The quintessential coastal town of Kovalam, located in the Southern state of Kerala in India, has been one of the favorite destinations for tourists. The three crescent shaped beaches in Kovalam are blessed with beautiful bay of calm waters mainly due to the massive rocky formations, ideal for sea bathing . The drive from Bangalore to Kovalam is around 750 Kilometers and will take you roughly 12 hours – factoring the breakfast and lunch stops.
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Kerala has been one of our favorite holiday destinations in South India. My family loves this place for the food, weather and the beautiful landscape. Kerala has to be one of the most scenic coastal states that you can visit in India. Wife and I had planned to take a week off from work and hit the roads to rejuvenate ourselves. Initially, we decided to visit Goa, which over the years has become like a second home for us. I can pack my bags anytime of the year to visit Goa. But, wife did not sound very enthusiastic as we had already done a trip to Goa that year. So, Kovalam it was !!
Even though distance-wise, drive to Kovalam is a good 100 kilometers more than Goa, the excellent road conditions ensure that the drive time is more or less the same. The 750 kilometers drive can be done in 12 hours mainly because, you would be driving on tolled express highways for a good 90% of the journey.
Some last minute suggestions and recommendations from our friends and relatives meant that we were going to visit the auspicious seashore temple of “Tiruchendur” en-route to Kovalam. This change in plan meant that we had to leave Bangalore pretty early so as to reach Kovalam for dinner. After some meticulous planning (which never succeeds by the way 🙂 ) the following itinerary was finalized for the trip:
- Leave Bangalore no later than 4:00 AM
- 30 minutes stop for Breakfast somewhere between Krishnagiri and Salem. Did not want to stop at our favorite A2B restaurant at Shoolagiri as it would be too early for breakfast
- Reach Salem by around 8:00 AM
- Reach Madurai by around 11:30 AM and have an early lunch
- Reach Tiruchendur temple by around 3:00 PM and spend not more than an hour at the temple. Leave Tiruchendur at around 4:00 PM
- Reach Kovalam by around 8:00 PM
I woke up at 3:00 AM ( frankly speaking the excitement of a long drive ensured that I was up without the alarm going off ) and we were off from Bangalore at the wee hours of the morning at 3:45 AM. Always a good feeling to be ahead of the plan !! Driving at this hour through city is a bliss as junctions which usually take 30 minutes to navigate during peak traffic can be crossed in seconds.
There was not much traffic and we were able to zip past all the tolls and were in Dharmapuri by 6:15 AM. The fertile belt from Krishnagiri to Dharmapuri is a pleasure to drive.
We stopped for our breakfast at SaiSangeet Hotel just after Dharmapuri. The hotel is on the other side of the road i.e. the road heading from Salem to Dharmapuri. Since the hotel looked new and clean we took the pain of driving an additional 500 meters before taking a U turn to reach the hotel. The complex also has a Cafe Cofee Day and an Indian Oil Gas station.
After having our breakfast, we continued our drive and reached Salem by around 8 AM. Did not find that much traffic on Salem outer ring road and within no time we were driving towards Madurai. This stretch of the highway is pretty empty and since we were driving on a Sunday, traffic was very thin. We were able to maintain good speed and managed to reach Madurai by around 11:00 AM – 30 minutes ahead of my plan to reach Madurai 🙂 !!
We were so tempted to venture into Madurai city and have an authentic south Indian lunch. But considering that we were on a very tight schedule we refrained from venturing into the city and losing any time. We hogged few freshly made dosas (pancakes made with rice batter) with 5 varieties of chutneys and continued our drive towards Tiruchendur at 11:30 AM.
Tip: You will not find any good eating joints in the Madurai – Tiruchendur highway and thus would advice you to have your lunch near Madurai.
I planned to take the 4 lane highway from Madurai to ThoothuKudi (also called Tuticorin) which are tolled roads and in great condition. Also this stretch has no traffic and you can literally reach Tuticorin in 2 hours from Madurai.
We reached Tuticorin by 1:30 PM and continued our drive towards Tiruchendur. Tuticorin is a very dry arid region and is one of the important Sea ports in Southern India. You will find many trailers and heavy vehicles transporting goods from Tuticorin Port. Being a very arid region, you will find stretches of salt pans all along the highway.
The stretch of 35 Kilometers from Tuticorin to Tiruchendur is a nightmare to drive. Though the route will take you through scenic landscape, you will hardly be able to enjoy the drive due to the non existent roads. As you move further away from Tuticorin, the landscape will start changing and very soon you will find yourself in the fertile belt of “Thamirabarani River” – a lifeline for this region.
It took us a good hour to navigate this stretch of 35 kilometers to reach Tiruchendur Temple at 2:30 PM.
To our disappointment the temple was closed and was scheduled to open for pooja’s only at 5:00 PM. After having already spent 12 hours on road, I really was not looking forward to drive in the night and hence did not want to stay back till 5:00 PM. Even though the inner sanctum was closed, the temple complex was still accessible for public. Tiruchendur temple is a huge complex dedicated to Lord “Subrahmanyam” and the nucleus of the temple is more than 2000 years old. For more information about the temple you can visit the temple website.
We spent a good hour exploring the temple and taking the customary visit to the seashore.
The Gulf of Mannar. The beautiful Bay of Bengal right next to the temple complex. It is considered auspicious to take a dip here after visiting the temple. The shoreline is usually very crowded.
We had a strong filter coffee in a restaurant close to the temple complex and left Tiruchendur at 3:30 PM. Kovalam is around 175 Kilometers from Tiruchendur and it will take you a good 3.5 hours to reach. The 2 lane Tiruchendur road SH-93 is in decent shape but due to the slow moving traffic slows down the drive. Once you reach the NH-44 toll road, you can again make up sometime till you cross Nagercoil. Once you cross Nagercoil, road conditions again deteriorate and it is slow progress till the Kerala Border.
The slow progress, especially after almost being on road for 15 hours, was frustrating. Roads in Kerela are pretty narrow and it is always advisible to drive slowly to avoid any mishaps. We had made our reservations at “The Leela, Kovalam” and were just in time (around 6:45PM) for the sunset over the beautiful Arabian Sea.
As I parked my car after a long 16 hour drive which took me through 3 Southern states in India, the sense of accomplishment kicked in. Within a matter of 4 hours, we were able to see the turbulent”Bay of Bengal” in the East and the calmer “Arabian Sea” to the West. As I sipped my cold welcome drink at the resort, could not help but relive the diverse culture that India has to offer. This is a road trip that everyone living in Bangalore should relive and experience for themselves !!!
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