Travelling with the people you love is the best way to travel: Shaju Sreedharan

“I love travelling. It’s not the place that’s important but the company. One of the first things I do is pick the people I love to travel with,” says actor Shaju Sreedharan, a self-confessed travel junkie. 

The magical Athirapally waterfalls 

Last year we hadn’t ventured out much because of the pandemic. We only travelled briefly for work. But when they lifted the lockdown, I took my family to Athirapally. The journey was so peaceful, with empty roads everywhere. Even the hotel we shared was vacant, except for us.

Our hotel was located parallel to the waterfalls and we could see the scenery from our rooms, and it was such a charming sight. Athirapally was unforgettable.

A palace in the middle of a forest 

Our trip to Idukki was memorable. It was a royal trip as we were staying at Thiruvananthapuram Royal Family’s decadent tourist Bungalow. It was standing right in the middle of a dense forest which added to its beauty. 

Another memorable trip was our visit to Idukki’s Lake Palace. Kalabhavan Shajon, Kottayam Nazir and their families also came with us. We took a boat to reach the tiny island. It was like entering Heaven. There was a huge gate and fence that helped in keeping the animals away. You are met with an extensive green lawn, rows of white pebbles and a granite-based Tulsi plant. And then you enter the Palace sit out and from there you can watch wild animals taking a sip from the river outside. We can even catch fish and cook it and it’s fun. Apparently, most of the animals drink water from the river opposite the Lake Palace. In India, you can’t find such Forest Lodges, so the Royal Lake Palace which falls under that category is a rarity.

Travels that soothe your mind 

There are plenty of things one can gain from exploring different places. You gain new friends, new experiences, and new stories. When you start exploring new places, you get a better understanding of the people living there, including their culture, history, and background. Travel calms my mind to such an extent that even a long drive makes me happier. Be it solo travels or with family, there is an indescribable joy in that. Travel has truly helped me understand myself and our world better. It has made me more compassionate, empathetic, and less afraid of differences. The life lessons learned from travelling can never be learnt from a book. 

I am not very picky about the destination as long as I have the right company. 

Another memorable trip was with my film- mimicry friends after the pandemic. There was Nadirshah, Kalabhavan Shajon, Jaffer Idukki, Kottayam Nazir and Nobi and we spend some quality time at Kuttikanam, gazing at the misty mountains and enjoying the cool breeze. Recently I went to Kappad beach in Kozhikode to sample delicacies from this newly opened restaurant called Shappu and it was a delicious experience. 

Our land is the best 

I have been fortunate to travel to a lot of countries—Europe, America, Middle East, Singapore and Malaysia. Since they are mostly related to work, we don’t have much time to see a lot of places. But we do try to cover maximum days when he gets some free time. But I really think none of the places I visited abroad could raise a candle to our country, especially Kerala’s pristine beauty.

I live in Palakkad and it’s one of the most scenic places in the state, with a lot of little-known gems to explore. Take Malampuzha for instance, easily one of the most popular tourist spots in Kerala. Just to drive around Malampuzha itself is a joyful experience. Though the drive is through the forests since it sits well-maintained the drive is usually hassle-free. I usually go there soon after monsoons and it’s lovely to stop over for a cup of tea and relish the backdrop. 

My favourite destinations 

Ooty and Kodaikanal feature right on top of my favourite holiday spots. I frequent there as it’s a mere 3-hour drive from Palakkad. I am not a fan of solo travel and prefer to travel with friends or family.

My family is fed up with my obsession with Ootty and would rather go somewhere else. We don’t usually visit the popular tourist's spots in Ootty and usually explore quieter places. I suggest taking the Manjoor route when you go there next as you can savour nature in its full glory while driving down to Ooty.

A trip to remember  

Siruvani Dam and waterfalls are hugely popular tourist spot. I will never forget our stay at the government guest house near the dam. There was a special beauty in sitting in front of the house during the full moon night. And no one missed using mobile phones there. We would dip in the ice-cold river in the evening and get rewarded by getting a good night sleep. I would recommend this place to anyone who wishes for some peace and quiet. 

On top of Nelliyampathi hills

If you stand at the top of Nelliyampathi hills, you can get a panoramic view of Palakkad town. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in the world and you shouldn’t miss it for the world. Especially at night. From Mambara also get a full view of the district. Then of course I don’t need to give you more reasons to visit Nelliyampathi, blessed with lush dense rainforests filled with wildlife, sprawling tea gardens, coffee, cardamom and orange plantations.

The Seethargundu Viewpoint, Nemmara village, Kesavanpara, Pothundi dam and reservoir, Palghat Gap, Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, Nelliyampathi caves are only some of the top tourist attractions in Nelliyampathi. The Pothundi dam & Reservoir add to the charm of Nelliyampathi. The perfect backdrop of Nelliyampathi hills is just picturesque and pristine, which makes the dam surroundings an excellent place for picnics. Pothundi dam is a must-visit place in Nelliyampathi. A visit to the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve is a great way to spend your holiday in Nelliyampathi as you can get glimpses of rare flora and fauna. Nemmara, a village near Nelliyampathi, is famous for ‘Nemmara Vela’ festival during April when many folk arts will be on display.

I want to travel more and every time my hunger grows. 

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