Kottayam

Kottayam is one of the larger towns in Kerala, south India, located near to Kochi. The city is India's first 100% literate city, also known as Letter Capital of Kerala, due to headquarters of more than a dozen publishing houses and newspaper companies as well as several famous colleges and university. The city is one of the strongest centers of Kerala's indigenous Church, the Malankara Orthodox Church, a major non-Catholic church.

Mural at Thirunakkara Grounds, Kottayam

Understand

Kottayam is a town in south-central Kerala, sandwiched between the Vembanad Lake and the Kerala hill-country. Best known as a hub of trade and commerce, Kottayam is also a centre for education and literature, and as a centre of Kerala's large Christian population.

The lingua franca in Kottayam is Malayalam, the official language of the state of Kerala. Travellers should not face much difficulty in getting by with English, as the language is widely understood, at least at a rudimentary level. Most sign-boards above shops are in English as well.On the other hand, conversing with the locals in Hindi, India's national language, is a far more difficult task and is best avoided.

Get in

By plane

Kochi International Airport (Cochin) 93 km away, is the nearest airport. The airport has flights from Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Kozhikode, Tiruvananthapuram, Agatti, Mangalore, Goa, Colombo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and every international airport in the Middle East. The airport is currently served by the following airlines: Jet Airways, JetLite, Go Air, IndiGo, Air India, Air India Express, Srilankan Airlines, Silk Air, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Oman Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Gulf Traveller, Etihad Airlines, Air Arabia, Jazeera Airways, Bahrain Air and Air Asia. From the airport, it is possible to get to Kottayam either by road (buses and taxis are available, and recommended for convenience) or by rail via railway stations at either Angamali (the closest to the airport, but very few trains stop here), Ernakulam Junction or Ernakulam Town.

Alternatively Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) airport, 152 km away, can be used as an entry point, followed by road or rail travel to Kottayam. In addition to the destinations listed for Kochi International Airport, flights to Male in the Maldives are available from here. Other options are Kozhikode (Calicut), Chennai, Bangalore,Coimbatore and Mumbai airports and further travel to Kottayam by road or rail.

By train

Kottayam has a number of long distance trains coming through. The town is linked to most major cities in India by trains, categorized as being either express or non-express. Short-haul trains also pass through Kottayam, connecting it to most cities and towns in Kerala.

By bus

There are bus services operating from cities like Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Chennai, Bangalore, Mangalore, Coimbatore to Kottayam. The quality of buses that operate vary significantly. Seats on comfortable, safe and air-conditioned buses that ply on long-distance routes can be had on paying higher fares. So, it is best to verify that what you are getting is in line with your expectations.

By road

Kottayam is well connected to other cities like Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha (Alleppey), Chennai, Kannur, Kozhikode, Mangalore, Bangalore, Coimbatore by road.

By boat

Frequent ferries (run by the Kerala State Water Transport Corporation) from Alappuzha (Alleppey) run throughout the day. Plying through the backwaters, it takes approximately two hours to reach Kottayam. This is the cheapest mode of travel in the state, though not the fastest.

Get around

See

Erumeli Temple

Do

Eat

Meen Mulakittathu or spicy fish is a speciality of Kottayam restaurants.

There are numerous restaurants and cafes in Kottayam. What the town lacks, however, is variety. Local food is extensively available and is generally quite good, as is South Indian vegetarian food. Beyond this, food has been uniformly categorized by restaurants as being either North Indian, Chinese or Continental. Most dishes that go under the last two categories are imaginative concoctions that draw on the worst elements from various styles of cooking. In summary, stick to Kerala food in Kottayam. If you still insist on trying other things out, then head to the luxury resorts in Kumarakon near Kottayam, and pay absurd sums of money for a meal.

A large number of bakeries can be found in Kottayam. You can get freshly made bread and other snacks at these outlets. They are quiet popular and worth a visit.

A word of caution for the religiously inclined. Beef is easily available in Kottayam and is a staple in the people's diet. If you do not want to end up eating beef you will need to be wary of anything that says meat or beef on it. A meat roll would very likely have beef in it, for example. To be on the safe side, make your preference known explicitly.

Drink

Drinking in Kottayam is a fairly entertaining experience. Local pubs tend to be lively, but serve primarily a male clientele. The local beverage called Toddy, made from palm sap, is quite potent and not for the faint-hearted.

The retail sale of alcohol in Kottayam (as with the rest of Kerala) is a government monopoly, and liquor stores are often stocked with only the most popular varieties and labels. Wine is almost impossible to find, and getting popular international brands of anything from whiskey to beer is a bit hit-and-miss. The more upscale hotels do have bars where one can be certain of a reasonable ambiance and a well-stocked bar, while the smaller ones can appear quite dodgy.

Side-dishes/Touchings, the local terms for snacks consumed along with drinks, is also something to try out. These vary from chicken, fish, duck to various wild birds and are considered de rigueur for any true drinking experience.

Sleep

There are a number of hotels of varying quality in Kottayam. Since the town is not spread out, proximity to the down town area is not really a selling point. Most hotels are rated (or approximately equate to) Indian two and three stars. Nightly room rates average of ₹1,000-₹2,000, with seasonal increases around September (Onam) and December (Christmas, New Year's). An alternative to established hotels is to use the services of an ever-growing list of homestays and vacation apartment.

There is a large concentration of resorts run by large Indian and international hotel chains, as well as smaller boutique operators, at Kumarakom (14 km from Kottayam) on the Vembanad Lake, where rooms, cottages and houseboats aimed at deeper pockets are available. Expect to pay top dollar for resorts run by the likes of the Taj and Radisson. Vacation Apartments are becoming a much more affordable alternative in several parts of Kerala for tourism.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, January 21, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.