Thiruvananthapuram’s name itself speaks of a rich slowness. Having a lolling moniker that visitors struggle to pronounce is one of the many idiosyncrasies of a capital city that is quite content to don a small town cloak. There is, of course, no mistaking the scent of power in its clean streets. As the capital of Kerala, this is the city where politicians rant about one another. At the same time, this city is also about lovely tree-lined avenues and gorgeous crimson sunsets by the sea.

Fast Facts

When to go October to February

Tourist offices

Directorate of Tourism, Government of Kerala, Park View, Thiruvananthapuram, Tel: 0471-2321132, keralatourism.org

KTDC Central Reservations, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., Mascot Square, Thiruvananthapuram, Tel: 2316736, 2725213, Fax: 2721254, ktdc.com

District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), Opposite Raj Bhavan, Vellayambalam, Thiruvananthapuram, Tel: 2315397, dtpcthiruvananthapuram.com

Things to See & Do

Padmanabhaswamy Temple
This temple is probably around 2,000 years old, finding mention in Sangam literature from the early first millennium CE. The earliest of the existing structures date back to the 11th century, though much of the original wooden structure was rebuilt in stone after being destroyed in fire. It is instantly recognisable by the Dravidian-style gopuram at the east gate, a rare sight in Kerala. Its architectural style symbolically unites the Malayalam and Tamil people of Travancore. Inside the temple, the idol of Mahavishnu sits upon the five-headed serpent, an image of divine power in repose. There are three notable aspects of the idol, for each of which there is a separate darshan: the god’s feet, his navel with a lotus emerging from it and his face. Brahma is seated on the lotus and a shivalinga sheltered in his right hand. Outside the southern door of the cheruchuttu is a shrine for Narasimha. The western part of the outer prakaram houses a temple of Lord Krishna, with its own richly carved japamandapam and flagstaff.

Vivek R Nair
A view of Padmanabhaswamy Temple from across the Padmatheertham
A view of Padmanabhaswamy Temple from across the Padmatheertham

The 1,000-pillared hall here houses a granite bell on a granite chain, with musical pillars at the four corners of the hall, and evocative sculptures. The abhishravana mandapam, inside the inner prakaram and in line with the sreekovil, has polished granite images of the five Pandavas along with exquisite bronze lamps. The evening deeparadhana at the temple is a sight to behold. For the best view, visitors are advised to get in line with the doors to the cheruchuttu which is open to devotees for darshan till 7.20pm.

The temple hosts two major ten-day festivals, in October–November and March–April, which end in a procession to the sea where the deity is immersed. Once in six years, the temple holds a murajapam during which the Vedas are recited for 56 days. This is followed by the Lakshadeepam Mahotsava, when the temple is lit up with a 100,000 lamps.

Entry Free Darshan Timings 3.30–4.30am; 6.45–7.15am; 8.30– 11.00am; 5.00–6.15pm; 6.45–7.20pm Tel 0471-2450233

Tip The temple timings change during festivals and on special occasions. Men must be bare-chested and wear mundus. Near the sreekovil, they have to tie an upper cloth around their waist. Women must wear saris. Mundus can be rented at the cloakroom, at the east entrance. Non-Hindus are not permitted within the temple premises

Kuthiramalika Palace
The Kuthiramalika Palace is a complex consisting of palaces as well as other buildings. At the entrance to the inner palace are slanting wooden beams in the upper galleries, carved in the form of grinning kuthiras (horses). The palace was built in the 19th century by Swathi Thirunal, the composer and king who, along with Thyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar, is a part of the ‘Carnatic Music Trinity’. It displays the king’s collection of musical instruments as well as a variety of arms.

Entry Indians ₹10; Children ₹3; Foreigners ₹20 Timings 8.30am– 1.00pm & 3.00–5.30pm Closed Monday Photography ₹15

Ganapathy Temple
The small idol housed in the temple was found in a river by a soldier of the Nair Infantry of Travancore and installed in its present location in the 18th century. The infantry, now known as the Madras Regiment, still runs the temple. The temple is known for the record number of coconuts – nearly 10,000 – broken here every day by devotees.

Timings 4.30–10.45am & 5.00– 8.30pm Tel 0471-2461929

Tip Men must be bare chested to enter the inner prakaram

Attukal Bhagavathy Temple
This shrine is best known for the Pongal festival in the months of March and April. During this festival, women gather along the road to the temple, and cook sweet pongal to offer to the Goddess.

Timings 5.00am–12.00pm & 5.00– 8.30pm Tel 0471-2463130, 2456456 Email attukal@vsnl.com, ttukal.org

Where to Stay
Among the high end hotels, Vivanta by Taj (Tel: 0471-6612345; Tariff: ₹7,000– 35,000) is the best here. Hilton Garden Inn (Tel: 6600000; Tariff: ₹5,500–13,000), has a multi-cuisine restaurant, bar, swimming pool and fitness centre. KTDC’s Hotel Mascot (Tel: 2318900; Tariff: ₹5,000–20,000) at PMG Junction has a renowned Ayurveda centre.

Among the upscale and mid-range hotels is Hotel Chirag Inn (Tel: 2555556; Tariff: ₹2,200–3,500) on MG Road, with 43 rooms and a restaurant. Hotel Horizon (Tel: 2326888, 4055555, Cell: 082811-82811; Tariff: ₹2,900–4,900) located on Arista Road, is a good option.

The cleanest and freshest at the mid-budget options is Hotel Highland Park (Tel: 2338800, Cell: 09847206937; Tariff: ₹1,100–2,500) on Manjalikulam Road, which has 38 rooms and a vegetarian restaurant. Oasis Hotel (Tel: 2333223; Tariff: ₹770–2,600) is a fine budget hotel. The YWCA Interntional Guesthouse (Tel: 2477308, 2463690; Tariff: ₹950–1,500), is another cheap option. KTDC’s Hotel Chaithram (Tel: 2330977; Tariff: ₹1,600–4,000) is a good option too.

Thiruvananthapuram has a crop of new homestays. Among these are Graceful Homestay (Tel: 2444429; Tariff: ₹1,650–2,750), set in a very elegant villa in Philip’s Hill, with four rooms, home-cooked meals and Internet. Nandanam Homestay (Tel: 2474213, Cell: 09072289393; Tariff: ₹800–1,500) has five rooms and a self-catering kitchen. Somasree (Tel: 2465490; Tariff: ₹1,900–2,200) is located right next to Pettah Station and has two rooms.

Varikkat Heritage Home (Tel: 2336057, Cell: 09895239055; Tariff: ₹4,000–6,000) is a charming heritage villa on Punnen Road.

Where to Eat
For a quick bite, the Indian Coffee House is a great option. Head to Hotel Aryaas, a clean, well-lit restaurant with a large vegetarian menu. Mamma Mia is good for some ice-cream, chaat and cold coffee. Sree Padmanabha Hotel serves snacks and milk shakes. Stop by at Arya Nivaas at about 4.00pm, when the crisp onion vadas are hot and fresh. This is also a good spot for grabbing some dosas, idlis and idiappams, and tasty Keralite thali. Swagath Vegetarian Restaurant at Hotel Chirag Inn has tasty thalis. Malabar Paradise, in the same hotel, offers a wide range of multi-cuisine food. Don’t miss out on Villa Maya, a fine-dining restaurant in a 100-year-old mansion.

For excellent vegetarian and non-vegetarian Chinese food, head to Dragon Court in Jas Hotel. Zam Zam in Palayam is packed most of the time. It is quite popular for its Arabic food and exotic desserts. Zodiac that serves a good Keralite breakfast. Amritha Hotel has a good multi-cuisine restaurant.

Getting There

Air Trivandrum International Airport is connected to Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kochi. Taxi to town costs ₹350–400

Rail Trivandrum Central is connected to Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai by Rajdhanis, Sampark Kranti and Express trains.

Road Thiruvananthapuram is located on NH47 that links Salem to Kanyakumari via Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Alleppey and Kollam. Kerala’s SH1 (Main Central Road) links Thiruvananthapuram to the Cochin International Airport near Angamaly in Ernakulam District, via Kilimannur, Kottarakkara, Adoor, Thiruvalla, Changanassery, Kottayam, Muvattupuzha, Perumbavoor and Kalady. Kanyakumari is 87km south of Thiruvananthapuram via Nagercoil and Padmanabhapuram Bus Thiruvananthapuram’s KSRTC Bus Stand (Enquiry Tel: 0471-2323886, 2325332) in East Fort connects it with most towns in Kerala. Frequent services for Kollam, Alleppey, Kottayam, Kochi, Thrissur, Palakkad and Kozikode are available.