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South Kerala

Kottayam

This historical town derives it's name from the malayalam word "kottayakam" - meaning "Within the fort". It lies sandwiched between the palm fringed backwaters on the west and the Western Ghats on the East. Kottayam is famous for it's cultural achievements. It was the first town in Kerala to achieve total literacy in India, an event that triggered a mass movement across India. It is also the mecca of the publishing scene. It houses dozens of magazines and newspapers including Kerala's first newspaper - Deepika (Founded - 1887) as well as the country's largest selling daily and weekly from the Malayala Manorama Group, kottayam. It is also the birthplace of a unique institution - the Sahitya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham, perhaps the first ever co-operative of writers. Kottayam is also an important commercial centre because of it's plantations of rubber, tea, coffee and pepper. Kottayam is also known as land of Letters, Latex and Lakes because of the highest literacy in India, extensive rubber plantations and different lakes forming in great expanse of water called the Vembanad into which a network of rivers like Manimala, Pamba, Achankovil empty.

Kottayam at a glance :

Kottayam at a glance :
Area 2203 sq km
Altitude Sea level
Population 18,20,000
Climate Tropical humid. Cool and pleasant in the high ranges and the cardamom hills.
Best season September to March
Rainfall (Annual) 346 cm

How to reach

By Air
The nearest airport is at Kochi, 75 km away.

By Train

It is linked by train to most indian cities. The railway station is 3 km away from the City centre. The main ferry station is also 3 km away and offers scenic backwater cruises to Mannar, Alleppy, Champakulam, Kavalam, Mankombu and Ambalapuzha.

Places of Interest

Picnic Spots

Kumarakom
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
The Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom
Pathiramanal
Reservoirs at Nattakom and Panachikad
Tourist Land, Vaikom
Mannanam Tourist Home
Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls
Karimbukayam - Meloram
Ilaveezhapoonchira
Marmala Stream

Museums
Bay Island Driftwood Museum

Monuments
Poonjar Palace
Kottathavalam
Kolani Mudi
Anchuvilakku

Religious Places
Siva Temple, Thalikkotta
Mahadevar Temple, Ettumanoor
Shiva Temple, Vaikom
Thirunakkara Mahadevar Temple
Siva Temple, Vazhappalli, Changanacherry
Surya Temple, Adityapuram
Saraswathi Temple, Panachikkad
Bhagavathy Temple, Ambalakkadavu
Bhagavathy Temple, Manarcad
Kavil Bhagavathy Temple, Changanacherry
Pallipurathukavu
Sree Subramanya Swami Temple, Perunna
Kalkulathukavu Temple, Vazhappalli
Kurisumala
Erumeli
Ayyappara
St. Mary's Church, Cheriapalli
St. Mary's Church, Manarcad
St. Mary's Church, Kuravilangad
St. Mary's Church, Athirampuzha
St. Mary's Church, Kudamaloor
Aruvithira Church
St. Thomas Mount
the Vaikom Lake and the surrounding areas
St. Thomas Church, Pala
St. Thomas Church, Cherpungal
Thazhathangadi Valiapalli
St. George's Church, Puthupalli
CSI Cathedral Church
Old Seminary, Marthoma Seminary
Vadavathoor Seminary
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
St. Joseph's Monastery, Mannanam
Kaduthuruthi Valiapalli
Vimalagiri Church
Jama Masjid, Thazhathangadi
Pazhayapalli, Changanacherry
Puthenpalli, Erattupetta
Thangalppara

Hills
Vazhikkadavu
Wagamon
Kayyoor, Bharananganam
Illickal Mala
Illickal Kallu
Mankallu Mudikal
Nadukani
Kannadipara

Others
Pala and Kanjirapally
Vayaskara and Chirattamon
Boat Race in Kottayam

Picnic Spots

Kumarakom

An unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with white lilies. Situated on the Vembanad Lake, in this small water world you'll come across plenty of traditional country crafts, boats and canoes which will take you into the heart of the scenic lake. The resorts nearby offer comfortable accomodation and exclusive leisure options like an Ayurvedic massage, yoga, meditation, boating, fishing, angling and swimming.

Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

The village of Kumarakom is a cluster of little islands on the Vembanad Lake, and is part of the Kuttanad region. The bird sanctuary here, which is spread across 14 acres is a favourite haunt of migratory birds and an ornithologist's paradise. Egrets, darters, herons, teal, waterfowl, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian stork that live here in flocks are a fascination for visitors. The best way to watch the birds of the Kumarakom sanctuary is a boat trip round the islands. An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom offers visitors many other leisure options. Boating and fishing facilities are available at the Taj Garden Retreat, a sprawling old bungalow-turned-resort. The Kumarakom Tourist Village Complex of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation has independent cottages built on stills, set among coconut and banana plantations. Holiday packages on the houseboats, traditional Kettuvalloms, are an out-of-this-world experience. This place is about 16 Km away from Kottayam and Kottayam is about 76 Km from Cochin International Airport. June to August is the best season to visit.

The Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom

Kottayam is a vast network of rivers and canals which empty into the great expanse of water called the Vembanad Lake. The lake, an enchanting picnic spot and a fast developing backwater tourism destination, provides boating, fishing and sightseeing experiences that are truly exhilarating. The Kumarakom Tourist Village offers houseboat cruises and holiday packages. The serene lake comes alive during Onam with a spectacular water regatta - the snake boat races. It is indeed amazing to watch oarsmen, at least a hundred in one boat, slice their way through the waters to the fast rhythm of their own full throated singing. It is 16 km away from Kottayam.

Pathiramanal

This 10 acre island on the backwaters is home to many rare varieties of migratory birds from different parts of the world. According to mythology a young brahmin dived into the Vembanad Lake to perform his evening ablutions and the water made way for land to rise from below. The island can be accessed only by boat.

Reservoirs at Nattakom and Panachikad

Adding to the charm of these quiet villages are their scenic reservoirs escorted by vivid green all along. Migratory birds come seeking this verdant landscape every summer and frolic in the natural splendours till the end of the season. A boat ride from Kodoorar in Panachikad to Kumarakom is a great way to relax and enjoy nature's bounties. Facilities here cater to the recreation needs of tourists, from soothing Ayurvedic massages to boating, fishing and swimming.

Tourist Land, Vaikom

This is a quaint picnic spot ideal for a langorous break. Tourists can avail of recreation options at this place too. Boat cruises are available on the Vaikom Lake.

Mannanam Tourist Home

This was set up by the DTPC to provide quality accomodation to the holidaying crowd. An intricate network of shimmering waterways embroider the richly green landscape, making the land charming in every detail. Boat cruise packages are being thoughtfully designed to give tourists the most memorable experience. The enchanting journey will take you through the Pennar Canal to the picturesque backwater districts of Alappuzha and Ernakulam.

Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls

2 km down a mud lane from Kumarakom is this beautiful picnic spot where streams tinkle as they make their way through the landscape and waters roar as they cascade down the mountains from a height of 100 ft. Tourists can also enjoy the shade of the rubber plantations here. It is 18 km away from Kottayam.

Karimbukayam - Meloram

This quaint spot on the Manimala River that flows between the Kanjirapally (a plantation town) and Erumeli panchayats is much sought-after for its natural splendours. However what makes the place really popular are the occasional exotic water fiestas on the reservoirs organised by the enthusiastic people.

Ilaveezhapoonchira

Located 15 km from Thodupuzha, spread over a thousand acres, this beautiful land locked by green hillocks skirts the Kottayam district. The place gets its name from the fact that there's not a single tree in the vicinity and hence no leaf falls there (literally ila - leaf; veezhuka - fall; chira - height). The verdant landscape, punctuated by four gigantic hills named Mankunnu, Kadayathoormala, Thanippara etc., each rising to around 3200 feet, is ideal for trekking. During the monsoon when the valley gets filled up to form a scenic lake, Ilaveezhapoonchira unveils yet another beautiful slice of God's Own Country. This is also one of the best places in Kerala to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset. A DTPC rest house nearby offers comfortable accommodation. Thodupuzha is about 57 km away from Kottayam and Kottayam town is about 76 km from Cochin International Airport.

Marmala Stream

This scenic stream and its breathtaking waterfalls are together referred to as the enchantress of the jungle. Sliding down numerous hillocks from a height of 200 ft., the gushing water has etched out over the years a deep pond in the rocks. Right under the waterfalls is a natural bridge.

Museums

Bay Island Driftwood Museum

A Museum to display a unique collection of superior quality driftwood articles of very high artistic value, prepared through a rate and innovative modern art form, is functioning at the scenic village of Kumarakom. A Visitor would find there a huge collection of root sculptures of various shapes and designs. During her professional tenure in the Andaman & Nicobar archipelago, a dynamic lady school teacher used to pick up pieces of driftwood deposited by the sea in the shores, comprising twisted tree trunks, stumps, roots etc. which had potential for transformation to sculptures with marginal efforts. The admirers and connoisseurs of this rare and innovative form of art frequent the Bay Island Driftwood Museum. The student community finds the art form adopted in the preparation of the exhibits in the museum interesting and educative as the museum inculcates in them the qualities of imagination, creativity, originality and initiation to produce useful articles out of materials normally considered waste. It is open from 10 am to 1 pm and from 1.30 pm to 6 pm on all weekdays and on Sunday from 12.30 pm to 6 pm and closed on Monday.

For more information
Bay Island Driftwood Museum,
Chakranpadi (Near Lakshmi Hotel & Resort), Kumarakom North,
Kottayam, Kerala 686 566
Museum: 0481-2525634,
Curator (Mob): 94474-64296
Curator (Res) :0481-2517530

Monuments

Poonjar Palace

The Poonjar Palace is a glorious testimony to the regal opulence of a bygone era. It is located at Poonjar on the Pala-Erattupetta route, Kottayam. Within the palace walls is an extraordinary royal collection of antiques and exquisite furniture including a palanquin, a thoni carved out of a single piece of wood for Ayurvedic massages, huge chandeliers, palm leaf engravings, jewel boxes, varieties of lamps, sculptures of Nataraja (the dancing Siva), grain measures, statues and weapons. A unique couch preserved here is taken out once a year for ritualistic purposes. Near the palace is an amazing replica of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple. The walls of this temple bear sculptures that narrate stories from the Puranas (the legends of ancient India). However, the most fascinating thing here is the Chuttuvilakku (row of lamps) carved out on the stonewalls of the Sastha Temple nearby. Such rocks cut lamps are rare in India. Pala is about 30 Km from Kottayam and Kottayam town is about 76 km from Cochin International Airport.

Kottathavalam

Near Murugan hills at Kurushumala, a flight of steps cut in the rocks takes one to this magnificent cave. Legends say that the royal family from Madurai rested here on their way to Poonjar. The rocks within the cave, carved like chairs and couches and the figures of Madurai Meenakshi, Ayyappa, Murugan, Kannaki and weapons sculpted on them, are all worth exploring.

Kolani Mudi Yet another peak in the Ilaveezhapoonchira mountain range, which also has a cave.

Anchuvilakku

This stone lamp post, a typical example of Kerala architecture, was built near the Changanacherry boat jetty by the renowned freedom fighter Veluthampi Dalawa. The Changanacherry market, one of the largest in Kerala, was also established by him. The five lamps on this post are lit using kerosene. It is 22 km away from Kottayam.

Religious Places

Siva Temple, Thalikkotta

This is the place of worship of the erstwhile Thekkumkoor royal family. It is two Km from Kottayam. A ten day festival Utsavam in April-May and Sivarathri Festival in January-February is celebrated every year at this temple.

Mahadevar Temple, Ettumanoor

This temple is famous for its murals, especially the painting of Nataraja in the gopuram and ezharaponnana. It is 12 km north of Kottayam town. A ten day festival of Ezharaponnana ezhunallathu in February-March is celebrated every year at this temple.

Shiva Temple, Vaikom

Associated with the legendary Parasurama, this temple is a typical example of the Kerala style of temple architecture. More popular as the Kasi of the South, this temple is famous for its elephant pageants and traditional art performances. It is 40 km from Kottayam town. Vaikathashtami in November/December is celebrated every year at this temple.

Thirunakkara Mahadevar Temple

In the heart of Kottayam town is this 500 year old temple built by the Thekkumkoor Maharajah. This temple built in the Kerala style of architecture has colourful murals on its walls which are worth exploring. The Koothambalam, the special building in the temple premises used for cultural purposes, is one of the best in Kerala.

Siva Temple, Vazhappalli, Changanacherry
It is 17 km from Kottayam and famous for its sculptures.

Surya Temple, Adityapuram

The only temple in Kerala dedicated to Aditya, the sun god. The first and last Sundays of the zodiacs Scorpio ( November- December) and Aries (April - May) are considered auspicious.

Saraswathi Temple, Panachikkad

This temple, also known as the Mookambika Temple of the South, holds the Saraswathi pooja every year in October/November. Children are initiated into the world of letters at the Vidhyarambham ceremony held here.

Bhagavathy Temple, Ambalakkadavu

The Arattu ritual of the Thirunakkara Mahadevar Temple takes place here. Vishu Festival is celebrated in April/May.

Bhagavathy Temple, Manarcad

Centuries old temple dedicated to goddess Bhadrakali. Kalamezhuthupattu, Kumbha bharani, Meena bharani, Patham udayam, Mandalam chirappu are the main events of this temple.

Kavil Bhagavathy Temple, Changanacherry

Built by one of the Thekkumkoor Maharajas. Festival: It is 18 km from Kottayam. Kavil chirappu is celebrated in December - January here.

Pallipurathukavu Patham udaya mahotsavam is celebrated here.

Sree Subramanya Swami Temple, Perunna

This place is 20 km from Kottayam. Annual Festival of Pallimetta utsavam is held in November - December.

Kalkulathukavu Temple, Vazhappalli

This temple is famous for its Mudiyeduppu utsavam celebrated once in 12 years and the rare art forms connected with it. The procession carrying madhu (honey), kulavazha (plantain tree with the fruit), bhairavi purapadu and darika vadha purappadu etc. is a grand affair.

Kurisumala

3 km from Vazhikkadavu is this renowned Christian pilgrim centre where hundreds of devotees from far and near converge during the holy week and after, to climb the hill in faith, carrying small wooden crosses. The peaceful Monastry at the top of the hill, the silence of the hills, the cool mountain air and the lush green landscape are all soothing to the soul. On the eastern side of the hill is Muruganmala housing a rock cut temple dedicated to Murugan (son of Lord Shiva). The road to Kurisumala offers some real sightseeing opportunities in a European model house and the beautiful artificial lake, both designed by the renowned architect, Laurie Baker.

Erumeli

Nestled in the lush green Western Ghats is this nature-rich village. This is also the entrance point to South India's most prominent pilgrim centres - the Sabarimala Temple. Vavarambalam mosque dedicated to Vavar, a companion of the deity - Sree Ayyappa - of the Sabarimala temple is also located here. The mosque is unique in that Hindu pilgrims customarily worship here before their trek to Sabarimala. Festival of Pettathullal is held in January every year. At Kanakapalam nearby, teak plantations dot the landscape. It is 60 km north-east of Kottayam town.

Ayyappara

According to legends, the five Pandava brothers - epic heroes of the Mahabharatha - stayed near this rock, 2000 ft. above sea level and spread over 20 acres, during their exile. The name of the rock is said to be a modified version of the original term Anchupara (five rocks). However, some say that the name owes its origin to the Ayyappa Temple here. This temple has four pillars which support a flat piece of rock that forms the roof. On one side of the rock is a cave that can accommodate over 15 people. The sunset is beautiful from here. Above all, the cool mountain breeze does wonders to your mind and body.

St. Mary's Church, Cheriapalli

Built in 1579 by Thekkumkoor Maharajah, this church displays outstanding architecture which is a blend of Kerala and Portuguese styles. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals made in oriental and western styles on biblical and non biblical themes. It is 2 km from Kottayam town.

St. Mary's Church, Manarcad

This is one of the most important churches of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Christians. The ettunompu (8 day fasting) is the main annual event when devotees from far and wide congregate to participate in the prayers and rituals. It is located 8 km from Kottayam town.

St. Mary's Church, Kuravilangad

Built in 355 AD on the high ranges of Kuravilangad town, this church has an old bell which bears an undeciphered inscription.

St. Mary's Church, Athirampuzha

This church was built in 1080 AD and was renovated in 1874. The annual feast here celebrated in honour of St. Sebastian is a big event with fireworks and illuminations. Votive offerings of gold and silver arrows set this event apart from other festivals.

St. Mary's Church, Kudamaloor

This church, 800 years old, was built by Chempakasseri Maharajah. The ritual offering here is a traditional water bag and rope used to draw water from the well. The Kudamaloor Temple is equally famous.

Aruvithira Church

Believed to be one of the seven churches established by St. Thomas, this is also one of the churches in Kerala which collects the largest amount of monetary offerings during the festival days. The annual feast is celebrated on the 22, 23 and 24th of April. It is 11 km from Kottayam.

St. Thomas Mount

This holy place of Christians is located 1200 ft. above sea level and offers a panoramic view of the Vaikom Lake and the surrounding areas

St. Thomas Church, Pala
The church dates back to 1002 AD and was renovated once in the 18th century.

St. Thomas Church, Cherpungal

Believed to have been established by the apostle St. Thomas, this church was relocated to the southern banks of the Meenachil River with the cooperation of poet Kunchan Nambiar and his family. In 1107, the Valiapalli was built on the original site. Here oil poured into lamps kept before the image of Infant Jesus is the votive offering - a ritual similar to the devotional practices of Hindus.

Thazhathangadi Valiapalli

Built in 1550 AD, this church belongs to the Knanaya Orthodox Syrian Community. The Persian cross, believed to be one of the seven brought here by St. Thomas, and the Pahlavi inscriptions of this church are famous. It is located 2 km west of Kottayam town.

St. George's Church, Puthupalli

This church is believed to have been built by the Thekkumkoor Rajas. The golden cross in this church is well known. The feast of St. George (Gee Varghese) is the annual event.
The CSI Cathedral Church, built over 175 years ago, is a monument from the British Era.
The Old Seminary, Marthoma Seminary and Vadavathoor Seminary proclaim Syrian and Roman Christian traditions.

The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church has its headquarters at Devalokam, Kottayam.

St. Joseph's Monastery, Mannanam

This church was built by the blessed Father Chavara Kuriakose Elias. The mortal remains of this saintly priest is preserved here. Thousands of devotees gather here to pay homage to the saint every day. It is situated near Medical College.

Kaduthuruthi Valiapalli

Built in 500 AD, the church has a huge cross sculpted out of a single stone at the entrance. It is situated on MC Road between Ettumanoor and Vaikom.

Vimalagiri Church

This temple built in the Gothic architectural style has a 172 ft. tower which is one of the tallest church towers in Kerala. The feast is celebrated in December.

Jama Masjid, Thazhathangadi

This ancient mosque on the banks of the Meenachil River is believed to be 1000 years old. It is one of the oldest in India. . It is located 2 km from Kottayam town.

Pazhayapalli, Changanacherry

This 950 year old mosque is one of the most famous ones of Central Travancore. The annual festival, Thangal adiyanthiram, is well known and is marked by a grand community feast. Meat and two tonnes of rice, offered by the devotees, is used to prepare biriyani for the community feast on this day. The Chandanakuddam festival at the mosque is one of the largest crowd pulling events in Changanacherry town. It is 21 km from Kottayam town.

Puthenpalli, Erattupetta
The famous Chandanakudam is celebrated here in February/December.

Thangalppara

The mausoleum of Sheikh Fariduddin found here makes this place a famous Muslim pilgrim centre. Nearby is the scenic hill station of Kurathikallu and the beautiful Kottathavalam.

Hills

Vazhikkadavu

On the outskirts of the district is this hill station of rocky terrains sought after for its pristine nature. On one side of the main rock are extremely tall and steep rocks and on the other is a valley of fearful depth. Bordering this crude landscape like a silver lace is the Meenachil River. During the months of December/January the landscape comes alive in a riot of colours with orchids and wild flowers.

Wagamon

This enchanting hill station on the Idukki - Kottayam border, dotted with tea gardens and meadows. The breeding centre of the Kerala Livestock Board is located here.

Kayyoor, Bharananganam

An enchanting landscape formed by a chain of green hills at the Bharananganam panchayat. A shrine dedicated to the Pandava brothers of the epic Mahabharatha is found here. As in the famous temple at Sabarimala, only ghee is used to light the lamps here. Women are not permitted inside the temple.

Illickal Mala

Numerous mountain streams in this peak, 6000 ft. above sea level, flow down to form the serene Meenachil River. The solitude, the tranquility, the gentle breeze and the star spangled sky here are all enchanting beyond words. Tourists have to trek up 3 km to reach the top of the hill. And if you so wish, you could even spend the night on the heights.

Illickal Kallu

Three hills, each rising to 4000 ft. and above, together form this huge hill. Each of the hills have a peculiar shape. One of them resemble a mushroom owing to which it gets its name Kuda Kallu (umbrella shaped rock). It is said that the medicinal herb Neela Koduveli, which bathes the hillsides in blue, grows here. This flower is also believed to possess supernatural powers which could increase wealth and ensure a rich harvest. The second hill, has a small hunch on the sides and is therefore referred to as Kuunu Kallu (hunch back rock). Across this rock is a 1/2 ft. wide bridge called Narakapalam (bridge to hell). From the hilltops, the Arabian Sea can be seen in the distant horizon as a thin blue line. The sunset on a full moon day is sensational, when the moon can be seen rising up like another sun, as the orange sun goes down.

Mankallu Mudikal

The three hills in this region lie close to each other, their flat hilltops covered with lush grasslands. An aerial view of these resemble a traditional clay oven. With no trees around, the hilltops give you the feeling that you are walking in the clouds.

Nadukani

A picturesque location at the top of a hill with endless stretches of meadows girded by huge rocks. A bird's eye view of the low lying places can be enjoyed from here.

Kannadipara

As the name suggests, the valley of this rocky mountain reflects the morning sun with a mirror like perfection. This is also the highest point in Ilaveezhapoonchira. 3 km from here is the Pazhakakanam Plateau nourished by the Kadapuzha River. Bamboo groves, meadows and wild flowers make this place exotic. An added attraction here is the Kazhukankulimali Waterfalls that playfully cascade down the mountain and greet the river below with a magnificent splash. On the eastern side of Kannadipara is a natural fort set amidst steep rocks.

Others

Vayaskara and Chirattamon
These places are well known for their Ayurvedic rejuvenation centres.

Pala and Kanjirapally
Nourished by the Meenachil and Manimala rivers respectively, these two towns are centres of rubber plantations.

Boat Race in Kottayam

Every year, during Onam season, Kavanattinkara and Kumarakom Boat Races are conducted at Kavanar and Kottathodu river respectively. About 50 boats including a few snake boats participate in these races. With fun, frolic and fanfare on the banks of the back waters, it is thrill and entertainment galore for the tourist to see these long bedecked boats surging forward propelled by hundred oars to the rhythm of country, folk beats. A ride by boat or by country craft from Changanacherry to Alappuzha through Punnamada Kayal will provide an unforgettable sight of some of the paddy fields and stretches of coconut palmgroves.