Kanyakumari is where the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea come together in one itinerary. Where you can see sunrise and sunset on the same stretch. And, where the horizon really is a curve.
What brings people to the tip of this Indian peninsular is devotion; Pilgrims enroute Rameshwaram or Trivandrum or Madurai praying in the many gorgeous temples here. There is a stunning idol of Goddess Kanyakumari with her nose ring as brilliant as a flame in the oil-lamp lit interiors of a Arulmigu Bhagavathy Amman Temple. There is the 1000-year old Guhanatheeswarar Temple with an imposing shivalinga with a golden serpent twined around it. And, there is the Suchindrum Temple with a fascinating white dome that’s encrusted with statues revealing so many hindu legends, if you pause and look up.
But for me, the ocean stole my heart. Blue. Green. Fierce. Copious. Endless, rushing at you with such power in any direction you see.
It was hard to tear my eyes away. So, here’s my list of spots to shamelessly ogle at the wild waters.
This sunset point is like none other I’ve seen. Before your eyes can get to the sun in the sky, there is miles and miles of untamed sea that entraps them. You can gaze at the relentless rolling in of waves, sitting on the beach. You can perch on the boulders to get eye level to the sun. Or, you can stand with your feet in the Arabian Ocean that’s threatening to drench you, as the sun blots into the massive, curved horizon.
The official Sunset Point at Kovalam beach is reason enough to be in Kanyakumari. The end of day at the end of India. Or, is it the beginning of it?
What made it even more hypnotic was the whorl of Japanese tourists around me with folded hands, chanting a farewell to the sun, led by their grandmaster who flew from one boulder to another, Hollywood style, leading the chant that cleansed us all.
Except perhaps this little Indian girl who lashed out a screechy ‘Jana Gana Mana’ in retaliation till her parents hurriedly shushed her. Did she think they were Chinese?
No, it’s not the same as the sunset point, but it’s just a kilometer up the road. This one is by the main Amman Temple with signs pointing in the direction. If you follow the crowd, you’ll get there. Be there an hour before sunrise time only to claim your seat on the parapet. And then use your time to gaze at the inky blue sea slowly turn a beautiful blue-green. And watch the monuments on Vivekananda rock and the Thiruvallur statue, bejewelled with lights, emerge from the darkness.
My sunrise began as a small ribbon of gold on the edge of a cloud, that rapidly turned into a brilliant round and climbed over the clouds to an applause of whistling and clapping from the long-waiting crowd.
Of all the triveni ghats in India, this confluence is my absolute favourite. Arabian Sea on the right. Bay of Bengal on the left. The Indian Ocean bang in the front. There are no signs to tell you where it is. Look at the movement of the waves coming from 3 different directions to decode the spot. Or, the easier giveaway is the stripping-dipping people in the water trying to cleanse their sins.
About 9km from the city, this circular 18th century fort itself juts into the Bay of Bengal providing an excellent 360 degree view. The vast sea in front, the beautiful Vattakottai beach on either sides, the dense coconut farm turning into a dense windmill farm and the rocky Marunthuvazh Malai hills at the back that’s the southern-most tip of the western ghat. If this wasn’t a fort it was a great location for a royal retreat.
Entry Free | 8am to 5pm
The View Tower
This is a relatively recent addition to the sightseeing list. A tower that’s bang in the middle of Sunrise point and Sunset point, hence, offering both the views. On equinox days, my guess is, the sun would rise and set at the exact same spot. That would be a sight to see!
There is an entry fee which is the reason why it’s empty. I thoroughly enjoyed getting different perspectives at various levels of the tower and embracing the solitude with the sea.
Adults – Rs.13 | Children – Rs.7 | 5:30am to 630pm
Vivekananda Memorial Rock
The wait to get the ferry the Vivekananda rock is long. Estimate a 45min to one hour each way. You can choose the good old Indian queue experience with some pushing and shoving and racing pot-bellied uncles and aunties to claim a side seat on the ferry as entertainment. Or, if, for some reason, you don’t fancy that, there is a VIP ticket to cut the queue. But remember, it’ll give you an advantage only on the onward journey. There are 3 monuments on the rock, but for me the Indian Ocean was all I wanted. It sprays you, it tangles your hair, untangles your scarf no matter how secure, is naughty with your skirts and ensures your selfies are shaky.
Ferry ticket - Rs.34 | Special ticket - Rs.169 | 8am to 4pm | Entrance at Vivekananda Rock Memorial - Rs.20
The Sitting Park
That’s not the name. That’s what I’m calling it. It’s to the left of the view tower, a park that slopes down right up to the sea with park benches looking to the Arabian Sea. If it didn’t get that hot as the day advanced, I’d probably have a picnic here.
This spot will blow you away. Literally. About 500-meter long rock bund that simply feels like a walk on the ocean. Not a touristy spot, I saw it from a distance and found my way to it past a fishing village. There was no one there which added to the thrill of walking to the edge of the world where the wind and waves are savage.
Close to the edge I just froze, too scared to turn an angle, worried that the wind would blow me into the choppy water, waves that could engulf me whole. I had to crawl out. It shudders me to think what the Tsunami waves would have been like in 2004.
From here, enjoy the skyline of Kanyakumari and a very level view of the Vivekananda rock from the ocean.
Or just give yourself up to the time and place. Allow nature to play violently with your hair and your heartbeat.
An ideal 2-day itinerary of Kanyakumari
[Don’t be ridiculous and dash in and out of this city in one day like most people do.]
Arrive at Kanyakumari in the morning.
First get to Vivekananda Rock out of your itinerary as it’s the most time consuming. Ferry across to the Tiruvallur statue.
Sign up for a half day tour that starts in the afternoon between 3pm-730pm at just Rs.150. Check out Vattakottai Fort, Suchindrum Temple, Saibaba Temple, Datta Temple, Ramar Temple, Sri Guhanatheeswarar Temple, Bharath Mata Temple, Vivekanand Ashram and, of course, the glorious sunset.
Turn in early as you’ll need to be up for sunrise next day.
Arulmigu Bhagavathy Amman Temple, 16-legged Mandap, Gandhi Mandapam, Thiriveni Sangamam, Hidden twin beach, View Tower, local shopping for interesting shells and stones and woven goodies.
Our lady of Ransom church, Kanyakumari pier, Wandering monk museum [opt].
Depart for Rameshwaram, Madurai or Chennai.
Don't leave without this
Gorge on some fantastic, freshly made banana chips with mild chili sprinkling, that's a local favourite.