At the offset, Vythiri may seem like any other little town tucked in the valleys of the Western Ghats. The city will welcome you with its slanting-roofed houses, perhaps drench you in the all-too-common rainfall and soothe you with its moderate temperatures. But its untouched natural wealth holds within its folds ideal conditions for a quiet retreat and relaxing time off.
The district is known for being the least populated in Kerala, which becomes highly tangible in the serenity of the hills around Vythiri, where footfalls sound loud against the backdrop of impending silence. Here are things to do and see in Vythiri.
Soochippara and Kanthanpara Falls
Travelling to the waterfalls is, in many ways, a perfect summary of Wayanad. The 28-km drive along winding roads that meander through tea plantations and picturesque settings will take you from Vythiri to the end of the motorable road near Soochippara. Hereafter, a 1.5km walk will bring you to the waterfall, which is also known as the Sentinel Waterfall. Soochippara presents an attractive sight, three-tiered and well-hidden by the dense forest. The waterfall cascades down from a height of 200m to the main pool. As this area tends to be slippery, especially during the rain, it is advisable to wear shoes with a good grip.
Adjacent to Soochippara, on the rocky side, are the Kanthanpara Falls. Smaller and slightly quieter than Soochippara, about 30-m-high, it makes for an ideal picnic spot. To avoid exhaustion from a steep climb on the way back, try amlas (gooseberries) marinated in a special salty syrup offered in the makeshift
shops along the route; they will rejuvenate you instantly.
Meenmutty is about 32km from Vythiri, off Ooty Road. The trail to this waterfall, which is 2km from the motorable road, is far less exhausting than the Soochippara path. These three-tiered falls are 300m high and offer a more serene getaway than the Soochippara Falls. A forest rest house near the falls also offers a refuge. Though otherwise quiet and safe, this place can be dangerous during the monsoons because of the unpredictable flooding. Another 2km upstream from the Meenmutty Falls is the Kombaikani Waterfall, where there is a forest rest house.
Lakkidi, one of the highest points of the Wayanad district, at almost 3000ft above sea level, is known as the 'Gateway of Wayanad'. Most tourists stop by for the gorgeous views and incredible photography, while some stay at the expensive, relaxing luxury resorts in the area. Another interesting local sight is the Chain Tree, a giant ficus tree bound to the ground by chains.
Pookode Lake lies on the way back to Vythiri from Lakkidi, around 3km from the valley view area. A motorable route off the main road leads to the lake entrance, sometimes crowded with hundreds of holidaying families.
Most tourists stick to the picnic area, which also offers boating and kayaking. You can visit the aquarium in the lake complex as well. The walkway around the lake provides a welcome relief from the melee.
Located about 16km from Kalpetta, Karalad Lake offers restful silence. The 7-acre lake is not as well known to tourists and picnic-goers, although it boasts a recreational park with facilities for angling and boating. Banasura Dam lies 3km further from Karalad Lake. Other adventure activities include zipline, kayaking, rock climbing and archery.
Visible from most parts around Vythiri, the Chembra Peak is the tallest summit of the area, at 2,100m above sea level. While locals claim that one needs four hours to reach the summit from the base camp, for the city-bred climber, it could take a bit longer, especially as the climb is often steep and slippery. About two-thirds of the way up lies a beautiful, clear lake shaped like a heart.