Trivandrum is the colonial name of the city Thiruvananthapuram, which is located near the southern tip of India’s mainland. Many pass through here on their way to the beach resort towns of Kovalam and Varkala, but it’s worth setting aside some time to discover the place that Gandhi once referred to as “the evergreen city of India”. Trivandrum has much to offer visitors, with its coastal hillsides, ancient temples and museums, stunning architectural sights and good quality shopping.
The city centre of Trivandrum is compact enough for visitors to get around and see the sights and attractions on foot. Most tourists will want to head straight for the beautiful 260-year-old Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Only Hindus may enter the temple itself, but non-Hindu visitors are welcome to stroll around the surrounding area and take photos. Other religious architectural sights to take in around town include the bright white St Joseph’s Cathedral and the all-black Ganapathy Temple at East Fort.
The gorgeous Napier Museum is worth a visit just to marvel at the unique 1880 British-designed building, but step inside and enjoy the vibrant interiors and collections of historic artefacts for the complete experience. Those wanting to kick back and relax should head to the nearby beaches of Kovalam and Varkala, while walkers and nature lovers will enjoy a day trip to the impressive mountain peak of Agastya Mala, which is nestled within the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Eat and Drink
Trivandrum offers the chance to sample delicious street food without having to worry about upset tummies. The must-try snack is definitely hot banana chips. Vendors, who set up their street carts around nightfall, slice bananas paper thin and fry them in coconut oil till they’re golden brown, before serving them warm with a light dusting of salt.
As far as restaurants go, a number of eateries around the city centre serve up tasty South Indian cuisine as well as North Indian, Chinese and Western-style food. Look out for restaurants offering freshly caught local fish, or tuck in to ever-popular Indian favourites.
Thalis are a great way to sample several dishes in one sitting, and the drink to wash it all down with is richly spiced and aromatic chai. Other beverages to enjoy while in Trivandrum include karikku, the water of fresh young coconuts, and sambaram, a spiced buttermilk drink flavoured with ginger and green chilli.
To experience some cultural nightlife, take in an authentic dance show at the Karthika Thirunal Theatre in East Fort. Note that drinking alcohol is reserved for fancy hotel bars.
Where to Stay
The heart of the city is the place to find up-market 4- and 5-star hotel chains that offer facilities including rooftop or outdoor pools, restaurants, bars, spas and fitness centres. Another option is to stay in the nearby resort areas of Kovalam or Varkala where you can laze on the beautiful beaches one day and experience the culture and big city life of Trivandrum the next.
The central market of Trivandrum, Chalai Bazaar is where locals go to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, gold and silver jewellery and all sorts of every day items. Running from East Fort to Killipalam, it’s a good way to see the locals in action. Stock up on supplies at Spencer’s, a one-stop-shop supermarket with plenty of Western food, personal products, electronics and clothing. The independent shops, malls and markets around the city also have a great range of handicrafts, souvenirs, jewellery, books, silks, Indian and Western clothing and big-name fashion brands.
Trivandrum Like a Local
A few hours before sunset join the locals at Shankumugham Beach, which is located 8 kilometres south of the city centre. Watch the sun drop in the sky from the beach or at any of the local eateries. It’s a lovely way to experience nightlife the Keralan way – out in the fresh air, chatting and socialising with friends and family.