Saraswathy Nagarajan lists five scenic places in the district that are worth exploring during the long weekend

Summer means vacations, long holidays and family time. As offices and work spaces shut down for Vishu and Easter, many families take off to exotic climes to explore new places and escape the heat.

But did you know that there are many roads less travelled within a radius of 25 km from the city that can turn out to be splendid occasions to spend time with your family, friends or just you?

Take a four-wheeler, plenty of drinking water, short eats and drive down to these exotic places that are so near your home and yet so far away from the beaten track.

Azhimala

Sparkling waves, a stiff breeze, scenic views of land and sea… That is Azhimala. It takes a little more than an hour to reach the place and at road’s end is a Siva temple on a rock. Take a walk to the beach or climb up the rock to the temple. While the devout can offer prayers at the temple, sightseers can bask in the panoramic scenes around.

The beach is not crowded and gentle waves cover the beach with lacy foam. Dusk is a dramatic scene that is played out in the horizon as the sun sinks into a flaming red sea. Gradually, as night covers the skies, the sky gets lit up with stars while the sea comes alive with flickering lights of fishing boats.

Have your fill of the scenery and drive home with a full heart.

How to reach: From Chakka, take the bypass to Kovalam. At Pulinkudi, a signboard indicates the way to the Siva temple or ask for directions.

Poovar

Hit the bypass and drive down to Poovar. Park your vehicle near the boat jetty, just after the bridge to Poovar, and hire a boat (slow or fast) to meander down the backwaters and the river Killi. Sunlight filters in through the natural canopy of trees, creepers and mangroves.

Watch the countryside glide by…people bathing in the river, washing clothes, children swimming; local fishermen selling fresh catch; birds flying all around. How many do you recognise?

Eventually the boatman takes you to the estuary where the river drains into the Arabian sea. Time to stretch your legs and get acquainted with the waves and the sand. An eye catching sculpture of Christ and a cross on a rock attract the pious.

At high tide, the bar of sand disappears under the waves only to emerge at low tide again.

How to reach: The bypass road to Poovar from the city.

Thirumala Krishnan Kovil

Thirumala is now a residential area that is filled with concrete. But it has a hoary past and an interesting connection with the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in the city. Granite for the Ottakkal Mandapam in the temple is believed to have been quarried from the huge hills at Thirumala. On the top of the hills is the Thrichakrapuram Sree Krishna Swami Kshethram, known as Para Kovil among local residents. A flight of steps takes visitors to the top of the hill. The climb is not for potato couches but the view from the top is unbeatable. It is greenery as far as the eye can see. See if you can identify the tall landmarks in the city such as the Doordarshan tower, the huge high rises, college campuses and so on. On a clear day, it is said, you can even see the sea far away. There isn’t much to ‘do’ here. This is for people who want to sit and stare and enjoy the quietude and the view from the top.

How to reach: Thirumala is just outside the Pangode cantonment if you are travelling from Thampanoor.

Aruvikkara

A popular picnic spot, Arvuvikkara is on the banks of the Karamana river. Verdant greenery and a mini dam attract many tourists. A temple built into the rocks has a placid stream at its foothills where many locals flock to feed the fish. Walk along the dam to watch the quiet countryside and woods around.

How to reach: Take the road to Nedumangad. There are plenty of signboards on the way.

Kadinamkulam

This is again a place for nature lovers. Even the road that leads to the lake is soaked in the tranquility of the place. Murukkumpuzha, a station that buzzes by while one travels by train, has its own charm of a laidback lifestyle. Kakkathuruthu and Perumathura estuary are just a boat ride away. Kakkathuruthu is haven for budding birdwatchers.

How to reach: From Kaniyapuram, take the road to Kadinamkulam.