Kottayam  is a town in Kerala, in the south-western corner of India. It is the headquarters of Kottayam district.
Kottayam is located 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. Kottayam is famous for intelligent people. The city is safe to an extent.
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. Tamil is another language that is understood reasonably widely. On the other hand, conversing with the locals in Hindi, India's national language, is a far more difficult task and is best avoided.
- 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 and every international airport in the Middle East. The airport is currently served by the following airlines: Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, JetLite, Air India, Simplifly Deccan, Go Air, IndiGo, Air India Express, Srilankan Airlines, Silk Air, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Oman Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Gulf Traveller, Etihad Airlines, Tiger Airways and Jazeera Airways.
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.
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.
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 can be had on paying higher fares. So, it's best to verify that what you're getting is in line with your expectation.
Kottayam is well connected to other cities Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha (Alleppey), Chennai, Kannur, Kozhikode, Mangalore, Bangalore, Coimbatore by road.
- Bus - Kottayam has a comprehenhsive local bus system which is inexpensive. Be warned, however - buses can become extremely crowded during rush hour.
- Autorickshaw - This is another inexpensive way of getting between places in town, and is recommended if you're weary of travelling by a crowded bus. As is the case with most of the rest of India, drivers may try cheat the unsuspecting traveller. Official rates are INR 12 for the first kilometre and INR 6 for every additional kilometre, though the rate increases at night.
- Taxi - Local taxis are also available, though they are considerably more expensive than autorickshaws. There are taxi stands at the District Collectorate, and at the District Hospital.
- Car - There are many Car rental companies offering cars with drivers or self drive. Don't attempt to drive in Kerala unless you are comfortable with traffic conditions and have very good reflexes.
- Walk - Ultimately, Kottayam is a small town, and it is possible to cover the town on foot. A wise strategy would be to walk in downtown Kottayam during rush hour. Traffic jams during rush hour are very common, and your feet will get you where you want to go much faster.
- Aruvikkuzhi Waterfalls - 18 km from Kottayam town near Kumarakom.
- Elaveezha poonchira (valley where leaves don't fall) - a hill station near Melukavu Mattom, 60kms from Kottayam with gigantic hills around 3200 ft. height. Beautiful hillocks Mankunnu, Kudayathoormala and Thonippara, Poonchira. Famaous for the legend that says the pool here was a bathing place for Panchali the legendary heroine of the Mahabharata.
- Erumely - important pilgrimage centre for the Hindus and Muslims.
- Kumarakom - 14 km west of Kottayam in Kuttanad. Bird sanctuary, Coconut lagoon, House Boat, country boats, crafts, canoes, Floating Restaurant, backwaters, rivers, canals, beautiful bungalow of Henry Baker now modified into the Taj Garden Retreat (a hotel).
- Pathiramanal (Midnight sands) - small beautiful sand island in Vembanad Lake, which shines in dark.
- Poonjar Palace - situatied in Meenachil taluk, famous for the collection of antiques and exquisite furniture's, chandeliers, palm leaf engravings, jewel boxes, a variety of lamps, sculptures of Nataraja (dancing Lord Siva ), grain measures, statues and weapons.
- Vaikom Temple - 40 km from Kottayam, famous for the Shiva Temple.
- Vembanad Lake - 83.72 km. length and 14.48 km. Width, Cruise boats, House boats, Traditional Cargo boats.
- Wagamon - 64 kms from Kottayam, enchanting hill station at an elevation of 1100 metre, with tea gardens and meadows.
- Manarcaud - St. Mary's Shrine here attracts people of all faiths. Various kinds of offerings are made here by devotees.
- Boat Races - Lots of boat races with traditional boats of different sizes - around 50 types - in the months of July, August and September during Onam.
Kottayam also has an annual food festival and an annual flower show. These events are quite popular and are worth a visit, if you're in town when it happens.
Eat & Drink
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in Kottayam. What the place lacks, however, is variety. Local food is extensively available and is 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 avalable in Kottayam and is a staple in the people's diet. If you don't 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.
Drinking in Kottayam is a pleasure. Bars tend to be good and crowded. People after drinking behave decently.
The local beverage, called Toddy - made from palm sap, is quite potent and not for the faint-hearted. If you do want a drink, get it from a bar in a nice hotel. Toddy shops have good non vegeterian side dishes.