Overshadowed by the popularity of the backwaters of Kerala, the state's many hill stations have remained off the beaten track. Carved from the Western Ghats, they are a blessing for those who seek tranquillity in a natural setting. A few days in these places will rejuvenate your whole being and exemplify the state's moniker of "God's own country." Here's a look at 5 hill-stations in Kerala that will take your breath away.
The most popular hill station in Kerala, Munnar is about 127km from Kochi (Cochin). As the town centre has become a tad chaotic, visit the countryside if you are looking for a tranquil holiday. Acres of forests and tea gardens cover the hill slopes in a mantle of green. Spend your days exploring Munnar and its surroundings, and enjoy peaceful evenings in the many luxury resorts that occupy different corners of the hill. You can catch a panoramic view of the Western Ghats from Top Station, a railhead that once delivered tea from Munnar.
Wildlife enthusiasts must pay a visit to the Eravikulam National Park, home to the endangered Nilgiri tahr. Anamudi is the highest peak of the Western Ghats and is a popular trekking destination. Echo Point, the Mattupety Dam, the Power House Waterfalls in Chinnakanal and Kundala Town are just some of the popular attractions that can be covered from Munnar. Before going back home, don't forget to buy the locally-grown tea and home-made chocolates.
Enjoy absolute quietude in the middle of hill slopes covered with tea gardens and gum trees as Devikulam receives just a handful of visitors. The hill station is 11km from Munnar and most people come for a day trip. Staying in the two-roomed Manale Tea Bungalow feels like being in the lap of luxury. The heritage mansion is located in Lockhart Estate and is a good base for treks into the surrounding hills. Visitors can take a guided tea tour and visit the museum there.
The Sita Devi Lake, Attala Rock Shelter and the Blossom International Park are places where serenity and beauty come together as a feast for the eyes and heart.
Located in one of Kerala's most picturesque districts, Idukki, Amrithamedu is popular with Christian pilgrims. Local people refer to it as the Kurisumala (Hill of the Cross) because of 14 Stations of the Cross located here. Pilgrims trek through the hills during Easter to visit the points which are marked by a cross to symbolise the last journey of Jesus Christ. The ninth cross is often shrouded in mists and is a popular attraction.
The slopes of Amrithamedu are covered by tea estates and the nearby Kokkad Hills make for an enjoyable trek.
Located in Pathanamthitta district, Gavi shot to fame when the Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) started an ecotourism project there. The forested hills are dotted with tea gardens and are home to wild animals such as elephants, the Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque and over 250 species of birds. The Gavi lake has a picturesque setting, and many people go boating there.
Visits to cardamom plantations, a trip to the Sabarimala viewpoint and forest safaris are some of the activities you can partake in. Accommodation is provided by KFDC-run places like the Green Mansion. They also operate camping sites inside the forests.
Tucked inside Palakkad district, about 56km from the eponymous town, Nelliyampathy is a little-known hill station of Kerala. The uphill journey from Nenmara is as interesting as the destination. Your vehicle will negotiate umpteen hairpin bends, pass through forests, and stop at viewpoints to catch glimpses of the surrounding countryside, such as the famous Palakkad Gap.
There is not much by way of touristic attractions so Nelliyampathy has mostly been off the beaten track. Relax among the hills, trek or enjoy birdwatching. Some privately run tea gardens and farms occasionally allow visitors to take a look inside their properties. Take a picnic hamper when you visit the nearby Pothundi Dam for a round of boating. There are several private resorts in the area such as The Mango Village near the Seetharkund Waterfalls.