India on the Road

From Kovalam to Kumarakom

4 DECEMBER 2016,
Alappuzha District
Alappuzha District

Route: Kovalam – Thiruvananthapuram District (via Attingal) – Pathanamthitta District (via Adoor) – Alappuzha District (via Chengannur) – Kottayam – Kumarakom.
Distance: 184 Kms.
Driving Time: 4 Hours.

Kovalam

This is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in India if not the best. It consists of a number of small, palm fringed bays separated by rocky headlands, white sand, good surf, plenty of good places to stay and a choice of excellent sea food restaurants many of which stand right at the edge of the beach. The fact that it is very popular beach resort, it hasn’t radically affected the lifestyle of the local inhabitants. The fishermen here still row their dugouts out to sea and pull the nets by hand.

Tourism in Kovalam is much gentler and less intrusive as compared to Goa. A word of warning to the beach aficionados! There is a very strong rip and cross-currents which you will encounter in the bays. Unless you are a very strong swimmer and have no doubts about getting out of a sticky situation, then don’t go out of your depth. The sand at the bottom isn’t uniformly even, so you need to approach it with caution until you know how it lies in any particular area.

What to See:
Apart from the bewitchingly beautiful beach, there are places like Pozhikkara and Pachallor lakes, Aruvikkara and Neyyar Dam Wildlife Sanctuary, all of which are worth visiting.

Where to Stay:
Kovalam is renowned for some of the best beach resorts and hotels and the once that stand out are the magnificent Leela Kempinski (Tel: India Toll Free: 1 800 222 444), Vivanta by Taj (Tel: 0471-2487733), Sea Face Hotel: (Tel:0471-2481835), Samudra Hotel (Tel:0471-2480089), Hotel Sea View (Tel: 0471-2483599), Country Club (Tel: 0471-2481190), KTDC Hotel Samudra, The Travancore Heritage Hotel (Tel: 0471-2267828).

Where to Eat:
Most hotels have their own exclusive in-house restaurants. However, nothing quite compares to the charm of dining at the beach shacks with uninterrupted view of the azure blue sea. Some of the most popular beach shacks are Volga, Crab Club, Coral Reef, Sangrilla, Sea Rock, Rock Home, Black Cat, Krishna and My Dream. Try out the local spirits Toddy (Coconut Beer) and Feni made from Coconut and Cashew.

What to Buy:
Batik printed Lungi, articles conch and oyster, mirrors, coir products and masks of Kathakali dance.

Thiruvananthapuram District (via Attingal)

As you leave the dreamy landscape of Kovalam driving past Zizhijam Road and Kovalam Bypass, continue to drive on the NH47 and after covering a good 20 Kms. you will actually enter the district of Thiruvanthapuram via Attingal.
Thirvananthapuram Notes:
Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum is unlike any other capital cities of India and strolling around this friendly, laidback city built over seven luxuriously forested hills, its hard to imagine this is a state capital. The “City of the Sacred Snake” has managed to retain the magical ambience that is so characteristic of Kerala in general. Low skyline, red tiled roofs, narrow winding lanes, intimate corner cafes, beaten up municipal buses are the trademark of this one-of-its-kind city. The city is spread out over quite a large area but most of the services and places of interest are located on or in close proximity to M.G.Road which is the principal road running through the centre of the city from Zoological Gardens to the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.

What to See:
Actually there isn’t a great deal to see in Tiruvananthapuram other than the museum, art gallery and zoological gardens. The famous Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple, though a magnificent example of South Indian architecture, isn’t really an attraction as such, since it’s not open to Hindus. The primary reason visitors come to Tiruvananthapuram is to stay at the world famous Kovalam beach.

Where to Stay:
In case you intend to stay at Tiruvananthapuram some of the hotels that offer comfortable accommodation options are – Palmleaves Beach Resort, Keys Hotel, The Muthoot Plaza, Mascot Hotel (KTDC), Classic Avenue, Fortune Hotel The South Park, Saj Lucia, The Grand Central, Hotel Pankaj, Hotel Residency Tower.

Where to Eat:
Tiruvananthapuram offers an eclectic mix of fine dining options and some of the best places to dine are – the iconic Indian Coffee House, Chefmaster Family Restaurant (Tel: 0471-2445266), Zinc N Rock Restaurant (Tel:0471-3075500), Classic Avenue (Tel: 0471-2333555), Kalavara Restaurant (Tel: 0471-231362), Sindoor Palace (Tel: 0471-2314999), Square One Homemade Treats (Tel: 0471-2531445), Zam Zam Ice & Fruits Restaurant at Chalakuzhy Jn., Buhari Restaurant at Attukulangara.

What to Buy:
Locally manufactured handicraft items from SMSM Institute at Puthenchanthai, Kairali, Khadi Emporium, Co-Optex, both at M.G.Road are great places for shopping.

Attingal

Leaving behind the winding lanes and crowded streets of Tirvananthapuram, continue to drive down the NH47 for 32 Kms. to reach the quaint town of Attingal. This town is located at an elevation of 75 feet above sea level. Historically this town has a rich virile past and is believed to have been built some 800 years back and the shimmering rivers “Vamana Puram” and “Mamom” encircles the town on three sides. During the colonial era, Attingal rose to eminence as a much preferred coastal town and the Portuguese as well as the Dutch traders conducted trade through the town.

What to See:
The magnificent palaces, Sarkara Temple, Kumaran Asan Samarakam. Try to coincide your visit to Attingal during the festival of Kodiyettu Utsavam, which is celebrated during Nov-Dec every year.

Where to Stay:
Homestay options with local families.

Where to Eat:
Roadside eating joints that serve wholesome Kerala cuisine.

What to Buy:
Indegenously manufactured Coir products.

Pathanamthitta District (via Adoor)

From Attingal town, take left onto SH1 and continue driving for 87 Kms. to enter Pathanamthitta District via Adoor at 36 Kms.
Pathanamthitta Notes:
The name Pathanamthitta in Malayalam literally means an array of houses by the river side. It is the melting pot of Kerala’s pilgrimage tourism and every year. The renowned Sabrimala pilgrim destination is strategically located in this very district. Apart from a place of pilgrimage, this district of Kerala is also rich in terms of forest reserves that range from evergreen to semi evergreen and moist deciduous. Needless to say, many wood based industries have come up here. The cultural scene at Pathanamthitta too is quite vibrant and apart from Onam and Vishu festivals, the locals also celebrate Sabarimala, Marmon, Anandapalli and Kadammanitta festivals with great fanfare.

What to See:
Sabarimala Temple, Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple, St. Mary’s Church, St.Thomas Ecumenical Church, Manjanikkara Dayara and Parumala, Perunthenaruvi Falls, Kakki Reservoir, Elephant Training Centre at Konni, ancient castles at Pandalam, monument of Venu Thampi Dalawa, Mullor memorial.

Where to Stay:
Being a much sought after pilgrim tourist centre, Pathanamthitta offers an incredible array of lodging options and some of the most popular places to stay are – Apsara Tourist Home, Hotel Ashok International, Elite Continental, Holiday Inn, Dolphin Tower, Hey Day, Hotel Naushad, Aswathi Bhawan, Airco Tourist Home, Hotel Red Wood, Yamuna and a host of other mid-budget category dots the Pathanamthitta landscape.

Where to Eat:
Almost all hotels have the facility of In-house restaurants and one can be assured of delicious Kerala cuisine, which is spicy and use coconut milk in all their preparations.

What to Buy:
Indegenously manufactured wooden products and spices.

Alappuzha District (via Chengannur)

From Adoor continue to drive upfront on SH1 and enter the district of Alappuzha at 44 Kms. via Chengannur at 65 Kms. Chengannur is is a charming town and ideally located to the extreme east of Alappuzha district. The earliest mention of Chengannur was in the 1st millennium CE wherein Nammalwar highlighted Chengannur as a town where the smoke emanating from Vedic Yagnas enveloped the sky and its lush greenery consisting of Coconut and Banana trees. Thanks to Kerala’s pioneering tourism initiative, this charming town is amongst the fastest evolving towns of God’s Own Country.

What to See:
Chengannur Mahadevar Temple, Aranmula Temple, Parumala Church, Thiruchittaru Sree Krishna Temple, Pandaavan Para, Poomal Chaal, Chengannur Hatchery and Pazhaya Suriyani Pally.

Where to Stay:
Chengannur STD: 0479
Some of the most popular places to stay at Chengannur are - Anu Hotel(Tel: 2455661), Bhagavath Gardens (Tel: 2458495), John’s Hotel (Mob: 09847328014), Navratna Hotel (Tel: 2452526), New Arya Bhgawan (Tel: 3096353), Pournami (Tel: 2450707), Priya (Tel: 2452626), Raj International (Tel: 2452464), Santhi Palace (Tel: 2451778).

Where to Eat:
Apart from the In-house restaurants of quality hotels, one can also drop in at Taste Catering (Tel: 0479-2454382), Prince Restaurant & Catering (Tel: 0479-2454669) and John’s Catering (Tel: 09847328014).

What to Buy:
Traditional wooden and coir products.

Kottayam

Leaving behind the lanes and by lanes of Chengannur, continue to drive on SH1 via Thiruvalla and Changanassery to enter Kottayam, which is located at a distance of 35 Kms. Kottayam used to be a centre of the Syrian Christians of Kerala and there are a number of their churches including Cheria Pallia and Vallia Palli, located about 5 Kms. north west of the railway station. Today Kottayam is also a centre for Indian rubber products. Kottayam is a lso a good base to the world famous Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

What to See:
Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Thazhathangady Juma Masjid, Syrian Christian Churches, St.Mary’s Orthodox Church.

Where to Stay:
Muscat Residency, Orchid Residency, Windsor Castle, Hotel Aida, Pearl Regency, White Gate Residency. There is also the option of staying at heritage homes like Kanjirakkattu Heritage home and The Lake Village Heritage Resort.

Where to Eat:
All the star category hotels offer sumptuous multi cuisine dining options in their exclusive in-house restaurants.

Kumarakom

Finally on to your ultimate dream destination of Kumarakom. All you need to do is take a right turn onto K.K.Road on NH220 and then 1st left onto YMCA Road. After driving half a kilometer take the roundabout and exit onto SH1. Thereafter take the 1st left and drive 4.1 Kms. and then take right and drive another 6.3 Kms. You are now at Kumarakom. Kumarakom must be the most enchanting village tourism destination in the world, given the craze for reservations at many of its famed resorts that caters to the discerning international travelers. It is actually a cluster of villages spread on little islands on the shimmering Vembanad lake. Kumarakom happens to be an integral part of Kerala’s famed Kuttanad region.

One of the most enduring tourist landmark of Kumarakom is the bird sanctuary which a bird watcher’s paradise and any time of the year you will come across exotic species like Waterfowls, Egrets, Cuckoos, Herons Teals as well the prized Siberian Storks that vie for attention. Spending time here is like having a date with god in “God’s Own Country”. Lots of activities await the discerning visitors that may range from Kerala’s famed backwater cruises to the simple pleasures of boating and fishing in the Vembanad lake.

Where to Stay:
Kumarakom STD : 0481
At Kumarakom you have the option to stay at some of the world’s most exotic hotels and resorts that have made a mark in the competitive international tourism landscape. Some of the most popular ones are – Whispering Palms (Tel: 2523820-26), KTDC Waterscapes (Tel: 2525861,2524258), Paradise Resorts (Tel: 2524983,2524721), Lakshmi Hotels & Resorts (Tel:2523313,252315), Illikalam Lake Resort (2524234,2523282), Backwater Ripples (Tel: 2565404,2563404), Vivanta by Taj (Tel:2525711-16), The Zuri (Tel: 2527272,2527282), Golden Waters (Tel: 2525826,2524961), Abad Whispering Palms (Tel:2523820,2523819), Cocobay Resort (Tel: 2523200,2523400), Paddy Fields Resorts (Tel: 2526033), Kodinthara Resorts (Tel: 2524314).

What to Buy:
Metal-ware, Camel-bone carvings, Wood carvings, articles made of coconut shell, bamboo and cane, embroidered mats, grass mats etc…