Kanyakumari is the southern-most tip of mainland India and is the meeting point of the three seas surrounding India: the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Though the idea of Kanyakumari is big, the town itself is tiny – everything is within a radius of five kilometres. But this space is packed with hotels, tawdry restaurants and souvenir shops, making for a town that is less attractive than what its location deserves.

For most tourists who come to Kanyakumari, it is a place of worship. They come in droves to genuflect before Kanyakumari (literally, the Maiden Goddess), and the gigantic statues of Swami Vivekananda, who meditated here, and Thiruvalluvar, the pithy Tamil poet – all of them on the seafront.

Prashant Panjiar
The imposing 133-ft-tall statue of Saint Thiruvalluvar
The imposing 133-ft-tall statue of Saint Thiruvalluvar

Kanyakumari also offers spectacular views during sunrises and sunsets. It’s not everywhere that you can watch the sun rise from the sea in the morning and, later in the evening, plunge back into it.

Take off to Suchindram, a charming temple or pack a picnic and head for the Dutch fort at Vattakottai, with its natural beach. There are a couple of other beaches too and though they have little to offer in terms of infrastructure, the drive down is likely to be a pleasant and enjoyable one.

Things to See & Do
Right on the beach, the ancient Devi Kumari Temple that lends its name to Kanyakumari houses an idol of the virgin goddess Devi Kanyakumari made of blue stone.

It is believed that the temple once stood on the Vivekananda Rock, and the natural footprint-shaped indent found there is said to be that of the Devi herself. (The footprint is now enclosed in a shrine.) It is said that the temple was rebuilt on the main-land when sea erosion broke down the rock.

In 1892, Swami Vivekananda is said to have meditated on this rocky outcrop, now called Vivekananda Rock before he started his philosophical journey. The memorial was built in 1970. It can be reached by a government-run ferry. It’s a very popular tourist destination. A meditation hall is attached to the memorial. Its design incorporates myriad temple architectural styles from all over the country. On a rock nearby is a 133-ft-tall statue of Saint Thiruvalluvar (built in 2000), the author of the famous Thirukkural couplets, a masterpiece of Tamil literature written many centuries ago. It weighs about 7,000 tons. The 1,000-year-old Guhanadeeswara Temple dedicated to Shiva was built during the Chola reign. It has a pleasant garden but the original stone temple itself has been revamped with plaster and paint.

Fishermen at work
Fishermen at work

Padmanabhapuram Palace, built around 1601, is a granite fortress that was the residence of the Travancore rulers. On the southern shore of Kanyakumari is the Tsunami Memorial Park, a monument that pays homage to the lives lost during the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.

On the rocky seafront at Kanyakumari, a boundary wall of sorts has been constructed above the shoreline. There is a walkway here that’s frequented by bead sellers, ice-cream vendors and hawkers with seashells, starfish and conches. Sothavillai Beach has some gazebos, a viewing tower and a small snack shop. Sanguthurai Beach is down the road from Sothavillai. You can also visit Thekkuruchi and Muttom Beach, and Thengapattinam Beach. The last is an old maritime town with a 1,000-year-old mosque.

Where to Stay
Sparsa Resorts
(Tel: 04652-247041/ 42; Tariff: ₹5,400–7,200) is a luxurious property located near Sunset Point. They have a play area for kids, offer free Wi-Fi, and a swimming pool.

Hotel Sea View (Tel: 247841; Tariff: ₹2,300–4,200) is the biggest hotel in Kanyakumari. It has spacious rooms, good views and a luxurious ambience.

Hotel Tri Sea (Tel: 246586; Tariff: ₹1,200–7,000) on Kovalam Road is a short walk from the seashore. Hotel Tamil Nadu (Tel: 246257; Tariff: ₹750– 3,000) is located by the shore, on Beach Road. Hotel Singaar International (Tel: 247992; Tariff: ₹3,000–6,000) is on the Main Road. They have a restaurant, bar, pool and a children’s park.

In the middle of all the noise is Hotel Maadhini (Tel: 246387, 246887; Tariff: ₹1,000–2,000) on East Car Street.

What to Eat
Kanyakumari is known mainly for the delicious south Indian dishes that many of its restaurants serve.

The restaurant at Sparsa Resorts is good and serves fresh seafood. They also have a bar. Hotel Sea View also has a multi-cuisine restaurant that is worth trying. Hotel Annapoorna on Sannathi Street, near the beach, offers a range of sumptuous south Indian vegetarian food. Saravana Restaurant, on the same street, also offers the same. Srikrishna Restaurant, also on Sannathi Street, is immensely popular.

Archana is Hotel Maadhini’s garden restaurant. They also have an AC restaurant by the same name. If you’re in the mood for proper seafood when you’re visiting Kanyakumari, you will be disappointed as, at most restaurants, the closest you get to it is fish fry.

Fast Facts
When to go
November–March. Avoid the hot summers and Puja holidays in October–November, when the place is crowded

Tourist Offices

Tamil Nadu Tourist Office, Beach Road, Kanyakumari, Tel: 04652-246276, Cell: 09176995871

STD code 04652

Getting There

Air Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram (87km/ 2hrs) Taxi costs ₹2,000. Bus fare is ₹85

Rail Kanyakumari is served by two trains in the morning (7.00am and 10.30am) from Thiruvanathapuram. It is also connected to Chennai

Road Bus Regular buses (private and government) ply from Thiruvananthapuram ( 2.5hrs/ ₹85–160), and Chennai (16hrs/ ₹400–700 approx)