Holiday destinations around Pathanamthitta

Gavi is a forest, don't mess around

For students, holidays mean celebration. When summer temperature climbs, they find solace in the hope of enjoying movies, games and travel that they had set aside for the holidays. Even the elders realise that the time has come to listen to what children have to say. “Can we go on a trip?” Only very few families would have not had to face this question during holidays. While selecting places to visit, first consider sites in your district and in the neighbouring ones. **Gavi forest** In Pathanamthitta, the first destination that comes to mind while thinking of a vacation spot is Gavi. But be warned, if the plan is to go on a comfortable family trip, it’s better to avoid Gavi, which is more than 100km away from Pathanamthitta. After Angamoozhy, about 70km of the journey is through the forest. Travellers have to carry food and water. Gavi is more beautiful when it is shrouded in mist and not during blistering summer. But those who take the trouble to see the forest must consider these things. Those travelling on their own vehicles must reach Angamoozhy in the morning, because Goodrikal range office will issue passes from 8.30am. Passes will be issued to only the first 30 vehicles on holidays and the first 10 vehicles on other days. Liquor and plastic are banned in this area. The return journey is via Vandiperiyar. So, leave the forest before sunset. Do not change the route, because it’s dangerous. Those who are not going in their own vehicles can take the DTPC package. There is also a bus service from Pathanamthitta to Kumily via Gavi at 6.30am and 11am. The bus journey is cheaper and interesting, however, the passengers will have to carry their own food. KSRTC conducts services from Pathanamthitta bus stand to Kumily via Gavi at 6.30am and 12.30pm. The bus leaving at 6.30am will reach Gavi at 11am and Kumily at 12.45pm. Similarly, buses leave Kumily for Pathanamthitta at 6.30am and 1.30pm. People taking the bus from Pathanamthitta can plan the journey in two ways—first, take the morning bus, get down at Gavi, enjoy the sights, and catch the bus leaving Kumily at 1.30pm. It reaches Gavi at 3pm and Pathanamthitta by 7.45pm. The second way is to take the morning bus to Gavi, enjoy the sights, catch the 12.30pm bus from Pathanamthitta at 4pm in Gavi, go to Kumily, spend the night there, and return next day after touring Thekkady. Pathanamthitta DTPC conducts a Gavi tour. The package for a person, including food, in a non-AC Tempo Traveller will cost 1,300 rupees and in an AC vehicle, the rate is 1,600 rupees. Minimum number of passengers for the tour is 12. If there are five people, the tour can be in a Safari Jeep. For this package, the rate is 1,600 rupees per person. The tour will be conducted from Konni, Pathanamthitta, Kozhencherry and Ranni. Those wishing to travel must apply with documents on the website and deposit the amount in a bank. For details, call 0468 2311343. **Elephant camp and basket boating** The recent attraction in Pathanamthitta is basket boating, which is part of the Adavi eco-tourism project. People flock here from neighbouring districts to ride in a basket boat. The site is near Peruvali Mundakanmuzhi bridge, en route to Thannithode. The leaning trees on either bank keep the sun at bay. The site can be reached from Pathanamthitta via Attachakal and Konni. Besides the rower, four people can sit in a basket boat. They can ride in the boat for half an hour for 400 rupees. The service is available from 8.30am to 5.30pm. Passengers will get life jackets. Konni elephant camp is a famous training centre that is only 10km from Pathanamthitta. The camp has eight elephants, including two babies. It also has a children’s park, a museum and an outlet selling forest produce. Elephant safari in the camp has been suspended because of the heat. Entry is from 9am to 6pm, and Monday is a holiday. To know more about basket boating and the elephant camp, call 0468 2247645. **Thiruvananthapuram zoo** It is one of the best zoos in India, where animals are kept in open enclosures that resemble their natural habitats. The ticket counter is near the second entrance on the Vellayambalam-Palayam road. Vehicles must be parked outside the entrance. Visitors can move around inside the zoo in battery-powered vehicles by paying a fee. The museum adjacent to the zoo is worth a visit. But remember that Monday is a holiday. **Science and technology museum** It is located at PMG in Thiruvananthapuram. The galleries display different experiments and models. The museum presents 3D and 6D shows for 10 rupees and 25 rupees per person respectively every half an hour. The fighter aircraft and the model of a rocket outside the museum will arouse curiosity in students. Monday is a holiday. The planetarium and some other facilities here are closed for renovation. For details, call 0471 2306024. **Kovalam, Veli and Shankhumugham** Kovalam Beach is internationally famous, and the season lasts till monsoon arrives. The speciality of the beach is that the water is safe during the season. Eve’s Beach has a lighthouse, and it is safe for a swim. However, the life guard’s instructions have to be followed. Vizhinjam is less than two kilometres from Kovalam, from where it is easy to reach Balaramapuram, on the road to Kanyakumari. While going from Pathanamthitta, it’s better to go to Kazhakoottam from Venjaramoodu and take the bypass to Kovalam. There are mainly two routes to Kovalam from Thiruvananthapuram city—go to Chackai from Palayam or Statue via General Hospital and take the bypass, or go to Thiruvallam from East Fort via Manakkad and take the bypass. The entrance to the Thiruvananthapuram international airport is in Chackai. Beyond the entrance, even without entering the terminal, parked aircraft can be seen. Parking fees can be avoided by exiting quickly. Shankhumugham is a few kilometres beyond Chackai. It is the best beach to spend evenings. Since the beach has a steep incline, it’s not safe to go farther into the sea, especially at night. Instead, one can spend time on activities such as horse riding. On holidays, people throng Shankhumugham, which is a safe place even at night with high-mast lights and police presence. The sculpture of a mermaid and the children’s park are the other attractions at Shanghumugham. The cycle park, adjacent to the road to Veli, is an enjoyable place for children. The park has traffic signals and even a bridge. Children can ride two and three-wheel cycles on rent, while their elders enjoy the breeze on park benches. Six kilometres to the north from Shankhumugham is Veli, and on the way is Vettukad, a pilgrim centre. The Veli estuary, where the backwater meets the sea, was made scenic by the famous sculptor Kanayi Kunhiraman using beautiful lawns and sculptures. Veli tourist village is open on all days, from 10am to 6.30pm. Entry fee is 5 rupees. Children can play in the park and use the swings. People can try different types of boating in the lake. One can use a safari boat for 20 minutes by paying 80 rupees. Two people can sit in the pedal boat, and the rate is 100 rupees for half an hour. The rate for a speed boat, which can carry four adults and two children, is 800 rupees for one round (12 minutes), but the experience is thrilling. To hire a boat that can carry 10 people for half an hour, the rate is 1,000 rupees, while it is 1,500 rupees for a boat that can carry 15 people. All on board will get life jackets. The other attractions in Veli are a floating bridge from the backwater to the sea and a floating restaurant in the lake. Horse riding can be done on the beach. In Thiruvananthapuram, the places one should not miss are the Padmanabhaswamy Temple and the Kuthira Malika. East Fort, which was built during the reign of kings, is a pointer to history. Those keen on shopping must visit the Chalai market. Tourist centres close to Thiruvananthapuram are Neyyar Dam, Ponmudi, Varkala, Kilimanoor Palace and Happy Land. **Ashtamudi Lake** Kollam is blessed with sea and backwaters. Ferries ply to different places on the banks of Ashtamudi Lake. The jetty in the city is near the KSRTC bus stand. Since the lake is not as wide as Vembanad Lake, the boat service is a cheaper way to see rustic life and enjoy other sights. In addition to this, to attract travellers, the district tourism promotion council and the department of water transport organise many tours. A government boat leaves Kollam jetty every day at 10.30am to Alappuzha. The service is mainly for tourists. It will reach Alappuzha at 6.30pm via Chavara, Amritapuri, Ayiramthengu, Thrikunnapuzha and Thottappally. The rate is 400 rupees per person. Similarly, a boat leaving Alappuzha at 10.30am will reach Kollam at 6.30pm. Passengers can break the journey. For example, take a ticket for 140 rupees, have lunch (price not included in the ticket) at Alumkadavu, get down at Amritapuri at 3pm, take the boat from Alappuzha and reach Kollam by 6.30pm. For details, call 9400050387. The DTPC organises a houseboat journey to Munroe Island for people to enjoy the scenic beauty of Ashtamudi Lake. The rate for four people in the two-room houseboat from 11am to 5pm, including food, is 6,000 rupees. For additional people, 350 rupees each has to be paid. There is another Munroe Island package, in which people are taken there by road, from where they are taken through small canals on boats. The vehicle to Munroe Island leaves Kollam at 9am and 2pm. The 9am vehicle will reach there at 10am, after which people can take a tour through prawn farms and canals till noon, and return to Kollam by 1.30pm. The 2pm vehicle will reach Munroe Island by 3pm and return by 5.30pm. The tour costs 500 rupees per person. For details, call 0474 2745625. **Kollam beach and adventure park** The beach is close to the city, and the sandy expanse is very beautiful in the evening. Adults and children can enjoy kite flying here. It is not safe to go farther into the sea because of the steep incline. The big park adjacent to the beach is beautiful. The coastal road to the north leads to the port, where permission is needed for entry. At 11am and 3pm, fresh catch of fish is brought to Vadi and Mudakkara, near the port, where it can be bought. Asramam Maidan in Kollam was one of the first airports in Kerala. Later, when Thiruvananthapuram airport developed, this one was reduced to just an open space, which is now the lungs of Kollam. Plenty of people come here to walk, play, learn driving, or sit idly. The adventure park is behind the guest house. Plenty of facilities are available to children to spend time in this park, which is full of trees and is on the banks of the backwaters. The DTPC offers boating from here. Thangassery is a historically important place in Kollam. The remains of a Dutch fort can be seen here. The longest stone pier (2.5km) in Kerala, built for the Kollam port, begins here. To visit the stone pier, permission of the ports department is needed. There is also a light house in Thangassery. **Sundaratheeram** This place is like Kovalam. The water is only up to knee level, and even those who don’t know swimming can wade into the lake. To reach this wonderful spot from Pathanamthitta, go to Bharanikavu via Adoor, turn left to Kundara, and after Chittumala, turn right to Padappakara. After a few kilometres, Sundaratheeram’s signboard will appear on the left. This is a private homestay. People can relax in the breeze and savour the food, especially backwater fish, in the sheds by the lake, or take a dip in the lake into which steps have been built. A few metres into the lake, there is a raised platform. There are facilities to change clothes too. Many families come here for a dip in the lake and to enjoy the food. For details, call 9447345197. **Eco-tourism in Thenmala** The first planned eco-tourism destination in the country is Thenmala. A deer park, canopy walk, adventure tourism and music fountain in the evening make this an eventful place. Tickets for all sites in the eco-tourism package have to be bought from the office near the Thenmala dam. Since there is some distance between each site, it is better to have vehicles. Palaruvi waterfall is only a few kilometres away from Thenmala. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kerala. But there may not be water during the blistering summer holidays. Kollam DTPC offers a package tour to Thenmala. The vehicle leaves Kollam at 8am and returns in the evening after going to many places, including Kulathupuzha, Thenmala and Palaruvi. For details, call 0474 2745625. **Kuttanad and Kumarakom** What makes Alappuzha different are the Vembanad Lake and Kuttanad. Many ferries criss-cross these backwaters. In addition to them, the water transport department offers two packages to tourists. The first one is the Alappuzha-Kollam boat service, which leaves at 10.30am. The second one is the See Kuttanad service. These boats leave daily at 8.15am, 10.45am, 1.35pm and 4.15pm from Alappuzha. They go up to Kainakary and return in two hours. The rates are 80 rupees for an upper deck seat and 30 rupees for a lower deck seat. For details, call 9400050324. The DTPC offers different types of boats on hourly rent too. The rates for houseboats exceed 6,000 rupees. One can safely book private houseboats too via DTPC. To contact DTPC, call 0477 2253308. Another attraction is Alappuzha beach, the most suitable spot to spend evenings. There is a children’s park and a light house on the beach. Those who are planning to go towards Kottayam can choose Kumarakom. **Fort Kochi and Mattancherry** The boat trip from the jetty near Maharaja’s College on Marine Drive to Fort Kochi and Mattancherry is a cheap tour that is rich in sights, especially that of heritage monuments, the centuries-old synagogue in Mattancherry, the Dutch Palace and the Jew Street. An evening in Marine Drive will be memorable. Other interesting sites nearby are the Thrippunithura Hill Palace, the Vaikom fish farm and the Cherai beach. Many people include LuLu and Oberoi malls and Wonderla Amusement Park in their itinerary. **Cool Kuttikkanam** For those living in Pathanamthitta, the best way to escape high summer is to go to Peerumedu. Kuttikkanam is only two hours away from Pathanamthitta. People flock to Parunthumpara to spend their most memorable evenings. One can travel to Vagamon via Elappara from Kuttikkanam. Kurisumala, the grasslands and the pine forest are the main attractions here.

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