Kottayam in Kerala, a hub of lakes, letters, and latex

Kottayam
Kottayam, Kerala

Kottayam is the hub of letters, lakes, and latex. The district has a rich literary tradition and is the birthplace of the publishing industry in Kerala. It is here that the first seeds of the Fourth Estate were sown. The first printing press in Kerala, the ‘CMS Press’ was established here by Rev. Benjamin Bailey in 1821. It was here that the first college of the state ‘CMS College’ was also started. Many of the state’s leading newspaper publications and periodicals had their first print from Kottayam.

The contribution of the district to print media and literature earned for Kottayam the name ‘Akshara Nagari’ or the ‘land of letters’. The land is luxuriously covered with rubber plantations, hence the sobriquet ‘land of latex’. Kottayam made great strides in the industrial sector with its rubber-based industries, which figure as its backbone. Kottayam is also home to many lakes, and this vast network of lakes form part of the majestic Vembanad Lake.

KUMARAKOM

Kumarakom is a land of backwaters in which every eddy has a story to share. This quaint village sitting on a group of little islands in the serene Vembanad Lake is only 16 km away from Kottayam town. For visitors who want to stay close to Nature, there is Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. Spread across 14 acres on the banks of Vembanad Lake, it is a favorite haunt of migratory birds like the Siberian Storks, and an ideal location to spot other birds like egrets, darters, herons, teals, waterfowls, cuckoos, and wild ducks as well. How to reach Kottayam is the nearest railway station which is about 13 km from Kumarakom.

The nearest airport, Cochin International Airport Ltd. (CIAL), is about 94 km away. In addition to an enchanting backwater cruise, Kumarakom offers visitors opportunities to interact closely with the local community by encouraging them to participate in activities like roof thatching, coir spinning, and fishing. It is no wonder that Kumarakom is Kerala’s first Responsible Tourism destination. It has won the prestigious UNWTO Ulysses Award for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism as well as the National Award for the best tourism project. Waterscapes, the backwater resort of the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC), containing independent cottages built on stilts amidst coconut groves, is one of the highlights of Kumarakom.

CONNECTIVITY

By Road: Buses and Taxis are easily available at all times of the day from Kottayam

Railway station:  Kottayam Railway Station, 13 km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd, 94 km away

Activities: Participate in activities like roof thatching, coir spinning, and fishing

Best Time to Visit: November to March

Timings: 6 am to 6 pm

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ILAVEEZHAPOONCHIRA VALLEY

Nestled at the foot of three hillocks, Mankunnu, Kodayathoomala, and Thonnipara, this valley spreads across a thousand acres in the Kottayam district. It is extraordinarily beautiful during the monsoons when the terrain acquires a surreal aura. Ilaveezhapoonchira has an excellent trekking trail surrounded by picturesque landscapes. It offers mesmerizing views of sunrises and sunsets.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station:  Kottayam Railway Station,55  km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd., 76 km away

Activities: Trekking, Picnics, Sightseeing

Best Time to Visit: Monsoons (June to October)

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ILLIKKAL KALLU

Illikkal Kallu, or the Illikkal Stone, is a monolith, sitting on the Illikkal Hill about 6000 ft. above sea level. Each of the three hills has a unique shape and rises 4000 ft. or more above the ground. One of them resembles a mushroom and is called Kuda Kallu, or the Umbrella Rock.

Another hill has a small hunch on its side and is hence called Koonu Kallu, or the Hunchbacked Rock. Connecting these two hills is Narakapalam, or the Bridge of Hell, a narrow bridge about half a foot wide. Illikkal Hill is one of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats, and it lures tourists with its enchanting beauty. A mythical medicinal herb called Neela Koduveli is said to grow here and supernatural powers are attributed to its blue flowers.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station:  Kottayam Railway Station,60 km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd., 84 km away

Activities: Sightseeing, Trekking

Best Time to Visit: Post-monsoon season. It is best to avoid visiting the region during the rains (from September to January) when the hill paths become slippery.

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AYYAMPARA HILL

Located 48 km from Kottayam town, along the Erattupetta – Muttom road, Ayyampara Hill is where mythology and reality intertwine. The five rock pillars on this hill are believed to represent the five Pandava brothers from the Mahabharatha. Legend has it that the Pandavas stayed here during their exile. Some believe that the hill owes its name to Ayyampara Temple, which has four pillars that support a flat piece of rock-forming the roof. Ayyampara stands 2000 ft. above sea level and offers a panoramic view of the entire region, including that of the nearby towns like Erattupetta and Pala.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station: Kottayam Railway Station, 48 km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd., 88 km away

Activities: Sightseeing

Timings: 8 am to 6 pm

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ARUVIKUZHY WATERFALLS

Aruvikuzhy Waterfalls, situated 22 km from Kottayam, offer the right mixture of excitement and serenity. Nestled amidst rubber plantations, it makes an ideally quiet picnic spot. At the same time, the water cascading from the hills above, through 100 ft., makes it attractive for trekking enthusiasts as well.

The famous St. Mary’s Church is situated uphill. The rubber plantation center at Pallickathode is just 1 km from Aruvikuzhy Waterfalls.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station: Thiruvalla Railway Station, 29 km away

Flight: Trivandrum International Airport, 131 km away

Activities: Picnic, Trekking, Waterfalls, Fishing, and yachting, Relaxation

Best Time to Visit: After the monsoon starts in September

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VAIKOM

With the Vembanad Lake as its neighbor, the historic town of Vaikom lies on the western side of the Kottayam district. Its beautiful water bodies and serene villages make Vaikom popular among tourists. Country boat rides and canoe cruises through the Murinjupuzha backwaters offer glimpses into the unique village lifestyle of Kerala. Here, tourists can get a feel of the traditional fishing techniques of the locals and a taste of their signature dishes.

One of the oldest temples in Kerala, Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, showcases the beauty of Kerala temple architecture. Renowned as the Kasi of the South, this temple is famous for elephant pageants and traditional art performances. The civil rights movement, Vaikom Satyagraha, marked a significant epoch in the state’s history.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station: Kottayam Railway Station, 34 km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd., 60 km away

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THAZHATHANGADI THAZHATHANG

Thazhathangadi was once the hub of all trade in Kerala. Its strategic location and easy access through the waterways made it a trading center in the 17th and 18th centuries. There was a time when the narrow streets of Thazhathangadi were abuzz with the loading and unloading of goods to and from faraway lands.

This is your go-to place to learn about trade in the days of the yore. A walk through this land will offer a peek into the architecture of yesteryears as the houses and buildings constructed during the glorious days of the town still retain their charm.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station: Kottayam Railway Station, 12 km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd., 77 km away

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NADUKANI

Nadukani, a popular hill station situated about 70 km from Kottayam, is another tourist spot that blends the charms of Nature watch and adventure. Standing at an altitude of 3000 ft., it offers a magnificent view of Thodupuzha River, Moolamattom town, Malankara Reservoir, and surrounding mountains. Nadukani is a picturesque location where tourists can walk through endless stretches of meadows, enjoying the sight of mountain ranges on one side and Muvattupuzha River on the other.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station:  Aluva Railway Station, 40 km away

Flight: International Airport, 39 km away

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POONJAR PALACE

The 600-year-old Poonjar Palace, located about 40 km from Kottayam, is a time capsule. Filled with antiques and furniture from the past, this palace transports visitors to another age the moment they enter it. A palanquin, an ennathoni (a cot carved out of a single piece of wood used for Ayurvedic massages), huge chandeliers, palm leaf manuscripts, jewel boxes, different types of lamps, sculptures of Nataraja (dancing Lord Shiva), old measuring cups, statues, and weapons – the list of the antique collection here is endless.

There is also an amazing replica of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple near the palace. The walls of this temple are adorned with sculptures that narrate Puranic stories of India. The palace is now listed as a heritage site and historic monument by the Department of Archaeology, Govt. of Kerala.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station: Kottayam Railway Station, 30 km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd., 76 km away

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AYMANAM

Aymanam is like a quaint little village straight out of fiction. Made famous globally by Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning novel, The God of Small Things, it continues to attract tourists who come in search of scenic backwaters, vast stretches of paddy fields, and swaying coconut farms, detailed vividly in the novel. This beautiful village is located only 10 km from Kumarakom, and about 8 km from Kottayam. The name “Aymanam” is derived from two words Ay meaning “five” in Tamil and vanam meaning “forest” in Sanskrit. The name refers to the five forests – Vattakkadu, Thuruthikkadu, Vallyakadu, Moolakkadu, and Mekkadu – that once surrounded this region. How to Reach The nearest railway station is Kottayam, located about 7 km from Aymanam.

The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport Ltd. (CIAL), which is about 88 km away. Nearly two-thirds of Aymanam is, at present, covered by paddy fields. Vembanad Lake lies to the west of the village. Meenachil River flows through it. This verdant landscape makes it a favorite spot for migratory birds during summer. Country boat rides through the backwaters and interior canals, offering glimpses into the village life and the refreshing beauty of the river-side hamlet, form the highlight of this tourist destination.

CONNECTIVITY

Railway station: Kottayam Railway Station, 7 km away

Flight: Cochin International Airport Ltd., 88 km away

Activities: Boat ride, Sight Seeing, Bird Watching, Rejuvenate and Relax

Best Time to Visit: September to March

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