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Thiruvananthapuram is the capital of Kerala. This city was declared by Mahatma Gandhi as the Evergreen city of India. It is home to one of the finest beaches of India called Kovalam and some of the most scenic backwaters such as Akkulam and Veli. It has a number of sight-seeing attractions and a visit to Kerala must definitely include this district of the state.
Some of the major attractions of Thiruvananthapuram are
1. Sri Padmanabha Swami temple - This is one of the most famous Hindu temples and the deity worshipped here is Lord Vishnu. The temple is located at the East Fort near to the KSRTC bus stand. The statue of Lord Vishnu here lies in Anananthasayanam posture meaning in eternal sleep of yognidra. Sri Padmanabha Swami temple is known as the holiest abodes of Lord Vishnu.
2. Attukal Bhagavathy temple - Attukal Bhagavathy temple is located just 2 kilometre from Sri Padmanabha Swami temple. Goddess Parvathi is the main deity in this temple. The famous festival of Attukal Pongala takes place every year in this temple. During this festival, millions of women participate in the month of Kumbham at this temple and prepare a rice dish item called Pongala in the open to please the Goddess. This festival is even known internationally and has entered the Guiness Book of World Records as the 'largest annual gathering of women'.
3. Thiruvananthapuram Zoo - The zoo in Thiruvananthapuram is really huge and occupies 55 acres of land. One can find numerous species of animals in this zoo such as lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, Indian rhinoceros, Asiatic lion, Royal Bengal tiger, leopards, Asian elephants, giraffes, Cape buffalos, Manipur deer, zebras, hippo, crocodiles etc. The zoo also has a very good snake park with many types of poisonous as well as non-poisonous snakes.
4. Government Arts Museum - The Government Arts Museum is located near to the zoo in Thiruvananthapuram. The highlight of this museum is its beautifully designed architecture. The main name of this museum is Napier Museum. It is a museum dedicated to the display of art and natural history. The architecture of this building is so stunning with unique decorations and gothic roofs. The displays found in Napier museum are rare collections of archaeological and historic artifacts, bronze idols, ancient ornaments, a temple chariot and ivory carvings. This Indo-Saracenic architectural structure boasts of a natural air-conditioning system. The grounds of the museum also contains a zoological garden which is one of the oldest in India. The Sree Chithra Art Gallery is also found within this museum. It contains art works of renowned painters such as Raja Ravi Varma and Nicholas Roerich. Tanjore paintings and Mughals art works can also be seen in this art gallery. A visit to this museum and the art gallery can give one a great view of the rich cultural heritage of Kerala.
5. Observatory - The Observatory is situated in the grounds of Kanakakunnu Palace. It is the highest area in the city of Thiruvananthapuram which is 60 metres above sea level. It is one of the oldest peaks of India. There is a well maintained garden in front of the hill with a section of beautiful rose collections. One can get a bird's eye view of the entire city from this peak.
6. Science and Technology Museum - This museum spans around two and a half hectares and is a very important feature of Thirvananthapuram city. Everything connected to science and technology can be seen and studied within this museum.
7. Priyadarsini Planetarium - The Priyadarshini Planetarium is one of the most renowned planetariums in India. It is located in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram city and close to the Science and Technology Museum. On the ceiling inside the planetarium, there are projections of many beautiful images depicting the heavenly celestial bodies and astronomies. It is a very educational place for young children who can learn many aspects of astronomy. A small fee is charged for each person before entering the planetarium. It is the perfect place of tourism for people who love to learn about the astronomical sciences and the process of evolution. Moreover the place is well air conditioned which helps you to look around the place comfortably.
8. Kowdiar Palace - This palace was built in 1915 by Sree Moolam Thirunal and was given as a gift to Sethu Parvati Bayi. At present, it is the residential place of the Travancore Royal Family. The architecture of the palace is absolutely exquisite with more than 150 rooms. As it is a residential palace, entry inside it is prohibited.
9. Chacha Nehru Children's Museum - This museum contains a wide display of beautiful dolls, stamps and masks which will be of great interest for children. The name of this museum was derived from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who is known for his love towards children. All types of dolls, both traditional and contemporary ones can be found in this museum which are brought from all over the world. The museum also contains a mini aquarium which is home to a good collection of colourful fishes. The first issue of the Children's literature in Malayalam can also be found inside this children's museum.
10. Shanghumugham beach - This is a small beach located 7 km from Trivandrum district near the Veli tourist villlage. The sunset views in this beach are breathtaking and is a favourite haunt among tourists. The beach is adjacent to the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Veli Tourist Village. The most attractive features of this beach are an indoor recreational club, a children's park, the matsya kanyaka or Jalakanyaka which is a huge, 35 m long artwork of a mermaid and a starfish-shaped restaurant.
11. Kovalam beach - Out of all the beaches, Kovalam beach is the most famous one among them in Kerala. It was the first beach to be titled as a major tourist destination of Kerala. This popularity comes from the cleanliness and safety of the beach. This beach is situated about 13 km from Trivandrum. The beaches with its turquoise coloured waters is also a popular choice for honeymoon seekers. The beaches of Kovalam have been divided into three parts - one is the southern Lighthouse Beach, the centered one is the Hawah beach which is the most crowded one among the others and the last one is the Samudra beach towards the north. The Vizhinjam lighthouse, which is 35m in height, is the highlight of Kovalam beach which brings a romantic ambience to the village by emitting its light throughout the day and night. The lighthouse is located on top of the Kurumkal hill which protrudes towards the sea and is filled with palm-coconuts. A spiralling staircase is provided for visitors to climb to the top of the lighthouse tower and enjoy the unimaginable and spectacular view of the surroundings. Kovalam beach is famous for the activities that it provides such as sunset-watch, surfing, Ayuverdic body massages and spas, swimming and sunbathing and catamaran cruising. Foreigners will love this beach as it is perfect for their usual beach activity called sunbathing with the tropical sun shimmering down at the beach and its shores. Though the beach is fine throughout the yeat, the best time to visit Kovalam beach is between September and March. Kovalam offers many accommodation facilities according to one's budget. The cleanliness of the place is what attracts foreigners to this beach. The beach also offers little stalls from where one can buy beautiful sea shells, handicrafts, paintings and wood materials to either decorate one's home or to gift to loved ones.
12. Akkulam Tourist Village - The Akkulam Tourist Village is situated about 10 kms from the centre of Thiruvananthapuram city. The place is famous as a spectacular picnic spot and a scenic backwater destination at Akkulam Lake. The Akkulam Lake is a continuation of the Veli Lake after which it joins the sea. Akkulam is also the home of the Southern Air Command of Indian Air Force. The calm and serene atmosphere of the Akkulam Lake is the perfect location to relax and rejuvenate your body from the daily tensions of life. The attractions in Akkulam Tourist Village include a boat club which offers many boating adventures, a children's park, snack bar, paddle pool, large swimming pool and backwater cruise.
13. Veli Tourist Village - The Veli Tourist Village is located near the Veli backwater lake situated almost 8 kms from Thiruvananthapuram city. Just like the Akkulam Tourist Village, Veli Tourist Village is also another place to relax and enjoy the scenic beauties of nature and the backwaters. The Shangumugham beach is located very near to Veli Tourist Village.
14. Kuthiramalika Palace - The meaning of Kuthira Malika is 'Mansion of horses' which makes sense as the palace has 122 horses carved within the wooden wall brackets on the southern roof of the palace. The actual name of the palace is Puthen Malika and it was built by Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma. It is the perfect place to get a glimpse of traditional Kerala architecture and cultural heritage. A part of the palace has been designed as a museum which displays some of the valuable assets that were owned by the Travancore Royal Family such as Kathakali costumes, Belgian mirrors, mural paintings, traditional musical instruments, traditional furniture etc.
15. Parasurama Temple Thiruvallam - Sree Parasurama Temple near Thiruvallam in Thiruvananthapuram is one of the oldest temples of south India. Located on the banks of Karamana River, it is the only temple in Kerala which is wholly dedicated to Lord Parasurama who is believed to be the creator of Kerala.
16. Varkala Sivagiri - Varkala is another popular beach town as well as a place for pilgrimage in Kerala. This beach is located 51 km north of Trivandrum district and 37 km south of Kollam district in Kerala. More than its beaches, the place is famous for its 2000 year old Janardhana Swami Temple. Lord Vishnu is the main deity of this temple. Many tourists visit this place for its age-old beauty and sereneness. The temple stands high on a cliff and overlooks the beach. The beach also offers meditation and ayurvedic centres. Adventurous sports activities are also available such as water skiing and surfing. One of the highlights of this beach is the cliffs that are adjacent to the sea and from which mineral water pours out containing important medicinal properties. Varkala beach offers some amazing beach resorts which provide sumptuous food as well as arranges high-class facilities for the tourists. The resorts also provide excellent spas to help you to relax and rejuvenate your body and mind. The Nature Care Centre is the most famous one among them. Another attraction of Varkala beach is an Ashramam-Sivagiri Mutt which is located nearby. The place consists of the Samadhi of the great Hindu reformer and philosopher Sree Narayana Guru.
17. Aruvikkara Dam - Aruvikkara Dam is a perfect picnic spot which is located on the banks of Karamana River. Nearby the Aruvikkara Dam, there is a popular Durga temple where many people come daily to offer their prayers and also to feed the fish in the stream. The dam also provides boating adventures which can make your trip more exciting. The place is known for its lush greenery and striking ambience with a lot of scenic beauty.
18. Neyyar Dam - Neyyar Dam is located 30 kms from Thiruvananthapuram at the tip of the Western Ghats. It is a gravity dam located on the Neyyar River. The place is famous as a picnic spot with scenic lakes and streams. A number of rare medicinal herbs can also be found in this region. Boating facilities are also provided for the tourists. The place also has a wildlife sanctuary known as Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary which is a very famous tourist spot. The sanctuary is home to many animal species such as wild boar, porcupines, elephants, wild buffaloes, tigers and snakes. From the watch tower provided in the area, tourists can even watch the jungle and if lucky, they can spot jungle cats, sambar deer, sloth bears and Nilgiri langurs. Other attractions of the Neyyar Dam are a crocodile farm, the lion safari park and the deer park.
19. Koyikkal Palace - Koyikkal Palace is located in a place called Nedumangad which is almost 18 kms from Thiruvananthapuram city on the way to Ponmudi hill station. Some of the attractions in this region are the palace itself, a folklore museum and numismatics (coin collection) museum. The palace was built by Umayamma Rani of the Venad royal family. The Folklore Museum has a good display of traditional musical instruments, household utensils and folk art models. It is a perfect place to catch a glimpse of the varied cultural heritage of Kerala. Some of the exhibits in this museum are Chandravalayam which is a very rare percussion instrument which is not found in any other museum of Kerala, musical instrument Nanthuni, old manuscripts called Thaliyola, old anklets called Chilambu, Oorakkudukku, Gajalekshmi (a lamp representing Goddess Lekshmi) and the ceremonial lamp called Kettuvilakku. The Numismatics museum is the only one of its kind in entire Kerala. The coins displayed here come from all around the world and from different generations. It shows a rare glimpse of the trade relations between Kerala and other parts of the world in the past years.
20. Peppara Dam and Wildlife Sanctuary - This wildlife sanctuary is situated near the Peppara Dam on the Karamana River about 50 kms northeast of Thiruvananthapuram. It has a rich variety of animal species such as tigers, leopards, sloth bears, elephants, sambar deer, bonnet macaque, nilgiri langur and Nilgiri Tahr. A large variety of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals can be seen in the sanctuary.
21. Ponmudi hill station - This is a very serene hill station located almost 61 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram city. It stands at a very elevated level of about 1000 m above sea level. Lying on the Western Ghats mountain parallel to the Arabian Sea, Ponmudi is the best place for trekking and hiking in Kerala. The Motta peak is one of the most famous trekking places here. The meaning of the word Ponmudi is 'golden hair' or 'golden crown' which represents the sun's golden rays which is emitted from the peak of the hills. The ambience of this hill station is simply spectacular and is perfect for nature lovers who have a spirit for adventure. It is both relaxing as the area is very peaceful with no noise pollution or any other pollutions as well as exciting as it offers many opportunities for trekking through the valleys and cottages around the hills. The place is filled with natural springs and is a great location for a picnic. The annual celebration of Aaranmula Boat Race (held in the month of August and September) takes place and is hosted by the Ponmudi hill station. One of the most famous attractions in this region is the Golden Valley which is a fascinating point to view the entire region. The area is also filled with plantations of tea, rubber, pepper and cardamom.
22. Agasthyakoodam - It is also known as Agastya Mala and is one of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats. The highest peak is at 1868 m. This peak has a mythological story behind its creation and is the most varied and unidentified ecological unit in India. The peak can be reached only by trekking and with prior permission from the Forest Department and is a paradise for people who love the wilderness. The mountain acts as a border between the states of Kerala (Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts) and Tamil Nadu(Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts). Many varieties of flora and fauna including medicinal plants can be witnessed in this place filled with lush greenery. The famous flower Neelakurunji is found here. There is a pilgrimage centre which abodes the Hindu sage Agastya (one of the seven rishis of Hindu Puranas) and many devotees go to the place to offer their pujas and prayers to the huge statue of Agastya which lies on top of the peak.
23. Tropical Botanical Garden - It is located in a place called Palode 32 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram city. It is widely known for its charming manmade forest. It serves both purposes as a research institute as well as a botanical garden. The garden is home to thousand varieties of plants and trees such as tea, coffee, pepper, tapioca, teak, banyan, fig, rubber, cactus and medicinal plants. The water needed for the garden's irrigation comes from the Chittar river which flows through this garden.
24. Padmanabhapuram Palace - This palace is one of the most popular attractions located almost 54 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram city. It is located in a small village called Padmanabhapuram and lies at the foot of the charming Veli hills. The palace is simply magnificent made completely of wood. It was built in the sixteenth century under the Travancore rulers. The interiors of this palace is filled with beautiful rosewood carvings. The best feature of the palace is its mesmerising architecture which has been designed with great skill and efforts. The art works found on each and every wall of the palace is worth visiting and also deserves a lot of appreciation. The Valli river can be witnessed from this palace and its surroundings are just enchanting. Yet again, this palace is another depiction of the wide variety of the culture of Kerala. The attractions within this palace includes the mural paintings, pictures of Lord Krishna, four poster medicinal bed, Belgian mirrors, carved mahogany ceiling, coloured mica windows, secret underground tunnels, inner courtyards and dance halls.
25. Thumba - Thumba is well known globally after the establishment of Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS). Later it has been renamed as Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in the name and honour of Dr Vikram Sarabhai who is the father of the space programs in India. It is a major space research centre of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and is located in Thiruvananthapuram. It concentrates on the production and launch of rockets and other space vehicles for India's satellite programme. Thumba is actually a big village in Thiruvananthapuram. It got its name Thumba as a large number of the medicinal plant called Thumba can be found in this region.