Kerala’s hidden charms & offbeat corners for the discerning traveller!

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Kerala’s hidden charms & offbeat corners for the discerning traveller!

As our definitions of vacations have changed from hectic, see-everything-you-can sightseeing holidays to leisurely travels where we would rather not see hordes of people blocking our view, the wide open spaces of the world seemed to have shrunk but thankfully haven’t disappeared altogether. It’s time for us to start experiencing destinations in a whole new way by stepping beyond the cliché and exploring the hidden gems around popular spots. Kerala is a hot favourite among travellers and naturally gets a lot of attention. That means it can feel crowded and all too familiar at times. Fortunately, the state has enough sights and secrets to hold those who stray off the beaten path, in rapture. Including the likes of hiking in the flourishing hills of Nelliampathy and a walk among the humbling Dolmens of Marayoor, here are few offbeat ways to experience the best of Kerala.

Walk among the ancient Dolmens of Marayoor

Kerala’s hidden charms & offbeat corners for the discerning traveller!

In an unassuming town called Marayoor, 42 kms away from Munnar, a secret of historic proportions is waiting to be unraveled by anyone who is willing. Ancient dolmens that have miraculously survived the test of time (over 5000 years to be precise) can be found littered on a rocky slope at the edge of this particular village. Dolmens are megalithic structures from prehistoric age where large slabs of stones are stacked together to form tombs. Given these are structures from thousands of years before, there is little information available but the idea that something from another time has survived all this while is most intriguing. Located on the barren slopes of a hill overlooking the town of Marayoor and Pambar river, surrounded by the looming hills of Western Ghats, it is hard not to get drawn to the intense energy of the place. It helps that the drive to the town of Marayoor from passes in immensely beautiful as well, including the famous section through the rare and natural Red Sandalwood groves on the way.

Fall in love with the misty peaks of Nelliampathy Hills

Kerala’s hidden charms & offbeat corners for the discerning traveller!

The first glimpse of Pothundy Dam on the way to Nelliampathy Hills is a great preview of the spectacular scenic beauty of this little-known hill station located 60kms away from the town of Palakkad in Kerala. The glimmering water of the reservoir is surrounded by lush forest and pointy hills that extend till the eye can see; it looks particularly impressive on a stormy day. Even though a lot of the forest here has been converted to massive tea, coffee and cardamom plantations, there’s still a huge swathe of forest that’s pristine and where wild things roam free. With the help of a forest guide, a hike to one of the viewpoints inside the protected area offers stunning vantage point views of the valleys below the windswept slopes.

Sip in the stunning views from Kolukkumalai Tea Estate

Kerala’s hidden charms & offbeat corners for the discerning traveller!

While the usual reason to visit Kolukkumalai Tea Estate on Kerala-Tamilnadu border may be sampling a cup of the delightful organic hand-rolled tea, I offer another incentive. Stunning views of a Tea Garden dwarfed by rugged mountains and surrounded by deep valleys! At 8000ft, this has to be the world’s highest organic and orthodox tea processing estates that eschews machinery to Cursh-Tear-Curl machinery. A sad excuse of a jeep trail winds through the tea plantations to climb to this estate and the road is as bad as it can get. The trail then crosses over to the other side to reach Kolukkumalai. The journey, though backbreaking, offers full redemption in the form of extraordinary views. From here, we can see the mountains and villages in Tamilnadu. The tea factory here has been standing since 1930s and is still in use to produce tea in the orthodox seven-step process.

Spend some quiet moments on the banks of secluded Sita Devi Lake

Kerala’s hidden charms & offbeat corners for the discerning traveller!

Nestled between lush forests of Devikulam, yet another little known hill station in the vicinity of the more famous Munnar, Sita Devi lake is a small but idyllic water body which can only be reached on foot. What it misses in grandeur, Sita Devi lake more than makes up for it with its incredible serenity. Without any of the ugly manifestations of so-called development, the lake is pristine as it comes, surrounded by lovely groves immediately and tea plantations in the far distance. Even the hike along the dense forest and by the stream is equally enjoyable as the destination by the end. The hike starts from one of the estates in Chinnakanal that’s at a distance of 22kms from Munnar, and is an easy one-hour effort, quite suitable for beginners.

Marvel at the heart-shaped lake on Chembra Peak in monsoons

Kerala’s hidden charms & offbeat corners for the discerning traveller!

While Chembra Peak is a great hike during most part of the year, it is only in the monsoons that the grasslands covering the higher reaches of the mountain transform into a lovely carpet of green. Between that glistening expanse of swaying grass, the heart-shaped lake of Chembra shines like a jewel. As you go higher up on the trail, a view of the lake below and its iconic shape becomes more and more detailed. The starting point of the hike to Chembra Peak is situated at a distance of 8kms from the town of Meppady and the period just before or right after monsoon is the best time to hike here. At 2100m high, in theory, it the lure of scaling one of the highest peaks of Wayanad that may draw the traveller to Chembra Peak, but it is the heart-shaped lake that eventually steals your heart.

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Neelima Vallangi
Last Updated : Jan 15,2021
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