Located a few miles from the Arabian Sea, Thiruvananthapuram is a launch pad for those who want to explore the backwaters, Ayurvedic treatments and palm-fringed beaches of the western coastal state of Kerala.
As opposed to the mega-cities of Delhi and Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram is relatively small and easy to get around. Once you’re away from the concrete centre, the present seems to ebb away, taking you back to a time of red-roofed temples, winding lanes and street hawkers. One of the greenest cities in India and full of parkland, it’s a gentle introduction to exploring one of the most mystical countries on earth.
From quiet family home-stays to luxury beach resorts, a city break here costs whatever you can afford. Auto-rickshaws make it cheap to explore on a whim, while the central train station in Thampanoor channels tourists up and down the state.
Thanks to a trading history that goes back 1,000 years, Thiruvananthapuram is a melting pot of civilisations, all of whom have left their mark, from brightly coloured churches, hill-top palaces and colonial-housed museums, to delectable cuisine.
Keralan curries have become world famous for their exquisite fusion of coconut and spices – you can head to the Chalai bazaar in one of the oldest parts of the city for authentic street food and some of the world’s best fabric shopping. And don’t forget to sit and absorb the atmosphere with a cup of traditional chai; there’s no rush here.