Overshadowed by the popularity of the backwaters of Kerala, the state’s many hill stations, carved out of the Western Ghats, have remained off the beaten circuit, a blessing for those who seek tranquility in a natural setting.
The most popular among the hill stations of Kerala, Munnar is about 100km from Kochi (Cochin). As the town centre has become a tad chaotic, move to 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 hills from Top Station, once a transhipment point for delivery of tea from Munnar. Wildlife enthusiasts must pay a visit to the Eravikulam National Park, home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr. Anamudi, the highest peak in Kerala, is located here and is a popular trekking destination. Echo Point, Mattupety Dam and lake, the Power House Waterfalls (Chinnakanal), Kundala Town, etc. are some of the popular attractions that can be covered from Munnar. And on the way back, 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. Because not many people visit Devikulam, less than 10km from Munnar. And those who do, only pay a short day visit. Staying in the two-roomed luxurious Manale Tea Bungalow, a heritage mansion, is part of the fun. Located in the Lockhart tea estate, it can be your base for treks into the surrounding hills. You may take a guided tea tour and visit the museum located here.
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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 the 14 ‘Stations of the Cross’ located here. Pilgrims, especially during Easter, trek through the hills to visit these points marked by a Cross, symbolising the last journey of Jesus Christ. The ninth Cross, often shrouded in mists, is a popular attration. The hill slopes are covered by tea estates. You may also trek to the nearby Kokkad Hills. The place can be visited while travelling through Peermedu (about 75km by road from Kottayam and 150km from Kochi airport).
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Located in the Pathanamthitta district, Gavi shot to fame when the Kerala Forest Development Corporation started an eco-tourism project here. The forested hills, dotted with tea gardens, are home to wild animals such as elephants, Nilgiri Tahr, Lion-tailed macaque and over 250 species of birds. The Gavi Lake, falling within the project area, has a picturesque setting. You may go boating here. Visits to cardamom plantations, a trip to the Sabarimala view point and forest safaris are some of the activities you may undertake here. Accommodation is provided by the KFDC in Green Mansion and Swiss Cottage Tents. Besides, they operate two camping sites inside the forests (however, KFDC does not recommend women and kids camping here).
Tucked inside Palakkad district, about 56 km from the eponymous town, Nelliyampathy is a little known hill station of Kerala. The uphill journey from Nenmara is as interesting as the destination. Negotiate umpteen hair-pin bends, pass through forests, stop at viewpoints to catch glimpses of the surrounding countryside, catch a glimpse of the famous Palakkad Gap in the hills, etc. There is not much by way of touristy attractions, which has kept Nelliyampathy off the beaten route. Relax among the hills, go trekking, or enjoy birdwatching. Some of the privately run tea gardens and bio-farms occasionally allow visitors to take a look inside their properties. Take a picnic hamper when you visit the nearby Pothundy Dam for a round of boating. There are several private resorts located along the hill side. You may check out The Mango Village near the Seetharkund Water Falls.