If you want to be the inveterate India traveller who has visited the country from north to south, there is absolutely no way that you can miss Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India. Kanyakumari is a very touristy place and its enviable geographical position as well as mythological connections make it a very popular destination for travellers from around the country as well as abroad. Believed to be the point where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet, the Kanyakumari Beach offers a fabulous vantage point from where you can see the sunrise or the sunset and this is really an attraction in itself. People come here towards late afternoon and simply hang around or climb the view tower and wait to enjoy the fantastic sunset. Catching this daily phenomena is one of the most recommended sights in this town and to make sure that you don’t end up missing it, the tourism authorities have placed several sign boards guiding you to the best spots.
However this is not the only thing one can do here. The most famous attractions here are undoubtedly the two rocky islets just about 400 m from the shore. They are home to two monuments — the Vivekananda Memorial and the Tiruvalluvar statue. Unfortunately, despite being a short distance away, the only way you can reach here is by boat and since hundreds of people want to see it, you have to wait for over an hour to buy the `34 ticket. My word of advice: join the VIP lane and pay `169 to take the shortcut to the boat.
The Vivekananda Memorial was built in 1970 to honour the famous philosopher, who apparently swam to the rock, meditated and reached enlightenment here. There is a temple-style structure as well as a meditation hall. On the other rock, we can see the massive 133-ft high statue dedicated to the Tamil poet and philosopher Tiruvalluvar. Make sure you visit this rock before low tide sets in.
On the mainland, you can visit the Gandhi memorial. This is a very interesting monument as its architecture draws on elements used in churches, Hindu temples as well as Islamic mosques. In fact, the guides around these parts introduce Kanyakumari by saying, “meeting place of three seas and three religions”. The memorial is a study in symbolism and symmetry and was built on the exact spot where the ashes of the Mahatma were brought 15 days after his assassination. The height of the memorial represents in feet, the age of Gandhi at the time of his death.
Apart from these city sights, there are a few places to see at a short drive from Kanyakumari like the Mathur Aqueduct which is one hour’s drive away. This aqueduct is one of the highest and longest in south Asia and is 115 feet high and 1240 feet long. If you are coming from Trivandrum, this is a good place to take a break on the road and take a few photographs.
Another attraction that you should not miss is the Padmanabhapuram Palace. Just 30 kms from Kanyakumari, this palace provides good insight into the history of the 16th-century Travancore kings. Fourteen kings inhabited this palace for over almost two centuries and this well-maintained structure has preserved the rooms, artefacts as well as the architecture of the period. With styles drawn from both Kerala as well as Tamil Nadu and interiors fashioned after the western styles as well as the Far East, this palace is a fascinating amalgamation of influences. Plan to spend at least one or two hours in here as there are a large number of rooms as well as crowds to negotiate and you may have to wait for your turn to see the various parts of the place.
All in all, Kanyakumari’s charm lies both in its geographical situation as well as its wealth of history and its apparent mythological references. It is an ancient-modern city where you can mix relaxation with culture, beautiful landscapes with historical monuments. And of course, after you done visiting, you can join the leagues of great travellers who have travelled the length of India.