Travel Bucket List: India – Kerala Part 3

Moving on our next Kerala destination are the hills of Wayanad which is set high on the Western Ghats with altitudes ranging from 700 to 2100 meters. Formed on 1 November 1980 by carving out areas from Kozhikode and Kannur districts, there are many indigenous tribals in this area of which about 885.92 sq km of area are under forest cover. Pulpally boasts of the only Lava- Kusha temple in Kerala and Vythiri has the only mirror temple in Kerala which is a Jain temple. The edicts and caves of Ambukuthi Mala state that the place is as old as the beginning of the New Age Civilisation. The name Wayanad is derived from Vayal Naadu which translates to the land of paddy fields from Malayalam. Historians believe that the human settlements existed in these parts for at least ten centuries before Christ. Much evidence of New Stone Age civilisation can be seen in the hills. The Edakkal Caves has 6000-year-old rock engravings from the Neolithic age, though the recorded history of this district is available only from the 18th century. In ancient times, this land was ruled by the Rajas of the Veda tribe. Wayanad has the largest tribal population in Kerala with 8 scheduled tribes including the Adiyan, Paniyan, Mullukkurman, Kurichyan, Vettakkuruman, Wayanad Kadar, Kattuniakkan and Thachaanadan Mooppan. These communities have a number of symbolic oral narratives.

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Chembra Peak: Located close to Meppady and just 8 km south of Kalpetta, stands the highest peak of the Wayanad Hill Range, the Chembra Peak which stands at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level. The Chembra peak offers a panoramic view of not only the entire Wayanad district but also a large chunk of Kozhikode, Malappuram and Niligiri districts. The peak, its surrounding lush greenery and the famed heart-shaped lake make it worth exploring. The peak is famous among trekkers for providing an excellent one-day trekking experience which takes about three hours from Meppady. On the way to the peak, you come across a heart-shaped lake which is believed to have never dried up and is a major tourist attraction. The view of the Banasura Sagar Dam from the peak is wonderful as the large dam stands out in the green blanket and appears to be a shiny silver metal disk sitting between the trees. Treks to the peak are organised by the Chempra Peak VSS which comes under the South Wayanad Forest Development Agency. The District Tourism Promotion Council provides equipment and guides on hire and charges for a group of 10 people are INR 500 for Indians and for INR 1000 for foreigners. You will have to take prior permission from the forest office in Meppady before trekking to Chembra Peak and this can be done through agents or from your hotel. Access to the peak is during daytime hours and the entry fee is INR 50.

Edakkal Caves: Famous for its exquisite rock and wall carvings, the pre-historic Edakkal Caves are two naturally occurring alcoves measuring at a massive length and width of 96 and 22 feet respectively and lie 1200 metres above the sea level. Owing to its precarious location, one needs to trek for one and half hours or around 4000 ft to reach the cave entrance, and another 45 minutes to reach the mouth of the cave. The Edakkal caves are of historical and archaeological significance as they have carvings that date back to the Neolithic era, the late Stone Age. The stonework in the interior of the cave is estimated to be as old as 5000 to 1000 BC. Edikkal which literally means a stone in between has a smaller rock has wedged in between 2 bigger ones to form a natural cave. In the truest sense of the word, it is not a cave but a natural fissure in the rock which has a heavy boulder on top. The cave thus has 2 levels. The first level of the cave can be explored through a small opening. Just opposite this is a passage that leads to another opening, this time in the roof. Here you come to the second level which is much bigger in size. To explore the caves visitors have to pass uneven boulders, an iron ladder and rock walls covered with fungi. The walls are covered with carvings of animal and human figures, some of which are hazy but are clear for the most part. The clarity of the carvings is even more surprising given the duration they have survived. There are three type of petroglyphs or rock carvings in the cave with oldest believed to be 8000 years old. The carvings include figures of animal, human or otherwise, squares, stars, crosses, wheels, triangles, spirals, tridents, plant and pot motifs. The human figures have masked faces and raised hair. There are ancient inscriptions as well with some pointing to a Tamil Brahmi script. Recently, historians and archaeologist have speculated that there is a link to the Indus Valley civilisation as they have found a carving of “a man with a jar cup”, one of the most distinct motifs of the Indus Valley civilisation. The caves are open between 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and the entry fee for Indians is INR 20 while foreigners pay INR 40. If you want to take a camera inside, it will cost you INR 25 and a video camera will set you back by INR 100 and it will cost you INR 70 for a jeep of 8 people.

Soochipara Falls: Also known as Sentinel Rock Waterfalls, the Soochipara Falls is a three-tiered waterfall situated in Vellarimala. Surrounded by deciduous, evergreen and montane forests, this waterfall is regarded as one of the best waterfalls with the drive from Meppadi to the Sentinel Rock Waterfalls providing visitors with scenic views of some of the best tea estates in Wayanad. The falls are 200 meters high that also offer a cliff face, ideal for rock climbing. Also, since the water falling from the waterfall forms a large pool, one can enjoy swimming and bathing in it. The water falling from Soochipara later joins Chulika River aka Chaliyar River after hills from Kerela and Tamil Nadu. The best time to plan a trip here is during the monsoon season because the waterfall is dry during the summers and closed for tourists from March to June. The falls are open from 9 am to 5 pm and entry fees are INR 80 per person with a camera incurring a charge of INR 50 per camera.

Meenmutty Falls: Located 29 km away from Kalpetta, the Meenmutty waterfalls is considered as one of the largest waterfalls in the region and the second largest in Kerala. It is also one of the most thrilling and beautiful natural attractions in Wayanad which is nestled in the lap of a jungle trek, making it a dazzling view. The bubbly water of this mighty waterfall flows in three tiers and is located near the Neyyar Reservoir area. In Malayalam, Meenmutty means a place where fishes are blocked. Cascading down three different tiers that each have an altitude of 300 ft, Meenmutty offers a splendid view and can be reached by an exciting 2 km jungles trek. This stunning fall is cuddled up in the verdant Mepadi forest range and makes up as one of the prime attractions for adventure seekers. It provides a fantastic view of over 1000 ft of cascading water and a picture-perfect backdrop for trekking activities. Moreover, one can also camp near the falls, but only after taking permission from forest officials. The amalgamation of the lush green mountains, blue water of the surging fall and the backdrop of bright blue sky offers of stunning contrast for photography. The falls are open between 9 am and 5:30 pm and adults pay INR 30, children INR 15 and foreigners pay INR 60 to access the falls. Cameras incur a charge of INR 75.

Kuruva Dweep: A beautiful little island in River Kabini, Kuruvadweep is the only island in India that is surrounded by fresh water. The island is about 950 acres in area and is surrounded by the River Kabini, a major tributary of the Cavery River and several other streams. Since it lies in the delta region, Kuruvadweep is actually a group of islands that can be accessed by boats or rafts. These boats and rafts are run by the Kerala Tourism Department in collaboration with Kerala Forest Department. The island has dense forests that are home to a variety of flora and fauna and hence is visited quite often by researchers and nature lovers. Certain areas can be explored by foot while others need to be explored in a boat or a raft. The Forest Department officials are very particular about keeping the islands unpolluted and unharmed. Thus, this is the place for travellers seeking uncontaminated natural surroundings. The climatic situation and round the year water supply through River Kabini, other rivulets and streams make it a suitable environment for flowers, orchids and herbal plants and numerous species of birds like parrots, hornbills and butterflies. There are also two small freshwater lakes on the island. During monsoons, elephants from nearby forests pass through Kuruvadweep Island, but this cannot be experienced by visitors as the Forest Departments shuts down entry to the island as the island is almost always flooded during monsoons. The island only allows 200 visitors a day between 9:30 am to 4:15 pm when the DPTC ticket counter closes. The Forest Department counter closes at 4:30. The entry fee by DPTC is INR 10 per person while the bamboo boat to island costs INR 5 per head. For the forest department fee, Indians pay INR 80 and foreigners pay INR 150. A camera will cost you INR 50 to take inside while a video camera will set you back by INR 100 and a guide will cost INR 100.

Chain Tree: The Chain Tree is a popular ficus which has many myths associated with it. According to one of the legends, the road up was built by a foreign engineer but the route was given to him by a local tribal youth who was shot to death by the engineer. His spirit is said to have stuck to the tree causing many accidents on the hair pin curve. Another story says that when the British first came to Wayanad, the Adivasi mahouts took them to the top the mountains. As the Portuguese were close behind them, they did not want the mahouts to go back and get the Portuguese and hence killed the mahout whose spirit lived in the area causing accidents. A local priest later chained the spirit to the tree with a chain over it.

Pookot Lake: A natural freshwater lake located around 2 km away from Vythiri, snuggled in the evergreen forests and wooded slopes, Pookode Lake is of the most pretty lakes in Wayanad. Also known as Pookot Lake, the lake is accessible via a motorable road and has an natural view. Panamaram river, which is one of the main branches of the Kabini River originates from the Pookot Lake and then joins the Panamaram valley. The Pookode Lake falls on the way back from Lakkidi towards Vythiri. It is situated at a distance of 3 km from the valley view area and 2 km away from Vythiri. The lake can be reached easily by hiring a car, bus, auto-rickshaw or taxi. This freshwater lake situated amongst the wooded hills in the shape of India’s map and is one of its kind in Kerala. A species of cyprinid fish known as Pethia pookodensis is known to be found only in the Pookode Lake. The lake also has a variety of blue lotus and other freshwater fishes present in large numbers. There are many wild animals, birds, and flies present in the forests surrounding the lake making it rich in fauna. The presence of scattered blue water lilies in the lake make it appear surreal. The pathway leading up to the Pookode lake is covered with thick bushes and tall trees adding even more charm to the place. The South Wayanad Forest Division is in-charge of the lake, and it is run by the District Tourism promotion council. The Lake can be visited between 9 am and 5 pm and boating is available till 5 pm while tickets are available for boating only till 4:30 pm. Entry fee is INR 10 for adults and INR 5 for children. You need to pay INR 100 for 20 minutes of boating for 2 people and there is a fish spa which costs INR 50 for 10 minutes.

Lakkidi Viewpoint: The Lakkidi Viewpoint is a high altitude viewpoint offering a bird’s eye view of the city. Located 32 kilometres from Wayanad, at an elevation of 700 mts, the region mostly stays misty and offers a beautiful view of the hairpin turns down the hill. One should visit Lakkidi View Point for sunrise and sunset to get the best views. The viewpoint is also a popular picnic spot which is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to Wayanad’.

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Banasura Hill: One of the tallest mountains in the region, Banasura Hill is part of the Western Ghats of India having at an altitude of over 2000 metres. The hill has a wide variety of flora and fauna and offers a beautiful atmosphere for nature walks and trekking. The Kurichiya tribe, a tribe expert in bow and arrow, have their settlements at the foothills.

Karapuzha Dam: Situated in Wayanad and present on both sides of the Karapuzha River, Karapuzha Dam is one of the largest earth dams in India. The gushing water, swamped hills, scenic environment, and leafy islands make it a perfect spot for aquatic birds and a charming place for the tourists. Here, the water is 158 feet deep and the dam can be visited during the day preferably because the visibility gets low at dawn. This man-made marvel with its lush green surroundings and birds around is a great place to go to in order to unwind and relax amidst the natural surroundings. During the monsoon season, the water in Karapuzha Dam reaches to the brim making the scene quite amazing. The dam remains open throughout the year and is definitely worth a visit. The dam is open from 9 am to 6 pm, but entry is closed by 4:30 pm and there is no entry fee to the dam.

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Banasura Dam: Lying in the lap of the Banasura hills, the picturesque Banasura Sagar dam is the largest earthen dam in the country and the second-largest in Asia. The view of the sprawling reservoir from the top of the dam is breathtaking. Adventures like speed boating are readily available, and a trek up to the Banasura Peak is filled with streams, diverse flora, fauna, lush tropical green and majestic waterfalls. An earthen dam, also known as an embankment dam is created by placing mounds of clay, sand, rock or soil. The view of Banasura Lake from the top of the hill is mesmerising. The dam is open between 9 am and 5 pm and you need to pay INR 10 per person to enter the dam. You can also do speed boating at INR 450 for a group of five people and if you want to do photography, you need to pay INR 20.

Thirunelly Temple: An ancient temple dedicated to the Lord Maha Vishnu, the Thirunelli Temple is surrounded by pleasing hills and lush green forests. It stands at the height of 900 meters, overlooking the mountainous landscape and thick forests, nestled on one side of the Brahmagiri hills, at the Karnataka border. Also known as the Sahyamala Kshetram and Kashi of the South, it is believed that the idol at the temple of Lord Vishnu was first found resting on a gooseberry tree before the temple was built, hence the name where nelli means gooseberry. Scriptures have been found that indicate that Thirunelly was an important centre of pilgrimage during the rule of the Chera king, Bhaskara Ravi Varma.

Valliyoorkavu Bhagavathy Temple: Valliyoorkavu Bhagavathi Temple is a temple with Goddess Durga as its presiding deity in three forms namely: Vana Durga, Bhadrakali, and Jala Durga. Situated about 24 kms from Kalpetta nearby Mananthavady, the temple was built in the 14th century. The main attraction of the temple is a 15-day festival held in February, March and April and this is the best time to visit. There is no entry fee to the temple and it’s open from 6 am to 8 pm everyday. The Valliyoorkavu Festival which is a festival dedicated to Goddess Durga is a 14-day festival which is held in March. The beginning of the festival is marked by bringing the sword of Valliyooramma from Palliyaara Bhagavathy Temple by the chief priest. The influence of tribal people in the festival is overwhelming since Tribal chiefs do the flag hosting on the 7th day. On all the 14-days, there are tribal dance performances and art acts which includes traditional ritual art form known as Kalamezhuthu performed at every night of the festival. The main attraction of the festival is on the last day when there are dance performances by tribal people using percussion instruments.

Thrissilery Shiva Temple: A famous pilgrimage place in Kerala, the Thrissilery Shiva Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is visited along with the Lord Vishnu Temple at Thirunelli 19 km away. It is believed that the ancestral rituals at Thirunelli remain incomplete until one pays a visit to the Thrissilery Temple. The temple is also home to the shrine of Jala Durga installed, according to legend by Parasurama himself. It is located on the water tank that originates from the Papanasini River. The tank has never dried up till date. One of the oldest temples in the state, it is said to be built by the Rajahs of ancient medieval ages. The Malayalam festival of Meenam falls in March-April and Puthari is celebrated in October-November. Seasonally, the monsoons are best avoided due to heavy rainfall and summers can get quite hot with temperatures reaching 45 degrees. Winters are the best time to visit the temple.

Seetha Devi Temple: Located in Pulpally, the Seetha Devi temple is unique because it is the only temple in the state that worships the children of Sita, Lava and Khusha. The main deity of the temple is Goddess Sita, and the legends of Ramayana are closely related to the temple and its shrine. The temple pond is one of the largest, and according to legend, this is also the same spot where Sita disappeared into the earth. The temple was constructed by Sri Pazhassi Raja in the 18th century and the temple was later managed by the Kuppathode family and the Nair family of Wayanad. Till date, a member of the family is a trustee of the temple. Tipu Sultan tried to destroy the temple but retreated due to overpowering darkness at noon, believed to be a miracle of the Goddess. The temple festival takes place in January and is the best time to visit the shrine.

Puliyarmala Jain Temple: Dedicated to the Jain Tirthankar, Ananthanatha Swami, the Puliyarmala Jain Temple is also known as Anantnath Swami Temple and is one of the oldest temple in Kerala, built in the 13th century. The temple is also known as Tipu Fort because Tipu Sultan stored his ammunition inside the premises of the building. There is the influence of the Dravidian style painting all over the temple with beautiful carvings on the doors and on the stupa of the temple. The interior of the temple is peaceful and smoothly imprinted. It also has the largest brass idol in the premises and a carved statue of Lord Mahavir at the front door.

Koottamundu Glass Temple: An important pilgrimage site for Jains, the Koottamunu Glass Temple was created to honor the famous Jain saint Parshawanatha Swami. Situated 22 km from Kalpetta on the hill side Vellarimala, devotees come here to pay their respect and meditate. The interior of the temple is breathtaking and is decorated with mirrors reflecting the image of the idols inside the main temple.

Pallikunnu Church: One of the most popular and sought after pilgrimage centre in north Kerala, Pallikkunnu Church is also referred to as ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’. Situated about 19 km away from Kalpetta, this Latin Catholic Church was conceived by Fr. Jefreno in the year 1908. The Church is Latin-Catholic church and an important religious centre for Christians in Northern Kerala. A significant event of the year is Pallikunnu Church festival, which goes on for about 16-days from 2 to 19 February,  with the 10th and 11th days being the most important ones. The most exciting feature of the church is that it has several rituals and practices similar to Hindu temples. Best time to visit Church is in February, during the Pallikunnu Church Festival. There is no entry fee, and the church is open between 7 am and 7 pm.

Varambetta Mosque: About 300 years old, the Varambetta Mosque is one of the oldest here. The whole complex is neat and well maintained and was built in remembrance of a Sufi saint. There is an annual festival which is held in the mosque in March where people all over the Wayanad come and participate irrespective of their faith.

Vythiri: A popular resort town famous for its old world charm of cottages, log huts & tree house accommodations cosily nestled in the forests of Wayanad, Vythiri is about 62 kms off Kozhikode and comprises of 18 villages. It is an ideal destination with little cottages and resorts to step back a little and relax. The Pookot Lake, Chembara Peak, Soojipara & Meenmutty Falls and the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary are its major attractions.

Kalpetta: A quaint town with a backdrop of majestic hills lurking in the shadows, lush green surroundings, fresh air and picturesque beauty, Kalpetta is located at a height of 780 m above the sea level. Encompassed with a mild fragrance of coffee and rustic lanes, the town is blessed with beautiful nature with scenic landscapes. It is also one of the major trading centres in Wayanad. Dotted ith ancient temples, Kalpetta has a stronghold on Jain communities with over 500 settlements in and around the region. Blessed with all the necessary elements of beauty, nature and charming romanticism, this sleepy town is a must on your Kerala itinerary.

Sulthan Bathery: Formerly known as Ganapativatom, Sulthan Bathery, is a quaint and peaceful town. The place came to be known by its new name after Tipu Sultan of Mysore invaded the region and used the Jain Temple located here as a battery. The pleasant weather in this beautiful town, coupled with excellent opportunities for shopping and spectacular historical sites makes the town of Sulthan Bathery a popular tourist destination that is visited by tourists all year round. Located at an altitude of 1000 meters above the sea level, the town boasts of a fantastic topography with majestic hills interspersed with valleys, cliffs and plains. Not only is Sulthan Bathery now the largest town in the district, but the place is also reputed for its tourism and commercial activities. The main attractions for the tourists are the pre-historic caves, jungle trails, sparkling streams and rivers and lush greenery of the undulating hills, along with many options to explore the city and its surroundings. Stopovers such as the Edakkal Caves, Chethalayam Falls, the Jain Temple, Muthunga Wildlife Sanctuary, Ambalavayal Heritage Museum and St. Mary’s and Yakoob Church make this town a suitable choice for every kind of traveller, having something for everyone to see.

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Wayanad Heritage Museum: Also known as the Ambalavayal Heritage Museum, the Wayanad Heritage Museum is an archaeological museum that has an impressive collection of artefacts belonging to the tribes of the region. It has an intriguing collection of rare artefacts belonging to the 2nd century and some which have been dated to the Neolithic era and include regular daily items, decorative items, terracotta figurines, memorial stones, etc. This archaeological museum is divided into four sections namely: Devasmruthi, Gothrasmruthi, Veerasmruthi and Jeevenasmruthi. Each block houses various items that display the simplicity and intelligence and the rustic way of the living of the bygone era. From stones of primitive wars and tiger hunts to admiring stone idols of 12th to 16th century and belongings of Wayanad tribe, the museum brings alive the past of our country in a very special way.

Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary: Known to be the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Wayanad, the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary is home to a large variety of wild animals. This sanctuary is a part of the Nilgiri Bioreserve along with Nagarhole and Bandipur area of Karnataka and has been declared a Project Elephant site. You can spot these animals roaming around freely if you drive along the road. Being a dense forest situated amidst the hills of western ghats, the kind of animals you can spot here would include Indian Bison, tigers, elephants, and deer, Panthers, jungle cats, civet cats, monkey, wild dogs and bears. With the natural landscape and the wildlife it harbous, the sanctuary attracts photographers and wildlife enthusiats.

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary: The second largest wildlife sanctuary in Kerala, the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary comprises of rare as well as endangered species of both flora and fauna. It is surrounded by the protected areas of Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu as well as Nagarhole and Bandipur in Karnataka. Founded in the year 1973, the wildlife sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve which was the first biosphere out of the 14 present in India. The sanctuary is spread over an area of 345 square km and comprises of two parts namely Upper Wayanad and Lower Wayanad. Eucalyptus, as well as bamboo trees, are grown in the region.

Pakshipathalam Bird Sanctuary: A nature lover’s and bird watcher paradise, the Pakshipathalam Bird Sanctuary has a stunning population of birds thriving in the natural habitat preserved within the sanctuary. The sanctuary is a favourite amongst campers as well. Some rare species of birds and plants are also found here. Other than the well preserved natural terrain of the sanctuary, there are also some rock cut caves that one can explore.

Moving on from Wayanad, let’s go and explore the district of Malappuram

Malappuram is the most populous district of Kerala and is home to around 12.3% of the total population of the state. The district was formed on 16 June 1969 and is the largest district of Kerala with the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea on the eastern and the western borders respectively. The eastern part of the district is hilly and the western part is coastal region. During the early medieval period, the district was home to two of the four major kingdoms that ruled Kerala. Perumpadappu was the hometown of the Kingdom of Cochin, which is also known as Perumbadappu Swaroopam, and Nediyiruppu was the hometown of the Zamorin of Calicut, which is also known as Nediyiruppu Swaroopam. The term, Malappuram, which means over the hill in Malayalam, is derived from the geography of Malappuram. Several smaller hills are located in the midland area of the district with the coastal area being an exception for the general hilly nature of the district.

Bharathapuzha River: Flowing along a stretch of 209 km, Bharathapuzha River, a west-flowing river is also called River Nila. It is the second longest river in Kerala and provides shelter to 11 reservoirs with Malampuzha dam being the largest and there are several mentions of the river in the ancient Hindu scriptures. Several famous Hindu temples like Thiruvilwamala Sree Rama Temple, Thirunavaya Navamukunda Temple, Chamravattam Ayyappa Temple and Panniyur Sree Varahamurthy temple lie on its bank. This sacred river is believed to bestow salvation to those who are cremated on its banks, and accordingly sons pay homage to their fathers by performing the Pithru Tharpanam ritual on the Karkidaka Vavu day.

Arimbra Hills: Also known as Mini Ooty, the Arimbra Hills is located about 1050 feet above sea level and is famous for its picturesque location and gorgeous views of the surrounding valleys and rolling hills. It is a favourite weekend getaway for the locals. Its resemblance to Ooty draws many tourists each year.

Padinharekara Beach: One of the best places to experience sunset, the Padinharekara Beach is located at the very end of the famous Tipu Sultan Road where you can also get mesmerised with the view of the rivers Bharathapuzha and Tirurpuzha before they merge with the Arabian Sea. You can find palm trees surrounding the white sandy beach, attracting tourists in large numbers.

Keralamkundu Waterfalls: A stunning natural water body, the Keralamkundu Waterfalls is falls down several feet forming a pool at the bottom. The pool is apparently formed by years of weathering caused by the cascading water. A basin at the base of waterfalls where people can enjoy a dip in the pond is something everyone wants to have an experience. The water flows in from the forest of the western ghat and forms a pool of crystal clear water at the base of the falls. Also, it is believed that the water has many medicinal properties. The falls are open between 8:30 am to 6 pm and has an entry fee of INR 10 per person.

Biyyam Kayal: A beautiful backwater lake, the Biyyam Kayal is lined with tall coconut trees and is famous for recreational activities and thrilling water sports that attract tourists every year. The annual boating competition is held at the lake during the festival of Onam. The lake is open between 6 am to 8 pm daily.

Kottakkunnu: Famous for the ruins of a really old fort, Kottakkunnu is a mesmerising garden situated on a hill with its beauty often compared to the picturesque Marine Drive in Mumbai. Located on the top of a cantonment hill, the fort belonged to the Zamorins or the monarchs of Kozhikode. Inside the fort, one can find famous monuments like Vettakkorumakan Temple and the Shiva Temple, both of which are famous for their architecture. The temples famously exhibits murals and relics of the Malabar. The fort was also the site where the British Shot the revolutionary Variyan Kunnath Kunjahammed Haji in 1921. There is also a water park, an adventure park, an art gallery, a 16D cinema, an open air theatre and a balloon park. It is open from 10 am to 9:45 pm.

Kovilakoms: The royal residence of the ruling family of Nilambur, the Kovilakoms consists of old palaces, some of them over 200 years old, and also some new houses where the current royal extended family stays. The brilliant traditional architecture, the rich cultural heritage and the history attracts tourists in large numbers. Entry fees are INR 5 per person.

Keraladeshpuram Temple: Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Keraladeshpuram Temple is situated around 3 km off Tanur and is believed to be one of the oldest Hindu temples in Kerala. Legend has it that St. Francis Xavier visited the temple in 1546 AD. The temple was later pillaged by Tippu Sultan and was rebuilt recently.

Kadampuzha Bhagavathy Temple: Situated in the remote town named Melmuri, the Kadampuzha Bhagavathy Temple is a unique temple with no idol of the deity. It was founded by Adi Shankaracharya and is often associated with the legend of Mahabharata. The forms of the Goddess worshipped here are Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati. The fundamental god revered in the sanctuary is Goddess Kadampuzha, a manifestation of Goddess Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. The origin of the name Kadampuzha is considered to have been formed from Kadan Ambu Eitha Uzha which means “The Place where Kiratha Shot the Arrow” where kadan is kiratha, ambu is arrow, eitha is shot and uzha is place. The temple is open from 4 am to 12 noon and then again from 3:30 pm to 7 pm.

Thirunavaya Lava Mukunda Temple: An ancient temple dedicated to Narayana Vishnu, the Thirunavaya Lava Mukunda Temple is one of the 108 Divya Desas and has been mentioned in the scripts written by Vaishnava Alwars. It has a religiously rich history and traditional temple architecture. Performing the sacred rituals for the deceased family members at this temple is believed to relieve one from the cycle of birth and death. The most majestic part of the rituals here includes the usage of the water from the River, same as in the fashion followed in Kashi. What is noteworthy is that the structure standing today is not the same as the original one, as it was destroyed twice in 18th century and 20th century, and somehow still retains the original charm. The temple is open daily from 5 am to 11 am and then again from 5 to 7:30 pm.

Alathiyoor Hanuman Temple: Dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the Alathiyoor Hanuman Temple is the only temple which has Lord Rama as the presiding deity but is dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The temple is believed to be established by Vashisht Muni around 3000 years ago and is believed that anyone making a wish here is blessed and all their dreams come true when they offer prayers.

Pazhayangadi Mosque: A 500-year-old monument built in the memory of a Mohammed Shah, the Pazhayangadi Mosque, also known as Kondotty Thangal is a stunning structure and a fabulous example of the Mughal style of architecture made of pristine white marble. The mosque is a bustling pilgrim centre, especially during the Kondotty Nercha festival in February or March

Valiya Juma Masjid: One of the oldest mosques in Kerala, the Juma Masjid is an important pilgrimage site situated on the Kozikhod-Nilmbur-Gudallur road and there are some mausoleums of the Malappuram martyrs located in the vicinity of the Mosque. This place is prominently visited during the four day annual festival, which is held every year in the month of April.

Nilambur Teak Museum: Established in 1994, the Nilambur Teak Museum is the first teak museum in the country. They have a collection of information in the form of articles and comprehensive documents that also mention the historic and artistic value of the wood. The museum is open between Tuesdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm and has an entry fee of INR 10 per person.

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Nedumkayam: A stretch of jungle near Malappuram, the Nedumkayam is famous for the rich foliage of rain forests and part of the Nilgiri Bioreserve. It is mostly known for its dense forestation with several species of flora and fauna including some rare and endangered species and several mesmerising water bodies making it is a perfect attraction for nature lovers. The region has a charming little guest house built during the colonial times, from where one can observe and capture photographs of the surrounding forest. You can spot  elephants, bison, tiger, rabbit, blue monkey, bear, wildcat and deer while you are on a visit here. It is open between 9 am to 4 pm and entry fees are INR 10 for for adults and INR 5 for students

Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary: Spread over a cluster of islands, surrounded by beautiful hillocks lies a bird watchers’ paradise, the Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary. It sits right at the spot where River Kadalundi Puzha flows into the Arabian Sea. Easily accessible from Malappuram and Kozhikode, the bird sanctuary is host to about 100 species of native birds, and about 60 species of migratory birds. The sanctuary finds itself 200 m above the sea level. Open between 8 am and 8 pm, the sanctuary has an entry fee of INR 25 per person.

Our next destination is Palakkad. Also known as Palghat, Palakkad is situated about 350 kms north of state capital of Thiruvananthapuram and 50 kms southwest of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Known as the rice bowl of Kerala, the word Palakkad is commonly believed to be a fusion of two Malayalam words, Pala, which was the name given to barren land during the Sangam period, and Kadu, which means forest. Palakkad is also the gateway to Kerala due to the presence of the Palakkad Gap in the Western Ghats.

Palakkad Fort: A beautiful historical monument that is well preserved, the Palakkad Fort was built in the 1766 AD by Hyder Ali and is now a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India. This picturesque fort is located in the heart of Palakkad town at the foothills of the Sahyadris range in a labyrinth of dense forests and crisscrossing cascading rivers. The mighty fort is spread over an area of 60,702 sq m and is famous for its architecture, which displays the efficiency of the French craftsman. The fort is in the shape of a square and is supported by walls and bastions which are square shaped as well. Earlier, the entrance to the fort was via a drawbridge, which has now been replaced by a permanent one in its place. The grounds of the fort served as stable for the horses and elephants of Tipu Sultan’s army. It is placed between the fort and the Palakkad Town Hall and is known as the Kota Maidanam. It is currently used as the venue for cricket matches, exhibitions and public gatherings. There is an open-air auditorium here as well, which is known as Rappadi. The Palakkad fort also houses some other smaller attractions such as the Hanuman temple, Martyr’s column, a small shrine called Anjaneya Swami Temple, a garden known as Vatika Shilavatika and a sub-jail. The fort is also known as the Tipu’s Fort and depicts the old tales of bravery and courage. The fort is open from 8 am to 6 pm and though there is no entry fee to access the fort,you need to pay INR 20 for a camera and INR 50 for a video camera as camera fees.

Kollengode Palace: A traditional shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu and flaunts authentic Kerala and European architectural style, the Kollengode Palace has a large collection of murals from all over Kerala and is a beautiful edifice on the south-east side of Kollengode. The name comes from the blacksmith or Kollen community that lives in this village. This museum includes a range of different temples, manuscripts on dry palm leaves and megaliths, and artefacts from the forests of Thrissur and Wayanad. Along with that, this place holds Veerakallu of Hero Stones that are ancient stone engravings and sculptures of heroes. The palace is open all day and has no entry fees.

Meenvallam Waterfalls: A magnificent 5 step waterfall in Kerala, the Meenvallam Waterfall is also known as Meenvallom and is popular with locals who come to view the gushing falls that falls from over 100-125 feet. Meenvallam waterfall is the final one out of the ten between Palakkad and Mannarkkad and the waterfall passes through the Kalladikode Hills and disperses into different falls near River Thuppanad.  The best time to visit this attraction is after monsoons, in October when the weather is more manageable and the falls are full. What’s interesting about these waterfalls is that they are often kept a secret. Situated in dense and unknown forests, they are mostly out of reach. There are a total of 7 waterfalls in Meenvallam. The final one is called Meenvallam Waterfall which consists of 10 steps. Each step is around 20-25 feet high but only 8 steps of this waterfall can be seen and 2 can be accessed. This area is mostly covered by rubber plantations, making the terrain extremely slippery. The waterfall originates from Siruvani Dam in Coimbatore along with Kanjhirampuzha and Attilla waterfalls. The waterfalls cascade from over 45 meters into Thappanadu River, which then flows into Bharathapuzha River, where the Meenvallam Waterfalls are located. It is surrounded by the extension of Silent Valley National Park. despite the terrain, this place is a beautiful picnic spot. The falls are open from 9 am to 5 pm and has an entrance fee of INR 20.

Pothundi Dam: One of the oldest irrigation dams in India, the Pothundi Dam is a stunning engineering marvel that has a core wall made of quicklime and jaggery. The dam is built across River Padipuzha and River Meenichiladipuzha forming a reservoir that expands over an area of 30 square kilometres. The serene surroundings of the dam with hills in the backdrop of the reservoir is a breathtaking sight.

Malampuzha Dam: One of the largest reservoirs of Kerala, the Malampuzha Dam is surrounded by the Western Ghats on all sides. A combination of a masonry dam with a length of 1,849 meters and an earthen dam with a height of 220 meters, the dam is 355 feet high and crosses the Malampuzha River, which is a tributary of Bharathappuzha, Kerala’s second largest river. The dam has many attractions nearby like the rock garden, ropeway, amusement park and visitors often enjoy boating here as well. It is the largest reservoir in Kerala and is served by a network of two canal systems. Its construction was initiated in 1949, and it took about six years to finish the project. The Malampuzha Dam has a total catchment area of 145 sq kms, and the reservoir has a capacity of 8000 sq m of water. Some major tourist attractions near Malampuzha Dam are Entrance Garden, Yakshi Garden, Japanese Garden, Upper Garden and viewpoint, Cable car ride, Fish shaped aquarium, Toy train for kids, Fantasy Park, Spiced fruits camp along with some excellent trekking tracks and river baths. The dam is open from 9 am to 8 pm daily though the Snake Park is closed on Mondays.

Malampuzha Gardens: Situated in the foothills of the Western Ghats, the Malampuzha Garden is near the Malampuzha Dam reservoir which is built on River Malampuzha, the tributary of River Bharatapuzha, Kerala’s largest river. The landscaped garden is a perfect picnic spot for tourists. The scenic beauty of the garden on the banks of the reservoir is a treat to the eyes. The garden occupies a huge expanse of land on the foothills of the Ghat. The well-maintained park consists of flower beds, tall trees, stretches of well-maintained grasslands, artificial water bodies. There is something for everyone here. Apart from the lush green garden, there is an aquarium, a rock garden, mesmerizing waterfalls and an amusement park. The entire area is adorned with captivating sculptures and structures. It also houses the famous Yakshi Statue sculpted by the renowned sculptor Kanai Kanhiraman. It is a perfect picnic location for art and nature lovers. Visitors can also go boating in the serene backwaters of the Malampuzha Dam or pay a visit to the aquarium where one can find a variety of species of fish. Pedal boat rides are a favourite here. The garden is also known as the Vrindavan of Kerala. The gardens are open from 9 am to 8 pm and children under the age of 12 pay INR 10 and adults pay INR 25 as entrance fees. Camera incur a charge of INR 100 while a video camera will incur a charge of INR 100 as camera fees.

Seethargundu Viewpoint: A famous viewpoint of the region, the Seethargundu Viewpoint is located on a cliff and offers a stunning view of the surroundings making it a perfect attraction for nature lovers and photographers. The dense forests all around the point are home to monkeys and other wild animals which one can spot, if lucky.

Vadakkanthara Temple: Dedicated to the Goddess Karnaki who finds mention in the Tamil epic Silapathikaram as a vengeful wife and a legendary woman, the Vadakkanthara Thirupuraikkal Bhagavathy Temple is the only temple in Kerala that celebrates the goddess in her complete idolic form. Apart from its religious reverence, the Temple is known for its sprawling architecture exemplifying the beautiful traditional Kerala architecture. Apart from Karnaki, the temple also has smaller temples for various other deities like Lord Ayyappa, Lord Ganesha, Lord Nagaraj, amongst others. The temple opens everyday from 4:30 am till 11:30 am and again from 4:30 pm to 8 pm daily.

Kalpathy Temple: Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kalpathy Temple is a famous temple situated just 3 km away from Palakkad city. The temple is renowned for its 7-day Rath Yatra held in the month of November which draws devotees from across the country.

Thiruvalathur Randu Moorthy Temple: Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, the Thiruvalathur Randu Moorthy Temple is considered to have religious importance for the Hindus. Devotees believe that the idols are self-manifested the idol of Lord Shiva is believed to possess immense powers and Lord Vishnu helps to balance these powers. The temple also has idols of Lord Ganesha, Goddess Parvati and Sri Ayappan.

Jain Temple: Believed to be more than 500 years old, the Jain Temple at Jainimedu is well known for its granite walls which are 32 feet long and 20 feet wide. Located on the south banks of River Kalpathy, this ancient temple is enshrined with the images of Jain Tirthankaras and Yakshinis.

Attapadi Reserve Forest: The Attapadi Reserve Forest is a protected forest area in a valley of the Nilgiri Hills expanding over an area of 250 square kilometres. The region is famous for the breeding the Attapadi Black goats. The beautiful reserve borders the Silent Valley National Park and serves as an informal buffer zone.

Silent Valley National Park: With its lush green forests and beautiful views of the rich flora and fauna, the Silent Valley National Park is a popular destination for nature as well as wildlife lovers. Spread across an area of 89 sq km, the Silent Valley National Park is located in the Kundali Hills of the Western Ghats. With its long, detailed history and the unique status of a rainforest, this national park is indeed a sight to visit. This park, though smaller in size compared to other national parks in India, is the last representative virgin tract of tropical evergreen forests in India with its lofty and majestic peaks and the several rivers that run through its length. The park has a strong faunal and floral population, with many of the endangered species residing here, unharmed by the outer environment. The ones who are most commonly seen here are the elephant, tiger, lion-tailed macaque, gaur, wild pig, panther and sambar. The vegetation of this park is the tropical, moist evergreen kind. It is also almost next to possible to ignore the presence of the River Kunthi, which descends from the Nilgiri Hills and then passes through this region, enchanting visitors with its crystal clear water, devoid of any impurities. Taking about four hours to cover the park, you can visit between 8 am to 1 pm. Entry fee is INR 50 per person and you need to pay INR 25 for a camera and INR 200 for a video camera as camera fees.

Parambikulam Tiger Reserve: Best known for its constant efforts to preserve the dwindling tiger population, the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary is the most protected ecological terrain of the Western Ghats. Surrounded by hills and rivers and endowed with peninsular vegetation and wildlife, this reserve has minimum human interference. Some of the most prized animals found here include lion-tailed macaques, Bengal tigers, Indian leopards, wild boars, sloths, king cobra, Travancore kukri snake, and the Western Ghats flying lizard among others. Flora includes teak, sandalwood, neem and rosewood trees. This sanctuary is also home to four different indigenous tribes- Kadar, Malasar, Muduvar and Mala Malasar. The Kannimara teak is not only the most massive living teak here in the sanctuary but in the world. It has a height of 39.98 m and circumference of 7.02 m. During 1994-95 it has also been awarded the Maha Virksha Puraskar. A local tribe here believes that when someone tried cutting this tree, blood spurted out from the place where the cut was made. Since then it is worshipped as the Virgin Tree by the Parambikulam’s tribal people. The Reserve is open from 7 am to 6 pm and you need at least two to three hours to explore the place. Entry fees for light vehicles is INR 50 and for heavy vehicles it is INR 150. There is a jungle safari in the reserve where the safari package includes a naturalist guide, drinking water, vehicle, washroom and shopping facilities and costs INR 200 for both Indians and foreigners on all days and children under the age of 10 get to go on the safari free.

Ottapalam: A quaint little town situated on the banks of the Bharatpuzha river Ottapalam is blessed with the bounty of untouched natural beauty and has a large number of palm trees. Ottapalam finds many mentions in ancient history as it was the host site for many cultural events during the reign of the Zamorins of Calicut. The gently swaying palms against the blue skies of Ottapalam sure do make for a lovely sight to behold. Always bubbling with activity, this region is quite famous among the locals for its history and its present as well. The Chinakathoor Puram which is held at the Chinakathoor Pooram temple of this town is one of the most well celebrated religious festivals of Kerala. Ottapalam was a major part of the ancient Valluvanad Swaroop dynasty. Valluvanad was a feudal state extending from the Bharatpuzha river in the south to the town of Pandalur in the north. According to local legends, the last ruler of this place gave away vast stretches of the land to one of his governors before leaving on a holy pilgrimage. The scenic beauty of this place has made it quite popular among photography enthusiasts, and you can often find Tamil and Malayalam film stars shooting here.

Attappadi: Lying on the foothills of the Silent Valley National Park, Attappadi lies at a distance of 38 kms from Mannarkkad. A perfect vacation getaway if you are a nature lover, it is also a great place to be for those who appreciate wildlife. Attappadi is one of those pleasantly beautiful locations you surely do not want to miss. Most of this magnificent and alluring village town of Kerala comes under government protection as the Reserve Forest area. Attappadi is a perfect amalgam of mountains, forests, rivers and has a hilly terrain. Thus it is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Kerala. Not only is Attappadi associated with nature’s beauty, but it is closely related to religion as well. People here have deep seated belief in Lord Murugan. The inhabitants of this region are mainly tribal people, who have been the natives of this area for a long time.

Nelliampathy: If you see the mist floating in the air and a pleasant aroma of coffee teasing your nostrils, a chain of majestic mountains peaking from all around and a wonderful weather relaxing your nerves, then you are not dreaming, you are in a small beautiful hill station of Kerala known as Nelliyampathy. The height of the hills ranges from approximately 467 m to 1572 m and it has an extremely calming effect on all who view it. To reach Nelliyampathy, one has to take the road starting from Nenmara that proceeds to the Pothundy Dam. There are about 10 hairpin bends that have to be negotiated on the way to Nelliyampathy. The Pothundy Dam is a beautiful locale with facilities for boating and is a nice option as a picnic place. As the Ghat road winds its way up to Nelliyampathy, at certain places there are viewpoints from where the vast stretches of Palakkad district are visible with its extensive paddy fields forming a verdant carpet. It also offers a splendid view of the Palakkad Gap, which is a geographical phenomenon in the Western Ghats formation in this region, bringing into view, parts of the adjoining State of Tamil Nadu. The hills of Nelliyampathy are also well known for its orange cultivation. Not far away from Palagapandy is Seetharkundu where one can have a fantastic view of the valley and a 100 m high waterfall providing an added attraction. From Palagapandy, one can trek or go by jeep to reach Mampara; another breathtaking vantage point at Nelliyampathy. The area in and around Palagapandy Estate has tea, cardamom and coffee plantations with adjoining hills allowing one to catch a glimpse of the wildlife in the form of Indian Gaur, elephants, leopards, Giant Squirrel etc. and is also a paradise for birdwatchers.

After the beauty of Palakkad, our next destination as we move south is Thrissur.

1 thought on “Travel Bucket List: India – Kerala Part 3

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