Holidaying in Kerala’s Hill Stations

Flanked between the lush Western Ghats and the scenic coastline Kerala has nearly over 50 hill stations both popular and off the beaten track that make great holiday destinations with cheap flight tickets to get to your dream place. The densely forested hills, sprawling tea estates, spice, coffee and rubber plantations, sparkling streams and beautiful waterfalls beckon visitors year after year to bask in nature’s bounty. Choices are aplenty, and each destination has its very own charm and scenic locales.

The most popular touristy hill stations are no doubt Munnar and Thekkady.  Idukki, Vythri and Malampuzha also prove ideal for holidayers looking forward to a quiet and relaxing break.  The many temples, wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls and rivers in these destinations ensure that there is fair share of activity and sightseeing opportunities for tourists. For a truly offbeat hill station holidays, there are quite a quaint and beautiful destinations such as Ranipuram, Malakkappara, Kalpetta, Vithura, Gavi and others that prove more ideal, especially for short escapes from the din of the cities.

Apart from these destinations, let’s check few others that are equally scenic and captivating.

  • Wayanad

Sprawling spice plantations, misty horizon covered in greenery, pristine blue skies, thick vegetation interspersed by rivers and waterfalls are but a few spectacular scenes common in Wayanad District. A couple of resorts here offer comfortable accommodation from where tourists can check out several local attractions such as the picturesque Kuruva Island set amidst tributaries of the Kabini River, Soochippara Waterfalls, Vythri village resort and Chembra Peak, Pakshipathalam (deep caves with unique plant and animal life), and Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary (the largest reserve for elephants in the entire country). Lakkidi is yet another beautiful hill station in the Wayanad District replete with luxury resorts. Setting out on foot is the best way to explore the local landscape.

soochippara-waterfalls

Winter, Spring and early Summer are most ideal for a visit here.

  • Ponmudi

Located just off Thiruvananthapuram, Ponmudi is a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers, for the breath-taking scenic settings – winding roads amidst rolling verdant hills, tea gardens, valleys, rivers, wild flowers and colorful butterflies make trekking and hiking a pleasure.

Tourists can opt to visit the Deer Park and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, swim in cool waters of River Kallar in Golden Valley and arrange for a guided trek (with Forest Dept.) up the trail to the Meenmutty waterfalls. First three months of the year are ideal to explore Ponmudi

The Agasthyamalai Bio Reserve which spans Shendumey, Peppara and Neyyar Wildlife sanctuaries has been declared a UNESCO heritage site since March 2016. The Agasthyakoodam peak, second largest in Kerala, close to Ponmudi, offers excellent trekking opportunities (January-March) to adventurists but Government passes required to traverse the region. Trekking route “Neyyar-Agasthyakoodam” however is not open to public.

  • Vagamon

Vagamon is a calm and picturesque setting that is quite ideal for those looking to unwind and relax in the lap of nature and simply watch time go by.  Meandering roads, tall mountains, sprawling expanses of greenery and high waterfalls make a perfect setting to sit back and meditate. Tourists can enjoy Paragliding at Mundakayam Ghat, witness unique caves and rock formations at Thangal Para and visit an idllyic Dairy Farm at Kurisulmala when holidaying in Vagamon. Visit to the Illikal Peak, Maramala Waterfalls, Poonjar Palace and the Meenachil River will also prove quite rewarding. Vagamon makes a great Summer holiday destination.

vagamon

  • Silent Valley

The Silent valley is a jewel in the crown among the multitude of spectacular hill destinations in Kerala.  Visit can choose to stay over at the treetop resort to completely blend with the setting or opt for luxury accommodation at the base of the Silent Valley National Park, which still has managed to retain an eco-friendly setting.  Plan a trip any time between December and April for the best experience.

Entry into the park, which houses rare species such as Lion-tailed Macaque, Hairy Winged Bat and Giant Malabar Squirrel, needs special permission, however the local resorts can arrange for a tour of tribal villages and plantations. This is a great place for Bird-watching as well.

Yes, it can get challenging to choose one particular hill station from this appealing lot, but then there will always be another time, for this environment is addictive!

Rajasthan – Desert Experience

The Great Indian Desert of Thar is one of the largest deserts in the world and extends across 200,000 square meters of land. The harsh sub tropical terrain surprisingly is home to several local tribes who thrive in this punishing environment. Reportedly the desert region is home to nearly 40% of Rajasthan’s population and they share this habitat with native wildlife, trees and a multitude of birds of prey.

Visitors can enjoy an authentic desert experience at any of the cities that are located in the Thar. While it is possible to camp out at the desert to literally adopt the lifestyle of the natives for a couple days, tourists may also choose for luxury accommodations at the nearest city and opt for a day tour of the desert. While, choices are aplenty it is important to plan the trip in advance and work with a trustworthy “Rajasthan tour operator” to book a spot at the camping site!

That said let’s take you through the key desert destination in this state, which include Jaisalmer(the Golden City), Jodhpur (the Blue City), Jaipur (the Pink City), Udaipur (City of Lakes), Bikaner, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh and Barmer.  Manvar, Khuri, Hacra, Khimsar also prove excellent camp sites.

  • Jaisalmer

The city of Jaisalmer and its surroundings offer a great opportunity for visitors to appreciate the endless stretches of sand, occasional sand dunes, quaint villages and the local lifestyle, food and culture.  Camping out at Sam Sand Dunes or other desert camps is a pleasant get away from the humdrum of the cityscape. While jeep safaris prove a quick and comfortable way to explore the desert terrain, camel safaris allow tourists to leisurely soak in the desert terrain as they move across the land from one village to another, catching up on much needed rest, and enjoying local food and folk music and dances en-route. Both short and extended Safari trips are organized. Sunrise and sunset on the desert make a perfect picture postcard shot! Plan your trip to coincide with the Annual Desert festival for a memorable desert experience. A visit to the Jaisalmer Fort, Tanot Mata Temple or Desert National Park can also prove a great way to explore this landscape.

jaisalmer-fort

  • Jodhpur

Jodhpur is yet another desert destination replete with all facilities for tourists to explore the Thar Desert.  One day Jeep tours of the desert offer a glimpse of local villages, lifestyle, food and other places of interest along the route. Desert camps also prove a valuable experience, especially at the camp site in Osian oasis which is also home to an exquisite temple complex. Jeep Safaris, Camel safaris, Dinner and entertainment packages in the desert setting, Camping trips, and Bishnoi village safaris are but a few other choices available to best experience this land and its culture.

jodhpur-jeep-safari

  • Jaipur

Compared to the former destinations, Jaipur may not offer as many options to explore vast sandy expanses of the Desert. However it is possible to catch a glimpse of the spectacular terrain by booking a jeep safari at Dausa, just 55 km from Jaipur. The tour may also include a few other local attractions or a trip through the Sariska reserve before moving off the roads to hit the desert, and a few quaint desert villages.

jaipur-jeep-safari

  • Udaipur

Desert experience in the City of Lakes may probably sound unreal but Camel Safaris organized by several tour operators can make it quite exciting. Traversing the desert as a team, camel masters, tent pitchers and cooks is probably a great way to experience a nomadic lifestyle out there in vast expanses of sand. One day tours usually include a camel trip to a village set in the interiors of the desert, where tourists can meet the villagers and look around the traditional home, village school etc. Lunch, Dinner and a folk music and dance events are also usually a part of these safaris.

Camel Safari at Udaipur

  • Bikaner

Bikaner also offers an excellent insight into the Desert lifestyle. It is possible for visitors to explore the desert and camp out in the sands for a first-hand experience of this bare, harsh yet mesmerizing terrain. Villages Panpalsar, Bamblu, Raisar  are just a few traditional villages where visitors can catch a glimpse of the rustic lifestyle, people clad in colourful clothes, mud houses adorned with typical decorations, children at the local school and several other routine scenes. Overnight desert camping usually include dinner around a bonfire and music and dance performances by folk artists. The Camel breeding farm in the vicinity of Bikaner, which is open to visitors between 3 and 5 pm, and the Namkeen factory at Bikaner, could prove an interesting diversion.

bikaner-desert

Tour operators in each and every city bordering the desert either have a dedicated Desert Tourism Package or include desert safaris as a part of their regular tour plans.  Irrespective of whether you spend a couple of hours, the entire day or an entire week, moving off the well-travelled routes into the seemingly endless Thar and spending time out in the open is a great experience indeed! Desert landscape has a special appeal during dawn and dusk, and so does camping under the skies! Families travelling with children or elderly could stay in the cities and opt for short tours into the desert region.