Pathanamthitta is a large municipality town situated in the centre of the Travancore region of Kerala. The name of the place is derived from Pathanam and thitta, which together mean "array of ten family houses by the riverside", in Malayalam. It is also the administrative capital of the Pathanamthitta District.
Pathanamthitta lies 18 m above sea level and spreads over an area of 2637 sq km. The Pathanamthitta District is the youngest district in southern Kerala. Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha and Kollam districts surround this district. It also shares a border with the state of Tamil Nadu in the east. 10.03% of the district is urbanised and it has been declared as the first polio-free district of India.
The regions that form the part of present Pathanamthitta District were formerly the part of the Pandalam reign, which was associated with the Pandya kingdom. These regions became part of this district when Pandalam was added to the princely state of Travancore in 1820.
This rapidly progressing district was founded on 1 November, 1982 by combining various portions of Kollam, Idukki and Alappuzha districts. Idukki and Kottayam districts line Pathanamthitta in the north, Alappuzha in the west and Kollam in the south.
The geographical region of this district is split into three parts of highland, mainland and lowland. Its highland is covered with dense forest areas covering 1,385.27 sq km that is almost half of the total land of the district. This forest reserve forms the main source of the raw materials for wood-based industries.
The lowlands contain coconut trees that lie along the western borders of the Alappuzha District. It also provides one third of the electricity, to the state of Kerala as the Sabarigiri Hydroelectric Project and Kakkad Electricity Project function here. There is also an abundance of water resources in this district, which is used for irrigation in the Kallada and Pamba irrigation projects.
The place is known as the Pilgrim Capital of India due to the presence of the famous forest pilgrim centre, the Temple of Lord Dharmasastha. Pathanamthitta is also the main transport hub as the main trunk road to Sabarimala passes through this city.
The Pilgrim Capital of India also hosts a number of fairs and festivals amongst which, the most popular one is the festival season of Sabarimala that experiences over 4 million pilgrims every year. The 8 days Christian gathering held at Maramon, during February is also a major tourist attraction.
Pathanamthitta is well connected by flights, trains and buses to regions within and around the state. The nearest airport is at Thiruvananthapuram which has both international and domestic connectivity. The nearest rail heads are Thiruvalla and Chengannur, 26 and 30 km away respectively. These stations are well connected to most major Indian cities.
Apart from flights and trains, Pathanamthitta is well connected by roadways. Major highways like NH-220, SH-07 and SH-08 pass through the district, making it easily accessible. Buses are regularly available from Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and several other places.
The best time to visit Pathanamthitta is from September to February. It is best to avoid the summer and rainy season. The temperature in the summer months ranges from the higher 20s to the mid 30s along with a lot of humidity. Monsoon months see heavy rainfall, making it difficult to venture outside.