Sandwitched between the sea and Ashtamudi ("eight inlets") Lake, Kollam was for centuries the focal point of the Malabar's spice trade. Phoenicians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans and Chinese all dispatched ships to the city.
Kollam, renowned for the natural beauty of its backwaters, beaches, forests and waterfalls is on the shores of Arabian Sea. Formerly known as Quilon, this district is world famous for its cashew nuts and marine products. The boat cruise starting from Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam to Alappuzha is the longest and the most enchanting backwater experience in Kerala.
These days, it is an ordinary market town and busy transport hub of the southern backwater region, with surprisingly few vestiges of its former prominence. Lots of travellers overnight here, however, en route to or from Alleppey on the excursion boats that leave each morning from its lakeside ferry jetty.
To kill time in the evening, your best bet is a stroll through the town's traditional bazaar, with its old wooden houses and narrow backstreets lined by coir warehouses, rice stores and cashew traders. A short auto-rickshaw ride south of the centre, Kollam's beach provide a welcome escape if the heat and traffic of the centre get too much.
Arrival and Information
Kollam's busy mainline railway station lies east of the clock tower that marks the centre of town. Numerous daily trains run from Ernakulam and Trivandrum and beyond. The KSRTC bus stand is across town, near the boat jetty on Ashtamudi Lake.
The District Tourism Promotion Council has a tourist office nearby (daily 9am-6pm;Tel: 0474 2745625) at the boat jetty on Ashtamudi Lake, where you can book tickets for the daily tourist backwater cruises. The local Alappuzha Tourism Development Co-operative office (ATDC; daily 7am-9pm Tel: 0474 2767440), on the opposite side of the road, offers comparable services.
Useful facilities such as exchange bureaus, ATMs, internet outlets can be found in the smart Bishop Jerome Nagar shopping mall, just south of the main road between the jetty and the clocktower.
DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council)
Main Boat Jetty
DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council)
Tourist Reception Centre
Thenmala Ecotourism Promotion Society
Because of its eight arms or channels the name. Ashtamudi Lake. It is the second largest lake in Kerala and is the gateway to the backwaters. Boating through Ashtamudi Lake is a thrilling experience. Kollam Boat Club provides boat rides as well as houseboat cruises on this lake. Chinese nets fixed in the backwaters is an added attraction. Kollam city is on the banks of this lake.
Munroe Island is a cluster eight tiny islands in Ashtamudi Lake. The Kallada River joints Ashtamudi Lake near this island. This island is named after Colonel Munroe, the British Resident of erstwhile Travancore State. The discovery of Stone Age tools and megaliths stand testimony to the antiquity of this island.
Access: By road (from Kollam, Neendakara and Karunagappally) and by boat.
It was here the Portuguese, Dutch and British in succession established their trade centres and colonies. This village of historic importance houses the ruins of an old Portuguese fort and churches built in the 18th century.
The beach here is a unique place to see the sun set and the moon rise simultaneously. Situated 5 km from Kollam town, the beautiful beach has the lighthouse of 144 feet high, constructed in 1519 by the British.
Thangassery has a significant Anglo- Indian population, a community that had its roots in the colonial past of India.
Thirumullavaram BeachThirumullavaram is 6 km north from Kollam town. This beach is suitable for both sea bath and sun bath.
Season: After the monsoon months
The picturesque village Alumkadavu is along the vast expanse of the Kayamkulam Lake, It is situated at a distance of 28km from Kollam town. 5km from Karunagappally.
It was here the first houseboat (Kettuvallam) in India was built. Crafting of kettuvallam can be seen at the houseboat building yard. Alumkadavu is also a coir-making centre. This place is on the Alappuzha-Kollam boat-route.
Vallikkadavu is the head quarters of Matha Amrithanandamayi Math. Also known as Amrithapuri, this where the residence and the headquarters of Matha Amrithanandamayi Devi, one of India's female gurus.
Sasthamkolta Lake is Kerala's largest fresh water lake. The lake lies 29 km away from Kollam town. An ancient Sastha temple at this place lends the name.
Accommodation: Accommodation is available at the PWD Rest House and Aadithyaa Resorts
The area is covered by dense forest, rubber and tea plantations. Thenmala is home to India's first planned Eco-tourism project having a leisure zone, a culture zone and an adventure zone.
It is situated at 66km from Kollam at 1500 ft above sea level. Thenmala dam and the nearby Shendurney Wild Life Sanctuary adds more charm to this well planned ecotourism project.
The Chinnapul valley, Nature's Bonsai garden has nurtured hundreds of dwarf tress, is situated inside a core area of the Shendurney Sanctuary. But entry is restricted to the bonsai garden. The Deer Park is also an attractive place worth seeing.
Those who love adventure can have a trip through the rope way connecting two hillocks. There is also provision for rope climbing. The beautifully designed wooden bridge having a length of 120 m is an added attraction.
The Palaruvi waterfalls is about 75 km from Kollam. Located in the forest on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. Palaruvi- "stream of milk"- is falling from 300 ft, attracts a large numbers of tourists.
A bath here is rejuvenating. A picturesque place ideal for leisure, adventure tourism and sightseeing. Palaruvi woods are lovely.
Access: By road, 66km from Kollam. The nearest railway stations are Thenmala and Punalur.
Eat N Pack
Near Taluk Office
Excellent value, clean. good choice of dishes, friendly. Recommended.
Indian Coffee House
For good coffee and vegetarian and non-vegetarian South Indian food. Nice waiter service and good atmosphere.
Opp Clock Tower
This small glass-walled eatery is recommend for its tasty veg and non-veg cuisine, including special chicken masala.
This is a real Indian working-man's diner, packed to the rafters come lunchtime. There are concrete booths and long benches for sitting and tucking in - try the mutton biriyani.
Viiayalaxmi Cashew Co
A major exporter of Kollam's famous cashews: quality nuts are available.
Festivals and Events
Jan: Kerala Tourism boat race on 19 Jan.
Apr: Colourful 10-day vishnu festival in Asram Temple with procession and fireworks.
Aug-Sep: Avadayattukona Temple celebrates a 5-day Ashtami Rohani festival.
Muharram too is observed with processions at the town mosque.
Activities and Tours
You will be spoilt for choice where backwater trips are concerned. There are also the much cheaper options of Kollam to-Alappuzha cruises and shorter canal journeys to Munroe Island. The gentle pace and tranquil waterways make these tours very worthwhile, but the heat and humidity may sometimes make overnight stays on houseboats uncomfortable.
Daily 8-hr backwater cruise from Kollam to Alappuzha; depart 10.30am. You can be dropped off halfway at Alumkadavu or at Vallikkavu for the Ashram. The only stops are for meals; some travellers find the trip a little too long and samey. A good alternative is a canal trip to Munroe Island village; depart 9am, 1pm (6 hrs return).
A more expensive option is to hire a kettuvallam. There are also cruise packages which combine a day cruise with an overnight stay at a backwater resort.
Fair Trade Holidays
Opp KRSTC Bus Station
Tours to small local villages (with craft demonstrations and temple visits) that involve and benefit the communities. Also arranges volunteer work.
Southern Backwaters Tour Operators
Opp KRSTC Bus Station
A/C deluxe and standard houseboats for 1-to 3-night packages. Also motorboat cruises and Munroe island tours.
Auto-rickshaws and Bikes
Local auto-rickshaws are plentiful and bikes are available for hire.
Local buses are plentiful. Long distance buses run from the KSRTC station, Tel: 0474 2752008. Buses every 30 mins from 6am to Kochi (3hrs 30mins) via Alappuzha (2hrs) and other towns on the coast. Buses run 24 hrs to Trivandrum, leaving every 10 mins in the day and every 30 mins during the night (2hrs). Change at Trivandrum for Kovalam. lt is difficult It to get to Varkala by bus; take the train.
Ferry Public ferries sail to Ghuhandapuram at 7.30am, 11am, 1.30pm, 3.45pm and 5.45pm (1 hr) and then return to Kollam. It is an interesting journey with views of village life and Chinese fishing nets on the way. The 5.45pm departure lets you enjoy sunset over the waterways.
Junction railway station is about 3 km east of the boat jetty and bus station. There are several trains a day south to Trivandrum including: Malabar Exp 6630, 0715(1hr 30mins); Vanchinad Exp 6303,0815(1hr 30mins); and the Bangalore Kanyakumari Exp 6526, 1335 (1hrs 45mins), which continues to Kanyakumari (4hrs 15mins). All these trains stop at Varkala (30mins).
Tel: 0474 2793409
Post Head Post Office
Mon-Sat until 10pm
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