Does Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala's capital, offer a city tour similar to the ones in London, Paris or New York?
Here are some suggestions to visit all the major attractions in Thiruvananthapuram in 48 hours. The city is noted for British Colonial architecture, symbols of the reign of the Maharajas of Travancore and other sights, including forest areas.
On day one, the Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Kuthira Malika, Shangumugham beach, Veli Tourist Village, Kovalam, Museum, Zoo and Magic Planet can be covered. The second day can be set apart for a tryst with nature at Neyyar and Ponmudi. In addition, visits to some food outlets that serve unique tastes of the Kerala capital would make the trip more exciting.
Museum and Zoo
Museum ground is the favourite destination of the city folk to breathe some fresh air. The tall trees and the green lawns around the Napier Museum offer a relief from the blazing sun even at noon. The Museum, which received its name from British Governor Napier, was built in 1885. Its biggest attraction is the architectural design by Robert Chisholm.
Exhibits at the Museum include antique jewellery, painting of Mughal and Thanjavur styles, handicrafts made out of ivory and metal etc.
The Zoo, adjacent to the Museum, is an evergreen favourite among tourists arriving in Thiruvananthapuram. Big crowds are seen here on holidays and visitors enjoy observing wild animals like tiger, lion, black ape, rhinoceros, zebra and bison, among others at close quarters.
The Zoo was a dream project of the Maharajah and the 55-acre premises flaunt stately trees that can match such greenery in any other zoo around the world.
An art gallery on the same premises exhibits paintings by Raja Ravi Varma.
Museum visiting hours: 10 am to 4.45 pm. Phone: 0471 2316275
Maharaja Swathi Thirunal built a two-storeyed palace right across the Padmatheertham pond and named it Puthen Malika. But later, the palace came to be known as 'Kuthira Malika' as the most striking feature of the building is a row of 122 exquisitely chiseled wooden horses supporting the roof. 'Kuthira' is the Malayalam word for horse.
While Kuthira Malika is now a history museum, its premises are where the Navarathri Music festival is held every year.
The biggest attractions among the museum exhibits are priceless thrones on which the Maharajas once sat. Visitors are left speechless also by the massive size of the paintings on display.
On the right side of the palace is the first 'Mandapam' (section). Stairs from there lead up to the second Mandapam, which is designed in the shape of a jewellery case. It is an eight-sided room.
Beyond a corridor is the third section of the palace. This was where Swathi Thirunal used to meditate and compose his songs. The facade of Padmanabha Swamy Temple is clearly visible from this tiny room.
Under the third tower is the supporting beam carved out of a single wood and the roof. A ring chiseled out of wood is also displayed here.
A path leading south from the premises ends in front of Krishnapuram Palace. Another path leads to Rangavilasam Palace. Both are royal residences. Now the Chitralayam art gallery is housed here.
For more information, call 0471 2473952.
This tourist spot offers a big relief from the heat during summer. The hills here draw visitors with the intriguing misty mornings and the pleasant evening breeze. Travellers have to cover 22 hairpin bends to enjoy the cool air of Ponmudi. The spot where tourists arrive in the hill is known as the Top Station. From here, rolling hills are seen all around providing numerous photo opportunities.
Trekking facility to a place called Varayattu Motta is available, for which prior permission has to be obtained from the Forest Office. The trekking season is from November to May.
Phone numbers: Ponmudi guest house – 0471 2890230. Room booking – 0471 2327366.
Route: Take the Nedumangad road from Thiruvananthapuram and head to Chullimanoor, Vithura, Theviyode, Golden valley and the hairpin bends to Ponmudi. The distance is 67 km.
The Eve's Beach (Hawa Beach) at Kovalam first attracted youths, thanks to various works of fiction. Decades ago, foreign women tourists had the habit of sunbathing topless at the beach, which earned the name Eve's beach for the place. However, this practice stopped long ago.
Kovalam found a place on the international tourism map much before Keralites considered travelling as a serious matter. Over several decades, it has been attracting visitors from around the world.
Though foreign tourists are satisfied by the beach umbrellas and sunbathing, Keralites find the biggest thrill in taking a trip in a speed boat.
Hundreds of local residents as well as tourists reach Kovalam in the morning and evening to enjoy the breeze. The rocky outcrops at the beach provide convenient seats to enjoy the sea views. Swimming is safe here as rocks block strong waves from hitting the coast. Services of lifeguards are always available at Kovalam beach.
A lighthouse stands tall and proud on the beach and visitors can climb to the top of the structure and enjoy the views. Kovalam is also known for the massage parlours and shopping options in the area. Regular musical events in the evening are also a big draw. Kovalam, similar to the beaches in Goa, stays alive late into the night.
Facts: Kovalam beach is 16 km from Thiruvananthapuram city. The tourist season is from September to May.
An initiative of magician Gopinath Muthukad, Magic Planet is located at Kinfra Film and Video Park in Kazhakkoottam. There is a history museum on magic, a magic theatre, science corner, street magic corner, underground tunnel, auditorium, shadow play, children’s park and magic short film for visitors.
Visiting time: 10 am to 5 pm. Phone: 9447014800
Neyyar is the best place to start the second day's city tour. Visitors have to reach the entrance of the Neyyar Dam by 10 am. A pass has to be obtained for entry. There is a crocodile park where the crocodiles captured from the reservoir of the Neyyar Dam are kept. The park is well-known around the world. The crocodile enclosures are built of cement with iron grills on top. A cage for pythons and another one for parrots are other attractions.
Situated right across the crocodile park is the boathouse from where services are available to the lions park. The lions are kept in a small island in the reservoir. A boat trip along the lake where wild elephants often reach takes visitors to the lions park.
Route: From Thiruvananthapuram, Neyyar is 32 km via Thirumala, Malayinkeezhu and Kattakkada. Phone: 0471 2360762. Lions park: 0471 22 72 182.
Shangumugham and Veli
Every evening, hundreds of visitors arrive at Shangumugham in the city. It is a favourite among both local people and tourists. The statue of the mermaid is another attraction.
Veli is the spot where the Veli Lake joins the Arabian Sea. When the area was turned into a tourist village, it began attracting visitors. Foreign tourists are more interested in the sand bank between the lake and the sea. Youngsters find thrill in water sports and swimming, while family groups spend time in the children’s park. In the evenings, boat trips are available in the Veli Lake. Recently, a water skating facility was also introduced at Veli.
Visiting time at Veli: 9 am to 6 pm. Phone: 0471 2500785. Veli is 8 km from Thiruvananthapuram railway station.
Seafood at Sagara
Sagara restaurant in the capital serves lip-smacking seafood dishes, including prawn curry with coconut and mango, squid ‘perattu’, squid fry, dishes made of mackerel, flying fish, pearl spot, pomfret, anchovy and several other varieties. At least 20 fish dishes will be ready at Sagara by 10 am. Here, fish curries are served with even dosa and parotta. The cuisine is different from central Travancore style where fish is served with rice. Tapioca and Malabar fish curry are available for breakfast at Sagara.
Phone: 0471 2333434.
4 o’clock snack
Residents of Thiruvananthapuram follow a 4 o’clock tea culture. It is fully evident at the ‘vada’ shops in East Fort. Big crowds are seen in front of small outlets selling tea and vada. Along with tea, Uzhunnuvada, Parippuvada, Madhuravada, Sukhiyan and Neyyappam are offered. Tea and coffee are of several types. Light tea, medium tea, strong tea, black tea, hot coffee, dust coffee, strong coffee and black coffee are among them.
'Cool' rice at Narayana Bhavan
Narayana Bhavan near Secretariat serves local dishes like bamboo biriyani and cool rice. The latter is rice gruel kept overnight (Pazhankanji) along with tasty side dishes. Other variety items at Narayana Bhavan include touchings special chicken varattu, chicken perattu and beef roast.
Thiruvananthapuram city and surrounding attractions can be visited according to the following plans. Each of the trips has been scheduled considering the transport facilities and ease of travel.
1. Start at 8 am and return by 1 pm covering Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Kuthira Malika, Shangumugham beach, Veli Tourist Village and Museum.
2. Start at 1.30 pm and return by 7 pm after visiting Museum, Zoo, art gallery, Kuthira Malika, Kovalam beach and Padmanabha Swamy Temple.
3. Padmanabhapuram Palace (no entry on Monday), Sucheendram Temple, Vivekananda Rock, Kanyakumari Temple and Wax Museum can be toured starting at 7 am and returning by 9 pm.
4. An 8.15 am to 4 pm trip can be conducted covering Koyikkal Palace Museum (closed on Monday), Golden Valley and Ponmudi.
5. Neyyar Dam and Kappukad elephant camp (Mondays closed) can be visited starting at 7.45 am and returning by 1.15 pm.
6. Start at 2 pm and return to Thiruvananthapuram city by 8.30 pm visiting Santhigiri Ashram, Sivagiri Math and Varkala beach.
7. Visit Vizhinjam Port, View Point and Kovalam beach starting from the city by 4.30 pm and return by 7.30 pm.