Although entry into the shrine is allowed to Hindus alone, visitors of any religious denomination can marvel at the 30-metre high golden gate (gopura) towering right next to the Fort. The sizeable structure is among the world's richest in terms of valuable metals and precious stones used in its interior decor. Its early origins remain steeped in mystery.
The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo - Asia's oldest - reportedly served as inspiration for the animals of internationally-acclaimed "Life of Pi". Today, the zoo's inhabitants comprise hippos, leopards, deer, reptiles, and many more. The grounds are expansive, so do wear your walking shoes.
The Museum of History and Heritage showcases artefacts through centuries of Keralan history. There are also a few multimedia and interactive displays, making a tour entertaining, alongside educational. One of the highlights are model displays of traditional Keralan interiors.
The Napier Museum collection is dedicated largely to Indian deities and Keralan rulers of yesteryear, their endeavours and conquests. There are plenty of fascinating artefacts on display, but the building itself is equally worth a look around, being a fine (albeit atypical) example of 19th-century architecture.
One of India's - and, indeed, the entire world's - finest beaches traces the Keralan coast roughly 15km away from central Trivandrum. The beach is a travellers' darling, and a popular evening hangout spot for Trivandrum locals. The Lighthouse Beach at Kovalam's southern end has an elevated viewing platform and is especially scenic.
Once the residence of Travancore royals, the roughly 200-year-old Puthe Maliga Palace (also known as the Kuthira Malika) has been converted into a fascinating museum containing historic artefacts pertaining to the Travancore dynasty. A guided tour of the palace is included in the ticket price; admission to palace grounds is free.
One of the finest dining experiences in Kerala (and, according to some rankings, all of India), Villa Maya is an exquisite restaurant occupying a beautiful colonial mansion. The culinary emphasis is on elevated Keralan specialities, with a focus on seafood. Seating available inside the well-kept building or outside in private courtyard gazebos.
This incredibly popular eatery serves up scrumptious Middle Eastern meat grills, north and south Indian specialities, seafood, and a sizeable selection of vegetarian dishes. For the best deals, check out the set combo meal menus, which are most often a steal. They are especially known for their ice creams.
One of the best vegetarian dining establishments around, Ariya Nivas is an attractive restaurant that offers an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at an extremely low price, and vegetarian thalis aplenty during dinner hours. They also have a typical south Indian breakfast selection to-order.
The wildly popular Mothers Veg Plaza is beyond any doubt one of Trivandrum's finest vegetarian dining establishments. Food here is served as sadhya (laid out on a large banana leaf), with multiple varieties of dosas (savoury pancake) to go along. It's a casual affair, and a wildly popular one.
Azad has been in business since as early as 1940, a fact reflected in the menu that lists dishes with chicken, mutton and fish cooked according to the original 1940s recipes - but not only. It's a place well-known to and still frequented by locals, for both sit-in dining and take-away.
This excellent little cafe serves a good selection of sweet and savoury treats. The latter delights with jacket potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta, pizza, burgers, soups and salads; the former's highlights are ice creams and milkshakes, along with a great many teas and coffees.
Supreme Upper Crust became an instant hit with locals upon its inauguration, and has seen an undwindling flow of patrons ever since. Highly praised for its French and Italian-inspired dishes, orderly workings and excellent in-house patisserie, the cafe is a delight for both visitors and locals.
This longstanding local cafe is a time-tested place for good coffee, and a quaint hangout spot for a low-key meal or get-together. Entertainment is provided by the indoor pool table that guests are welcome to make use of. The menu is extensive, and includes local and international dishes.
The happening Streat Cafe might be Trivandrum's coolest hangout spot. Much more than just a cafe, Streat has grown to become somewhat of a social club and entertainment centre, games like table tennis, pool, fussball, and an actual Segway track contributing to the laid-back, jovial spirit of the place. Food and drinks are above par.
What was once an inconspicuous side street has, over the years, grown to become an important cultural hub and space frequently used by local artist and performers to put on a varying array of shows. It's one of the city's coolest hangout spots, and especially so on Sunday evenings.
The sprawling bazaar is one of Kerala's oldest, one far removed form being a mere tourist attraction, used rather by local resident themselves. It's a feast for the eyes and an assortment of goods to any heart's desire, from fresh fruit and vegetables to Indian sweets, textiles, and cosmetics.
The Indian government offers a traditional visa (stamped inside of the passport), or an eVisa, obtained online. All nationals of the European Union and multiple countries across the world are eligible for an eVisa, which should be applied for at least 4 days prior to travel date (but no further in advance that 30 days) and is accepted at 24 airports and 3 seaports countrywide. Special conditions apply to Pakistani passport holders or individuals with familial ties to Pakistan. Citizens of Bhutan, Nepal, and the Maldives are exempt from visa requirements (if not entering via mainland China).
The Trivandrum International Airport offers a number domestic and international connections. It is conveniently located not too far from Trivandrum city centre. A public bus services the airport; journeys from the city to the airport take roughly 10 minutes. Taxis are available for hire in the arrivals area.
Late May sees the start of monsoon season in Kerala, and although visitors used to avoid the months of June through September for this very reason, the trend seems to have started to change, and an increasing number of tourists make their way to Kerala during the year's most humid months. Another reason to come in August is the large-scale cultural festival of Onam, which brings 10 straight days of festivities. October through February remain the months most popular with tourists for their favourable weather, while February through May can get very hot and are best avoided if you're sensitive to high temperatures.
Most bus routes start from the Trivandrum City Bus Terminal at East Fort and run across the city from there. Bus numbers are indicated in numerals and destinations only written in Malayalam (the local language), but most locals speak English and would most likely be able to assist. The preferred mode of public transportation Trivandrum is the autorickshaw, which is fast, cheap and efficient. These can be taken at regular bus stations or signposted autorickshaw stops.
Taxis are ubiquitous and can be hired easily. It is common to hire a cab for an entire day or even several days in a row, which is an option to consider if you're travelling with a group or planning to do extensive sightseeing. Some local cab companies are: Mango Cabs +91 99954 66066 www.mangocabs.in TaxiTel +91 75609 29292 www.taxitel.in