Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Athirappalli & Vazhachal,

Athirappalli
Location :
Athirappalli 63 km from Thrissur
Athirappalli waterfalls is one of the most sought after picnic spots in Kerala. Located in Thrissur district, 1000 ft above sea level, at the entrance to the Sholayar ranges of the Western Ghats , Athirappalli is a scenic combination of forests and little streams. Falling from a height of 80 feet, this is one of the largest waterfalls in the state.
Getting there :
:Athirappalli is accessible by a good motorable road from Thrissur (63 kms)
Nearest railway stations : Thrissur (63 kms)
Nearest airport : Cochin International Airport (58 kms). 
Vazhachal
Location :
63 km from Thrissur. Athirappalli and Vazhachal, the two scenic and popular waterfalls on the edge of the Sholayar forest ranges are just 5 km apart.
The Athirappalli Falls joins the Chalakkudy river after plummeting down a drop of 80 feet. Vazhachal is part of the Chalakkudy river. Both the waterfalls, their cool, misty waters cascading down in the backdrop of thick green forest and rocky terrain, are a scintillating experience to visitors.
Getting there :
A good motorable road takes you to Vazhachal and Athirappalli from either Kochi or Thrissur town.
Nearest railway station : Thrissur, about 63 km.
Nearest airports : Cochin International Airport , about 58 km from Thrissur.

KOLLAM

Though backwater tourism in the state has always been associated with canals of Alleppey, a cruise through the serpentine waterways of Kollam is sure to enmesh you in an eternal love triangle.
Placid lakes with beautiful and luxurious houseboats, lush green-fringed palms rippling on the emerald green waters and Chinese fishing nets patiently waiting for their prey, all make Kollam an ideal destination for the tourists.
Kollam, formerly known as Quilon, is an old seaport town on the banks of Ashtamudi Lake with places mired deeply in history. It was regarded by Ibn Batuta as one of the finest five ports he had ever seen.
Quilon has maintained a commercial reputation from ancient times. Phoenicians, Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans and Chinese traded with this port. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a trading center at Kollam, followed by the Dutch and the English.
Velu Thampy, the Dalawa of Travancore, did much for the improvement of Kollam town. He built new bazaars and invited merchants from Madras and Thirunelveli to settle there.
Kollam later became the capital of the enlightened and liberal rulers of Desinganadu.
Considering the ever increasing demand of 'Backwater Tourism', the Kollam District Tourism Council has introduced several steps to promote Kollam as the embarkment to the languid backwaters of Kerala. 

Places of interest include Thangassery, a fishing port, 5 km away from Kollam. Palaruvi, 5 km from Ariankavu has a beautiful 300 feet silver cascade. Oachira temple is an important pilgrim center.
The Matha Anulthanandamayi Ashram at Vallikkavu, the residence and headquarters of Sri Matha Amrithanandamayi Devi, one of the most prominent spiritual leaders of India also offers solace to the spiritually-inclined travelers.
Mayyanad, 10 km south of Quilon, is also noted for its shrines and temples. There are about nine temples here and the most noted among them is the one at Umayanalloor, dedicated to Lord Subramanya. The shrine is said to have been consecrated by Sree Sankaracharya.
The Ananda Valleswaram temple attracts people on almost all days.
There are also several churches and mosques in and around Kollam. One of the oldest and most important mosques in the town is the Chirmakkada Palli.
Mahatma Gandhi beach and park, Thirumullavararn beach and Ashramarn picnic village are some of the most important spots of local sight-seeing. The Sasthankotta Lake , the only freshwater lake in the state, is here.

THEKKADY / PERIYAR

Location :
15 km from Munnar.
Visiting hours:
7:00 am to 6:00 pm .
Attractions :
A sanctuary for the endangered mountain goat of South India , the Nilgiri Tahr ( Hemitragus hylocrious), the Eravikulam National Park stands out for the stark beauty of its rolling grasslands and sholas, spread over 97 sq km in the Rajamalai hills. Anamudi, the highest peak (2695 m) south of the Himalayas , towers over the sanctuary in majestic pride.
The slopes of the hills abound in all kinds of rare flora and fauna. The Atlas moth, the largest of its kind in the world, is a unique inhabitant of the park. Other rare species of fauna found here are the Nilgiri Langur, the liontailed macaque, leopards, tigers, etc. An ideal place for trekking, facilities are provided here and tourists are allowed to go on foot up to Anamudi.
A protected area, the sanctuary is divided into three regions the core area, the buffer area and the tourism area. Visitors are allowed only to the tourism area Rajamalai the region lying beyond the road entry into Eravikulam. Here one can observe the Nilgiri Tahr at close quarters. Don't make this your destination for a monsoon visit because visitors are not allowed here during this season.
Getting there
Nearest railway stations: Kottayam, about 142 km from Munnar; Ernakulam, about 130 km from Munnar.
Nearest airports: Madurai (Tamilnadu) about 142 km; Cochin International Airport , about 150 km.

THATTEKKAD

THATTEKKAD
The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary universally known as the Thattekad Sanctuary is located in the Kothamangalam Taluk of Ernakulam district on the northern bank of the Periyar River . Close to Munnar along the lower reaches of the Western Ghats , the sanctuary magnetizes nature enthusiast’s chiefly bird watchers in hordes. Thattekad was developed due to the persistent labors of India 's birdman Dr Salim Ali. The sanctuary was notified in 1983 based on a proposal made by Dr. Salim Ali many years earlier. Dr. Ali portrayed Thattekad in the 1930's as the richest bird haunt in peninsular India . Ever since then much of the woodland has been preoccupied for cultivation -teak and mahogany plantation but what endures gives an indication of the unique bird multiplicity of the once prevalent lowland forests of Kerala.

How To Reach :

The sanctuary is 13 km north-east of Kothamangalam along the Pooyamkutti road. The nearest railway station is Aluva at a distance of 48 km. Kochi ; the new airport at Nedumbassery is probably the closest. Kothamangalam is well linked by privately functioning buses to Ernakulam via Muvattupuzha or Perumbavoor. There are recurrent buses from Kothamangalam to Thattekad. Construction of the bridge across the Periyar River has been recently completed.
Accomodation:
There is a three storied watch tower within the Sanctuary with two beds, a toilet and a kitchen. Here there no electricity but there are a few solar powered lamps. A forest department inspection bungalow called “Hornbill” is sited near the sanctuary entrance. There is a dormitory just inside the sanctuary which is perfect for large groups. Accommodation is also available at the PWD rest house near the Bhoothathankett Dam and in lodges in Kothamangalam.
Sanctuary:
Tropical evergreen forests, tropical semi-evergreen forests and tropical deciduous forests create this sanctuary. The entire milieu is made delightful by the melodic high pitch notes of assorted attractive birds. It is so much calming and soothing that you will love to come here again & again. The exceptional backdrop amid the tuneful notes is the exact situate to unwind.
Around 210 species of birds have been recognized here so far. Birds like - Indian Roller, Cuckoo, Common snipe, Crow pheasant, Jungle Nightjar, Kite, Grey Drongo, Malabar Trogon, Woodpecker, Large pied wagtail, Baya sparrow, Grey jungle fowl, Indian hill myna, Robin, Jungle babbler and darter are found here. Crimson-throated Barbet, Bee-eater, Sun bird, Shrike, Fairy blue bird, Grey-headed fishing eagle, Black winged kite, Night heron, Grey heron, Common Grey Hornbill and Malabar Hornbill are among some of the rarer birds that are found here. In addition the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary also accommodates mammals like - Elephant, Leopard, Sloth Bear and Porcupine.
Boat Cruise :
Although lately established Thattekad is one of the most significant bird sanctuaries in South India . A boat cruise from Bhoothathankettu to Thattekad is a cherished experience through the evergreen forests nesting migrant and native birds.
 

SILENT VALLEY

 SILENT VALLEY
Located in the Kundali Hills of the Western Ghats, the Silent Valley National Park holds a valuable reserve of rare plants and herbs. The park is rich in its wildlife, and elephants, lion-tailed macaques and tigers are the most common denizens of this park. A visit to this park should be considered a lifetime experience, as this is the last representative virgin tract of tropical evergreen forests in India.
Attractions :
FLORA IN SILENT VALLEY- On the basis of altitude, one can divide the vegetation types in four different categories. The tropical evergreen forests comprise extensive dense forests along the hills and valleys. The sub tropical hill forests take the areas of higher altitude while the temperate forests are characterized by the unrelated evergreen species with a dense closed canopy. The grasslands are mainly limited to the higher slopes and hilltops in the eastern sector.  
FAUNA IN SILENT VALLEY- The park has a strong fauna population with many of the endangered species residing here. Most commonly seen here are elephant, tiger, lion-tailed macaque, gaur, wild pig, panther and sambar. Some other species of wildlife have also been recorded here including 15 species of invertebrates, two fishes, and two amphibians.  
The park has a total of 26 species of mammals and 120 species of avifauna, many of them considered endangered. Apart from these, there are 11 species of snakes, 19 species of amphibians, and nine species of lizards in the park

Velkali

Velkali is one of the most detailed and dramatic martial folk arts of Kerala and is usually performed within the temple premises. It is called thirumumbil vela when performed before the deity and kulathilvela when performed near the temple pond. Fifty or more performers dressed in the traditional attire of soldiers, bearing colorful shields and swords or long canes, dance in war like rhythm in perfect beat of the thakil, suddha maddalam, elathalam, kuzhal and trumpets. A few fighting techniques of Kalaripayattu are also presented in the course of the performance.

Kalaripayattu

Kalaripayattu is the complete system of martial arts of Kerala. It is considered as one of the oldest and most scientific martial arts in the world. The training of Kalaripayattu aims at the perfect co-ordination of body and mind and the traditional training in a Kalari include specialization in the indigenous medical practices too. Kalaris are also centers of religious worship.

Kalampattu or Kalamezhuthu Pattu

Kalampattu or Kalamezhuthu Pattu is a folk art form that is practiced in the northern parts of Kerala. More than 600 years old art form, it is performed by a group of five to fifteen people in the Bhadrakali and Ayyappa temples. The ritual is performed around the Kolam, which is an elaborate picture usually of Bhadrakali drawn on the floor with the use five colors. The dance is performed in the light of temple torches continue all through the night. A series of songs or kalampattu are sung to the accompaniment of nanthuni and elathalams.

Mohiniyattam

Mohiniyattam is a classical solo dance style, which is a blend of the grace and elegance of Bharata Natyam with the strength and force of Kathakali to build a mood of sringara or romance. The dance is usually performed on specially made stages during the temple festivals. The costume for the dance is the traditional white mundu and melmundu of Kerala and with the hairs gathered up at one side of the head and adorned with jasmine flowers in the traditional style.
 Koothu is marked for the presence of comic element, which adds to its dramatic character. The costume worn during the performance is colorful and unconventional with an unusual headgear.

Kathakakli

Kathakakli is the classical dance drama of Kerala based on the guidelines laid in the Natya Sastra. This elaborate art form is usually begins in the evenings and continues till dawn. It is an inherent part of all temple and cultural festivals in Kerala. The costumes and makeup are ornamental, colorful and elaborate so that the gestures and expressions of the performer are easily seen and understood. The performers do not speak or sing but enact the story through hand gestures, graceful body movements and facial expressions especially of the eyes.
The themes of this dance form are from rich and vibrant mythology of Indian culture. Music is an essential feature of Kathakali and two vocalists are there who sing to the beats of a chengila (gong), elathalam (small cymbals), chenda and maddalam.

Chakyarkoothu

Chakyarkoothu, also called koothu, is one of the oldest classical theatre arts of Kerala. It is a solo dance is usually performed in the koothambalam of temples to the accompaniment of the mizhavu and elathalam. The performance starts with the invocation of the presiding deity of the temple. The narration of the story, generally picked from the Epics, is portrayed with the thandava dance movements, gestures and facial expression according to the guidelines given in the Natya Sastra.
Koothu is marked for the presence of comic element, which adds to its dramatic 
character. The costume worn during the performance is colorful and unconventional 
with an unusual headgear.

Bharata Natyam


Bharata Natyam is the oldest form of classical dance in India. Origin of this style of dance can be traced to the Natya Sastra written around 4000 BC by sage Bharatha. Known as the 'Poetry in Motion', this dance form was originally known as 'dasi attam,' a temple dance performed by young women called 'devadasis.' Bharata Natyam is most commonly performed by women rarely by men. Strict guidelines are laid down describing every single aspect of the dance form including the attributes required to be an accomplished dancer.

Muzhapilangad



Location:
About 15 km from Kannur and 8 km from Thalasseri, Kannur district, North Kerala.

The Muzhapilangad beach which stretches across four kilometres of sand is a drive-in-beach where one can drive down the entire length. Calm and serene, the place is secluded and remains unexplored. Huge black rocks scattered here protect this long beach from the deep currents, and form a tranquil pool of shallow waters that is a swimmer's paradise. The palm groves fringing the beach are a cool hideaway from the tropical sun.

Getting there: Muzhapilangad beach is just a kilometre to the West of National Highway 17.

Nearest railway station: Kannur, an important railhead of Southern Railway.
Nearest airport: Kozhikode International Airport, about 93 km from Kannur town.

Wayanad



This month's issue features first of the four trails in the northern district of Wayanad as conceived and promoted by Wayanad Tourism Organization (WTO) an organization taking the lead role in fostering a culture of 'responsible and sustainable tourism' in Wayanad.

Of the four trails, we would like to introduce first the 'Outdoor Trail', which would cover the following locations in the District of Wayanad.

Chembra Peak

At a height of 2100 metres, the towering Chembra Peak is located near Meppadi in the southern part of Wayanad. It is the tallest of peaks in the region and climbing this peak would test ones physical prowess. The climb up the Chembra Peak is an exhilarating experience, as each stage in the climb unfolds great expanses of Wayanad and the view gets wider as one goes up to its summit. Going up and coming down the peak would take a full day. Those who would like camp at the top are assured of an unforgettable experience.

Those who require camping gear may contact the District Tourism Promotion Council, located at Kalpetta in Wayanad.

Neelimala

Located in the southeastern part of Wayanad, and approachable from Kalpetta as well as Sulthan Bathery, Neelimala is a trekkers delight, with options for different trekking routes. At the top of Neelimala, the sight is a breathtaking one with a view to the Meenmutty falls located near by and the valley in the foreground.

Meenmutty

Located close to Neelimala the spectacular Meenmutty falls can be reached through a 2 km trekking route from the main road connecting Ootty and Wayanad. It is the largest of waterfalls in the district of Wayanad, and adds to ones curiosity with its three stage falls dropping from about 300 metres.

Chethalayam

Yet another waterfall that attracts visitors to Wayanad is the Chethalayam falls, located close to Sulthan Bathery in the northern part of Wayanad. This waterfall is smaller in size when compared to Meenmutty. The falls and the adjoining areas are ideal locales for trekking and a haunt for bird watchers.

Pakshipathalam

Pakshipathalam is located deep within the forest in the Brahmagiri hills at an altitude of more than 1700 metres. The region predominantly comprises large boulders, some of them really massive. The deep caves found here are home to a wide variety of birds, animals and distinctive species of plants. Pakshipathalam is located near Mananthavady and a visit to the region would require a 7 km trek through the forest, starting from Thirunelli. Visitors to Pakshipathalam are to seek permission from the DFO- North Wayanad.

Banasura Sagar Dam

The dam at Banasura Sagar is reckoned as the largest earth dam in India. The dam is located in the southwestern part of Wayanad district and is close to the Karalad Lake. The project area of the Banasura Sagar Dam also has the start point for treks to the Banasura Peak. An interesting feature is a set of islands that were formed when the reservoir submerged the surrounding areas.

While you take in the captivating sights, sounds and fragrance of Wayanad, you may also shop for some specialities of Wayanad like spices, coffee, tea, bamboo products, honey and herbal plants.

For more details on 'Outdoor Trail' in Wayanad, please get in touch with Wayanad Tourism Organization.

Address
General Secretary
Wayanad Tourism Organisation
Vasudeva Edom, Pozhuthana PO,
Wayanad, Kerala
India.
Pin - 673575
Tel. +91-4936-255308, Fax.+91-4936-227341
E-mail: : mail@wayanad.org

Varkala


Varkala, a calm and quiet hamlet, lies on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram district. It has several places of tourist interests like a beautiful beach, a 2000-year-old Vishnu Temple and the ashramam - Sivagiri Mutt a little distance from the beach.

At the serene Varkala beach is a quiet sea resort rich in mineral water springs. A dip in the holy waters at this beach is believed to purge the body of impurities and the soul of all sins; hence the name 'Papanasam beach'.

A two thousand year old shrine the Janardhanaswamy Temple stands on the cliffs overlooking the beach, a short distance away. The Sivagiri Mutt, founded by the great Hindu reformer and Philosopher Sree Narayana Guru (1856 - 1928) is also close by. The Samadhi (the final resting place) of the Guru here attracts thousands of devotees every year during the Sivagiri Pilgrimage days - 30th December to 1st January. Sree Narayana Guru propagated the ideology: "one caste, one religion and one god", in a society torn by the taboos of caste system.

Varkala offers excellent accommodation facilities for tourists and is fast becoming a popular health resort with many Ayurvedic massage centres.

Attractions: Beach, mineral water springs, the Sivagiri Mutt and a 2000-yea- old Vishnu Temple.

Location: 51 km North of Thiruvananthapuram city and 37 km South of Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram district, South Kerala.

Getting there:


Nearest railway station: Varkala, about 3 km away.
Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 57 km away.

Thekkady, Idukki

Thekkady, Idukki

Altitude: 900-1800 m above sea level
Rainfall: 2500 mm

The very sound of the word Thekkady conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills and spice scented plantations. In the Periyar forest of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India, and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks.

Road

There are frequent buses from Kumily (4 km away) to various tourist centres.

Distance of a few major towns from Thekkady

Kumily: 4 km (15 mts) Sabarimala via
Pullumedu: 50 km (2 hrs)
Idukki: 65 km (2 1/2 hrs)
Munnar: 106 km (4 hrs)
Kumarakom: 128 km (4 hrs) Sabarimala via
Erumeli: 134 km (4 hrs)
Kodaikanal: 149 km (5 hrs)
Alappuzha: 164 km (5 hrs)
Kollam: 220 km (6 hrs)
Ooty: 390 km (11 hrs)

Bus timings from Kumily:

Thekkady: 0930, 1045, 1130, 1200, 1230, 1330, 1530 hrs
Kumarakom: 0700 hrs
Munnar: 0600, 0945, 1330 hrs
Ernakulam: 0700, 1330, 1515, 1630,1715, 1930 hrs
Thiruvananthapuram (from Kumily): 0840, 1530, 1615 hrs; (from Thekkady): 0820, 1515 hrs
Kottayam: Frequent buses
Alappuzha:1115 hrs
Cherthala: 1415 hrs
Idukki:Frequent buses
Chennai: 1630, 1900 hrs
Pondicherry: 1630 hrs
Madurai: 0115, 0515, 0525, 0645, 0716, 0720, 0730, 0755, 0835, 0940, 1030, 1045, 1120, 1155, 1300, 1315, 1320, 1420, 1515, 1540, 1550, 1650, 1705, 1800, 1840, 1905, 2045 hrs
Dindigal: Frequent buses
Kodaikanal: There is no direct bus from Kumily to Kodaikanal. The Dindigal bus takes you to Vathalakundu from where there are frequent buses to Kodaikanal (149 km)
Trichy: 0855, 1045, 1925 hrs Palani: 0930, 1135, 1830, 1850 hrs.

Flora

Over 1965 flowering plants including 171 grass species 143 species of orchids the only South Indian conifer Podocarpus Wallichianus.

Fauna

Mammals: Thirty five species including the wild elephant, gaur, sambar deer and wild boar which can be sighted from the boats the Nilgiri Tahr in the higher rocky areas the endangered lion tailed macaque confined to the evergreen interiors the bonnet macaque, Malabar giant squirrel, flying squirrel, tiger, jungle cat, sloth bear etc.

Birds:265 species including migrants. The hornbill, stork, woodpecker, kingfisher, raptor, cormorant, grackle, darter etc.

Reptiles:Cobra, viper, krait, a number of non poisonous snakes, and the monitor lizard.

Amphibians:Frogs, toads and limbless caecilians include the colourful Malabar gliding frog, common Indian toad, fungoid frog and bicoloured frog.

Pisces (fish): The Periyar lake and streams have several species of fish including the masheer, the famous and endangered game fish of India. The otter, the only mammal of the lake, can be frequently spotted from the boat.

Plantations:Tea, cardamom, pepper and coffee plantations surround the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary Watch Towers: There are two watch towers in the interior of the Periyar forest. Reservations can be made at the Forest Information Centre, Thekkady. Ph: 322028.

Permitting authority:The Wildlife Preservation Officer, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady.


Munnar


It is one of the attractions that contributed to Kerala's popularity as a travel destination among domestic and foreign travellers. Situated at the confluence of three mountain streams - Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala, and perched about 1600 m above sea level, the hill station of Munnar once used to be the summer resort of the erstwhile British administration in south India.

This hill station is marked by vast expanses of tea plantations, colonial bungalows, rivulets, waterfalls and cool weather. It is also an ideal destination for trekking and mountain biking.

Let us now explore some of the options in and around Munnar that would provide travellers ample opportunities to enjoy the captivating hill station of Munnar.

Eravikulam National Park
One of the main attractions in and around Munnar is the Eravikulam National Park. Located about 15 km from Munnar, this park is famous for its endangered inhabitant - the Nilgiri Tahr. Spread over an area of 97 sq. km., this park is also home to several species of rare butterflies, animals and birds. A great place for trekking, the park offers a magnificent view of the tea plantations and also the rolling hills caressed by blankets of mists. The park becomes a hot destination when the hill slopes here get covered in a carpet of blue, resulting from the flowering of Neelakurinji. It is a plant endemic to this part of the Western Ghats which blooms once in twelve years. The last time it bloomed was in 2006.

Anamudi Peak
Located inside the Eravikulam National Park is the Anamudi Peak. This is the highest peak in south India standing at a height of over 2700 m. Treks to the peak are allowed with permission from Forest and Wildlife authorities at Eravikulam.

Mattupetty
Another place of interest, located about 13 km from Munnar Town, is Mattupetty. Lying at a height of 1700 m above sea level, Mattupetty is known for its storage masonry dam and the beautiful lake, which offers pleasurable boat rides, enabling one to enjoy the surrounding hills and landscape. Mattupetty's fame is also attributed to the dairy farm run by the Indo-Swiss Livestock Project, where one would come across different high yielding breeds of cows. Mattupetty with its lush green tea plantations, rolling grasslands and the Shola forests is also ideal for trekking and is home to a variety of birds.

Pallivasal
Pallivasal, located at about 3 km from Chithirapuram in Munnar is the venue of the first Hydro-electric project in Kerala. It is a place of immense scenic beauty and is often favoured by visitors as a picnic spot.

Chinnakanal
Near the town of Munnar is Chinnakanal and the waterfalls here, popularly known as Power House Waterfalls, cascade down a steep rock 2000 m above sea level. The spot is enriched with the scenic view of the Western Ghat ranges.

Anayirangal
When you have traveled about seven kilometers from Chinnakanal, you reach Anayirangal. Anayirangal is 22 km from Munnar, is a lush green carpet of tea plants. A trip on the splendid reservoir is an unforgettable experience. The Anayirangal dam is surrounded by tea plantations and evergreen forests.

Top Station
Top Station, which is about 3 km from Munnar is at a height of 1700 m above sea level. It is the highest point on the Munnar-Kodaikanal road. Travellers to Munnar make it a point to visit Top Station to enjoy the panoramic view it offers of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the spots in Munnar to enjoy the Neelakurunji flowers blooming over a vast area.

Tea Museum
Munnar has a legacy of its own when to comes to the origins and evolution of tea plantations. Taking account of this legacy and to preserve and showcase some of the exquisite and interesting aspects on the genesis and growth of tea plantations in Kerala's high ranges, a museum exclusively for tea was opened some years ago by Tata Tea in Munnar. This Tea Museum houses curios, photographs and machineries; all of which have a story to tell on the origins and growth of tea plantation in Munnar. The museum is located at the Nallathanni Estate of Tata Tea in Munnar and is worth a visit.

Getting there:

Nearest railway stations: Theni (Tamil Nadu), about 60 km away; Changanacherry, about 93 km away.
Nearest airports: Madurai (Tamil Nadu), about 140 km away; Cochin International Airport, about 190 km away.

Kumarakom

Location: 16 km away from Kottayam town, Central Kerala.
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, teals, waterfowls, cuckoo, wild duck and migratory birds like the Siberian Stork visit here in flocks and are a fascinate the 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.

Waterscapes, the backwater resort of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation has independent cottages built on stills, set amidst coconut groves and panoramic view of the backwaters. Holiday packages involving houseboats, traditional Kettuvalloms (rice barges) offer great experiences.

Getting there:

Nearest railway station: Kottayam, about 16 km.
Nearest airport: Cochin International Airport, about 76 km from Kottayam town.

Kovalam



Kovalam is an internationally renowned beach with three adjacent crescent beaches. It has been a favourite haunt of tourists, especially Europeans, since the 1930s. A massive rocky promontory on the beach has created a beautiful bay of calm waters ideal for sea bathing.

The leisure options at this beach are plenty and diverse. Sunbathing, swimming, herbal body toning massages, special cultural programmes and catamaran cruising are some of them. The tropical sun acts so fast that one can see the faint blush of coppery tan on the skin in a matter of minutes. Life on the beach begins late in the day and carries on well into the night. The beach complex includes a string of budget cottages, Ayurvedic health resorts, convention facilities, shopping zones, swimming pools, Yoga and Ayurvedic massage centres.

Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, is just 16 km away from Kovalam and getting there is no hassle. But if you are on holiday it is better to stay in Kovalam and visit the city.

The City of Thiruvananthapuram has interesting places to see like the Napier Museum, the Sri Chitra Art Gallery, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Ponmudi hill station etc. SMSM Institute, a State owned handicrafts emporium, is the ideal place to pick up ethnic curios and other articles.

Best time to visit: September to March, though it is an all-year-round destination.

Location: Just 16 km from Thiruvananthapuram city, South Kerala.

Getting there:

Nearest railway station: Thiruvananthapuram Central, about 16 km.
Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, about 10 km.

Fort Kochi




To explore the historic town of Fort Kochi, there is no better choice than setting out on foot. Relax, breathe deep and come out in cotton dresses, soft shoes and yes - a straw hat. At each and every nook of this island steeped in history, there is something amusing awaiting you. It is a world of its own, retaining the specimens of a bygone era and still proud of those days. If you can smell the past, nothing can stop you from walking through these streets.

Walking straight through the K. J. Marshal Road and turning left, you can have a glimpse of Fort Immanuel. This bastion once belonged to the Portuguese and is a symbol of the strategic alliance which existed between the Maharaja of Cochin and the Monarch of Portugal, after whom the fort is named. This fort was built in 1503 and reinforced in 1538. Walking a bit further, you come across the Dutch cemetery. Consecrated in 1724 and managed by the Church of South India, the tomb stones here silently remind visitors of those Europeans who left their homeland to expand their colonial empires.

The next spot to watch is the ancient Thakur House, which stands erect as a concrete specimen of the colonial era. The building is simply graceful. Formerly known as Kunal or Hill Bungalow, it was home to the managers of the National Bank of India during the British rule. Now, it belongs to the Thakur and Company, renowned tea trading firm.

Walk on and there is another colonial structure awaiting you - David Hall. It was built around 1695 by the Dutch East India Company. The hall is associated with Hendrik Adriaan van Reed tot Drakeston, renowned Dutch commander, who is more admired for his monumental book on the flora of Kerala namely Hortus Malabaricus. However, David Hall is named after David Koder, a later occupant of the hall.

Walking past the Parade Ground, the four acres of ground where the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British had once conducted military parades, you reach the St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. It has passed through many phases ever since the Portuguese built it in 1503. Now the church is under the Church of South India. By the way, it was in this church that Vasco-da Gama had been buried and his tombstone can still be seen.

The Church Road is a nice place to walk, with the cool breeze from the Arabian Sea caressing your body. Walk down a bit closer to the sea and there is the Cochin Club, home to an impressive library and collection of sporting trophies. Set in a beautifully landscaped park, the club still retains its British ambience.

Walking back to the Church Road, on the left side, you would stumble across another majestic mansion, the Bastion Bungalow. This wonderful structure of Indo-European style had been built in 1667 and is named after its location on the site of the Stromberg Bastion of the old Dutch fort. Now it is the official residence of the Sub Collector.

The Vasco-da Gama square is nearby. A narrow promenade, this is an ideal place to relax a little. Stalls full of delicious seafood and tender coconuts are simply tempting. Savour a bit and feed your eyes on the Chinese fishing nets, being raised and lowered. These nets had been erected here between AD 1350 and 1450 by the traders from the court of Kublai Khan.

Refreshed, you can now proceed to the Pierce Leslie Bungalow, a charming mansion, which once had been the office of Pierce Leslie and Co., coffee merchants of yesteryears. This building reflects Portuguese, Dutch and local influences. Its waterfront verandahs are an added attraction. Turning right, you come to the Old Harbour House, built in 1808 and owned by Carriet Moran and Co, renowned tea brokers. Nearby is the Koder House, the magnificent building constructed by Samuel S. Koder of the Cochin Electric Company in 1808. This structure shows the transition from colonial to Indo-European architecture.

Turn further right and you reach the Princess Street. Mind having some fresh flowers from the shops here. One of the earliest streets of the area, this road has European style residences on both its sides. Located here is the Loafer's Corner, the traditional hangout for the jovial and fun loving people of Kochi.

Walking northwards from the Loafer's corner, you come across Santa Cruz Basilica, the historic church built by the Portuguese and elevated to a cathedral by Pope Paul IV in 1558. In 1984, Pope John Paul II declared it as a Basilica. After having a quick look at the Burgher street and the Delta Study, a heritage bungalow built in the year 1808 and now functioning as a high school, you walk down, once again to the Princess Street and then to the Rose Street. There you would find Vasco house, believed to be the residence of Vasco-da Gama. This traditional and typical european house is one of the oldest of Portuguese residences in Kochi.

Turning left, you walk over to the Ridsdale Road to find the VOC gate, the large wooden gate facing the Parade ground. The gate, built in 1740, gets its name from the monogram (VOC) of the Dutch East India Company on it. Close by is the United Club, once one of the four elite clubs of the British in Kochi. Now, it serves as a classroom for the nearby St. Francis Primary School.

Walking straight, you reach the end of the road and there is the Bishop's house, built in the year of 1506. It had once been the residence of the Portuguese Governor and is set on a small hillock near the Parade Ground. The facade of the house has large Gothic arches and the building was acquired by Dom Jos Gomes Ferreira, the 27th Bishop of the Diocese of Cochin whose jurisdiction extended over Burma, Malaya and Ceylon apart from India.

Yes, now it is time to wind up the walk. With the feel of the bygone days still lingering in your minds, mesmerizing sights staying back in your eyes and your taste buds yearning again for the delicacies and it is not at all a sin, if you feel like another walk!

Bekal



Location: About a kilometre from Bekal Fort, about 16 km South of Kasaragod on the national highway, Kasaragod district, North Kerala

Kasaragod, the Northern most district of Kerala is renowned as the land of gods, forts, rivers, hills and beautiful beaches. The imposing fort at Bekal is one of the largest and best preserved forts in Kerala. The beautiful expanse of the shallow beach near the Bekal fort known as Bekal Fort Beach has been developed as an exotic beach location by the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC).

Beautification: Beautification of the site includes installation of two sculptures of Theyyam created using laterite on the beach and a shed the walls of which are adorned with murals created by artisans from Nilambur. Apart from these a rock garden at the parking area has been developed where laterite boulders of various sizes have been utilised. Under the social forestry scheme, trees have been planted in the beach area.

Parking facilities: The BRDC has developed about 7000 sq. m of land for parking different types of vehicles.

Walkway: A beautiful walkway has been laid for the visiting tourists to explore the beauty of the fine coastline and enjoy the panoramic view of the Bekal Fort.

Illuminated beach: The beach gets illuminated during the evening hours so that tourists can spend more time at the beach even after the sun sets.

Resting facilities: Multi shed and Eru madam would provide the tourists enough facilities to take rest and enjoy the sea breeze. By using locally available materials seating arrangements have been provided for the tourists at the beach.

Toilets: Toilets have been provided for the use of tourists and eco-friendly bamboo waste bins have been provided in the entire beach site for keeping the area clean.

Children's park: A park has been developed here for children below 14 years.

In order to maintain the developed site a nominal charge of one rupee from each visitor would be collected as entry fees. A similar nominal vehicle parking fees would also be collected. The BRDC also aims to develop in future another 11 acres of land at the beach for constructing water park, theme park etc.

The BRDC was set up by the Government of Kerala to develop Bekal as a planned eco-friendly destination. The BRDC has utilised 19 acres of land for the development of the Bekal Fort Beach at a cost of approximately Rs. 25 million including land acquisition charges.

Getting there:

Nearest railway station: Kasaragod, on the Kozhikode-Mangalore-Mumbai route.
Nearest airport: Mangalore, about 50 km from Kasaragod town; Karipur International Airport, Kozhikode, about 200 km from Kasaragod town.