Tourist places in Kollam, South Kerala
Kollam (formerly known as Quilon) is a district in the state of southern Kerala, India. It is blessed with incredible water bodies, including tranquil lakes, lagoons, rivers, inlets, estuaries, scattered islands and meandering canals. The Kollam town, which served as a leading spice market in medieval times, is one of the oldest ports on the Malabar coast. Today, Kollam is regarded as the 'Gateway to the backwaters in Kerala'. It is also famous for the Kallada Boat race in the Kallada River that joins the Ashtamudi Lake near Munroe Island. There are quite some very unique and interesting tourist places in Kollam that we think should be in every travellers' radar.
Though Kollam is a less touristy destination in Kerala, some of its areas are slowly gaining popularity amongst foreign and Indian tourists. We spent three days in Kollam and roamed about the town exploring tourist places in Kollam on our two-wheeler. Hence, we are optimistic that this article can act as a complete guide for you to visit Kollam.
HOW TO REACH KOLLAM:
Kollam is located about 75 kilometres north of Trivandrum, Kerala's capital, and about 140 kilometres south of Kochi (Cochin). The main town is surrounded by serene backwaters towards the northeast and southeast and by the Arabian Sea towards the west.
Trivandrum International airport is the closest airport at about 68 kilometres south of Kollam. From Trivandrum airport, you can quickly get taxis or government/ private buses to Kollam. You can also take a train to Kollam from the Trivandrum railway station.
The nearest railway station to Kollam is Kollam Junction that is located within the town itself. This rail line is well connected to all the junctions lying on the Western Railway route.
We reached Kollam on a two-wheeler that we had rented from a rental agency close to Trivandrum airport. The highway from Trivandrum to Kollam is in a good state, and it takes about 2 hours to reach Kollam.
BEST TIME TO VISIT KOLLAM:
Kollam, being a seaside town, enjoys tropical weather throughout the year. The months between November to February are the best time to visit Kollam as the temperature is moderate and conducive for sightseeing and backwater cruising. June to August is monsoon when the town shines with all the greenery and rain-washed glory.
TOURIST PLACES IN KOLLAM:
Here is a compilation of best tourist places in Kollam. Note that we have considered Kollam district, hence most places would require some travelling from main Kollam city and just few average tourist places are inside Kollam city.
1. Kollam beach or Mahatma Gandhi beach
Kollam is endowed with a long coastline with several beaches, the best being the Kollam beach. This beach has a vast shore that stretches for miles where the locals flock to play football in the evening. The south of the beach is a fishermen's abode where each morning they gather and work as a team for the catch of the day. Kollam beach is, however, not too safe for swimming. The waves are big and powerful; hence the lifeguards do not allow anyone to venture out into the sea.
We visited Kollam beach both in the morning and evening. In the morning, we were glad to find so many fitness enthusiasts jogging or exercising or playing sports on the shore. Evenings at Kollam beach are a different scene altogether. The beach is trendy amongst both locals and tourists who come here to watch the sunset. The sunset views are pretty impressive, we must say. We rate Kollam beach to be amongst the best tourist place in Kollam.
At one end of Kollam beach, Mahatma Gandhi national park houses a children's play area and a marine aquarium. You will also find several shacks at the rear side of the beach that sells quick bites.
2. Thangassery Light House
The Thangassery lighthouse is located in an area named Thangasseri in Kollam city. The lighthouse is painted with red and white oblique bands and stands in stark contrast to the deep blue sky and the green palm outcroppings. Thangassery Lighthouse is 41 metres tall and has a lift that takes you almost close to the top, from where you have to ascend two flight of stairs to reach the balcony. The Thangassey Lighthouse makes for a quick-visit tourist place in Kollam.
On our visit, the lighthouse was closed for tourists due to Central Government COVID restrictions. However, we are sure the panoramic view from the top must be incredible as you get the view of the Arabian Sea in the front and the stunning view of the backwaters from the rear end. We recommend visiting the lighthouse in the evening or early mornings.
Entrance fee to Thangassery Lighthouse – INR 20 per adult; INR 10 for mobile photography
Timings of the Thangassery lighthouse – The lighthouse is open from 10AM to 1PM and from 3PM to 6PM.
3. St. Thomas Fort
St. Thomas Fort, also known as Thangassery Fort, is a ruined fort located on the Kollam town's seashores. The fort is very close to the Thangassery Lighthouse (200 metres) and is surrounded by a small green park. The fort was built by the Portuguese as a trading port between China and UK. Today, St. Thomas Fort remains in ruins and is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India. Though the ruins of the fort speak of its rich history, it remains a neglected monument and is not really considered as a tourist place in Kollam. The government is building the 'Thangassery Breakwater Tourism' area nearby, giving the fort its due attention. Else there is nothing much to see in these ruins from tourist point of view.
Note: No entrance fee is charged to visit St. Thomas Fort ruins.
4. Ashtamudi Lake
Ashtamudi Lake is the most sought-after backwaters in Kerala and a must-visit tourist place in Kollam. This 16-kilometre-long lake is the second largest lake in the state. Ashtamudi, meaning eight branches, draws its name from the eight channels that connect to this one lake in Kollam and the surrounding areas. The lake further divulges into small canals. Kallada River, formed by three other rivers' confluence, discharges into Ashtamudi Lake that further meets the Arabian Sea.
Ashtamudi Lake is known as the gateway to the backwaters of Kerala. It is best explored via a houseboat ride or a country boat ride along its many branches and canals. The lake is surrounded by coconut groves and palm trees, with little towns and villages interspersed. The lake is a livelihood source for many locals who earn a living by either fishing or coconut retting for coir production. Kollam is the main town along the banks of this Ashtamudi Lake. However, you can also explore Ashtamudi from the surrounding towns and villages, including Kollam (Boat Jetty near KSRTC bus station), Kundara, Neendakara, Chavara or Munroe Island. While bigger comfortable and luxury house boats are a great experience, a country or canoe boat ride in the narrow canals amongst the mangroves would be a far enthralling experience.
While the backwaters of Alleppey (Alappuzha) and Kumarakom around Vembanad lake are much more popular, we feel they are over commercialized and unnecessarily expensive. Kollam and Munroe Island has the same potential and not yet fully tapped making them a much better destination from our perspective.
Interesting fact - There is a government boat ride from Kollam to Alappuzha to Kochi - one of the longest backwater journey in Kerala and takes more than 8 hours. Locals use this ride for transportation as it stops along number of smaller towns.
5. Munroe Island
Munroe Island is an inland island group located at the convergence of Ashtamudi Lake and Kallada River in Kollam district, South Kerala. This group of 8 islets are about 25 kilometres from the main town of Kollam. Munroe Island is accessible by road, rail and waterways from Kollam and the nearby towns. The famous Kallada boat race in Kerala starts near Munroe Island and can be best viewed from here. The island is rapidly gaining popularity as a tourist place in Kollam for travellers who choose to prefer the peaceful environment of Munroe more than the crowds and chaos of Alleppey.
Munroe Island is an ideal tourist destination for vacationers interested in experiencing the true backwater plus village life. We stayed here for 4 nights at two different properties – Vini's Farm, where the entire small island belonged to us, and at Green Chromide Homestay, where we relaxed at our private cottage on the banks of Kallada River. At Munroe Island, you can participate/ watch the coconut coir retting process, look out for migratory birds, cruise the narrow canals of the Ashtamudi backwaters, visit fish/prawn farms, and explore the naturally made mangrove arch. Unfortunately, the island's low-lying areas are under the threat of submerging in high tides, and we suggest that you visit the island before global warming takes it over.
6. Paravur Lake
Paravur Lake is part of the system of lakes and canals that make up the Kerala backwaters. It is located in Kollam district (15 kilometres south of Kollam town) and is one of the emerging tourist destinations that attract many tourists. Both Paravur and Ashtamudi lakes are connected as a part of the Trivandrum-Shoranur canal system. Paravur Lake joins the Arabian Sea at Pozhikara near the Thanni beach.
We stayed at Fragrant Nature Resort in Paravur, located in a rural backwater setting along the banks of Paravur lake. From there, we hired a houseboat for a 1-hour backwater cruise in the lake, and it was one of the best experiences that we have had in South Kerala. Cruising through the mangroves standing along the sides of the lake intensified the backwaters' beauty and made it even more attractive. We highly recommend staying along the banks of Paravur lake and give this water body a place in your itinerary as a tourist place in Kollam.
7. Thanni Beach
Thanni beach is located about 15 kilometres away from Kollam town near Paravur Lake. Thanni beach is formed by a thin stretch of land that divides the Arabian sea and Paravur Lake. The backwaters of Paravur lake meet the Arabian Sea at one end of the Thanni beach. The confluence of lake, ocean, backwater and golden sand makes a beautiful setting. The beach is serene, not very crowded and is ideal for sunset viewing. Do include this tourist place in Kollam in your itinerary.
8. Jatayu Earth's Centre
Jatayu's Earth Centre is located at Chadayamangalam in the Kollam district. It is located about 40 kilometres away from the main Kollam town. Jatayu's Earth Centre houses the world's largest sculpture of a bird named Jatayu, a demi-God in Hindu mythology. The sculpture is 200 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 70 feet in height and opened to visitors in mid-2018. Jatayu Earth's centre is a must-visit tourist place in Kollam.
As per Ramayana, Jatayu is the bird that tried to save Sita when Ravana was abducting her in his airborne chariot. The bird sculpture at Jatayu symbolises the protection of women and is built in their honour and safety. The sculpture is made on the top of a hill that can be accessed by either ascending the stairway or riding a cable car. There is a rock theme park on the hill that offers adventure activities like rock climbing, ziplining, archery, valley crossing, bouldering, rappelling, and jumaring for adventure enthusiasts.
Entrance fee to Jatayu's Earth Centre – INR 240 per person
Ticket price for Cable Car ride to Jatayu's Earth Centre – INR 300 per person
Visiting time to Jatayu's Earth Centre – 10 AM to 6 PM
9. Kilimanoor Palace
Kilimanoor Palace is the birthplace of the famous Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma located in Kollam district, South Kerala. It is situated about 40 kilometres southeast of Kollam town. It is a great tourist place in Kollam for art lovers. The descendants of Varma family still live in this palace. The palace compound comprises of the Keralan traditional building built around the Nalukettu and two ponds. The house showcases the room of Raja Ravi Varma with his self-made paintings and artefacts that adorn the wall. You can easily club a visit to Kilimanoor with Jatayu which is just about 15-20 mins drive from each other.
Thenmala is the first planned ecotourism destination set up by the Kerala government that lies just north of the Thenmala Dam over the Kallada River. Thenmala town is located approximately 65 kilometres away from Kollam town. Situated in Western Ghats' foothills, it is pretty close to Tamil Nadu as well (15 kilometres). The eco-park in Thenmala boasts of several activities like boating, trekking, mountaineering, camping and biking. It houses a zoo, a butterfly park and a wildlife sanctuary.
Thenmala eco-park is an ideal destination for tourists looking for both adventure and leisure. You can book the government accommodation right inside the eco-park and opt to stay in one of their five different categories of interesting rooms. It also makes for a perfect destination for photographers who can spot rare migratory birds.
Places to stay in Kollam:
Kollam isn't a very well-known and touristy town. Beachside resorts in the main town are few and quite ordinary. Instead of the beach, we highly suggest a peaceful stay on the serene backwaters of Kollam. Fragrant Nature Resort, Kollam is what we would recommend. It is located right on Paravur Lake banks and offers fantastic views of the backwaters from each of its room.
Fragrant Nature Resort, Kollam is set in a vast area, has its own in-house restaurant and an Ayurvedic centre, and offers several activities like paddle boat ride, speed boat ride and houseboat ride in the Paravur lake backwaters.
Places to eat in Kollam:
Kollam is famous for seafood. However, you can easily find restaurants serving all different types of cuisines in the town. We really loved munching in the unique dishes prepped at the Holborn Restaurant on the Kollam beach road. The portions were large, and everything we tried tasted delicious.
Another place where you can try out mouth-watering delicacies is Eight point Art Café located inside the Asraman Picnic village campus near Ashtamudi Lake. It is an art gallery cum café set up in a restored heritage building. It has a breezy verandah and serves a short yet thoughtful menu of sandwiches, cakes and refreshing drinks.
We hope this article answers all your questions about what you can do in Kollam. If you have already been to Kollam and think that we missed out on adding an important tourist destination to visit, please let us know in the comment section below. If you found this article useful, pin it for later.
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