Kanyakumari is the town located right at the southernmost point of India in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is where the Bay of Bengal – part of which is comprised of Marina Beach waaaaaay up the coast in Chennai, the second longest beach in the world – meets the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
It’s a pleasant beach resort town and the accommodation is very good value. It is famous for the Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial both of which can be found on islands just off the coast. It is possible to visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial via boats which make regular trips between the harbour and the island. It is the place where Swami Vivekananda, a monk who represented Hinduism and India to the Parliament of World Religions in 1883, achieved enlightenment. He was known for his oratory and literary works, particularly poetry. The Vivekananda Mandapam and the Shripada Mandapam are the main structures on the rock along with a meditation hall.
The boats are easy to find – just walk to the harbour and follow the signs. The trips are popular and there is usually a queue but it’s well organised and, like many queues we found ourselves in whilst travelling through South India, we got talking to the local people and other visitors. Life jackets are provided and should be returned at the end of the journey.
On arrival you will need to purchase an entrance ticket then follow the path upwards. You need to remove your shoes before entering the memorial proper. It’s worth noting that the rock can get very hot underfoot if the weather is warm so it’s worth making the trip earlier in the day.
Another thing to note is that photography is prohibited in some parts of the memorial building. It is always important to abide by no-photography rules to show respect, but they are enforced here very strictly. We saw someone try to sneak a photo and their phone was rapidly confiscated by eagle-eyed attendants.
There is also a closer view of the Thiruvalluvar Statue on the adjacent island.
The other essential activity for tourists in Kanyakumari is to experience sunrise and sunset looking out over the vast, vast ocean. There are two different locations – one looking east and the other west, for obvious reasons. The sunset spot is about 2 km from the town centre which makes for a pleasant walk along the coastal path. Of course, if you don’t want to walk there will be tuk-tuk drivers aplenty, available around town at the time the sun is due to set. If you walk you can’t get lost – just follow the crowds.
There is a designated sunset viewing point – right at the bottom left corner of the map.
The sunset was rather lovely.
Walking back there are all sorts of restaurants and food stalls along the beach front as well as a number of shops where you can buy spices and souvenirs. The town is also famous for the myriad sea shells available to buy and there are loads of stalls selling these too.
The sunrise location is helpfully close to the centre of town just behind the Amman temple on the Kanyakumari Beach and looks east over the Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial which are beautifully lit up at night.
The timing for sunrise when we visited was such that we woke up at 4:30am and were a bit groggy, but fortunately didn’t have too far to walk. As with the sunset, follow the crowds. It’s worth getting there early to try and find a good viewing spot as a multitude of people will gather. The atmosphere is lovely and friendly with a sense of anticipation for the day ahead. We were rewarded with a most magnificent sunrise.
And then went back to bed for a couple of hours!