Once known as and still usually referred to by its English name, Trivandrum, Thiruvananthapuram, India, is a tropical seaside city near the country's southern tip. Located 780 mi/1,200 km south of Mumbai, it is the capital of the state of Kerala. Built on seven hills, it has palm trees, excellent beaches and a number of historical attractions.

The city's museums are located in the north end: the Napier Museum (traditional Keralite, Chinese, Mughal and English architecture), the Sri Chtira Art Gallery (collections owned by the royal Travancore family) and the Science and Technology Museum. The Padmanabhaswamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu and containing a seven-story tower, is the most important building in the city (it is only open to Hindus). Other sights include a fort and a good aquarium.

You can take a tour through the backwater country with a local fisherman. The best beach in the area—and by far the most popular with tourists—is Kovalam, which lies a few miles/kilometers southeast of Thiruvananthapuram. The sand, lined with palm trees, seems to stretch forever. There's an excellent hotel (Coconut Bay Beach Resort) that offers inexpensive Ayurvedic massages, or try longer Ayurvedic therapies at Somatheerum Beach Resort a few miles/kilometers north of town. Kerala's beaches are excellent for watching the local fishing technique—low-slung dugout canoes are controlled by teams holding ropes on the beach.

Just 54 mi/87 km southeast is Kanya Kumari (Cape Comorin), the southernmost tip of India, where the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean meet. The area is a good spot to rest prior to going to the Maldives or after visiting Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Note: Women should not spend time on the beach alone—there have been reports of attacks on foreign women.

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