Kanyakumari is a town on the southernmost tip of the main land of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as Cape Comorin.
The southernmost point of India, Kanyakumari is a small town located at the confluence of the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. For a long time it has been a significant site in India both spiritually and more recently as a day tripping excursion from Kerala. Famous Indian poet and philosopher, though probably unknown to most foreigners, Swami Vivekananda spent long periods of time meditating here and resultantly has a large monument erected to him just off the shoreline. Mahatma Gandhi also visited Kanyakumari and another prominent attraction is a mausoleum dedicated to him in the form of an Orissan Sun Temple. A rare phenomenon and depending on the weather, at certain times of the year the setting sun and rising moon can be witnessed in the twilight.
The oldest and the most ancient landmark in this town is the temple of Goddess Kumari who prayed to Lord Shiva to be accepted as wife by him. During the British Raj, it was also known as ‘Cape Comorin’, probably a British corrupted version of ‘Kumari’, meaning virgin. The town is easily walkable and doesn’t require any public transport, although there are cheap buses and a throng of auto rickshaws.
Tiruvalluvar monument in Kanniyakumari
How to reach Kanyakumari By Air
Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) airport in the neighbouring state Kerala is the nearest international airport, with direct flights from the Middle East, Singapore, Maldives and Sri Lanka. And is served by Air-India, among others. From Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) it takes about three hours by bus, train, or taxi. Taxi fares are very reasonable, at about Rs 9-10 per km, and should be around Rs 1,000 (US$22 Approx), for a trip to Kanyakumari from the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
If you cannot reach Thiruvananthapuram directly from your city, you can try getting to Chennai (Madras) the state capital and take either train or bus to get to Kanyakumari. Note that travelling to Kanyakumari is a bit tiresome via road, due to long travel times which is about 14-15 hours. As the weather in this part of the country is pretty hot (30-35 degrees Celsius during summer and 25-30 degrees during winter) throughout the year. Instead take the train, traveling on II Tier air-conditioned coach. This mode of transport costs about Rs 1200 (US$27). A domestic (within India) flight travel to Thiruvananthapuram is also a viable option, but the ticket prices are slightly higher, ranging from Rs. 1500 to Rs. 5000. In India, the earlier you book/plan your travel, the more you save on tickets.
Alternatively reach Kochi, Kozhikode (Calicut), Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Kolkata and then by train or flight to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum).
How to reach Kanyakumari By train
Very well connected and serviced by rail to all major cities in India like Chennai, Trivandrum , Kochi, Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Kolkata, Coimbatore etc. And from here starts longest train route in India, Kanyakumari to Dibrugarh.
Buses are frequently available from Thiruvananthapuram,the closest major transport hub. Long distance buses are available from Chennai (Madras), Coimbatore, Madurai, Bangalore etc.
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The bus connectivity between many places is very good. Generally buses are less crowded during 10.00 AM to 15.00 PM. Most people travel around Kanniyakumari using a hired vehicle. Auto-rickshaws (tuk tuks) are available, along with buses. Buses are about Rs15 from the station to the point, and Rs 7.5 from the bus station to the point. Auto-rickshaw drivers generally ask for Rs 500 for a distance of around 10 KM.
If your train comes into Nagercoil, there are buses to Kanyakumari from right outside Nagercoil junction station starting at 5:20am (ish) and meant to be on the half hour every hour, although you just have to keep asking.
Place sto see in Kanyakumari
To escape the crowds, visit Vivekanandapuram (the only peaceful area in Kanyakumari) maintained by the Ramakrishna Mission. It has its own lodging and boarding arrangements. If you’d like to see the sunset or sunrise, it is recommended that you see it from the beach at Vivekanandapuram. The other popular places are the Kanyakumari Devi temple, Vivekananda Rock, and the Thiruvalluvar Statue. It is not recommended that you visit Kanyakumari in December-January; the crowds are at its peak during these months.
The temple of Goddess Kumari is rather small by South Indian standards, but comes with the usual ingredients of Pujaris (Hindu Priests), Poojas, Kumkums, and Prasad (sweet offerings made to the Gods). All men are supposed to enter the temple with bare torsos as it deemed to be a mark of respect to the Devi. You should be careful about the touts in the temple.
Vivekananda Rock is about a hundred meters from the shore and a regular ferry service exists between the mainland jetty and the rock. The tickets are Rs 30 for a ride. Normally you will find a lot of people waiting in the queue during holiday season, so there’s a legitimate way of bypassing the queue by paying Rs 150, they take you directly inside the ferry, no waiting. The Rock has two Mandaps (halls); one belonging to Swami Vivekananda and the other belonging to a Holy Foot. The Holy Foot is a foot shaped carving found on the rock and is believed to be the footprint of Goddess Kumari who stood on this rock on one leg and performed the Tapasya (penance). The Rock memorial has a tall statue of Swami Vivekananda whose photographs are not allowed to be taken from inside the hall. Below the statue was mentioned the year of death of the Swamiji and the “probable” dates when Swamiji attained Samadhi on the rock. Here you can see both sunrise and sunset and it is one of the main tourist attractions here. Golden Hues of the Horizon are very impressive with a silhouette of the Rock Memorial. Timings: 7:45 am to 4:00 pm. You should enter main gate to the jetty for ferry before 4 pm, after that entry is denied. The last ferry leaves the island around the sunset time with all the remaining visitors as well as the staff.
Vivekanandapuram is the headquarters of the Vivekananda Kendra and the centre spreads over an area of 100 acres. There is a well stocked library within the premises. It is well connected. Buses are also regularly available from Vivekanandapuram to Kanyakumari. One can enjoy absolutely breathtaking views of sunrise from the beaches of Vivekanandapuram. It has its own boarding & lodging facilities, a post office and a bank on its premises. http://www.vkendra.org/
Thiruvalluvar Statue is dedicated to arguably the greatest Tamil poet, philosopher, and saint Thiruvalluvar. The rock supports a huge statue of the saint carved out of many rocks that were then joined together. It was inaugurated fairly recently. The statue is about 133 feet long which corresponds to 133 chapters in the greatest epic written by the saint – Thirukkural. Tourists can climb up to the feet of the statue. The view from this point is quite breathtaking! It is a very entertaining and enlightening piece of work and inspires one to lead a very principled and moral life. It is a must read for anyone who visits this place and it is advisable to spend at least half an hour specially dedicated for this exercise. Such is the beauty of Kanyakumari that a lot of people find themselves attracted to it.
Mahatma Gandhi too could not resist its charm, and there is a place here dedicated to him called Gandhi Mandapam. This is the place, as told by locals, where one could witness the ‘Sangam’ (confluence) of the three oceans. Gandhi arrived here and succumbed to the beauty of the place as described in his beautiful words inscribed below his portrait in the Mandapam. After he died, his ashes were brought to this place. The Gandhi Mantapa is engineered in such a way that at the place where the ashes were kept stands a small stone which is said to receive the Sun’s rays only on the 2nd of October, Gandhi’s birthday, every year through a small hole on the roof.
Our Lady of Ransom Church – Located on the shoreline of the Bay of Bengal, the 100-year-old Church of Our Lady of Ransom is dedicated to Mother Mary. The Church, which is one of the most beautiful churches in India, looks beautiful against the backdrop of the beautiful blue sky. The Church of Our Lady of Ransom was built in the Gothic style of architecture with a strong Portuguese influence. The church is slightly off-white in appearance and has three massive towering spires and stained glass windowpanes contributing to its overall grandeur. Another attraction of the church is the Central Tower. It is 153 feet high and is crowned with a cross of pure gold. (Interesting to note that the dimensions of the church structures are based on the count of beads in the rosary!
There are a few things about the church that make the visitors gasp with awe as they enter. The church boasts a beautiful statue of Mother Mary clad in a saree. Surprisingly, as compared with the grand and ornate exteriors, the visitors are quite taken aback by the simplicity of its interiors. There is just a tiny cross that adorns the altar. There are no church benches and the masses are held inside the church in normal days and outside on the clean sands during carnivals and occasions. The prayers are held in Tamil considering the parish here mainly comprises the local fishing folks. However, English masses are being conducted lately. Be on the lookout for the 10-day carnival festival during the second week of December every year. It is vibrant and colourful with the fishing hamlets of other nearby places and people of other religions celebrate together.
Padmanabhapuram Palace is the erstwhile palatial residence of the rulers of Travancore. It is made entirely of wood. It lies an hours drive away from Kanyakumari on the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala state. It is actually maintained by the Kerala government. There is an entrance ticket of Rs. 25 for Indians and Rs 200 for foreigners. It will take approximately an hour to one-and-half hours to see this palace. Ticket Timings: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
Kamarajar Mani Mantapa Monument was raised and dedicated to a freedom fighter and Former Chief minister of Tamil Nadu, President of Indian National Congress, Mr Kamarajar. He’s also popularly known as Black Gandhi among the masses. Like the Gandhi Mantapa, this place is where Kamarajar’s ashes were kept for the public to pay homage before immersion into the sea.
Baywatch is a water theme amusement park at Sunset Point and is home to India’s first wax museum.
Tsunami Monument is a monument recognizing the tragic events of the 2004 tsunami that claimed the lives of many Kanyakumari denizens. It is near the south shore. The monument is made of uniquely coloured items such as a wave, a flame, and human hands, together.
See the sunrise/sunset the actual geographic south point of India is a few kilometers to the West of Kanyakumari’s point and the big Thiruvalluvar Statue. It has a nice stone boat shed, a big Virgin Mary statue, some rocks, and if you walk down onto the sand and rocks, best of all no other people! If you are getting a bus from Nagercoil station, the first bus of the day should just get you there in time. Ask to get off at the Virgin Mary statue, buses go both ways all day so you’ll easily be able to resume your trip.
What to do in Kanyakumari
Vivekananda Rock memorial has a special meditation room which is absolutely peaceful for meditation. People also wet their feet on the shores of the ocean before entering the temple as the waters are considered sacred. Bathing is banned in many part of the beach (though you may find some people bathing) due to a number of tourists dying each year due to the powerful ocean waves.
For bathing in the sea, consider Vattakotta (meaning: round fort) beach, situated about 6 km from Kanyakumari. Naked bathing or bathing with bikinis is taboo not only in Kanyakumari but in nearly all beaches in India. Beaches in Goa and Pondicherry are a bit different, as a majority of people visiting there are foreigners.
Chothavilai beach is a good place to be away from crowds of tourists and pilgrims. This beach is clean and filled with relaxing families during day time. Women travellers especially should avoid being on the beach alone. Leave the beach together with the local people during sun set.
Tourists can buy a lot of interesting items ranging from, straw hats, conches, sea shells, cheap electronics etc., There are some small shops where one can get a customized conch with name or quotes inscribed. These items can serve as a memorable item of your trip.
Star Wholesale and Retail- In Sannathy Street on South Car Road.
It has some of the best mirrors in town, decorated with conches and shells. Very reasonable rates. With best finishing. Friendly Owner. A must buy from this shop for souvenirs and items (Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, candle stand, Ganesh ji etc.) to take back for relatives. Mirrors decorates with sea shells and conches are available almost everywhere Electronics available at Kanyakumari are dead cheap but, since all of them are imported from china, the quality of them are always sub-par. It’s always good to avoid the electronics shops and the associated hagglers. Hair bands and clips made of coconut shells are worth the money and you may have to ask one for to the shop keeper if one is not available at the display. Star fish shells (for decorating your indoors), sea shells of various sizes, kaleidoscopes, colourful sand packets(not artificially colored), collected from different parts of the beach, used specially for decorating your indoor showcases, are also available. The cost of majority of these commodities range from Rs 20 (0.5 US$) to Rs 50 (1.1 US$), and never cross a 100.There are some antiques shops too unlike handicrafts these original antiques gives you pleasant surprise. Antiquslike kavadi, Painitings ,South Indian lamps are worth the money.Tourists can also visit shops in the temple premises for buying handicraft items like wooden cups, wooden plates, wooden boxes of various shapes,wooden penstand,chariot,tea coasters,safety lockers and various decorative antique wooden pieces at good prices.Such handicraft works are brought as a souvenir from Kanyakumari as they show the creativity of the locals here.Authentic conches and good quality vaastu items can also be found in these temple-side shops. It is a good deal to buy conches in kanyakumari. Conches and seashell bangles are trademark products of this place.
The food in Kanniyakumari is more of the classic South Indian style. It is mostly vegetarian, and maybe even some Tamil favourites including iddlis, sambar, dosai, and related are available. Typical South Indian vegetarian food is available. In some cases, they may serve you the food on the traditional banana leaf. South Indian food is more of an acquired taste for some people from the Western part of the world. It is different, but still good. Do not expect much as far as Western style breakfast foods or western style foods.
Meals available at Kanyakumari are of the classic South-Indian type with rotis (roasted unleavened flatbread…perhaps similar to Mexican style wheat tortillas).
North-Indian style meals are available in some Rajastani/Punjabi style restaurants. A one time meal usually cost around 25 Rs (0.5 US$).
Avoid bringing alcohol to the beach as this place is a pilgrim centre and it’s considered taboo to booze. (That said, there are LOADS of discarded high-alcohol content liquor bottles all around various parts the beach slightly away from the developed/tourist zone, so it’s obviously not that unheard of!)
Kanyakumari has a lot of tender coconut shops selling tender coconuts for Rs. 10. (US$ 0.2). The orange variety of tender coconut, which is plentiful in this area and is priced the same, is worth trying as it’s much tastier than the green coloured one.
Though there are a lot of fresh juice stalls, it is perhaps best to avoid them as the stalls are seldom clean and the ice they add to the juice may be contaminated. It may have many water-borne diseases of the digestive tract. (That said, I drank the juice in a busy restaurant and was fine… if you get sick, you can normally just antibiotic or Flagyl it away…)
Bottled drinks are readily available, and usually safe to drink. Note that bottled drinks are always priced higher (about Rs 2 to Rs 5 higher) than the MRP in these areas. Of bottled drinks, ThumsUp (Cola flavored) and Limca (Lime flavored), both branded by The Coca-cola company are worth tasting as they are tailored specially for the Indian market.
At least one of the hotels in the middle of town have a subterranean bar. Just walk down the hill a little before the boat ramp, scroll around and you’ll find one. Air conditioned, various beers for 120 rupees, and an extensive (and refreshingly non South Indian specific) menu was on offer at the one I found… roughly diagonally opposite hotel Sea View, back north down the street away from the water and hotel Sea Face.