The winter is here and who doesn’t love to travel to places that are shrouded in mist. It seems that all roads are leading to Munnar, which is in a grip of cold wave, in Kerala as thousands of tourists are flocking to this popular hill station. Notwithstanding the extreme climate, travellers are heading to Munnar in droves and now this tourist spot is breathing for space. As Munnar is flooded with travellers, the charm of being in cold conditions in this much-liked place is slowly ebbing away.
Munnar is not the only destination in Kerala with a real nip in the air. You can enjoy the beauty of winter if you could travel to certain places situated in the northern and southern sides of the state. Quite recently, travellers had started to visit these tourist spots and the authorities concerned had put in place facilities for the comfort of the visitors. Interestingly, most of these budget-friendly destinations are not far away and are less crowded. Why not take a trip to some chilly tourist spots?
Magnificent Munnar is calling
The winter season had set in in Munnar in the first week of December and extreme cold conditions prevail in the morning and evening. Though Munnar town and Nallathanni recorded temperature of 8 degree Celsius, areas such as Mattupetty, Thenmala, Kundalla, Lakshmi, Gundumala and Chittuvara experienced temperatures between 0 and 4 degree Celsius. Three weeks ago, the temperature plummeted to 2 to 3 degree Celsius in estate regions. There was a surge in tourist footfall in Munnar with the arrival of the winter season. The tourists coming to this sought-after spot are mainly from foreign countries and North India. During the Christmas and New Year holidays, the resorts and hotels in Munnar were brimming with travellers. You can get a room in Munnar in the range of Rs 1,000 to Rs 1.5lakh.
The ever-enchanting Ponmudi
Ponmudi is a dream getaway where clouds descend on earth with ease. If you want to get the experience of the white cotton clouds embracing you, visit this slice of paradise in the months of December and January. The sight of expansive undulating lush green meadows is a treat for the eyes. The gentle cool breeze, the unexpected swathes of thick mist and the tranquil drizzle will create an ethereal experience. Ponmudi, which is a well-liked hill station in the district of Thiruvananthapuram, can soothe your body and mind in equal measure. It is noteworthy that Ponmudi is the highest popular tourist destination in South India. A few months ago, Ponmudi was isolated from the mainland as heavy rains destroyed roads leading to the hills. The roads were later re-laid and tourists flowed to Ponmudi during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Ponmudi is just 60km from Thiruvananthapuram city and the nature’s pristine beauty is in full display on the way to the hill station. Undoubtedly, the road to Ponmudi is a dream one of any rider. Tall trees make a perfect canopy and one striking feature of Ponmudi is that there isn’t a concrete jungle like other hill stations in Kerala. The vast Western Ghats looks majestic in Ponmudi. There will always be a nip in the air no matter how harsh the summer is in the plains and the mist can engulf the mountains any time. If you are a lucky traveller, then you will be able to spot Nilgiri tahrs in the grasslands.
The vehicles can go up to the Upper Sanatorium. Though there is a watch tower atop the hills, tourists are not allowed to enter it. The forest department’s check posts could be found at Golden Valley in the plains and up above the hills. Plastics and bottles are not allowed and an entrance fee of Rs 30 person should be paid for entering the Upper Sanatorium.
Stay comfortably in Ponmudi
The nights of Ponmudi are marked by strong winds. The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) has a resort atop the hills, probably one of the most beautiful guest houses of the corporation. The visitors can have a clear view of the mountain ranges while sitting on the top floor of the resort. You can have a cup of coffee on the lush green lawns of the resort with thick fog for company. The state government’s guest house is also near the KTDC resort. If you are into photography, you can click photos to your heart’s content. The beauty of Ponmudi lies in its verdant forest and green meadows. Ponmudi is also an ideal destination for butterfly and bird watching. While coming down the hills, you will be able to see the old tea plantations and the workers of the tea estates will be waiting for you with wild fruits.
While travelling to Ponmudi, make sure to take a dip in the cool waters of the Kallar river, and there are facilities for women to take bath in the river and change their clothes. A 1km trek through the forest will take you to the alluring Meenmutty waterfalls. You have to be very careful while taking bath in the Kallar river as the water level can rise anytime due to copious rainfall in the forest. You have to follow the instructions of the experienced local residents or the guides while entering the Kallar waters. If you take a detour from Vithura, which is on the way to Ponmudi, you can savour the beauty of the Peppara dam and the Vazhvanthol waterfalls.
Route: Thiruvananthapuram-Nedumangad-Vithura-Kallar-Ponmudi. (Distance: 60km).
Accommodation: KTDC Golden Peak Hotel and Government Guest House. The rooms can be booked online. Kallar has hotels too.
The stunning Kakkadampoyil
Kakkadampoyil is a perfect blend of Ooty and Wayanad when it comes to unblemished beauty of nature and countryside vistas. Moreover, this wonderful place is a perfect one-day getaway from Kozhikode or Malappuram. Kakkadampoyil, which is a hamlet that shares border with Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, has earned the sobriquet of ‘Malabar’s Ooty’ because of its majestic natural wonders. This village spreads across Koodaranji panchayat in Kozhikode district, and Chaliyar and Oorgattiri panchayats in Malappuram district.
If you could stand atop the hills early in the morning, you could see the fog-covered rolling hills and chunks of mist passing by in absolute silence. Kakkadampoyil, which is on the slopes of the Wayanad mountain ranges, is situated 2,132ft above sea level. The drive to this amazing destination will provide the same experience as travelling to any other hill station. Steep ascents and winding roads will greet you as you reach the high ranges. Kakkadampoyil, which had only migrant farmers, became a popular tourist spot quite recently and the place is now dotted with many resorts.
The main tourist attractions of Kakkadampoyil are the Kozhippara waterfalls and the Pazhassi cave. One could find many farmers who have made farm tourism a great success in Kakkadampoyil. Arecanut, coffee, cocoa, pepper, banana, vanilla and coconut are cultivated in this mountain village. Though the main source of income for the local residents is agriculture, tourism is also gaining ground at a rapid pace. Many farmers are also cultivating various types of fruits and they are selling fresh fruits and juices through their farms in the region. You can buy forest produce, which are sourced by the members of the forest protection committee, from the eco shop in Kozhippara. The colony of the Cholanaikkan tribals is near Kakkadampoyil.
The awesome Kozhippara waterfall is just 3km away from Kakkadampoyil. The milky cascade reflects the wilderness and the virgin charm of the verdant forest. Crystal clear and fresh water relentlessly flows caressing the rocks and when you are near the waterfall, the sound of water falling slowly envelopes you like a crescendo. As the rocks are slippery, handrails are put in place for the safety of the visitors. The Kozhippara waterfall, which is situated in the Kuruvan River, is the apt spot for those who love trekking through the forest.
The historic Pazhassi cave is located in Nayadampoyil, which is 4km from Kakkadampoyil and you have to walk for 2km through the forest to reach the cave. It is believed that Pazhassi Raja, who was on his way from Wayanad to Nilambur, took rest in this cave. The cave was also a hiding place for Pazhassi Raja during his battle with the British.
Mist and hills define Kuttikanam
The mist-embraced mountain ranges, the sweeping green meadows and the cool breeze make Kuttikanam one of the favourite destinations of tourists. Moreover, hodophiles can travel to popular tourist spots such as Thekkady, Vagamon, Munnar, Paruthumpara, Panchalimedu and Ramakalmedu with ease from Kuttikanam.
Route: You can reach Kuttikanam after travelling 72km from Kottayam. You can also drive from Ernakulam to Thodupuzha and take the Moolamattam-Elappally-Vagamon-Elappara route to arrive at Kuttikanam. The Thodupuzha-Erattupetta-Vagamon-Elappara route can also take you to Kuttikanam.
The places of interest include Ammachikottaram, which was the summer home of the Travancore kings; Madamakullam and the British church in Pallikunnu.
The refreshing Ranipuram
Ranipuram known as Kerala’s Ooty in Kasaragod district is a place that has a pretty cool climate. The winter begins in Ranipuram by December and many travellers come to this spectacular tourist center to view the hills being hugged by the thick mist. Hundreds of tourists visited Ranipuram daily during the Christmas holidays as the USP of this spot is its floating thick mist. When the mist comes down, even people at arm’s length will become invisible. And this magic of nature attracts travellers to Ranipuram.
Another attraction is trekking through the forests and mountains. People coming with family members and otherwise can stay at the quarters of the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) and private resorts. The café of the forest department and private hotels near the ticket counter and soft drink outlets on the hill top serve the visitors.
You have to drive from Panathady, which is on the Kanhangad-Panathur state highway, to step into Ranipuram. You can reserve your accommodation by calling DTPC quarters at 0467 2227755. Ticket counter of forest department: 0467 2227600.
The enthralling Nelliyampathy
The drive to the top of the Nelliyampathy hills itself is a unique experience as you reach the peak by driving beside the Pothundi dam and through the mist-covered roads. As you go up the winding road, the chances of spotting a herd of elephants are pretty high. Once you reach the top, plain land will greet you. The drive to the top of the hills is through the expansive tea plantations and the vast green patch can soothe your mind. You don’t have to worry about accommodation as there are many resorts in Nelliyampathy, which is 1,500m above sea level and boasts of cool and pleasant climate. You can also visit the agriculture department’s orange orchard. The forest area is adjacent to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.
Nelliyampathy, which is termed poor man’s Ooty, is eye-catching, to say the least. While travelling on the winding road, there are many viewpoints from where you can get a panoramic view of the surrounding regions. Travellers reaching Nelliyampathy won’t leave without visiting Sitharkundu, which gives a bird’s eye view of most of the regions in Palakkad district. Another sought-after spot in Nelliyampathy is the huge flat rock called Kesavanpara. Nelliyampathy also boasts of hanging bridge, waterfalls and hilltops.
A 6km travel from Nooradi will take you to the hilltop. The hilltop is a trekking center with a pathway for 3km and after that it is a walk through the jungle. The remnants of the palaces built by the British could found at a place which is the highest point in the Nelliyampathy panchayat. Nelliyampathy was once the favourite hunting ground of the British as this place was oozing with wilderness. Travellers can see bison, elephants and deer in the forests of Nelliyampathy. Giving stress to farm tourism, the state government had opened an orange and vegetable farm in Pulayanppara.
It is noteworthy that the tour through the tea plantations is reminiscent of the tea gardens in Munnar. While returning from Nelliyampathy, you can rest at the Pothundi dam and also indulge in adventure sports including sky cycling.
How to reach
While coming from Thirssur, you can reach Nenmara via Vadakancherry after travelling for 50km. There are four bus services to Nelliyampathy, which is 30km away from Nenmara. People coming from Palakkad can reach Nenmara after a drive of 30km. Many jeeps are running services through the forest paths of Nelliyampathy, Karashuri and Minnamppara. Many resorts, including that of Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) make the travellers’ stay in Nelliyampathy comfortable.
(Prepared by M A Anuj, V Mitran, Nahas Mohammad and Albin Raj)