India’s evergreen city BECKONS: a journey to the far south

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The sacred Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram, India, was built in the Dravidian style and principal deity Lord Vishnu is enshrined in it

Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram is one of those incredible places that seems to have everything that fascinates travellers from far and wide. A long history spanning centuries, temples, beaches, nearby getaways, mouth-watering cuisine is what makes it a rich destination to explore – what more could those with a thirst for travel ask for? If you are planning to head down to the south of India and want to immerse yourself in one of the richest cultures, there is no place like it. Once a thriving trade centre, it offers much in the way of things to see and do for all kinds of travellers. We have listed a few things worth visiting on your next trip.

The world’s richest temple – the sacred Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple
South India is known for its many temples and Thiruvananthapuram is home to one of the most famous – Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It was incredibly wealthy once – and still is! Literature and poetry even claimed that it had walls of pure gold. The temple’s appeal has deeper roots – it is one of 108 sacred Vishnu shrines and features a beautiful blend of Kerala and Tamil architectural styles. It is also believed to be among the richest temples in the world today and for good reason: a 2011 order by the Supreme Court saw several secret chambers opened and the contents (assets and valuables) are said to amount to a staggering USD 22 billion! The valuables are said to have got accumulated over several thousand years. This temple has been mentioned in the Mahabharata as well.

Getting acquainted with the culture
Learn about the history of the south at the Napier Museum where you can see exhibits consisting of idols, ornaments and numismatic collections, to name a few. Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Palace is another place to take in. It is a former royal residence with a museum that showcases idols, sculptures, paintings and more. It is located right near Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple so you can visit it afterwards. The palace holds an annual festival where musicians from the state come together and enthral the audience with their talent and skill. You can get the programme schedule by clicking here.

The unspoiled beauty: view of the Odayam beach near ocean and palm trees in Varkala, Kerala, India

Relaxing at Varkala and Kovalam Beaches
When on the coast, the beach is where the action is! Thiruvananthapuram has some great choices so you should not miss them. Varkala or Papanasham Beach is a beautiful escape with dramatic cliffs facing the Arabian Sea. The water is said to be holy and a dip is believed to cleanse one’s sins and purify the soul. While here, you can also indulge your adventurous side with water sports like jet skiing. There are several accommodation options you can choose from too so that you are close to the beach. Prices range from a low INR 500 to upwards of INR 10,000 – there is something for the budget travellers as well as those seeking comfortable and luxurious stays.

Lighthouse on the rocks near the ocean with big white clouds in Kovalam, Kerala, India

Another place worth exploring is farther down Thiruvananthapuram – the Kovalam beach – which is a must-visit. It is made up of three beaches – Lighthouse, Hawah and Samudra – so there is plenty to explore. Be sure to climb to the top of the lighthouse for unforgettable views of the sea and make your way towards the other two for a less touristy and quieter experience. While at Kovalam beach, take a detour to the port of Vizhinjam where Ayurvedic treatments and beach resorts dot the area. You can also see the ancient Vizhinjam Rock Cut Caves that date back to the 8th century. The site is open from 9 am to 6 pm on weekdays and is closed on Mondays.

Feast on specials
The highlight of every holiday is food and, if it isn’t yours, maybe Thiruvananthapuram will change your mind! Fish curry flavoured with coconut, puttu with kadala curry (rice cake, coconut and chickpeas), idiyappam (rice noodles and egg curry), and varutha kozhi (chicken and coconut) are some of the items you have to try. Head to the iconic Hotel Rahmaniya Pattom for delicious kethel chicken fry and Azad Restaurant for biryani. If you get early morning cravings, Buhari Hotel will satisfy your pangs. It is open 24/7.

Houseboat in backwaters near palms at cloudy blue sky in Kerala, India

Make your way to nearby escapes
Vacationing in Thiruvananthapuram gives you the chance to visit nearby hotspots that will enrich your holiday. The southernmost tip of the country, Kanyakumari, is just three hours away by road. You can take a day trip or spend the night for a more leisurely getaway. If you do not have a lot of time, Poovar and Pozhiyoor, which are just over an hour away, let you explore more beaches and what Kerala is famous for – the backwaters. You can go on a relaxing cruise in a shikara, watch the sunrise, and dine on a floating restaurant. Poovar Backwater Cruise offers affordable packages. You can choose yours by clicking here.

Adventure at AMAS
If you love the rush of adrenaline, the Academy for Mountaineering and Adventure Sports (AMAS) will get yours racing with an offering of various adventure sports. The non-profit voluntary organisation offers programmes and training for sports like paragliding, rappelling, river crossing and rock climbing. You even get a certificate of merit if you successfully complete the programme! Find out more about AMAS by clicking here.

We have not even begun to cover the surface of what Thiruvananthapuram has to offer. There is so much more that BECKONS the traveller in you. The best way to immerse yourself in it is to choose what interests you – culture, adventure, nature – and spend your time exploring it. It is a place with these quaint attractions, which keep it high on your travel itinerary!

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