Kollam, India, is usually seen by travelers as the starting point for a boat trip down tropical inland waterways to the town of Alappuzha. Located 760 mi/1,220 km south of Mumbai, Kollam is an ancient city with traces of Portuguese, Dutch and British influence. There's a nice government rest house available for overnight stays.

Founded by a Syrian merchant in the 9th century, Kollam was one of the most important trade centers during the 12th century. It was there that Christianity first gained a foothold in India.

Kollam sits in a unique location, with the Lacadive coast of Kerala to its west and a huge network of canals and backwaters to its east. Ashtamudi Lake is the perfect starting point for a day-long backwater cruise where you can see life as it exists on these fragile yet ancient ecosystems.

Another attraction is the Thangassery Lighthouse: Built in 1902, the lighthouse is 144 ft/44 m tall, and can be climbed for a nice view of the area. The beautiful old British Residency is another site worth visiting for its pretty architecture. Close to the lighthouse is the Portuguese cemetery, built in 1519, and the remains of the St Thomas Fort.

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