Located near the southern tip of mainland India, Trivandrum (formally known as Thiruvananthapuram, City of the Sacred Serpent) is the capital city of Kerala in Southern India.
The largest city in Kerala, Trivandrum was historically a trading post for spices, sandalwood and ivory. Today it attracts thousands of holidaymakers keen to experience Kerala’s coconut palm dotted beaches and beautiful weather.
Trivandrum’s star attractions are undeniably its beaches, which line the Kerala coast in both directions. North lies Varkala, a rather over-commercialised tourist area which is best avoided. Instead visit Kovalam, 17km south of Trivandrum. Its two large beaches are safe for swimming, but can get a little crowded in peak season. Closer to the city is Shanghumukham, 8km away. Its beach is safe, well maintained, and popular with locals for its stunning sunsets. Finally, take a stroll on the nearby orange beaches of Veli and watch the fishermen mending their nets on the shore.
Travellers who prefer sightseeing over sunbathing will still find plenty to do. Most of the city’s attractions are within walking distance of one another, and the historic city is dotted with buildings and museums, parks and palaces. Start at the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple around which the city was built. This iconic structure combines Kerala and Tamil architecture and the 500 pillars of its interior can only be accessed by Hindus. It was at this ancient temple that untold treasures in gold, diamonds, statues and other valuables worth an estimated USD 20 billion was discovered in a chamber deep within the inner sanctum recently.
Nearby is East Fort, the heart of the city. From here you can visit Gandhi Park, the Ganesha temple of Pazhavangadi, or embark upon the 2km stroll through Chalai Bazaar: home to gold, iron and steel, flowers, fruit and vegetables – and everything in between. East Fort is beautifully illuminated at night and makes for an atmospheric evening out.
Trivandrum features plenty of restaurants, most of which serve the local South Indian cuisine. However, those looking to try other types of food, from North Indian to Chinese, American to Italian, should be able to find something to suit their tastes. It pays to note that in Trivandrum the word hotel is interchangeable with restaurant.
Enjoy typically Kerala food which comprises plenty of fish, coconut and rice – one of the most well-known dishes is moillee, a fish curry made with coconut, green chilli, ginger and curry leaves. The city’s idli (steamed rice cakes), sambar (vegetable stew) and dosa (stuffed crepes) are also invariably excellent. Traditional drinks include coconut water - Karikku - and Sambharam. Don’t be alarmed; Sambharam’s buttermilk base is supposed to contain salt, ginger and green chilli.
Nightlife in Trivandrum tends to revolve around dining out. However, many of the resorts along the Kerala beaches offer bars and discos to keep tourists entertained.
Two hours south of Trivandrum is Kanyakumari, in the state of Tamil Nadu. The southernmost tip of India is the meeting point of three seas: the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. An early evening visit guarantees a spectacular sunset over the three bodies of water.
From here, take a short ferry ride to Vivekananda Rock. Just 100 metres from the mainland, the small island features a number of enjoyable sights. These include a foot-shaped carving and a memorial to Swami Vivekananda, the 19th century Hindu philosopher after whom the island is named.