Tea Estates And Cloud Mountains: Take A Break In Meghamalai

It was known as the High Wavy Mountain during the British era. Locals have named it Meghmalai, which translates to cloud mountain in Tamil
Photo Credits Shutterstock
Photo Credits Shutterstock

Meghamalai in Tamil Nadu is located in the Western Ghats in the Theni district near Kumily. Meghmalai used to be referred to as the High Wavy Mountain during the British era. Because the peak is mostly shrouded in clouds, local residents refer to it as Meghmalai, which translates to &lsquocloud-mountain&rsquo in Tamil. It is also known as &lsquoPaccha Kumachi&rsquo, meaning &lsquogreen peak&rsquo. The mountain range is 1,500 metres above sea level, and it is densely forested with cardamom and tea estates. 

The High Wavys in Tamil Nadu is part of the Varushanad range of hills in the Western Ghats around Madurai, which shares a boundary with the famous Periyar Tiger Reserve. Meghamalai was one of the last high-elevation places cleared for tea production, but it still maintains some pristine evergreen forest. Though Meghamalai is not a conventional tourist destination, the tea bungalows provide a relaxing vacation with superb hospitality and the potential to see animals.

Things To Do

Suruli Falls 

The magnificent beauty of Suruli Falls is mentioned in the poet Ilango Adigal&rsquos Silappathikaram, an ancient masterpiece of Tamil literature. The waterfall is located in the town of Kombaithozhu, approximately 54 kilometres from Theni, and is fed by the Suruli River in the Meghamalai mountain range. This two-stage cascading waterfall falls from 150 feet, collects in a pool, flows for a short distance, and then drops another 40 feet. The Suruli River&rsquos water is recognised for its healing powers. Though the falls have considerable flow all year, the months of June to October are the best because of monsoon rainfall. Showers and changing rooms are available here. Every year, the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department hosts a summer celebration at Suruli Falls. Close to the falls are five caves that showcase Indian rock-cut architecture from the 11th century. You can also pay a visit to the Shakthimigu Annai Sri Jeyameena Thirukovil temple, a stunning 90-foot-tall building dedicated to the mother goddess Sri Jeyameena Jeyameena.

Treks And Walks

The area is full of walking and trekking trails. You can trek to Maharaja Methu, a green and windy viewpoint overlooking the Tamil plains on one side and Periyar&rsquos dam and forests on another. It offers breathtaking views of the rolling hills and plantations in the plains, with fluffy clouds or pillars of rain pouring over foggy paddy fields. The visual and theatrical displays of the marya-megham&rsquo, as the monsoon clouds are known locally, would be played out in front of you. You can also go on an excursion to Vattapara, an open slope where the tea plantations end and Periyar&rsquos protected forest begins at the Kerala border. In case you are looking for a more active vacation, there are trekking and hiking alternatives, as well as camping and birdwatching tours. There are also opportunities for rappelling, rock climbing, and river rafting. For an immersive experience, you can visit local villages and take part in traditional festivals.  

Call Of The Wild

The abundance of diversity in the area is seen in plant and animal life. The High Wavy Mountains are home to a variety of creatures, including the gaur, tiger, leopard, Asian elephant, Oriental honey buzzard, great pied hornbill, Indian brown mongoose, large-scaled pit viper, and enigmatic Hutton&rsquos pit viper. In April 2021, the Indian government approved the creation of a new tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu. The Meghamalai Tiger Reserve now includes the Srivilliputhur Grizzled Squirrel Wildlife Sanctuary and the Tirunelveli Wildlife Sanctuary. As a result of its recent status, Meghamalai Tiger Reserve is now the fifth tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu and the 51st in India.

Manalar Dam

Up to six dams can be found in the Meghamalai region, the most well-known of which are the Iravangalar Dam, Highway Dam, and Manalar Dam. Located around 4 kilometres from Megamalai Bus Station and encircled by tea plantations, Manalar Dam is a well-liked tourist attraction. The Cumbum Valley and the towns in the Theni region are seen from here. Boating facilities are provided in the catchment area of the dam.

Estates and Plantations

Meghamalai is dotted with green-carpeted tea gardens, coffee plantations, and cardamom plantations. You can book a tour of the estates to learn about their cultivation methods and explore them at your leisure.  

Where To Eat And Stay

Meghamalai has several stay options to choose from. If you&rsquore seeking a low-cost option, consider staying at a government lodge or a guest house in the region. You can also book a homestay for an immersive local experience. For old-world charm, try a colonial tea estate cottage on idyllic plantations. If you want to go on a weekend getaway, book in advance because they fill up quickly. 

Getting There

The nearest airport is Madurai. If you want to travel by train, the nearest well-connected railway station is Madurai. You can also drive down from Madurai-Usilampatti-Andipati to Theni. 

Cover Photo Credits Shutterstock

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