Tripunithura Hill Palace is a large palace complex with 49 buildings spread over 54 acres of prime land in Tripunithura on Hill Palace Road. Built in 1865 by the Maharaja of Cochin it was the official residence of the royal family. In 1980, the palace changed hands to the Department of Archaeology (Government of Kerala) who converted it into an archaeological museum and opened its gates to the public in 1986. To get to Hill Palace from Kakkanad, turn left at Karingachira junction from Seaport-Airport road and travel around 500m to the entrance on the left – NH49 merges into Seaport-Airport road at Irumpanam junction and you are on NH49 until you get to the palace entrance. The museum timings are 9 AM - 12:30 PM and 2:00 PM - 4:30 PM all days except Mondays. The Childrens Park in the campus is also open from 4:30 PM – 6 PM.
When we reached the gates by 9AM, a small crowd was forming at the gates. Gates opened around 9:05 AM and there was a rush to the ticket counter at the building to the left. As with most places in Kerala, here also lines (queue) are only starting to get enforced but we managed to get our tickets quickly as some did not know where the counter was. Locating the ticket counters outside the entrance and insisting on a proper queue could have alleviated some of the confusion. Tickets are Rs 20 adults, Rs 10 kids (5-12), and Rs 20 for camera and parking. One can always park for free outside on the road surrounding the palace. Parking inside gives the advantage of parking closer to the main palace building. Video camera is allowed but is priced at Rs 1500, probably a legacy from olden times. Wide steps spanning a distance of around 300 meters lead to the museum entrance in the main palace building. Photography is prohibited inside the main building. All personal belongings and footwear need to be kept in the locker and/or in the outside cubicles – free but a small donation (Rs 2 or so) is recommended.
The main building has 14 categories of exhibits – highlights include murals, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts written on coconut leaves, jewelry, inscriptions, carvings, old coins, etc. The jewelry section is the only air-conditioned room in the building and hosts the 1.75 kg gold crown presented by the King of Portugal – the Kochi Maharajahs had received a number of such crowns but they were never worn, as these crowns were too ornate for their simple lifestyle. Pallaks (carriage for royalty that is carried around by four or more people) and Weapons Gallery is in an adjacent building – shoes and cameras are allowed inside these buildings but photography is off the list – best to empty the locker in the main building before walking over to this adjacent building. Near these two main buildings, are a few other buildings including the office of the center for heritage studies, which are not open to the public.
Aside from the exhibits in the two buildings, there are other options to pursue as time allows. The walkway leads to the giant dinosaur model and a nice picnic area. Further down is a deer park that showcases a large collection of deers including the Sambar and the Spotted Deer. At the end of the pathway is a partial jogging track that marks most of the boundary of the palace complex. Not many people venture out there and maintenance of the track is below par. Nevertheless it is a good option to appreciate the flora around the palace buildings – trees with strong vines abound (Tarzan anyone?) and the path was dotted with Manchadi Kurus (a beautiful red seed). The palace grounds also host a small horticultural area (royal heritage plant nursery) where local plants can be had for reasonable prices.
The area around the park has a large pond sorely in need of maintenance. The small information hut has limited services and offers some tourism related books for sale but no curios. The snack bar adjacent to the ticket counter serves ice creams and such – seating is limited to a few chairs in the outside corridor. A popular childrens park and play area suitable for young kids is also in an area close to the entrance – the park has a few small rides, slides, and swings. The park also offers horse rides around the park periphery for Rs 30. Our kids enjoyed the ride and the horse seemed to be well cared for.
Overall, we highly recommend visiting this palace complex, especially for families with young kids. There are plenty of options to spend half a day or more and as with most government run attractions in Kerala; pricing is nominal for tickets and other services. The staffs in the complex were generally friendly and helpful, although they have ways to go to be considered above average in the hospitality industry.