Munnar

An exquisite patch of extensive tea plantations, Munnar, the summer retreat of the British owes its name from three rivulets running through the land, Muthirappuzha, Nallatanni and Kundala.  The rare blue flower, Strobilanthus {Neelakkurinji}, which blooms once every twelve years transforms Munnar into a sea of blue. It bloomed last in December 2006. Eravikulam national park, home to the elusive Nigiri Thar is located here. Anamudi, the highest peak {2695m}` in the Western Ghats rears majestically in this land. Several important ecological spots like the sanctuaries of Kurinjimala, Chinnar, Manjampatti & Indira Gandhi and Pampadum Shola enrich the place.

Location. Idukki Dt. N.H. 49 connects Kochi to Munnar via Muvattupuzha and Adimali. 125 km.

Contact :  DTPC Idukki  04862 232248

Wild life warden, Forest Information Centre, Munnar. Ph 231587

Nelliyampathy

With picturesque tea gardens and orange groves Nelliampathy is a picture perfect tourist spot. Romantic mists and light drizzle lend a naughty atmosphere. The road from Nenmara wends along ten hairpin bends that have to be negotiated on the way to Nelliyampathy, which itself has plenty of enrapturing sights to offer. The Hill station at the southern tip of the Palakkad Gap offers a stunning vista of the Palakkad Gap, the great rift in the chain of Western Ghats that connects Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu. One can also have a bird’s eye view of Parambikkulam Sanctuary from here.

Location: Palakkad Dt.  ?? km from Palakkad town via Nenmmara

Contact: 0491 2538996

Stay: Kairali Ayurvedic health resort. Ph 04923 222553. ITL Holidays Resort. Ph 246357. Cee Dee Regency. Ph 222208

Ranipuram

A shola-wrapped Manimala is the spotlight of Ranipuram, a fetching hamlet in the southern tip of Kerala. Scaling the steep hill, tourists are rewarded by a glimpse of enchanting blue hills of the Western Ghats spread across Coorg, especially the Talacauvery region, and Kerala. It is a paradise for ornothologists, lepidopterists and nature enthusiasts. You can also expect an occasional elephant sighting here. The proposed Ranipuram Wild Life sanctuary will change the fortunes of this beautiful mount and catapult it into the top league of eco-tourist destinations in the state. The Ranipuram-Bakel fort tourist trail is an alluring excursion party.

Location: Kasargode. 47 km from Kanhangad via Odayamchal and Malakkallu

Contact: DTPC. Ph 04994 256450.

Paithal Mala

Paithal Mala, the crowning point of Kannur provides an astonishing view of Coorg jungles on the east  and the Paithal Valley to the west. An ancient seat of a tribal lord, Vaithalkon, the Vaithal or Paithal peak is now a major tourist attraction in the north. The two kilometre long trek to the peak is through thick woods and grass land. Ideal period to visit is before the monsoons. Stock up with adequate reserves of water and snacks before setting out. On a clear day from the watch tower on top Valapattinam River glints in the distance.

Location: Kannur. 35 km From Taliparamba via Kudianmala.

Contact: DTPC Kannur. Ph 0497 2706336. Stay: Taliparamba

Chembra

The majestic Chembra Peak is a magic mountain indeed. The grass-draped peak and the heart-shaped lake on its slope offers a mystic experience to trekkers. The climb to the peak defying the wind and other elements is an exhilarating experience. The peak is the highest in Wayanad {6300 feet}. An old British bungalow ‘The Clouds End’, built in 1870, on the way to the peak is a must see and an ideal place to spend a couple of days.

Location: Wayanad. 22 km From Kalpetta via Meppadi. & km ghat road to the Bungalow from Meppadi. Trekking path to the summit starts from here

Contact: DTPC 04936 202134

Stay: Clouds End Bungalow. 04936 282440

Ponmudi

Ponmudi Hills are a part of a contiguous stretch of Ashambu hills {part of the proposed Agasthyamala biosphere}, with peculiar species assemblage. The delicacy of climate and other favourable natural conditions has resulted in a astounding fecundity of species. Of the 16 bird species endemic to the Western Ghats, 15 species are seen here, including the Malabar grey hornbill, Black and Orange flycatchers, Kerala & Wayanad laughing thrushes, Broad-tailed grass bird and Nilgiri pipit. Of the 37 butterfly species endemic to Western Ghats, 24 species, including the Malabar rose, Banded swallow tail, Nilgiri tiger and Madras ace are found here. Rolling hills, winding paths, sparkling rivulets and swirling mists make for a rejuvenating haven. Meenmutty, Ponmudi & Kallar falls, Golden Valley, Peppara wildlife sanctuary and Deer park are nearby attractions. The 41-km trek to Braemore, a tea estate established in 1880’s sprawling over 900 acres provides an exhilarating experience.

Location: Ponmudi in Thiruvanandaouram  is 61 km  east to the capital city through Peroorkada, Nedumangad, Chullimanoor and Vithura. There are 22 hairpin curves in the route

Stay: KTDC Golden Peak. Ph  0472 2890225

Contact: DTPC Thirivananthapuram  0471 2315397

Vagamon

Scenic grass-clad hills, rolling meadows, velvet lawns and soothing mountain air make Vagamon a unique holiday retreat for travellers. The English pining for the ole’ country named her ‘Scotland of the East.’ This curious blend of religious mysticism and European legacies nestles in the lap of three mountains - Thangalmala, Kurisumala, and Muruganmala - abodes of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity, depicting religiousharmony prevailing in serene proximity. This retreat provides some great opportunities for trekking, paragliding, mountaineering and rock climbing to adventures.

Location: Idukki Dt.  64 km East to Kottayam via Pala Erattupetta.

Contact: DTPC Idukki  04862 232248

Stay: Page 89, July- Agust 2009 issue