Kottayam, among the State's more mountainous districts, provides some of Kerala's finest natural scenarios, sandwiched as it is between serene palm-fringed backwaters on the west and the Western Ghats having rubber, tea, coffee, pepper and cardamom plantation on the east. Much of this beauty is laid out in all its glory along the road, which winds from Kottayam to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkady through plantations of rubber, tea, coffee, and pepper.
In the past, Kottayam was the seat first of the Munjunad Rajas and later, in the 12th century of the Tekkumkur Rajas. This fact of royal history is echoed in the town's name, which is derived from the Malayalam word `kottayakam', which means the hold of a fort.
As the headquarters of several ecclesiastical heads of Christian churches like those of the Syrian Christian community, Kottayam is proof of the cultural and religious plurality of Kerala. Today, as reminders of this facet can be found ancient churches like the Valiya Palli, the Cheria Palli and the St. Mary's Church at Manarcad, built in 1585.
Apart from being a busy base for Christian missionaries, Kottayam is also an important commercial centre, thanks to its strength as a producer of cash crops. Most of India's natural rubber originates from the well-kept plantations of Kottayam. Kottayam is equally well-known for its cultural achievements. It is the Mecca of Kerala's publishing scene, home to dozens of Malayalam newspapers and magazines. To sustain this plethora of publications, Kottayam became the first town in India to attain total literacy, an event which triggered a mass movement to make Kerala the country's first totally literate state. Kottayam is also the birthplace of a unique institution, the Sahitya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham or the Writers Co-operative Society, perhaps the first ever co-operative of writers.