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Although technically in Tamil Nadu (but a mere 55km/34 miles south of Trivandrum), this gorgeous palace -- one of the finest examples of secular architecture in India -- was for several centuries the traditional home of Kerala's Travancore royal family. It's still well-maintained, and a meditation room features two lamps that have burned since its construction, tended by two dutiful women. Built over a number of generations during the 17th and 18th centuries, the palace exemplifies the aesthetic and functional appeal of Kerala's distinctive architectural style: sloping tiled roofs; elaborate slatted balconies; cool, polished floors; and slanting walls and wooden shutters -- all effectively designed to counter the intense sunlight and heat. The private living quarters of the royal family are a maze of open corridors and pillared verandas; outside, small garden areas feature open courtyards where the sunlight can be enjoyed. Note that the king's chamber is furnished with a bed made from 64 different types of medicated wood and has its own beautifully decorated prayer room.