The southernmost point of India, Kanyakumari is a small town located at the confluence of the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. For a long time it has been a significant site in India both spiritually and more recently as a day tripping excursion from Kerala. Famous Indian poet and philosopher, though probably unknown to most foreigners, Swami Vivekandi spent long periods of time meditating here and resultantly has a large monument erected to him just off the shoreline. Mahatma Gandhi also visited Kanyakumari and another prominent attraction is a mausoleum dedicated to him in the form of an Orissan Sun Temple. A rare phenomenon and depending on the weather, at certain times of the year the setting sun and rising moon can be witnessed in the twilight.
The oldest and the most ancient landmark in this town is the temple of Goddess Kumari who prayed to Lord Shiva to be accepted as wife by him. During the British Raj, it was also known as 'Cape Comorin', probably a British corrupted version of 'Kumari', meaning virgin. The town is easily walkable and doesn't require any public transport, although there are cheap buses and a throng of auto rickshaws.
Very well connected and serviced by rail to all major cities in India like Chennai, Trivandrum , Kochi, Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Kolkata, Coimbatore etc. And from here starts longest train route in India, Kanyakumari to Jammu.
Most people travel around Kanniyakumari using a hired vehicle. Auto-rickshaws (tuk tuks) are available, along with buses. Buses are about Rs15 from the station to the point, and Rs 7.5 from the bus station to the point.
If your train comes into Nagercoil, there are busses to Kanyakumari from right outside Nagercoil junction station starting at 5:20am (ish) and meant to be on the half hour every hour. Although you just have to keep asking.
If you can escape from the crowds, you can visit Vivekanandapuram (the only peaceful area in Kanyakumari) maintained by the Ramakrishna Mission. It has its own lodging and boarding arrangements. If you'd like to see the sunset or sunrise, it is recommended that you see it from the beach at Vivekanandapuram. The other popular places are the Kanyakumari Devi temple, Vivekananda Rock, and the Thiruvalluvar Statue. It is not recommended that you visit Kanyakumari in December-January; the crowds are at its peak during these months.
The temple of Goddess Kumari is rather small by South Indian standards, but comes with the usual ingredients of Pujaris (Hindu Priests), Poojas, Kumkums, and Prasad (sweet offerings made to the Gods). All men are supposed to enter the temple with bare torsos as it deemed to be a mark of respect to the Devi. You should be careful about the touts in the temple.
The Church of Our Lady of Ransom was built in the Gothic style of architecture with a strong Portuguese influence. The church is slightly off-white in appearance and has three massive towering spires and stained glass windowpanes contributing to its overall grandeur. Another attraction of the church is the Central Tower. It is 153 feet high and is crowned with a cross of pure gold. (Interesting to note that the dimesnsions of the church structures are based on the count of beads in the rosary!
There are a few things about the church that make the visitors gasp with awe as they enter. The church boasts a beautiful statue of Mother Mary clad in a saree. Surprisingly, as compared with the grand and ornate exteriors, the visitors are quite taken aback by the simplicity of its interiors. There is just a tiny cross that adorns the altar. There are no church benches and the masses are held inside the church in normal days and outside on the clean sands during carnivals and occassions. The prayers are held in Tamil considering the parish here mainly comprises the local fishing folks. However, English masses are being conducted lately. Be on the lookout for the 10-day carnival festival during the second week of December every year. It is vibrant and colourful with the fishing hamlets of other nearby places and people of other religions celebrate together.
Vivekananda Rock memorial has a special meditation room which is absolutely quiet. One could meditate there. People also wet their feet on the shores of the ocean before entering the temple as the waters considered sacred. Bathing is banned in many part of the beach(though you may find some people bathing) due to a number of tourists dying each year due to the powerful ocean waves. For bathing in the sea, consider Vattakotta (Meaning: Round fort) beach, situated about 6 km from Kanyakumari. Naked bathing or bathing with bikinis are a taboo not only in Kanyakumari but also in nearly all beaches in India. Beaches in Goa and Pondicherry, are a bit different, as a majority of people visiting there are foreigners.
Tourists can buy a lot of interesting items ranging from, straw hats, conches, sea shells, cheap electronics etc., There are some small shops where one can get a customized conch with name or quotes inscribed. These items can serve as a memorable item of your trip.
It has some of the best mirrors in town, decorated with conches and shells. Very reasonable rates. With best finishing. Friendly Owner. A must buy from this shop for souveneirs and items (Necklaces, earrings, bracelets, candle stand, ganesh ji etc.) to take back for relatives.
Mirrors decorates with sea shells and conches are available almost everywhere
Electronics available at Kanyakumari are dead cheap but, since all of them are imported from china, the quality of them are always sub-par. It's always good to avoid the electronics shops and the associated hagglers. Hair bands and clips made of coconut shells are worth the money and you may have to ask one for to the shop keeper if one is not available at the display. Star fish shells (for decorating your indoors), sea shells of various sizes, kaleidoscopes, colourful sand packets(not artificially colored), collected from different parts of the beach, used specially for decorating your indoor showcases, are also available. The cost of majority of these commodities range from Rs 20 (0.5 US$) to Rs 50 (1.1 US$), and never cross a 100.There are some antiques shops too unlike handicrafts these original antiques gives you pleasant surprise.Antiquslike kavadi,Painitings ,South indian lamps are worth the money.Tourists can also visit shops in the temple premises for buying handicraft items like wooden cups,wooden plates,wooden boxes of various shapes,wooden penstand,chariot,tea coasters,safety lockers and various decorative antique wooden pieces at good prices.Such handicraft works are brought as a souvenir from Kanyakumari as they show the creativity of the locals here.Authentic conches and good quality vaastu items can also be found in these temple-side shops. It is a good deal to buy conches in kanyakumari. Conches and seashell bangles are trademark products of this place.
The food in Kanniyakumari is more of the classic South Indian style. It is mostly vegetarian, and maybe even some Tamil favorites including iddlis, sambar, dosai, and related are available. Typical South Indian vegetarian food is available. In some cases, they may serve you the food on the traditional banana leaf. South Indian food is more of an acquired taste for some people from the Western part of the world. It is different, but still good. Do not expect much as far as Western style breakfast foods or western style foods.
Meals available at Kanyakumari are of the classic South-Indian type with rotis (roasted unleavened flatbread...perhaps similar to Mexican style wheat tortillas).
North-Indian style meals are available in some Rajastani/Punjabi style restaurants. A one time meal usually cost around 25 Rs (0.5 US$).
Avoid bringing alcohol to the beach as this place is a pilgrim centre and it's considered taboo to booze. (That said, there are LOADS of discarded high-alcohol content liquor bottles all around various parts the beach slightly away from the developed/tourist zone, so it's obviously not that unheard of!)
Kanyakumari has a lot of tender coconut shops selling tender coconuts for Rs. 10. (US$ 0.2). The orange variety of tender coconut, which is plentiful in this area and is priced the same, is worth trying as it's much tastier than the green coloured one.
Though there are a lot of fresh juice stalls, it is perhaps best to avoid them as the stalls are seldom clean and the ice they add to the juice may be contaminated. It may have many water-borne diseases of the digestive tract. (That said, I drank the juice in a busy restaurant and was fine... if you get sick, you can normally just antibiotic or Flagyl it away...)
Bottled drinks are readily available, and usually safe to drink. Note that bottled drinks are always priced higher (about Rs 2 to Rs 5 higher) than the MRP in these areas. Of bottled drinks, ThumsUp (Cola flavored) and Limca (Lime flavored), both branded by The Coca-cola company are worth tasting as they are tailored specially for the Indian market.
At least one of the hotels in the middle of town have a subterranean bar. Just walk down the hill a little before the boat ramp, scroll around and you'll find one. Air conditioned, various beers for 120 rupees, and an extensive (and refreshingly non South Indian specific) menu was on offer at the one I found... roughly diagonally opposite hotel Sea View, back north down the street away from the water and hotel Sea Face.
There are numerous hotels, residencies etc. in and around Kanyakumari and therefore, staying over is not be a problem. But there are agents, touts and brokers in every nook and corner looking for unsuspecting tourists. Eschew buying or booking rooms from them, as many a time you end up paying a lot more than the actual price. Vivekananda Kendra can be a good option for people looking for a decent, yet cheap accommodation, but it's around 3 km from Kanyakumari. Prefer hotels near the beach especially if you want to watch the sunrise right out of your bed! Note that, you should quote this preference when booking the room or else, you'll always be given a room without a window opening out to the sea. Moreover many a times, these rooms are in great demand and you'll find yourself shelling a extra 400 - 500 Rs (~10 US$)for such a room. Hotel Sea View, Hotel Sangam and a couple of other hotels offer such rooms and the rent is about Rs. 1100 (~ 25 US$) for 12 hrs. Note that many rooms are priced for 12 hrs and not per day especially during the peak season.
ATM's in Kanyakumari:
Canara Bank Main Road, Kanyakumari 629702, ,
Indian Bank S No 658 / 1, National High Way Opp St Antony'S Higher Secondary Sckanyakumari 629702
State Bank Of Travancore P.B.No.1, 1/17 Amman Sannathi Street, Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, 629702