Famous as the “Aksharanagari” Kottayam is a land of “Lakes, Latex and Letters”. It is known for being the highest literate district in Kerala as well as the first total literate town in the country. Flanked by the mighty Western Ghats in the east and the Vembanad Lake and Kuttanadan paddy fields in the west this district is the highest producer of rubber, coconut, tea, coffee and pepper.
Kottayam is not far behind the other districts in Kerala in terms of the number of tourists visiting its various historical sites, geographic and natural wonders and pilgrim centres scattered across its varied terrain from backwaters and lakes to high ranges.
Here are few of the most important tourist sites in the district of Kottayam:
Situated in the Idukki – Kottayam border, Vagamon is also called the ‘Scotland of Asia’. Green rolling hills, the meandering rivers and the crisp, clean mountain air is enough to remind one of its European counterpart. Situated 1,100 metres above sea level, Vagamon experiences cool climate throughout the year.
Still far away from being commercialised, unlike most other attractions in the country, it’s breath taking views, cascading mist, green meadows, enchanting pine forests etc are definitely worth exploring. Not only are they beautiful sights that remind us of how nature’s magic works but also a true escapade from the bustling cities of chaos and confusion.
Vagamon is not just a nature lover’s paradise, it is a hotspot for adventure seekers as well. Rock climbing, trekking, mountaineering and paragliding etc are some of the many activities one can indulge in. Being one of the very few paragliding spots in the state, it attracts many lovers of the sky. Displaying the cultural harmony of the land the three surrounding hills are named Thangal mala, Murugan mala and Kurishu mala denoting Muslim, Hindu and Christian beliefs.
Vagamon is not a place you go to visit different tourist spots, it is more about the experiencing the calm and peaceful atmosphere and the magic of the cool mountain air.
2. Vaikom Mahadeva Temple
Considered as one of the oldest temples in Kerala where pooja has not been broken since its inception, Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is a temple for the Hindu god Shiva in Kottayam district of Kerala. Vaikom’s Shiva is fondly called Vaikkathappan. The Shiva lingam here is believed to be from the ‘‘Treta yuga’’ and the temple along with Ettumanoor Siva Temple, Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Mahadeva Temple is considered a powerful trisome. It is believed that devotees seeking darshan in these three temples before “ucha pooja” will have all their wishes granted.
One of the biggest temples in Kerala, the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple has a huge courtyard spreading over more than eight acres of land. The temple faces the east with foue gopuras on all the four directions. The Sreekovil is round in shape roofed with copper sheets and with two chambers. The Mukha Mandapa – the first chamber is built in shaped stone and single piece woods. The Sanctum Sanctorum – the second chamber is built completely in stone including the roof in a square shape. The temple is not just an architectural interest but also is a breeding ground of several legends and myths.
Attracting thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year, the temple is also famous for the “ Vaikkath Astami” a festival celebrated in the months of November- December.
3. Illikkal kallu
Located at a distance of 50 kms from Kottayam, Illikkal kallu is a pristine viewpoint situated at a height of 4000ft above sea level. The destination derives its name from the huge boulder sitting atop the hill which is a prominent sight from many parts of the district.
The place was not frequented by tourists and remained a hidden gem until recently. The journey to the base of the hill was almost impossible to navigate. But since then roads have been built and there are jeeps from the base of the hill to halfway to the summit from where it is a steep and dangerous climb towards the peak. The climate here is cool with frequent mist and speedy winds. Though a difficult climb, the view from atop the hill is indeed fascinating. If you are lucky you can see the Arabian Sea as a tiny blue line on the horizon on a clear day.
This spot is ideal for a one day visit both for nature lovers and adventure buffs. The sunset view from here is absolutely worth the climb.
4. Poonjar Palace
Built by the Poonjar Rajas around 600 years ago, the Poonjar Palace stands tall as a testament to the regal legacy of a bygone era. Located at Poonjar on the Pala-Erattupetta road, the palace is at a distance of about 41kms from Kottayam. The palace is not just of historical significance but it of great architectural importance as well. Reflecting true traditional Kerala architectural styles, Poonjar palace is built almost entirely of wood.
The palace now houses a museum within itself which features several royal antiques and furnitures. The museum also displays royal palanquin; a droni used for ayurvedic treatments, carved out of a single piece of wood; huge chandeliers; palm leaf engravings; jewel boxes; varieties of lamps; sculptures of Nataraja (the dancing Shiva); grain measures; statues and weapons etc.
A replica of the famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple can be seen near the palace grounds which also attract several tourists, the walls of which bear sculptures that narrate stories from the puranas.
5. Kottayam Cheriyapally
Built in 1579 by Thekkumkoor Maharajah, St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, popularly known as Kottayam Cheriapalli, is an ancient Orthodox Syrian Church situated in the prestigious town of Kottayam. Inspite of being one of the oldest churches in Kerala it is remarkably well preserved. The architectural style of the church is European, with galleries, pillars, cornices and pediments. The walls are adorned with beautiful murals made in Oriental and Western styles on biblical and non-biblical themes. The Church belongs to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian church, an Independent church believed to be established by St. Thomas.
Every year thousands of devotees visit this church seeking blessings. The annual feast is celebrated on January 15th every year.
6. Thazhathangady Juma Masjid
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid or Taj Juma Masjid as it is popularly known as is a beautiful structure situated on the banks of River Meenachil. A traditional mosque with more than 1000 years of legacy and history of its own, it is built in a seamless amalgamation of Kerala traditional architecture and Islamic architecture styles.it is particularly famous for its elaborate wood carvings.
This mosque with stories of a millennium to tell, is situated at Thazhathangady one of the heritage zones in Kerala. The mosque has an inner square courtyard, exquisitely carved wooden roofs, elegant latticed windows and traditional bathing area making its structure quite similar to many temples and palaces of the time.
Devotees and travellers from far and wide visit this mosque, one of the oldest in the country.
Ilaveezhapoonchira literally translates into “the pond of flowers where the leaves do not fall” is located near Melukavu village in Kottayam district. It is believed to have been named so as the region has no trees but is filled with grasslands. These valleys spread over thousands of acres. Famous among adventure loving tourists, this spot located about 55 kilometres from Kottayam is a secluded heaven where one can relax and listen to the heartbeat of nature and experience its magic in the purest form.
These hills enjoy an altitude of about 3200 feet above the level of the sea. This place not only offers wonderful views but also beckons trekkers to enjoy a rejuvenating trek. Beautiful views of Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Thrissur, Ernakulum and Alleppey districts can be seen from the height.
This lovely view point from which sunrises and sunsets are viewed is not only a picnic spot but also a trekking destination.
8. Marmala Waterfalls
Marmala Waterfalls lies on the Vagamon – Erattupetta route near Teekoy. Situated just 7 km away from Erattupetta town and 16 km away from Vagamon, these falls are tucked away in the rubber estate. Tourists must hike approximately a kilometre through the estate to reach the falls. The waterfall is about 60 meters in height, falling into a 12-meter deep pool and joins the River Teekoy on its way down.
This secluded spot is ideal for a family picnic or a day trip. Visitors will get to experience the calm and quiet of this spot and refresh themselves from the busy city life.
Kottathavalam is an ideal picnic spot situated near Vagamon atop the Murugan hills at Kurishumala in Kottayam district. A stone cut flight steps lead to the magnificent caves known as Kottathavalam caves. It is believed that it was the resting place of a Madhurai royal family during their journey to Poonjar. The rocks within the cave, carved like chairs and couches and the figures of gods such as Madurai Meenakshi, Ayyappa, Murugan, Kannaki are found here. Traditional weapons sculpted on these rocks are all worth exploring.
This picnic spot is still not very popular and hence retains its purity and simplicity in all its glory without the troubling intervening of commercialisation.
Kumarakom is a world-famous backwater destination of Kerala. Situated about 16kms from Kottayam city the place is visited by tourists from different parts of the world to experience the emerald green backwaters. Kumarakom offers houseboat cruises which is a major attraction of the place. The labyrinth of canals, inlets, lakes and lagoon forming the enticing backwaters are a rare phenomenon that brings tourists and travellers, both domestic and international, to this beautiful land. Tourists can choose between houseboats, motor boats, canoes and kayaks to explore these waters.
Kumarakom bird sanctuary spread over 14 acres is one other attraction of Kumarakom. Home to a huge number of migratory birds, the sanctuary can be visited on your houseboat cruise from here one can observe many rare species of birds.
All in all Kumarakom is a must visit destination in Kottayam district.