palayam, Chalia Bazar, Connemara market and Palayam are some of the important shopping areas of the city.