Kottayam : Beyond Letters and Latex
Situated 76 km from Kochi, Kottayam is a place strangely ancient in spirit but fairly modern in atmosphere. This land, located in the erstwhile central Travancore is remarkably fertile and brilliantly green. A true topical diversity marked by backwaters, green paddy fields, rubber plantations and palm groves as far as the eye could see. The land is also rich in varieties of vegetables spices like cardamom, pepper, plantation crops like rubber and tea. The people are healthy, hard working and educated. This is Kottayam, the Land of Letters, Latex and Lakes.
The district of Kottayam has the highest literacy in India, hence the sobriquet 'Land of Letters'. The town of Kottayam is also the birth place of the publishing industry and the home of the Fourth Estate in Kerala. It is also the 'Land of Latex' because of its extensive rubber plantations. Kottayam is also called the 'Land of Lakes' because of the many lakes forming part of the great water expanse - the Vembanad. River like Manimala, Pamba and Achankovil empty into this lake. These and various canals provide for boating, canoeing, fishing and sightseeing, experiences that are unforgettable. 
A short ride of 10 km to the west of Kottayam brings you to Kumarakom, on the vast Vembanad Lake, a well-known bird sanctuary, where one can sight parrots, egrets, herons, teal, larks, fly catchers and other birds during their respective migratory seasons. Earlier, hundreds of Siberian cranes used to visit Kumarakom during winter. A cruise on the Vembanad Lake is quite exhilarating. Preserving the old style, the beautiful bungalow of Albert George Baker at Kumarakom has now been modified into 'Taj Garden Retreat', a hotel of Taj group.
A unique backwater island, Pathiramanal (midnight sand) is an uninhabited island in the Vembanad lake. Visitors to this island savour the rich verdant surroundings and the serene ambience. 
Boat Races in Kottayam
Every year, during Onam season, Kavanattinkara and Kumarakom boat races are conducted at the Kavanar and Kottathodu rivers respectively. About 50 boats, including snake boats participate in these races. Visitors from near and far and tourists flock to watch and be part of the fun and frolic of these boat races. 
Tucked away in the folds of lovely mountains, Ilaveezhapooncira, on the border of Kottayam-Idukki districts, is a picturesque stretch of land, situated 3000 ft above sea-level. During the monsoon season, the water that gets accumulated over a wide area would look like a placid lake, reflecting the rain clouds and the majestic mountains. The pristine beauty of nature is preserved almost intact in this small region.
'Kannadippara' is the highest mountain peak in Ilaveezhapoonchira. From Kannadippara, one can enjoy both sunrise and sunset. The 80 ft high waterfall at 'Kazhukankulimali' is an added attraction here.
Wagamon, another tourist centre is about 60 km from Kottayam, situated at an elevation of 1100 m above sea-level. It is a trekker's paradise.
Places of Worship in Kottayam
Kottayam town is the gateway to pilgrim centres of Sabarimala, Mannanam, Kuruvilangad, Vaikom, Ettumanoor, Bharananganam, Erumeli, Manarcad, Aruvithura and Athirampuzha. The famous Vaikom Siva temple, associated with the legendary sage Parasurama, is just 40 km. north of Kottayam town and is a typical example of Kerala temple architecture. So also are the temples of Perunna, Vazhappally and Thrikkodithanam near Changanassery. There is a school imparting training in temple art forms like panchavadyam, (orchestra of five musical instruments) sopana sangeetham, naga swaram etc. at Vaikom, associated with the Siva temple. The temple at Ettumanoor about 12 km. north of Kottayam is famous for the exquisite ancient murals and 'Ezharaponnana' or the 7½ elephants finished in gold. 
At the St. Mary's church at Kuravilangad built in 355 AD, there is an old bell, which bears a hitherto undeciphered inscription. The mortal remains of the Blessed Sister Alphonsa and Blessed Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara are entombed at the St. Mary's church at Bharananganam and the St.Joseph's Monastry church at Mannanam respectively. 
The religious festivals in the district of Kottayam are also famous. Petta Thullal at Erumeli (January) Ashtami at Vaikom (November / December) Ezharaponnana at Ettumanoor (February / March). Blessed Alphonsa at Bharananganam (July) Ettunompu at Manarcad (September) Chandanakudam at Changanacherry (December) are prominent among them. One will find thousands of Hindus, Muslims and Christians taking part in these festive occasions in their quest for peace and salvation.
Mosque at Erumeli
The mosque at Erumeli about 60 km. northeast of Kottayam town is dedicated to Vavar, a contemporary and companion of Lord Ayyappa. Every year the unique sight of multitudes of Hindu pilgrims worshipping at this mosque before their trek to Sabarimala to worship Lord Ayyappa is truly soul stirring.
Valiapally (Metropolitan Church) Kavil Bhagavathi (Goddess) temple and Puthoorpalli Muslim Juma-ath stand shoulder-to-shoulder in Changanassery town. Annually (December 25) the 'Chandana Kudam' festival procession of Muslims, carrying sacred pots filled with sandal is given a grand reception by the Hindus in front of the Kavil Bhagavathi temple in Changanassery. 
Source: IT Department, Government of Kerala