The Western Ghats comprise of the mountain range running parallel to Western Coast of India along the Deccan Plateau. It starts from Gujarat through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Anamudi is the highest peak in the Western Ghats. It lies in Tamil Nadu. The Western Ghats have been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Western Ghats are the only region in India among the 8 such regions in the world which have been regarded as the “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity. Innumerable species of flora and fauna add to the richness of the Western Ghats.
1. Heard of flowers which bloom in every 12 years?
Strobilanthes kunthianus is locally known as Kurinji or Neelakurinji. Its flowers bloom only once in 12 years. If you are keen to check this out, 2018 is the right year. The best time to catch a glimpse of this occurrence is from August to October this year. The shrub is known to grow in the Shola Forests of the Western Ghats. It is light purplish blue in color. Many such species of these flowers are known to bloom in cycles of 1 to 16 years.
2. Have you seen the carvings from Stone Age at the Edakkal Caves?
The natural caves are situated 20-odd kilometers from Kalpetta in Wayanad, Kerala. It is an example of one of the oldest human settlements of the area, ranging from 5000 BC to 1000 BC. One needs to take a short walk to reach the site followed by a steep climb up the stairs to reach the caves. Apart from the close look at the engravings, I thoroughly enjoyed the view of the valley upon reaching the caves. The engravings are intriguing. The timings are restricted from 8 AM to 4 PM. The caves are closed on Mondays.
3. Ever stayed at a meadow to soak in the view of the valley?
Chikmagalur is located at the foothills of the Mullayanagiri range. It is known for its coffee plantations. It is popular among tourists, pilgrims, and trekkers alike. It is impossible to pick a favorite destination in Chikamagalur. However, I loved the location of Kanive. It is tucked in the heavenly Western Ghats of Chikmagalur. It litreally translates to ‘valley’. The viewpoint is one minute away from the cottages. A walk along at the meadow is an experience in itself. It lies adjoining Ballalarayana Durga and the Kudremukh range. The sunset and sunrise from the viewpoint are too perfect.
4. Visited Vagamon, the Scotland of Asia, as yet?
Vagamon is a hill station in Kerala. If you are looking for lush greenery which is not yet swept by the wave of commercialization, head to Vagamon. The drive through the pine forests, meadows, and waterfalls is exhilarating. It is 60-odd kilometers from Kottayam. The nearest railway station is at Kottayam as well. Cochin Airport is the nearest for those who fancy a flight to the dreamland. It is a paradise for trekkers and adventure enthusiasts for rock climbing, mountaineering, and paragliding. Ultra Trail Marathon is hosted in Vagamon every January by Soles of Cochin, a non-profit running club.
5. Have you seen the unexplored gem of Kodaikanal?
Vattakanal is a short drive of about half an hour away from Kodaikanal. It is a small village near the Dolphin’s Nose viewpoint. One could also trek for 5-odd kilometers to Vattakanal. The best experience of being here is to see the clouds floating around you. ‘Vatta’ litreally translates to circle. It got its name from the circular shape of the valley surrounded by mountains. There are a few cafes to enjoy a meal and cottages for accommodation to choose from. The best time to visit Vattakanal is between October and November. Head to Vattakanal if you are looking for an off-beat place to relax, trek, or explore the richness of the biodiversity of the area.
6. Have you seen the natural rock formations?
The unusual rock formation, Yana caves, is located in North Karnataka. A short walk of about one kilometer takes you to the huge rock formations. These are black in color due to the solid black, crystalline Karst limestone. The drive through the dense forest to reach Yana caves is alluring. It is 50-odd kilometers from Sirsi, the nearest city to Yana. River Aghanashini is known to begin near Sirsi and create multiple waterfalls until it meets the Arabian Sea. Another unusual sight is the numerous sculptures of Lord Shiva carved on the rocks flowing in the middle of the river.
7. Have you traversed the gateway from Karnataka to Coastal Maharashtra?
Amboli is a hill station in the Western Ghats. It lies in South Maharashtra. Amboli Ghat is a mountain pass. It is relatively unexplored by tourists. It receives heavy rainfall. The richness of the lush greenery increases manifolds during monsoons. There are numerous waterfalls throughout the Amboli Ghat. The misty mountains exhibit a magical scenic beauty. It fills one’s senses with freshness.
Amboli Ghat is 90 kilometers from Panjim and 70 kilometers from Belgaum. The nearest railway station to Amboli Ghat is Sawantwadi. It lies at a distance of 30 kilometers from Amboli Ghat. Maharashtra – Karnataka border lies 50-odd kilometers from Amboli Ghat.
8.Looking for a riverside paradise on the foothills?
Wai is located on the banks of river Krishna overlooking the Western Ghats. It is an ideal pit stop for those traveling to more popular hill stations like Panchgani or Mahabaleshwar. Apart from its scenic beauty, it is known as a temple town or Kashi of the South. Dhom Dam near Wai is worth visiting. So is Pandavgad Fort and Caves, one of the major tourist attractions around Wai.
The nearest railway station from Wai is at Satara. It is 35-odd kilometers from Satara. The nearest airport from Wai is at Pune, at a distance of 80-odd kilometers.
9. Fancy a beach-side long drive?
If you like beach-side drives, you must ride from Kaup Beach to Delta Beach via Malpe. The 30-kilometer drive along the scenic beaches on the west coast is beautiful. Kaup is locally pronounced as Kapu. It is a town at Udupi. It lies on National Highway 66, between Mangalore and Udupi. Malpe beach is less rough than Kaup. Soft sand and the shallow beach is ideal for water sports as well. One must also visit St. Mary’s island. It takes about half an hour to reach St. Mary’s island from Malpe beach. The tiny island boasts of a rich history. Vasco Da Gama set his foot on St. Mary’s island. The drive from Malpe beach to Bengre beach is 10 kilometers long. It’s a treat to view the sunset from Delta point at Bengre.
10. Taken a ride in the Konkan railway as yet?
Konkan Railway connects Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka, cutting across the Western Ghats. The Konkan railway line is a marvel in itself, cutting through the mountainous terrain. Nothing beats a ride in the Konkan railway route to enjoy the views through Ratnagiri-Madgaon-Honnavar-Mangalore. It runs along the Arabian Sea and the mighty Western Ghats.
There is more to the Western Ghats than meets the eye. The 1600-kilometer stretch from Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu has a lot to offer.