The drive to Nelliyampathy is steep but lovely, with 23 dizzying, hairpin bends, tantalising flashes of the Pothundy reservoir and occasional sightings of langurs, bisons, elephants and deer, who often emerge from the dense, verdant forest.
At a height of 4,600ft, Nelliyampathy is rather inadequately described as a tiny hill station. This little gem of the Sahyadri Range is rich in coffee, tea and orange plantations, and the sparse swamps of nelli (gooseberry) trees which have given the town its name. It offers many things for the intrepid traveller, with the exception of continuous cell reception, ATMs and stores selling mineral water bottles and snacks.
Things to See & Do
The Nelliyampathy Range consists of lofty peaks and deep valleys, the highest of which is Nellikota, or Padagiri, which soars 5200ft above sea level. Other peaks include Vellachimudi, Valiyavana, Mayanmudi and Vela Vanchan. The road from the Pothundy Dam offers a picturesque drive to the hill station and a little beyond towards Seetharkundu. Paths leading off the road head into verdant forests filled with valuable teak of extraordinary height and girth.
Views to Die For
Nelliyampathy has something for every traveller — it offers you ease and relaxation, closeness with the hills, wildlife and beautiful panoramic views from vantage points like Kesavan Para (11km from Nelliyampathy) and Seetharkundu. The latter, situated 8km from Nelliyampathy, is believed to be the place mentioned in the Ramayana, where Sita rested on her return journey from Sri Lanka. A tall, gnarled and ancient tree marks the spot today, close to a small Devi Temple at the top of Kollengode Hill. In between lie orange plantations where one can pick up tea, coffee, and bottles of squash and guava preserve.
Seetharkundu, Palakapandy, Kesavan Para and Kara Para are all connected by small paths through the forests and hills. It is advisable to wear appropriate clothing and footwear as the scrub can be quite thorny. Also, come equipped with plenty of drinking water. Hire a local, hotel-recommended guide.
The Nelliyampathy range is a known habitat of the Malabar hornbill, the Indian woodpecker, the red jungle fowls all kinds of parrots and owls, as well as the chubby Malabar squirrel, amongst other interesting species. A good pair of binoculars and abundant reserves of patience will reward the curious traveller with some amazing sightings.
Nelliyampathy has a number of peaks that offer fantastic views. Raja’s Cliff at Mampara is perhaps the most breathtaking. A bald knoll 5249ft above sea level, Mampara can be accessed via a bone-jarringly steep jungle path. At some points during the ride to the top, the jeep almost seems to be travelling vertically. Yet, the hair-raising experience is rendered worthwhile because of the view, which seems to define the word ‘panoramic’, with the Pothundy Reservoir and rivers gleaming like sashes of silver far below. On a clear day, this spot affords a view of the entire Palakkad Range. The Chaliyar, Meenkara, Mulathara, Malampuzha and Waliyar Dams sparkle below, and one can spot the pastoral hamlet of Kollengode. Near Mampara, the Victoria Church, an abandoned relic of the Raj, sits in solitude atop a rock. The summit lies directly in line with the Palghat Gap, thanks to which the breeze here seems like a full-blown gale. One can see Pollachi, Coimbatore and Mettupalayam on the Tamil Nadu side, and parts of Parambikulam and Palakkad on the Kerala side of the Gap.
About 20km from Nelliyampathy, just before Nenmara Village, lies the Pothundy Reservoir. It is surrounded by lovely landscaped gardens that make it an ideal picnic spot. Two flights of steps off the road lead the traveller to a whole other world, on the banks of the cool and calm waters of the reservoir, which is surrounded by hills. The Pothundy Reservoir is fed by the Manchady, Kalchandy and Challa, which are tributaries of the Bharatapuzha River. The reservoir feeds the Gayathri River. Timings 10.00am—5.00pm Tel 04923-244232
Where to Stay
Greenland Resort (Tel: 04923- 246245/ 66, Cell: 09048607202, 09846146202; Tariff: â‚¹1,700—4,700, tents â‚¹1,500 per person, with meals) is set in an estate surrounded by lush forests. It offers 20 rooms, one tent and a restaurant. Non-guests may eat here on advance notice. ITL Resorts (Tel: 246464, 246357; Tariff: â‚¹1,700—4,500) in Kaikatty has six rooms, two dorms and a restaurant. Outdoor games and trekking in the forested hills are possibilities. Ciscilia Heritage (Tel: 202383, 205583, Cell: 09495566454, 09447033560; Tariff: â‚¹1,500) is an eco-friendly homestay in Ranimedu Estate. It has eight rooms.
Hill Valley Farm House (Tel: 246307, Cell: 09961549680, 09447400333; Tariff: â‚¹1,000—4,000) is another homestay with ten rooms and dorms in Ravivarma Estate. Both serve home-cooked meals. Maryland (Tel: 246371, Cell: 09496609135; Tariff: â‚¹2,000) is a decent homestay in Padagiri.
Where to Eat
While there are no established eateries at Nelliyampathy, most hotels have excellent restaurants. Notable examples are Greenland Resort and ITL Resorts.
The picturesque pastoral hamlet of Kollengode seems like a slice of tradition preserved through the ages for posterity. The birthplace of the poet P Kunhiraman Nair, it houses his poorly-preserved memorial (Timings: 10.00am—5.00pm) opposite Raja’s High School. The Vishnu Temple (Timings: 5.00—10.30am, 5.00—8.00pm) in Kaachamkurissi is a popular shrine with the locals. The whole village comes alive when the temple celebrates the Arat Festival in May with much fervour. Kollengode is home to high-end tourism which is particularly centered around the Kollengode Palace, which now serves as a popular Ayurvedic resort.
Air Nearest airport: Kochi International Airport, Nedumbassery (110km/ 3.5hrs). Prepaid taxis (Tel: 0484-2610115 extn: 2107) to Nelliyampathy will cost between â‚¹3,450 and â‚¹3,850
Rail Nearest railhead: Palakkad (55km/2h) connected by daily trains to Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. Taxis to Nelliyampathy cost around â‚¹1,800—2,000
Road If you are coming from Kochi (153km), or anywhere south of Thrissur (76km) on NH47, continue past Thrissur till Vadakkancherri on NH47. Turn towards to Nenmara (10km from NH47), continue on to the Pothundy Reservoir and up the winding 26-km-long road to Nelliyampathy. If you are coming from Palakkad, take the district roads south via Koduvayur and Palavur to Nenmara and Nelliyampathy Bus You can get a bus from the Palakkad KSRTC Bus Stand (Tel: 0491-2520098) to Nelliyampathy.