The name Kottayam is a combination of the words kotta and akam in Malayalam, which together mean the interior of a fort. The current Kottayam district was previously part of the state of Travancore. Kottayam has been involved in a number of political movements, including the Malayali Memorial movement whose goal was more representation for Travancoreans in the civil service. The Vaikom Satyagraha, a protest against caste discrimination, took place here and the district also participated in the protests for responsible government in Travancore, which ended with the overthrow of Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, the Diwan of Travancore. With a network of rivers, backwaters, ancient religious places, and hill stations, Kottayam is a local, domestic and international tourist destination.
Subrahmanya Temple: An ancient temple considered to be created by Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma of Travancore Kingdom, the Subrahmanyaa Temple is located in Perunna Village about 21 km from Kottayam. The temple is installed with the idols of Devasenapthi, an incarnation of Lord Murugan apart from the idols of Lord Krishna, Lord Maha Ganapathi and Lord Ayyappa. The temple is usually flocked with devotees in the month of Dhanu which is mid October.
Saraswathy temple: A temple dedicated to the Goddess of learning and art i.e. Goddess Saraswathy, this temple is located Panachikad Village. The temple houses various paintings and sculptures that depict the Indian mythology. The temple is popularly referred to as Mookambika Temple and an annual ceremony of Vidhyarambham which is a Hindu tradition, which introduces young children into the world of knowledge, letters, and the process of learning. This ceremony can be performed for a child between the age of 2-5years. This ritual is usually conducted on the last day of Navratri, which is known as Vijayadashami.
Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple: Located at a distance of about 10 kms from Kottayam in Kumarakom, the Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple is a holy place for Hindus. Considered to be the oldest temple in Kerala, the temple is believed to have been a common site of worship by the Pandavas and Sage Vyasa in the ancient days. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the shrine is popular for its spectacular murals, beautiful frescos and excellent wood carvings made in the 16th century, which are borrowed from the classic epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. The age-old lamp at the entrance of the temple is fed with oil by devotees every day; it was believed to have been lighted 450 years ago and has been burning ever since. Renovated in 1542 AD, the shrine is popular for its magnificent gopuram, the monumental gatehouse tower, roofs covered in copper plates, a golden flagstaff and outstanding wall paintings. The temple premises consist of a sanctum sanctorum, the chief idol of Lord Shiva, and smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Ganapathi and Lord Shasta. One of the wealthiest Devaswoms in Kerala, this temple is thronged by tourists and pilgrims all through the year. However, it literally comes to life during the grand festival of Arattu celebrated in the month of February – March. The temple is open from 4 am to 12:30 pm and again from 5 to 8 pm.
Chottanikkara Temple: Located around 50 kms from the town of Kottayam near Ernakulam, Chottanikkara is a very revered temple in Kerala. Popular for its spectacular architecture, the shrine stands out to be the ultimate testimonial for the primordial vishwakarma sthapathis or wooden sculptures in carving out this temple. Sree Mahamaya Bhagawati or the Aadiparashakthi, believed to be the supreme mother Goddess in Hindu religion, also known as the Goddess of Power presides the temple. Popularly known as Chottanikkara Devi, the Goddess is worshipped in three forms at three different times of the day. In the morning, she is worshipped as Maha Saraswati, decked in white; in the afternoon, she is worshipped as Maha Lakshmi, clad in crimson; and in the evening, she is worshipped as Sree Durga, draped in blue. Besides the Chottanikkara Devi, Lord Shiva, Ganesha and Lord Dharmasastha or Ayyappa are also worshipped at the temple. The shrine is a popular pilgrimage spot of the Hindus and is highly revered by the devotees. It is believed that Chottanikkara Devi possesses supernatural powers and can cure any disease; for this reason, a lot of patients suffering from mental illnesses visit the holy temple. Guruthi Pooja is an important ritual performed at the temple every evening to invoke Goddess Mahakali. The pooja is done at the Keezhkkaavu temple within the complex itself. The Keezhkkaavu Devi is believed to be a fiercer form of Mother Kali; she was born out of the third eye of Lord Shiva to kill the demon king Daruka. The temple follows are strict dress code. Both men and women are expected to dress modestly preferably in traditional Indian clothes. Men are made to take off their upper garments including their shirts and vests. Women should ideally be wearing traditional sarees or salwar suits. In any case, their shoulders, arms and legs should be covered. The temple is open from 4 am to 9 pm daily.
Kumaranalloor Bhagavathy Temple: Located at a distance of 4 kms from Kottayam in Kumaranalloor, the Kumaranalloor Devi Temple enshrines Bhagwathi- the mother Goddess. Considered as one of the most important Hindu temples among 108 Durgalayas or Devi temples spread across Kerala, the shrine is said to be 2400 years old as per historical, mythical and scientific sources. Sprawling over a vast area of 15000 square metres, the temple has a notable architectural pattern with a unique structure of nalambalam and sreekovil which is the sanctum sanctorum, both of which are rarely found in generic temple architecture. Believed to be an equivalent of the Madurai Meenakshi Temple by devotees, the Kumaranalloor Devi Temple was supposedly constructed by Lord Purshuram. The Goddess Kathyayani presides the temple complex and is worshipped in five different forms including Saraswati, Lakshmi, Parvathi, Durga and Vana Durga. The temple is believed to be an ancient cultural centre, and is one of the 32 gramams made by Lord Parshuram. Originally, the shrine was called ‘Thingalkkadu’ which was later changed to ‘Indu Kananam’ . In some prehistoric books, the temple is called Mahishari kovil and some inscriptions trace the history of the temple to an 11th century AD Shiva temple. Much later, it was converted to a Durga Temple. The temple is open daily from 4 am to 12 noon and again from 5 to 8 pm.
Thirunakkara Mahadev Temple: A popular Hindu shrine and great example of the Kerala style of architecture, the Thirunakkara Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple was established in 16th century by the king of Thekkumkur. The place is also adorned with several beautiful murals showcasing the Hindu themes. The festival of Aaraattu celebrated for 10 days witness several cultural performances of various art forms like Kathakali, Velakali and Mayilattom performed by professionals. The festival attracts devotees and tourists in large number to the temple.
Subramania Swami Temple: A beautiful temple depicting the Kerala style of architecture, the Subramania Swami Temple is located in a village called Kidangoor. Dedicated to Lord Subramaya Swami, the temple is mainly known for its annual festival that is held during the months of February and March for 10 days. During the festival one can see the performance of Chakiarkoothu by professional dancers and it attracts devotees from all over the state.
Thazhathangady Juma Masjid: Also popularly known as Taj Juma Masjid, the Thazhathangady Juma Masjid is a beautiful structure situated on the banks of River Meenachil. The shrine is said to have been established by the members of Jama-Athe 1959 and was completed in year 1964. The mosque building is famous for its charming wood carvings and structure. Once it served as a home to Muslims who came from different parts of Kerala, the residents followed Hanafi tradition back in 1947 under the leadership of Kottayam Sethu Masjid.
Tomb Of Saint Alphonsa: Located at a distance of 5 kms east of Pala in Bharananganam, the St. Mary’s Church holds the mortal remains of St. Alphonsa who lived between 1910 and 1946. Born as Anna Muttathupadathu, St. Alphonsa was an Indian religious sister and educator. She was the first Indian woman to be canonised as a Saint by the Catholic Church and also the first canonised saint in Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in India. Her death anniversary falls on 28th of July which is a highly revered day when the church is thronged by devotees in huge numbers to visit to pay homage to the saint and to seek her blessings. The museum adjacent to the chapel holds her belongings including her books, cot, umbrella among other belongings. A copy of her sermon is also available which reads, “Alphonsa is among the few great souls who lived in India; who have achieved greatness in God’s sight”. Next to it is her room where she spent several years of her life. Across the chapel is the two storeyed building which was originally the Papal podium, which is now surrounded by a stadium and well-maintained terraced garden. The complex also houses a souvenir shop which sells books, rosaries and pictures to take home. The tomb is open from 6:30 am to 11 am, Mondays to Fridays and from 8:15 am to 3 pm, Saturdays and Sundays.
Poonjar Palace: A huge majestic palace bound by massive walls is the Poonjar Palace located in Meenachil. The palace is adorned with a fascinating collection of various type of furniture and antiques which includes grand chandeliers, jewelry boxes, statues, grain measurer, weapons and palm leaf engravings. Visitors also see a beautiful sculpture of Nataraja, a palanquin and a thoni for Ayurvedic massages crafted out of a single piece of wood.
Discs & Machines – Sunny’s Gramophone Museum: Located at an hour’s drive from Kottayam, Sunny’s Gramophone Museum also known as Discs & Machines, is a unique private venture which is one of its kind in the country. The two floored depository is a storehouse of over one hundred thousand rare records and about 260 gramophones, phonographs and record players. Established as a result of passion of Mr. Sunny Mathew, a retired officer of the Kerala Forest Department, the museum is a treasure trove of vintage cars, vinyl records, gramophones, valve radios, tape recorders, olden day telephones, sewing machines etc. of the bygone era. The building was constructed with the objective to preserve the rich antique objects and make them available for the future generations to see and study from. The museum houses rare gramophone records from the period as old as 1900s and 1940s; the earliest in his collection dates to 1897. Most of the instruments still function perfectly and Mr. Sunny personally takes care of them all. On request, he even plays them for you and can even give you a brief context of the instrument. The verve, enthusiasm and knowledge of the gentleman is beyond par. Besides exploring the artistic and heritage excellence of this place, it is also an ideal spot to research and learn about 20th century music. The museum is open only on Sundays from 2 to 7 pm and has no entry fee.
Marmala Waterfalls: Located at a distance of few kms from Erattupetta in Kottayam inside a private rubber estate, the Marmala Waterfalls are popularly known as the enchantress of the jungle. Plummeting from a height of 200 feet, the unblemished clear waters create an aura of mist around them. The tantalising waterfalls splash into a 12 feet pond and run down to join the river Teekoy. Replete with timber trees on the green-carpeted mountains, the clear cascading waters offer a sight like no other. Slightly veiled amidst thick bushes and blue hills, the location can only be reached by a short trek on the hillside. Blessed with a rich biodiversity, an emerald forest cover and an all around utopian environment, the waterfalls is the perfect place to get away from the din and chaos of the city and spend some moments of solitude to reinvigorate and rejuvenate. Besides, the mesmerising natural environment provides plenteous opportunities for photography enthusiasts to capture those picture perfect moments in their cameras and their lives forever. The waterfalls also offer trekking opportunities. However, the rough terrain is very difficult to trek; the road is slippery and full of rocky obstacles and it is advisable that only experienced trekkers take up the challenge. The best time to visit Marmala Falls is during early monsoon when the place comes alive.
Thangal Hill: Popular for its cascading waterfalls, blue mountains, meandering rivers, clear waters and misty environment, Vagamon is a quaint little hilltown bordering the districts of Kottayam and Idukki. Three mighty hills known as Thangal, Murugan and Kurisumala form the essence of the town. Colloquially known as Thangal Para, the Thangal Hills are an important pilgrimage spot for Muslims, located barely 5 kms from Vagamon. The whopping boulder at the top of the hill houses the mausoleum of Sheikh Fariduddin and is visited by thousands of Muslim pilgrims annually during the festival of Urs. Just below the rock boulder at the bottom of the hill, is a mosque used by the devotees and the locals to offer their prayers. Surrounded by emerald green meadows and verdant tea- plantations, the hilltop also provides some awe-striking panoramic vistas of the valley below lined with trees of pepper, vanilla, rubber and coffee. Thangal Para makes for an ideal weekend getaway for couples and families alike, hushed in the serenity and quietude of nature’s bliss. Besides, the summit is also popular amidst the mountaineers, trekkers and adventure seekers as the hill provides some wonderful trekking opportunities both for the beginners and experts. The crevices and crannies in the terrain enable both novices and pros to try out their luck here. Legend goes to say that about 800 years ago, Husrat Sheikh Fariduddin Baba- a sufi saint visited this place along with his 40 followers. After reaching the hill, he decided to stay here and preach to the locals. His teachings became widely popular and he stayed on till he took his last breath at the same place. He was buried at the hilltop and a mausoleum was constructed in his memory by his followers. The stone boulder is supposedly the place where he used to grind his paan or betel leaves.
Elaveezha Poonchira: Located at a distance of 15 kms from Thodupuzha and 60 kms from Kottayam, Elaveezha Poonchira is a small quaint hill station. Perched at a height of 3200 feet above the sea level, it can be reached by a jeep ride through the unpaved rocky mountainous terrain. Literally translating to a flowery lake where no leaves fall, the place has acres of barren land without any plantation or trees with a perennial lake, Poonchira. The area receives heavy rainfall, and the entire valley turns into a river during monsoons. A well kept secret of Kerala, Elaveezha Poonchira is replete with rocky cliffs, contours and crevices and hence, lures a lot of trekkers, mountaineers and adventure enthusiasts to the spot to try their hand at trekking. You can either embark on the tried and tested terrains or pave new trails for yourself. The mountain peak also offers an enthralling view of the Malankara Dam in addition to providing several captivating vistas of the surrounding paradise. Besides, it has traces of burial chambers, tribal settlements and several caves including Nilavara, Pandavan Guha etc., which are a personal favourite among the tourists. It is believed that the place was a temporary abode for the Pandavas for a short while. One day, while they were living here, their wife Draupadi went to take a bath in the pond. Some devas saw her and were enamoured by her beauty. To prevent any kind of misdeed from happening, Lord Indra built hills in the form of screen to block the view. The pond thus became a dam surrounded by hills. Since the hills were tree- less, there were never any astray leaves; hence the place came to be known as Elaveezha Poonchira. Any time of the year is a good time to visit Elaveezha Poonchira except monsoons. Rainy Season can prove very fatal as the entire valley gets immersed in water. The roads also turn slippery and any journey should be avoided.
Kottathavalam: A fascinating cave carved out of rock surface is Kottathavalam lying on the top of a Murugan Hills at Kurisumala. The cave is considered to be the resting place for the Madura Royal family. The cave is adorned with various sculptures of Gods and Goddesses along with the sculptures of weapons used in the ancient times giving us a glance into the amazing past.
Illikkal Kallu: Located at a height of 6000 ft above the sea level in the Western Ghats of Kottayam, Illikkal Kallu is a major tourist attraction. Situated in Moonnilavu Village, the nearest city is Teekoy. A prominent and unique feature of this peak is that half the boulder of the majestic rock has fallen apart with the remaining half standing sturdy. Surrounded by colossal green hills, the offbeat destination boasts of immaculate environs, enchanting panoramic vistas and an all around utopian atmosphere. In addition to the surreal natural beauty, the sublime view of the Arabian Sea in the near horizon as a thin blue stroke, is a sight beyond description. One of the highest peaks in the vicinity, Illikkal Kallu comprises of three different hills- each rising to at least 4000 ft above the sea level. Boasting of mystical surroundings, hills imbued with a green blanket and an overall idyllic setting, the destination is blessed with bounteous natural bliss and is still unexploited and untapped by tourism. The first one shaped like a mushroom is called Kuda Kallu which means umbrella shaped rock. Neela Koduveli, the blue flower grows here. The herb is known to have medicinal properties and is one of the most sought after plants in the world. The locals believe that the plant has supernatural powers which can increase wealth and ensure a better harvest in addition to curing any disease on the face of the earth. The second boulder has a small hunch on the side and is called Koonu Kallu which translates to hunchback rock. Across this rock is the notorious yet exciting Narakapalam, commonly known as the Bridge to Hell. This half foot wide bridge connects the first boulder to the second. Walking this narrow bridge is extremely thrilling. Besides the fear of height and danger, the bridge offers a mesmerising scenery of the surrounding haven, verdant green valleys and the merging of the skyline in the mountains below. Above all, the sunset view as seen from the peak is absolutely riveting; the moon rises adjacently as the orange sun goes down. Also, the winding roads leading to the majestic boulders can give an adrenaline rush to all the adventure junkies. Avoid the monsoons when visiting here as it can get extremely slippery and dangerous due to the possibility of landslides and landslips.
Vaikom: The oldest city in Kottayam, Vaikom lies very close to Kumarakom. The Vaikom Temple lies at the heart of the town and becomes very prominent during its Vaikom Ashtami celebrations during the month of November. This temple was constructed in the year 1594. It is also enclosed by a courtyard which is spread across 8 acres of land. The history of Vaikom can be traced back to the time when there existed a kingdom known as Venmalanadu of which Vaikom is a part. Later, Venmalanadu was broken down into Vadakkumkoor and Thekkumkoor. Vaikom became a part of the dynasty of Vadakkumkoor. In 1742, Vaikom became a part of the Travancore after the Maharaja of Travancore took over Vadakkumkoor and merged it into his kingdom. However, Vaikom became famous due to the Satyagraha which was held in there during the Indian Independence Movement.
Nattakom and Panachikad: Located south of Kottayam, Nattakom and Panachikad are two villages flanked by dense evergreen forests and several beautiful streams. The villages serves as a wholesome package for vacations offering its visitors an experience of famous Kerala’s Ayurvedic massages and recreational activities including fishing and swimming. One can also witness some of the exotic varieties of rare migratory birds in the area between November and February.
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary: Also popularly known as the Vembanad Bird Sanctuary, the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is a breathtaking and beautiful bird sanctuary that is located at Kumarakom about 15 km west of the town of Kottayam. Situated on the banks of the Vembanad Lake in the Kerala Backwaters, this bird sanctuary is a favourite destination for many native as well as migratory birds, which makes the place a delight for bird watchers and nature lovers. The sanctuary is spread over an area of over 14 acres on the southern bank of the Kavanar River and is managed by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation. The sanctuary initially developed in a rubber plantation and was known as the Baker’s Estate. While neighbouring areas such as Poothanpandi Kayal and Pathirmanal are also excellent locations for spotting some rare and exquisite birds, this sanctuary is home to local birds like owls, cuckoos, waterfowls and herons; as well as migratory birds like the Siberian Crane. Other birds are also spotted here during their respective migratory seasons, some of which come from the Himalayas, while others flock from Siberia. The walk through the Vembanad Bird Sanctuary, jumping over the puddles and walking through the muddy paths is a unique experience in itself. The sanctuary is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm and for entry fees, Indians pay INR 50 while foreigners pay INR 100. There is also a parking fee of INR 25 per vehicle.
Now let’s explore what Idukki has to offer.
Created by the spiltting of Kottayam district in 1972, Idukki lies amid the Western Ghats of Kerala. Though it is regarded as the second-largest district in the region, it has the lowest population density and the urban population is higher than the rural. Idukki is rich in forests and also known as the Spice Garden of Kerala. The name is derived from the Tamil and Malayalam word idukku meaning narrow gorge. This district has several protected areas including Periyar Tiger Reserve in the south, Kurinjimala Sanctuary to the east, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary to the northeast, Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park to the north and Pampadum Shola National Park to the south. These protected areas are well known for several threatened and endemic species including tiger, Nilgiri tahr, grizzled giant squirrel, Nilgiri wood-pigeon, elephant, gaur, sambar deer, purple frog and neelakurinji.
Kulamavu Dam:Situated in Kulamavu, the Kulamavu Dam is a gravity dam. The dam part of three dams dedicated to the Idukki Hydro Electric Power Plant that also encloses a manmade lake, this is a good place for some short sightseeing. Besides, Kulamavu dam is also part of the state’s largest river, Periyar’s power ventures. However, photography is not allowed here. There are occasional boating facilities at the lake here. Quite close to the dam are a few eating options.
Idukki Arch Dam: An engineering marvel, the Idukki Arch Dam is located is an arch dam with a double curvature and is built on River Periyar. The dam is constructed in a gorge between two hills, Kuravathi and Kuravan. It is at the height of about 550 feet and is a breathtaking sight in the otherwise rugged terrain along which has been built. Because of this height, it is one of the highest arch dams in Asia. Because of its massive size, the dam can be seen from quite some distance and the sight of the structure in between the granite hills is breathtaking. The surrounding is lush green, and the reservoir serves as a quick getaway for locals. As part of promoting hydel tourism, boating in the reservoir is open for tourists. The dam is open from 9 am to 5 pm and has an entry fee of INR 25. You can hire a boat for INR 125.
Malankara Dam: A gravity dam built across the Thodupuzha River, the Malankara dam supports the irrigation of the region and has been constructed to use the tailwater coming from the Moolamattom powerhouse. Situated near Thodupuzha-Moolamattom Road, the reservoir and dam is a very famous tourist spot. The dam remains open to the tourists throughout the year and is a perfect place for fishing and boating. There is a park covering 15-acre land situated near the reservoir which is under construction. There is an artificial lake that has been created by the Malankara Dam across the waters from the tail-gate of the Moolamattom Power House. Since the dam remains unexplored by many, it has managed to retain its natural beauty. The dam is open from 8 am to 6 pm and does have any entry fee.
Cheruthoni Dam: The Cheruthoni Dam is 138 m tall and is the largest concrete gravity dam close to the Idukki Arch Dam. Constructed across the Periyar River, this third highest dam in the country was built in 1976 as a part of the Idukki Hydroelectric project along with two other dams namely Kulamavu and Idukki. The dam is looked after by the Kerala State Electricity Board and also rents out boats to engage in the two-hour cruise between Kulamavu and Idukki. On the way, visitors are spellbound by the beauty that this place offers and the enchanting views of the sunrise and sunset that one gets to experience from here. From the great height at which the Cheruthoni Dam is situated, one can view certain parts of the Kochi city on a clear day. However, one can reach the dam only by walking or via a jeep.
Mattupetti Dam: A strong gravity dam, the Mattupetty Dam was constructed for power generation and water conservation. Located in the Munar hills near the Anamudi peak, the dam is situated 1700 meters high. The green valleys and pleasant ambience surrounding make up for a captivating site. The reflection of the tea gardens into the water is the most beautiful part of the dam. Speed boating too is organized here by the Tourism Promotion Council of the district of Idukki. Other water sports organized include motor boats, paddle boats, and rowboats. Open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, the dam has an entry fee of INR 10 per person. If you want to ride a speed boat, the cost is INR 500 for upto 5 people for 15 minutes and INR 300 for upto 5 people for a normal boat for 15 minutes.
Cheeyappara Waterfalls: Located on the Kochi-Madurai Highway or National Highway 49, the Cheeyarappa Falls is an on-the-way tourist attraction. It falls between Munnar and Kochi. One of the largest waterfalls in the state the falls cascade through seven tiers of stones, these falls are a force of nature that you can not only see and experience but dip your toes into and enjoy. The surroundings of the waterfall complement its opulent natural splendour. Evergreen forests stretch out for as much as two acres around the falls, making it an active adventure and trekking spot. Several species of exotic plants and animals can be found in the neighbouring area, enclosed in the casket of a dense forest. At the height of 1000 feet above sea level, the Cheyyappara Falls are a part of a chain of waterfalls that descend from the Deriyar River that originates in the Western Ghats. It forms the base camp for several treks or walking trails that start off in this area. The cascade has an inherent natural magnificence unlike other waterfalls in the state, which is why it is now being classified as an eco-tourism destination. On the opposite side, a valley stretches out into a vast expanse, swallowing the fast-flowing water into its body. Occasionally, this view gets covered up by hanging clouds, so it all depends on your luck.
Power House Falls: Said to be originating from Devikulam which also known as the Lake of Goddess, the PowerHouse Falls is situated about 35 kms from Munnar. The waterfalls fall from a height of 2000 m above the sea level and the area around the waterfall is enclosed by tea estates and thick vegetation.
Anchuruli Waterfalls: Situated amongst the gushing locations in Western Ghats and providing an enchanting view of the semi-evergreen forests grasslands, the Anchuruli Waterfalls which is also spelt as Anjuruli is a location definitely worth visiting. The water that comes from Erattayar River is used for the Idukki hydro-electric project. A tunnel which is 2 km long passes through Erattayar and Anchuruli carrying water to the lake. Though the tunnel is dangerous, it is a fun place to take a stroll especially for all the adventure lovers. The name ‘Anchuruli’ means five vessels and has been derived from the five small hills that can be seen in water once the water level is low and these hills appear like five vessels that are inverted. With an amazing view of nature, this destination is truly a place for everyone to unwind away from the hustle-bustle of daily life. An extension of the Idukki Dam, here the chirping sounds of the birds and that of streams and waterfalls provide a very comforting atmosphere to the place.
Valara Waterfalls: Situated between Adimali and Neriamangalam, the Valara Waterfalls is one of the most enchanting spots in this region. Valara, which comprises a chain of waterfalls surrounded by lush green forests, is home to a variety of animals and birds is situated 42 km away from Munnar. The flawless look, fabulous views and the gushing waterfall makes it a place definitely worth visiting.
Hill View Park: Located just about a km from Idukki city centre, the Hill View Park is approximately 350 feet from the Idukki dam. As the name suggests, Hill View Park is one such places in Idukki that offers spectacular views of the Cheruthoni and Idukki Dams. This park is a great place to spot diverse wildlife in its belt natural habitat. Hill View Park also has a couple of recent adventure additions including ziplining. A sloping path up to Hill View Park opens visitors to a serene green atmosphere with a few eating options and toilet facilities as well. There is also a children’s play area with slides and swings within this park. One of the top buys here is the famous spiced chocolate. Hill View Park is a great photo op for the Idukki dam, as it is not allowed to click pictures at the dam.
Ayyapancoil Hanging Bridge: A bridge that is one of a kind and attracts numerous tourists on a daily basis, the Ayyapancoil Hanging Bridge is one of the longest hanging bridges in Kerala. An engineering wonder which also happens to be the least explored place, the area that surrounds the bridge is not visited by a lot of tourists thereby making it retain its natural beauty to date. The reservoir along with the Periyar River adds natural beauty to the bridge with the scenic mountains, dense coconut trees and the freshness of the river water flowing. The views that you get from the bridge are going to leave you enthralled. Also, the surrounding reservoir and mountains make up for a spectacular view. So, next time whenever you feel like unwinding away from the screeching noise of the city, you definitely know where to head!
Pothamedu View Point: Situated about 5 km off Munnar, the Pothamedu View Point is adorned with stretching hills and lush green mountains. One can witness the spectacular wide views of tea, coffee and cardamom plantations of the area. It is an ideal place to witness beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The Idukki Arch Dam which is about 60 kms away is visible from this viewpoint on a clear day,
Kalvari Mount: Located on the Kattapana – Idukki Road, Kalvari Mount is a popular hillock and a popular Christian pilgrimage site situated 5 km on the outskirts of the city of Idukki. Also known as Kalyanathandu, the vantage point is perched at a height of 20 m and boasts of scenic sunrise and sunset views to die for. Besides, you will be enthralled by the stunning panoramic vistas of the gorgeous valley below and also of the Idukki Dam. If you get lucky, you might also be able to spot herds of elephants bathing in the lakes below. The highlight of the mountain are its grand celebrations of Good Friday and Lent. In the month of April, the Christian devotees and pilgrims carry out and elaborate procession atop the mountain to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The hillock however, has a very steep slope and is mostly scaled by professional trekkers. As the road is rugged and the rocks are mostly slippery, it is advised to climb to the top only on foot. But if you are a professional driver and you have an SUV, you can choose to drive up. There is enough space to park your vehicles on top. In addition to this, Kalvari Mount is also a popular picnic spot. You can also choose to extend your stay and enjoy surreal views of the adjacent dense green forest and sweeping views of the valley. There are two cottages at the foothills of the mountain that are managed by the forest department, where you can stay for the night.
Chathurangapara Viewpoint: Located on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Chathurangapara is a hilltop viewpoint. This viewpoint is a nature lover’s paradise. Surrounded by windmills, Chathurangapara provides a panorama of the entire Idukki hill station. While the viewpoint is open 24hrs of the day, it is best to visit either around sunrise or sunset, when the sky and mountains merge with one another. Because of high-speed winds and the many, many windmills around Chathurangapara, it is advisable to be very careful when visiting this viewpoint. It can get very windy very fast, and one must stay within safe distances from the edge of the cliff. The Viewpoint is about 18 kilometers from the main Idukki city, and one cana vail bikes or cabs to reach this viewpoint.
Munnar: Munnar is a popular hill-station of Kerala perched at an altitude of 1600 metres in the Western Ghats. Famous for its tea estates, various shades of green, blankets of mist and craggy peaks, Munnar is aptly known as the Kashmir of South India. Situated on the banks of three rivers – Madupetti, Nallathanni and Periavaru, Munnar is also blessed with natural view-points apart from the tea-plantations. Munnar is divided into Old Munnar, where the tourist information office is, and Munnar, where the bus station and most guest houses are located. The Eravikulam National Park, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary and tea plantations are its major attractions. In Munnar, brace yourself up for one of the most romantic places in India, for the delightful weather, the endless lush green fields of tea-gardens and the hilly terrains of Western Ghats. Over the past few years, Munnar has become one of the most sought- after honeymoon destination.
Suryanelli: A resort town in Chinnakanal village, Suryanelli located at a distance of around 50 km from Munnar and is famous for its tea and cardamom plantations and stunning vistas of mountains, waterfalls and sunrise. The forest here is home to many endangered animals, including the Nilgiri Marten, a native here. Suryanelli in Tamil roughly translates to no sunlight which is very apt, since the place, sitting at the height of 1,412 m from sea level, is densely covered by forest. The town, though is lesser-known and shadowed by the fame of much more popular Munnar. The village receives very high rainfall every year, in the months of June-September. There are many near-by places that one can visit while staying here.
Kuttikanam: A hill station lying within the territory of Peermade, Kuttikkanam is located 3500 feet above sea level and is famous for the tea and coffee plantations that grow in the area on a full scale. The green hills, the number of animals that can be spotted alongside the various species of fauna and the pleasant climate add to the positives of it
Vattavada: Situated in the Western Ghats, the rolling topography of the hills and valleys of Vattavada are only about 45km away from Munnar. Experiencing a pleasant climate in the region around and in Vattavada varies in height from 4760 ft to 8842 ft above sea level. All these factors, coupled together, give Vattavada the perfect required conditions for the growth of various vegetables and fruits. With a wide variety of crops grown here, Vattavada is a unique tourist destination surrounded in lavish greenery and nature. Interestingly, the village of Vattavada also has a Tamil connection. The residents of this village are mainly from Tamil Nadu who fled into the area after the invasion by Tipu Sultan around two hundred years ago. Their cultural nuances are still felt in their dialect and practice of caste system which varies slightly from those of the Kerala plains.
Kanthalloor: A beautiful village, Kanthalloor is situated at a distance of 330 km from the state’s capital, Trivandrum. The town is peacefully nestled amidst the Western Ghats and is widely known for its picturesque landscapes and pleasant, salubrious climate. Kanthalloor is often called Kerala’s Kashmir and the Land of Fruits. Its proximity to Munnar has helped put this village on the tourism map. The town is famous for growing a wide variety of crops, seasonal fruits and vegetables that are not produced anywhere else in Kerala. Kanthalloor is surrounded by the evergreen Anaimudi Sholai National Park, which was formerly known as Mannavan Chola. The scenic farm fields and the deep, echoing valleys add to Kanthalloor’s photogenic environment. It is truly a must-visit destination for nature lovers who wish to lose themselves in the serenity and have a relaxing time.
Parunthumpara: Located at an altitude of 1200 m, Parunthumpara is a quiet scenic landscape that has been attracting visitors recently. Parunthu which in Malayalam means an eagle and para meaning a rock, in essence, describes the natural terrain of Parunthumpara. The small village of Parunthumpara is hence famous for its rock that resembles an eagle. The sprawling meadows and stunning natural beauty are ideal for a trek or picnic. On the other hand, Paranthumpara is easily accessible, en route and nearby to Kerala’s other tourist attractions. Kerala tourism is planning to showcase Parunthumpara as an essential stopover for tourists travelling between Kumarakom and Thekkady.
Vagamon: Known as the Scotland of Asia and located near the Kottayam-Idukki border, Wagamon, popularly known as Vagamon, is a quiet offbeat hill station in Kerala. With a pleasant climate throughout the year, this breathtaking tourist spot has meandering rivulets and lush green hills surrounding it. The tea garden, pine forests, waterfalls, mesmerising meadows are all that makes Vagamon the perfect getaway. Vagamon is gradually gaining attention for being one of India’s topmost adventure tourism spot, with activities such as trekking, rock climbing and paragliding being offered to tourists. Cycling through the mountains is another interesting activity that visitors can participate in to get a better feel of the place. The Kerala Tourism Department and the Adventure Sports and Sustainable Tourism Academy (AASTA) celebrates an International Paragliding festival in Vagamon each year, which is very popular with both the tourists as well as the locals.
Ramakkalmedu: A tiny hamlet close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, Ramakkalmedu is located 40kms away from Thekkady. From here, one can get beautiful views of the sunrise in the eastern hills and the sunset on the eastern mountains. The thick evergreen forest surrounding the mountains which are situated adjacent to the site and serving as a natural habitat for a variety of birds and animals provide a beautiful view worth looking at. Its name can be broken down into three words namely Ram, Kal, and Medu referring to Lord Rama, rock, and land. According to legend, this place was visited by Lord Rama while he was searching for his wife Sita who was kidnapped by Ravana, the king of Lanka. While his search was going on, he stepped on the tallest rock while looking for Sita which was named as Ramakkal and later came to be known as Ramakkalmedu. Since Ramakkalmedu hill station is situated at an elevation of 3560 feet from sea level, the area is famous for carrying out adventure activities including hiking, paragliding, trekking, and camping. Situated atop one of the Ramakkalmedu hills, the statue of Kuruvan & Kuruthi was built by C.B. Jinan of Balaramapuram. This exquisite beauty is visited by hundreds of tourists on a daily basis. One can also view a part of the Tamil Nadu state from this hill. Kuruvan and Kurathi were the two historical characters belonging to the local community whose names have been given to these huge rocks between which the Idukki Dam was constructed. It is also said that the famous place where the Idukki Dam is built was found out by Kuruvan and Kuruthi. According to the rules, no tourist is allowed to climb on the top of the statue. There is a mandapam built behind the statue by the authority which serves a rest house for the visitors. One can reach here by foot or vehicle with parking facility available.
Panchalimedu: One of the most exquisite hill stations in Idukki, Panchalimedu provides an unearthly atmosphere with its speciality being the cold climate and refreshing breeze. The place is surrounded by a captivating set of hills which refreshes the mind and body of its visitors. If legends are to be believed, then the Pandavas came here and stayed at this place during the period of their exile which is how the place got its name. One of the caves here also bears the footprints of Bhima and a small pond known as Panjali Kulam situated here is the place where the wife of the Pandavas i.e. Panchali used to take bath. On the western side, the cliff points towards Mundakkayam and Kanjirapally. It is also said that even the sea can be viewed from here on a day when the sky is clear. Panchalimedu is situated at a distance of 7 km from Murinjapuzha on the Kottam-Kumily route at an elevation of 2500 feet above sea level. A number of Ayyappa devotees camp here on Makar Sankranti to be a part of the pious Makaravilakku that appears in the Ponnambalamedu near the Sabarimala temple. One is likely to discover a lot of new things and places at this hill station and witness the surreal beauty of nature.
Anakkara: A small village in Idukki, Anakarra is just about 50 sq. km in area. Situated approximately 18 km from Idduki wildlife sanctuary on the Kumily-Munnar state highway, this place is famous for its spice plantations and picturesque waterfalls. It also offers trekking opportunities and paragliding options depending on weather for adventure enthusiasts. Aruvikuzhi Falls, also known as Chellarcovil falls is a very famous spot which also houses an Ayurvedic destination resorts apart from spice plantations. Ottakathalemedu is another nearby place which offers a panoramic view of Anakkara and surrounding area and a beautiful sunset view. Home Stays are an important accommodation option in this area.
Meesapulimala: The second highest peak in Southern India, Meesapulimala stands elevated at an altitude of 2641 meters or 8660 feet above sea level. The densely covered terrain has eight peaks that together resemble a moustache and is, therefore, called Meesapulimala. Also, considered as a hotspot of diversity, Meesapulimala has been recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Eravikulam National Park: Located a 45 minute drive away from Munnar, the Eravikulam National Park houses a rich and diverse variety of flora and fauna and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Also known as Rajamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, this place was managed as a game reserve by the Kanan Devan Hills Produce Company before 1971. The control was taken over by the Karnataka Government in 1971, and it was declared a national park in 1978. Elephant, Nilgiri langur, Nilgiri marten, Atlas moth (largest in the world), lion-tailed macaque, small-clawed otter and a rare tiger or leopard are some of the main animal species that can be spotted here. The Eravikulam National park is famous for housing the endangered mountain goat of South India, the Nilgiri Tahr. It stands out for the ravishing beauty of its rolling grasslands and sholas, spread over 97 sq km in the Kannan Devan hills. Anamudi, which is the highest peak south of Himalayas at a height of 2695m, stands majestically in the central area of the national park. The slopes of the hills are home to many kinds of rare plants and trees some of which are epiphytic orchids and beautiful wild balsams. The important fauna here is the Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Langur, leopard, tiger, Indian bison, etc. The next bloom of Neelakurinji Flowers that bloom ever 12 years will be in 2018. The park is open from 7:30 am to 4:30 and is closed during February and March. Entry fees for Indians is INR 90 for an adults and INR 65 for children and foreigners will need to pay INR 360. There is a reservation fee of INR 50 and the reservation counter at the Munnar information centre is open from 9 am to 3 pm daily.
Anamudi Peak: Often called the pride of Kerala, Anamudi or Anai Mudi Peak in Munnar stands at a magnificent height of 2695 metres above sea level. Literally meaning Elephants Forehead, the peak is well known to be the home for the largest surviving population of Asian elephants in India. The peak itself is within the boundaries of the Eravikulam National Park, offering plenty of opportunities to explore to flora and fauna of the surroundings. A famous trekking destination in Munnar, the Anamudi peak is considered to be the tallest peak outside of the Himalayas and in the Western Ghats of the South as well as the greatest topographic isolation in India. It is also famous for the Neela Kurinji flower which is known to blossom only once every 12 years. The Anamudi Peak remains closed to visitors from February to March. The peak is open from 8 am to 4:30 pm.
Pampadum Shola National Park: The smallest national park of the state with an area of 11.75 sq km, the Pampadum Shola National Park is managed and maintained by Kerala Department of Forests and Wildlife. Pampadum Shola is a Malayalam word which translates to ‘a forest where snakes dance’. Here, ‘pamp’ translates to a snake, ‘aattam’ refers to the dance performed by the snakes and ‘shola’ or ‘cholai’ translates to a forest. Owing to the spectacular biodiversity of flora and fauna, this park, along with the Westerns Ghats, and few other parks are being observed by UNESCO World Heritage Committee to consider them as a World Heritage Site nominee. Cloudy weather prevails throughout the year in the park, perfect for trekking and picnics. The park has an undulating terrain with varied hill heights. The altitudes range between 1500 meters to 2500 meters, and a continuous patch of forest prevails from 1500 meters, up to 2000 meters. The area above that is mostly covered with grasslands.
Mathikettan Shola National Park: Located in between the as Eravikulam and Pampadam Shola National Parks, the Mathikettan Shola National Park was established initially to encourage cardamom plantation, it was declared as a national park in 2003 to protect the environment, and it’s ecology, flora and wildlife. It now stands as a conservatory for wildlife and flora alike. The name of the park, Mathikettan, is derived from Tamil directly translating to mind confuser and is credited to the belief that one may lose their way once they enter the forest. The vast forest plays a vital role in the environment serving as a biodiversity hot spot. The tall forests transform into a natural sanctuary where it also is an excellent spot for bird-watching. Tourists may even spot animals such as elephants, tigers, panthers, rat snakes, flying squirrel, giant grizzled squirrel, king cobra, crocodiles, Nilgiri tahr, spotted deer among others.
Anamudi Shola National Park: Located along the western ghats the Anamudi Shola National Park is a remarkable national reserve spread over 7.5 km square. You can plan a trek in the establishment to check out various attractions within the park. Thoovanam waterfall, Chinnar River and the adjacent waterfall, and Pambar river to name a few. The park has been nominated for the status of World Heritage Site under UNESCO’s World Heritage Programme. In 2003 it was declared as a National Park as a part of the Annamalai sub-cluster. It is being managed by Munnar Wildlife Division and Kerala Wildlife and Forest department since then. The west coast tropical evergreen is the dominant flora that covers the major forest area. As you go to the higher altitude areas, you will find more of the southern hilltop tropical vegetation. In addition to the unique biodiversity and climate of the park, it also has one of the largest shola forest ecosystems in India. The park also houses over 60 species of trees, 38 species of climbers and 175 species of herbs and shrubs. You can easily spot leopards, civet cats, wolves, Indian Bison, wild boars, elephants, tigers, Panther, sloth bear, flying squirrels, jungle cat, wild dogs, and more. It’s not only about animals. In addition to that, you can also enjoy a wide range of rare birds (more than 76), over 200 species of moths, 100 species of butterflies, and even reptiles. The park is open from 7:30 am to 4 pm and Indians pay INR 90, children between the ages of 5 and 12 pay INR 65 and foreigners, both adults and children pay INR 360 as entrance fees.
Periyar National Park: One of the most bio-diverse regions in the world and the best-protected reserve area in India, the The Periyar National Park in Thekkady is famous for its gorgeousness, greenery and stillness. The park is the dwelling place of abundant significant species, including the royal tigers and majestic elephants apart from other reptiles, fishes and birds. The Periyar National Park is spread over 257 square miles and the rivers Pamba and Periyar flow through it. The attractions at the national park are perfect places for enjoying boating at the magnificent lake, trekking through the dense forests, or simply sitting back to spot an animal or two. The Periyar National Park is home to many threatened and endangered species like elephants and tigers. One can easily spot white tigers, Indian elephants, wild pigs, flying squirrels, fruit bats, sloth bears and jungle cats here. More than 266 species of birds, including migratory ones, also live here. Top birds to spot here are Malabar grey hornbill, white-bellied blue flycatcher, Sunbird, great hornbill, black-necked stork and Nilgiri wood pigeon. 45 species of reptiles, including lizards, snakes and turtles; 40 species of fishes and more than 160 butterfly species are found here. The floral beauty of the place is equally enchanting. Top flora of this park comprises of teak, mangoes, rosewood, tamarind, bamboos, sacred fig, sandalwood, jacarandas, Indian conifer and others. Plants of medicinal importance and coffee, cardamom and tea plantations can also be found here. The best way to see the sights and spot the wildlife at the park is to take a safari. You can choose between elephant safari or a jeep safari or opt for a boat cruise at the lake. Not available during the monsoon season, the boat safari cruise timings are 7:25 am, 9:15 am, 11:15 am, 1:30 pm and 4 pm with each cruise lasting about 30 minutes. The Jeep safaris are ideal for individuals or small groups. Photographers especially prefer this option to click the ferocious and majestic animals in all their beauty and grandeur. The full day safari starts in the early morning hours, while the last trip starts by three in the evening. The timings for the night safari are from 11 pm to 3 am. The park is open from 6 am to 7 pm with the night safari starting after 8 pm. Entrance fees for an Indian is INR 45 for an adult and INR 15 for a child while for foreigners it is INR 500 for an adult and INR 180 for a child. Boating fee is INR 255 per person while binocular fees are INR 50 with a security deposit of INR 100.
As we get closer to the southern part of the state, our next halt is Pathanamthitta.
A fast growing town and known as the Pilgrim Capital of Kerala due to its proximity to the holy pilgrim centre of Sabrimala. More than half district is covered with forests and agriculture is the main economy here. The regions that form the town were formerly under the rule of Pandalam, which had connections with the Pandya kingdom. It is believed that Hindu God Lord Ayyappa was the King of this region.When Pandalam was added to the princely state of Travancore in 1820, the region came under Travancore administration. Modern day Pathanamthitta district, was formed with on 1 November 1982. Situated near the Western Ghats and bordered by the hills, Pathanamthitta is a treat to eyes with its vast unending stretches of forests, rivers and rural landscapes. Blessed by nature, the district is famous for its scenic beauty, fairs and festivals. Land of Lord Ayyappa is the tag-line of Pathanamthitta tourism and it attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims every year. The region is parted into a fascinating topography of highlands, midlands and lowlands crafted by three rivers coursing in the town. The town of Pathanamthitta is also marked by a culture unique to this place as well as an art of metal mirrors i.e. Aranmula Kannadi, handcrafted with intricacy and poise. The town also practices the art of ‘vaasthu vidya’ in its purest form at a heritage village of Vassthu Vidya Gurukulam.
Sabarimala: More than 30 million pilgrims visit the temple in Sabarimala annually, making it the largest in India and second largest in the world, after the Hajj Pilgrimage of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Located inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, in the Pathanamthitta district, Sabarimala is a temple town on the bank of the River Pampa. Named after the mythological character, Sabarimala is home to the famous Ayyapa temple. The temple is also known as Dharma Sashta and is believed to be the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Lord Vishnu. People believe that Vishnu’s incarnate, Parasurama, placed the Ayyappa Idol at the top of the mountain. One can see that the traditions of Sabarimala are a blend of Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and other Sramana traditions. The temple is situated amidst eighteen hills and dense forest surrounding the temple, which is known as Poongavanam. People trek up the mountains from Plapalli, proceeding to Aangaamuzhi, and then to Muzhiyaar and finally to Sabarigiri road. The temple is open on the first five days of each Malayalam month with it being most crowded during Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku or Makar Sankranti.
The Ayyappa Temple is one of the very few Hindu temples in India that are open to all faiths and emphasizes on secularism and communal harmony. All men are seen equal before the Lord, irrespective of their caste, creed or race and hence all people visiting the temple refer to each other as Ayyappa Swami. The temple is considered to be laid out according to the Lord’s wishes and hence one can see that Goddess Malikappurathamma is placed left to the main sanctum sanctoram and the Lord’s aides, Vavar and Kadutha stand at the foot of the 18 Holy steps or the Pathinettu Thrippadi that leads to the main sanctum. The temple was rebuilt after a massive fire in 1950 and stands on a plateau surrounded by mountains and valleys below. The sanctum sanctorum has a copper-plated roof with golden finials, two mandapams, the Kodimaram or the flagstaff and the Belikalpura which houses the altar. The Ayyappa idol which was initially carved out of stone is presently made out of Panchaloha, an amalgamation of five metals and stands one and a half feet tall. The Sabarimala pilgrimage is undertaken by thousands of ardent devotees every year. A strict-41 day fast is observed before the pilgrimage, which is believed to cleanse the mind, body and soul. The devotees follow a Lacto-vegetarian diet and practice celibacy and teetotalism. They also do not cut their hair or nails during this period, allowing them to grow. Their attire is composed of simple black or saffron garments, and they wear a special mala or chain made of Rudraksha beads. The devotees are expected to lead an altruistic lifestyle by helping others and doing service in the name of their Lord Ayyappan. After the fast period, the devotees follow the difficult path through Erumely to reach the Pamba river, or else they arrive by vehicles. They then begin their long climb from the Neeli Mala to Sabari Mala, the abode of Lord Ayyappan.
Women between the ages of 10 to 50, during their menstrual cycles were not allowed on Sabarimala until the Indian Supreme Court overturned the restriction on 28th September 2018. While the entry of women into the Sabarimala Temple is still a burning issue, there are legends that tell us why women have been barred from the temple for ages. The first legend says that Lord Ayyappa was born out of the union of Lord Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Lord Vishnu. It is said that Lord Vishnu took this feminine form to mainly destroy a demon, Bhashmasura, who had acquired the elixir from the gods during the churning of the ocean. When Lord Ayyappa was a minor, a lady-demon started creating havoc in the south and could only be defeated by the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini. After Lord Ayyappa defeated her, she turned into a beautiful woman and revealed that she was cursed to live the life of a demon. She proposed to Lord Ayyappa who, without any second thoughts, refused. But as she persisted, he promised that he would marry her the day kanniswamis or new devotees stopped visiting him at Sabarimala. The woman agreed to wait for him at the neighbouring temple and is worshipped today by many as Malikapurathamma. In her honour, it is said that Lord Ayyappa does not receive any menstruating women. Women, too, do not prefer visiting the temple as that would mean insulting Malikapurathamma’s love and sacrifice. Another legend treats Lord Ayyappa as a historical figure who was born in the royal family of Panthalam. He grew up to be one of the most loved and respected princes in the kingdom who cared for his people. One day, an Arab commander by name Babar or Vavar attacked the kingdom but was defeated by Ayyappa and since then, became his devout follower. Today, Vavr lives in the spirit in a shrine in Erumeli at a small distance from Sabarimala. As the presiding deity of the Sabarimala Temple, Ayyappa vowed to answer each devotee’s prayers who walks up to his shrine and hence shunned all worldly desires, including contact with women.
Kaviyoor Rock Temple: The cave temple left in the state, the Kaviyoor Rock Temple glorifies the culture of the area more that its spiritual aspect. This ancient cave temple established in Tamil Pallava style is devoted to Lord Hanuman, the Monkey God. Thus, one can witness the large number of monkey in an around the temple who are feasted on regular basis.
Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple: An ancient temple located on a small hilltop at Kaviyoor, the Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is one of the most popular and significant Shiva Temple in Kerala. Built in a unique style of architecture, the temple is also popularly known as Thrikkaviyoor Mahadeva Temple. Kerala is a state of strict rituals and traditions that also form a very significant part of all temples including this ancient temple. A non-Hindu can’t enter the temple other than the outer walls. A strict dress code is to be followed and photography is absolutely prohibited. An annual festival is organised during December and January and the festival of Hanuman Jayanti is celebrated here with great fervor. The temple is also referred to as the Hanuman temple. Other major temples located in the vicinity of the temple are Bhagavathy Temple, Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha Temple, Kadamanitta Devi Temple, Valiyakoikal Temple, Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple and Sree Vallabha Temple.
Malayalapuzha Devi Temple: An epitome of art and architectural marvel of ancient times, this temple is considered to be one of the largest Devi temples. It is dedicated to Goddess Durga and it is a common belief that whoever worships here with a true heart is granted their wishes and is aided in realising their dreams.
Sree Vallabha Temple: An important spiritual site for Vaishnavites, the Sree Vallabha Temple is one of the hundred and eight Vaishnava temples in India. The temple is mainly renowned for its big Vedic school where students are taught and trained in Hindu Tantric practices and Vedas. One of the most striking feature of the temple is the daily performance of Kathakali in the temple in evening.
Thriveni Sangamam: Situated on the way to Sabarimala, the Thriveni Sanganam as the name suggests is the point where the Holy Pamba River meets with the Manimala River in its north and with the Achankovil River in the south. Devotees stop here to take a dip in the holy water to wash away their sins. The Pamba River, also known as the Dakshina Ganga or the Ganges of South India, is the third longest river in the southern part of the country which begins flowing from the Western Ghats. Devotees believe that it was near this holy river that King Rajasekara gained a vision of Lord Ayappa. Considered as pure as the Ganges, the water of the Pamba River can purify the evil and lift the curse which is why it is deemed to be lucky for all the pilgrims to take a dip in the river before and after trekking the Sabarimala. The perfect time to visit Thriveni Sangamam is between September and February when the temperature is extremely pleasant and worth exploring. The summers are hot and humid whereas the monsoon experiences heavy rainfalls thereby not allowing you to step outside. Thus, you should avoid visiting during the monsoon and summers.
Manjinikkara Church: Another significant Syrian Christian’s pilgrim center, the Manjinikkara Church is located in Manjanikkara on the top of a hill about 6 km from Pathanamthitta. This church was created by Mor Yullus Elias Qoro and is known for its remarkable altar with figures of Saint and Jesus. However, the salient feature of this church is ascribed as the presence of the holy tomb of Patriarch Mar Ignatius Elias III placed near the altar. It is said that the saint arrived at this place in 1931 and stayed here till his death in 1932. A festival in the honour of the saint is organized every year and is known as feast of the saint or Orma Perunnal. Paliakara Church is also located in the vicinity.
Paliakara Church: An ancient structure that holds a reflection of the rich cultural past of Kerala, the Paliakara Church is located in Trivuvalla and is one of the important religious centers for Syrian Christians with its roots going back to 54 AD to the arrival of St. Thomas. Known for its incredible architecture, the outer wall of the building is adorned with the carved latticework and engravings of various saints. The church’s other major attraction are the ancient paintings on the eastern wall made with the help of natural vegetable dyes. They depict the main events of the life of Jesus Christ. One can also see the painting of patron saint of the church St. George as well as a painting showcasing the twelve apostles of Christ. The most fascinating thing about this structure is that one can witness an amazing blend of Hindu elements in many aspects of church. Tiny sculptures of elephants and tigers can be seen on wooden beams supporting the roof. A feast is organized for 10 days from mid-April to mid-May every year. The church is opened from 8 am to 8 pm every day and for everyone.
Perunthenaruvi Waterfall: A natural waterfall with captivating surroundings is situated on the banks of the River Pamba, the Perunthenaruvi Waterfall is 60 to 100 ft deep which pours down on a rocky bed. The place is a favourite picnic spot among locals as well as tourists.
Gavi: One of the most beautiful places in India, Gavi is a small village tucked between tea estates and wide and dense forests. A unique project in itself, the place is a model of eco-tourism site and is situated some 14 km away from the Periyar Tiger Reserve. This ambitious eco-tourism project of the Kerala Forest Development Corporation, has caught the eye of the world for its excellent model and use of local people for conservation & tourism. A place which is full of breathtaking sceneries, wildlife, amazing people, and great activities is the epitome of everything that tourism in Kerala represents. The eco-tourist lodge at the village is located conveniently in front of a magnificent lake providing great views of a lake and the adjoining forest. One can enjoy trekking, camping, canoeing and other activities or just sit back near the lake and be blown away by the beauty of the place. The best time to visit the village is from October till February as the weather is pleasant with temperatures in day time hovering around 28 degrees and 20 degrees during night time.
Our next destination moving further south is Kollam