Trivandrum is a thronging metropolis perched on India's southern tip. Kerala's religious and cultural capital is well known for its proximity to the white-sand bays and coconut palms of Kovalam Beach. There's also a wealth of striking temples and palaces provide plenty to keep you in the city centre for a few days. Escape the urban hustle for the leisurely pace of life on the south coast, or head inland for adventures among the tangled forests of the Western Ghats mountains.
Stay in a Trivandrum hostel in a villa overlooking the ocean, or in richly decorated rooms in a hostel with an outdoor pool. Look for a hostel in Trivandrum with a bar if you'd like a social space to meet other travellers, or a hostel with free breakfast to keep costs down. Most hostels in Trivandrum have air con for warm nights, and some also have free Wi-Fi to keep in touch with those back home.
Kizhakkekotta (East Fort) is the historical area of Trivandrum, entered through its imposing white gateway, which opens into Chalai Bazaar. Northwest of here are newer neighbourhoods, universities and Priyadarshini Space Planetarium. Shankumugham Beach is west of the city, with a wide stretch of white sand and its famous mermaid sculpture, Sagarakanyaka. East of Trivandrum are the grass-blanketed peaks of the Western Ghats – the foothills, trails and crashing Kalakad waterfalls only an hour's drive from the city.
Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is Trivandrum's major draw; a towering gold behemoth dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu and containing over £16bn worth of treasures in its vaults. Napier Museum is another signature attraction. Among the bronze idols and ivory carvings here is a shadow puppet display telling the story of Hindu's deities. To see one of the last legacies of colonial rule in the area, visit Kanakakunnu Palace. Among other cultural events, it now hosts joyful 'laughing yoga', India's new popular pastime.
If you're flying into Trivandrum International Airport, you can catch one of the regular buses that connect to the city centre in 10 minutes. Trivandrum Central railway station is in East Fort and has long-distance train links to Mumbai (taking 31 hours), Chennai (16 hours) and Coimbatore (9 hours); as well as local routes around Kerala. KSRTC Bus Station Complex is across the road from the railway station. Here you'll find pre-paid auto-rickshaws for getting around the city. Taxis are also a useful option if your budget allows.