Kanyakumari Travel Guide
A Day At The Southernmost Point of Peninsular India
I was finally at the southernmost tip of India - the much-awaited stop of my two month South India travel journey. There was a sense of achievement - it was my longest-duration solo trip up till then (and even now, because of the coronavirus outbreak). If you are new to my blog, a quick introduction to this series of posts - I toured South India during June and July'19, covering 11 cities across three states. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to complete this 2-month long tour without breaking down, and so when I reached Kanyakumari, I was extremely happy and proud of myself. And despite the exhaustion of a non-stop travel, I was looking forward to the last few days of the trip.
In this Kanyakumari travel guide, you'll find details on how to reach the city, where to stay, and what to see in one day for a complete travel immersion.
How To Reach Kanyakumari?
I took a train from Varkala to Kanyakumari, and it cost me Rs 60 for an unreserved ticket*.
If you are coming from far, you can take a flight to Trivandrum, which is around 60 km from Kanyakumari. And from Trivandrum, you can hire a taxi, or take a train, or bus to reach Kanyakumari.
The train journey that I took was one of the most scenic rides, with the backdrop of hills sheltered beneath the bright blue sky and behind the greens glowing under the rays of the sun.
The only thing I knew about Kanyakumari was that it is a pilgrimage site. I did not expect gorgeous scenery from the city, just streets full of people. But I'll admit Kanyakumari's landscapic views left me enchanted. I guess these are the benefits of not doing prior travel research - you get more than you expect!
Where To Stay In Kanyakumari?
Kanyakumari hosts millions of pilgrims throughout the year. So, finding a decent place to stay is easy, only if you are traveling in a group or traveling with family. Just like any metro city of India, it is hard to find accommodation for bachelors in Kanyakumari too 💁🏽♀️
It was July when I reached Kanyakumari. July is one of the hotter months of the year, and the number of tourists/pilgrims who visit the city during this time is not as high as the rest of the year (especially, October-March). So, the hotel rooms were sold at much cheaper rates to accommodate as many guests as possible.
The city was just like a big fish market - there was bargaining, there was stalking, there was yelling, there was convincing!
I walked around the streets of Kanyakumari for over an hour, trying to find the most suitable accommodation. But because of a 10 kg weight that I was carrying on my shoulders, I was soon dead-tired. Therefore, I decided to settle for a very basic, but airy, and super-cheap room at New Cape hotel.
Things To Do In Kanyakumari
Kanyakumari effectively needs one day to explore different places, including the famous pilgrimage spots.
Sunrise in Kanyakumari
Welcome a beautiful morning in Kanyakumari as you witness the bright yellow ball of fire rise from the waters. The city is known for its picturesque sunrise. Many tourists gather on Kanyakumari beach early in the morning to see the rays of the rising sun illuminate water and the famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue. The view is truly heavenly and magnificent!
I, however, was too tired to wake up at 5:00 am and walk to the beach for sunrise. It was one of the hotel staff, whose incessant knocks on my door woke me up. Instantly realizing that I'll miss the sunrise (one thing that Kanyakumari is most famous for), I hurriedly got up from my bed and rushed outside. There was not enough time to walk to the beach, so I went to the hotel terrace instead**.
I am sure the view was not as crazy as the one you can get from the beach, but it was gorgeous nonetheless.
The Lesser-Known Vattakotai Fort
Kanyakumari is most famous for religious tours and pilgrims. But I was more curious and excited about exploring the other side of the city.
Vattakotai Fort is around 7 km from the city center, and you can take a public transport bus. The bus will drop you on the main road, and it'll take you around 15-20 minutes to walk to the fort from there. This 15-minute walk is amazingly pleasant, with farmlands on one side, and quaint village houses made of mud and straw on the other.
Even more scenic views will await you at the fort. The entry ticket price for an Indian citizen and citizens of other SAARC countries is 25 Rs, and for any other foreign citizen is 300 Rs. The fort structure is itself quite simple, a square defense-fortification by the Bay of Bengal with a backdrop of majestic Marunthuvazh Malai hill range.
With the winds accompanied by the view of multiple blue shades of the water sparkling under the bright sunlight, it was hard to leave the place. If only I had more than one day to explore the rest of Kanyakumari!
Vivekananda Ashram and Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple
On my way back from Vattakotai Fort to the city center, I made a stop Vivekananda Ashram, based on the recommendations on a Facebook travel group. Located amidst the forested area, and surrounded by sea on its farther border, Vivekananda Ashram (or Kendra) is primarily used as an accommodation. The campus also exhibits models to promote sustainable living in its Gramodaya Park.
A quiet place to leisurely stroll while you hear the sounds of birds and the sound of leaves brushing against each other. You may rarely see some sadhus(or monks) and staff workers walking around.
Adjoining the Vivekananda Kendra campus, at a 15-minute walking distance, is the magnificent, white marbled Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple. It is located just by the edge of the sea. From the top of the temple, you can see the bright blue waters on one side and the bustling city on the other.
Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial
The Thiruvalluvar Statue is dedicated to a great poet and philosopher, Saint Thiruvalluvar. And Vivekananda Rock Memorial is dedicated to great Swami Vivekananda, who is believed to have attained enlightenment here on this rock.
Both the statue and the memorial are at about 400-500 meters distance from the Kanyakumari coastline. To reach there, you have to take a ferry that operates between 8 am to 4 pm every day, and costs Rs 20 per person.
Unfortunately, I reached the ferry boarding point, a little after 4pm, so I could not make it to the statue and rock memorial in time.
Kanyakumari offers mesmerizing views of both sunrise and sunset, as the sun peaks out and into the waters. The sunset viewpoint is around 3 km from the city center. You can walk, or take a public bus or tuk-tuk to reach there. Walk to the beach to see the sunset closely, but I must warn you, it is overly crowded. So, it is better if you can find a place to sit a little far away from the beach.
Also, be aware that the view will depend on the weather. When I reached the sunset viewpoint, it was quite windy and cloudy, and the view was not at all clear. So I left the place a little early, and just when I reached the main road, the weather cleared up. Although I missed the sunset from the designated viewpoint, I could see its calmer orange-yellow rays fill up the sky as it readied to set.
I could sense how beautiful it would have looked from the beach -a spectacular landscape as the sun drowns in the water.
Although Kanyakumari is most famous amongst pilgrims, the city's picturesque views will not disappoint you if you are more of nature/adventure traveler.
*A budget travel tip: You can buy an unreserved ticket at the time of travel from the platform. It is the cheapest train ticket and does not guarantee a seat on the train. However, if you are lucky, you'll find one when other passengers get down at a station before yours.
**Many hotels offer a sunrise view from their terraces. So if you cannot make it to the beach in time, you'll have an alternate option to see the sunrise from