Thiruvananthapuram adorns the southern part of Kerala and is renowned as the capital of the state. Tourists who yearn to know the culture and history of God’s own country have to visit the district. The place is a treasury of historical monuments, ancient palaces, and famous temples. The Travancore royal family that ruled Thiruvananthapuram for more than three centuries and British colonial rule imprinted their legacies in the land. The place is still the venue for making the decisions of the state of Kerala as it houses the Kerala Legislative Assembly.
When it comes to sightseeing, some of the best tourist places in Kerala are located in Thiruvananthapuram. Exotic beaches like Kovalam, Varkala, and so on capture the heart of the tourists. Captivating hill stations like Ponmudi and Agasthyakoodam adds to the natural beauty of the southern district. Tourists can learn a lot from the Napier Museum, Priyadarshini Space Planetarium, and take a close look at the variety of animals in the Thiruvananthapuram zoo.
Tourist Places in Thiruvananthapuram
One of the best places to learn about the culture and history of Kerala is the Napier Museum in Thiruvananthapuram. Constructed in 1880 in traditional Kerala architecture, the structure has a natural air-conditioning system. It houses some rare artifacts with historical and archaeological significance. Ancient bronze idols, ivory carvings, and ornaments of the Thiruvananthapuram royal family adorn the museum. The adjacent Sree Chitra Art Gallery contains a display of beautiful paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Nicholas Roerich and artforms from the Mughal and Tanjore traditions.
Established in 1857, Thiruvananthapuram Zoo is one of the oldest zoological gardens in India. It was the vision of the able king Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma that came to fruition when the zoo was opened to the public. Many of the first animals of the zoo were from his collection. Spreading over 55 acres of land, it now houses 82 varieties of species from around the globe. Many rare and endangered animals like the lion-tailed macaque, Indian rhinoceros, Royal Bengal Tiger, White Tiger, Nilgiri langur, and so on can be found here. Recently African animals like Giraffes, Hippos, Zebra were added to the zoo. The Reptile House exhibits a variety of snakes, both poisonous and non-poisonous. Anacondas are the ones attracting the most attention in the snake farm.
The biggest attraction in the district is undoubtedly the Hindu shrine of Padnabhaswamy which gave the name Thiruvananthapuram (the land of Anantha) to the land. The principal deity of the temple is the god Vishnu whose idol is made in the Anantha Shayana posture. The ancient temple is mentioned in the Sangam literature written between 500 BC and 300 AD. It is renowned as one of the 108 Divya Desam or holy abodes in Vaishnavism. The amazing fusion of Chera and Dravidian style of design makes it an architectural masterpiece. The tressure stored in the temple in vaults is estimated to be around 17 billion US dollars, which makes the temple the world’s richest place of religious worship in the world. Hence it is one of the best places to visit in Kerala.
Dedicated to Goddess Bhandrakali in the form of Kannaki, Attukal Bhagavathy Temple is a famous Hindu shrine. The major festival in the temple called Attukal Pongala is unique because of its exclusive women gathering. In 2016, the festival was figured in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest gathering of women for religious activity in the world. It is estimated that 4.5 million women turned up for the event during the time.
Varkala beach or Papanasham Beach is an exotic location in Thiruvananthapuram. It is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are seen so close to the beach. Geological Survey of India has recorded the cliff formation as a geological monument. The seashore is the best tourist place to lay back and enjoy for those seeking a relaxed vacation in Kerala. The sunrise on the beach which spreads a golden hue in the blue sky is an enchanting sight. Hence many tourists from wide and far come to the region during morning hours.
Sivagiri is a famous pilgrimage center in Thiruvananthapuram. The place has the tomb of Sree Narayana Guru, the great philosopher, saint and social reformer. Since its inception by Guru in 1904, Sivagiri Mutt has attracted spiritual seekers from around the world. The Sarada temple established by guru here is one of its kind due to its deviation from traditional architecture and tantric rituals. Thousands participate in the famous Sivagiri pilgrimage which is conducted annually since 1928.
Located 9 kilometers from Varkala, Anjuthengu is a famous place carrying the remnants of the colonial past of India. This makes it an interesting little town to visit in Kerala. It contains churches built in Portuguese-style architecture, a lighthouse, tombs of British and Dutch sailors and the remains of Anjuthengu Fort. Constructed in 1698, the Anjuthengu Fort and adjacent factory became the first trade settlement of the British East India Company in Kerala.
The quaint village of Chempazhanthy became famous after the birth of Sree Narayana Guru —the saint, philosopher and renowned social reformer. The thatched house where Guru was born is still kept immaculate by the Sivagiri Mutt. Spiritual seekers from all over the world come to the place to learn the philosophy and teachings of the saint. His birthday is an occasion of great celebration here. The Chempazhathy Gurukula Convention conducted every April meditates over the deep thoughts in Sree Narayana Guru’s teachings.
Located at an altitude of 1100 meters above sea level, Ponmudi is a beautiful hill station nestled in the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats. Because of the lush forest, majestic hills, mist-laden valleys, and variety of wildlife, it is considered a great tourist place in Kerala. Ponmudy falls and Meenmutty falls are charming waterfalls that accentuate the beauty of the region. The ecology of the hill station is famous for its bird population. It is estimated that there are 283 species of birds here, many of which fall under the category of rare or endangered species. Travancore tortoise which is considered highly endangered is also found in Ponmudi.
Located at the south-western tip of India, the village of Vizhinjam is known as the ‘Emperor of Arabian Sea’. Historically it was a region connecting Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Currently, a huge modern port is under construction in the region. History aficionados will find the rock-cut temple here enthralling. The 8th century BC shrine carved out of granite has unfinished reliefs of Siva and Parvati. The Vizhinjam Marine Aquarium has a wide range of sea creatures and is worth a visit.
Located on the foot of Western Ghats, Neyyar Dam is a popular picnic spot. The gravity dam offers a panoramic view of the greenery and lake. Constructed in 1958, the dam creates a reservoir of 106,200,000 cubic meter capacity. The shores of the reservoir are home to great biodiversity. Elephants, Sambar Deer, Gaur, Nilgiri Tahr, Sloth Bear are commonly seen in this region. Boating through the catchment area allows tourists to see these animals coming out out of the forest to drink water. The Crocodile Rehabilitation and Research Center here provides a unique opportunity to see the large reptiles up close. Hence the place is one of the most visited tourist places in Kerala.
Kottur Elephant sanctuary
Kottur Elephant Sanctuary is the best place to watch and learn the life of the biggest animal on the land. The first of its kind in India, the Elephant Rehabilitation center is the place providing shelter to abandoned and orphaned elephants. It also protects injured and old animals. The sanctuary takes great care in treating and training them. It is exciting to see the elephants being bathed, fed and taken care of by experienced mahouts. The center also provides the rare opportunity to see the baby elephants running around and throwing a tantrum.
Agasthyavanam biological park, established in 1997 is a protected area in the Western Ghats. Spreading over an area of 23 square kilometers, it is contiguous to Neyyar and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuaries. Great biodiversity and endemic medicinal plants make the park an interesting place to visit. The famous Agasthyakoodam Peak seen at a distance is the best attraction. At an elevation of 1868 meters above sea level, the rocky hill attracts the attention of foreigners visiting Kerala.
Kovalam is a land of beaches. The 17-kilometer coastline has three major beaches. Because of its unique beauty, Lighthouse beach tops the list of the best seashore to visit in Kerala. The white sand glistening in the sun, shallow waters and low tides makes it suitable for all kinds of beach activities like sunbathing, beach volley, swimming and so on. Located above the Kurumkal hillock, the 35-meter high lighthouse adds to the postcard beauty of the shore. Many tourists visit the Hawa beach because of its exotic look and excellent environment for picnicking. The less crowded Samudra beach is suitable for those who like to spend some time alone.
Poovar is an ideal getaway location for those who love the serene backwaters of Kerala. The tropical paradise with its emerald backwaters and lush green vegetation provides great ambiance. The boat ride through the placid lake is quite relaxing. Another attraction of Poovar is the pristine village beach named the golden beach because of its glowing sand. The best sight from the beach is the sunset that creates a crimson shade in the sky. Hence Poovar is a much-preferred tourist destination in Kerala.
Though located in the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, it would be a mistake not to visit Kanyakumari while you are in Thiruvananthapuram. The southernmost town in India is home to many natural and manmade wonders. The ancient Hindu temple at Kanyakumari is the major attraction whose existence can be traced beyond the Sangam period. The historic Vivekananda rock, huge Thiruvalluvar Statue, and so on are exceptional monuments. It also holds fame as the place of confluence of the Arabian sea, Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean. The beautiful beach is the perfect spot for enjoying the sunrise.
Located in Thukalay, Padnabhapuram palace is an architectural masterpiece. The construction dates back to 1601 AD and has many murals dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Made mostly out of wood, the palace has granite black floor, fabulous rose carvings, and intricately sculpted interiors. There are secret passages ingeniously concealed to escape the building in case of attacks. The palace is a treasury of invaluable relics like the mahogany musical bow, royal chairs, King’s medicinal bed, brass utensils, and so on. The ‘Kedavilakku’, a lantern inside the palace, is never put out and is burning since the 17 century. All these wonders make Padmanabhpuram palace a great place to visit for those interested in the culture and indigenous architecture of Kerala.