If Munnar continues to be on everyone’s winter vacation wish list this year, Marayoorand Kanthaloor come a close second (and third!). Placed 42 kilometres from Munnar (you can also reach via Pollachi and Udumalpet), Marayooris the land of sandalwood and jaggery making and in fact, is the only place in the state which boasts of natural sandalwood forests. Surrounded by greenery, picturesque beauty, and mist, the first thing you notice at Marayoorare the huge fort-like mountains and their rock paintings.
Massive lands of sugarcane fields, agriculture produce, megalithic dolmens which belong to the stone age, huts brewing jaggery in cauldrons and spectacularly blue mountains are some of the defining images you get to see at Marayur.
Historically Marayooris said to be part of a Stone Age Civilisation. It is believed that their residents migrated from Tamilnadu after the defeat of Madurai King Thirumalainaicker at the hands of Tipu Sultan. It was the collective thought of abiding by a single caste that resulted in the creation of five villages namely, Kanthalloor, Keezhanthur, Karayur, Marayoor and Kottakudi and was nicknamed “Anju Naadu.”
Some of the touristy spots include the Megalithic caves also known as Muniyara which was said to be the burial chamber of the ancient humans. Four enormous flat stones stand precariously next to each other topped with a capstone resembling a stone chamber. There are also caves, wall paintings, underground tunnels.
It is said that the wall paintings are engraved with tales from Ramayana and Mahabharata as it is believed that the Pandavas as well Lord Rama and Sita had travelled to these parts during their exile.
You can also lookout for the sandalwood trees with their olive-green leaves with the scent of sandalwood oil wafting from the tree bark. If you are lucky you can even get a glimpse of isolated Neelakurinji blooms. And yes, most importantly do not forget to sample the famous Marayoorjaggery, which is often made at the nearby Kanthalloor village. You can also take a detour and visit the Thoovanam falls and Chinnar wildlife sanctuary.
Then comes our next destination-Kanthaloor which is a mere 32-kilometre drive from Marayur. This rain shadow village is all things green and cool, with extensive miles of vegetable and fruit farms (apples, oranges, peaches, plums, blackberries, strawberries). Even Kanthaloor has these Megalithic caves.
Another interesting piece of trivia about this area is that there is a grocery shop which continues to follow the barter system. This woman who lives in Puthoor will give you rice and other rudiments in exchange for fresh produce. Over 100 homes are dependent on this unique barter system even today.
While there, do not miss the Anamudi Shola National Park (4.5 km from Kanthalloor), which is home to Nilgiri Tahr, Spotted Deer, Giant Grizzled Squirrel, Sambar, Gaur, Sloth Bear, Hanuman Langur, Jungle Cats, Leopards, Wolves and Flying Squirrels.
Other attractions include Pattisseri Dam, Keezhanthoor waterfalls and the cave temple of Sri Rama.
The interested ones can opt for the various tour packages (Chinnar trekking, Mannavan Shola trekking, Thoovanam trekking, Viewpoint trekking) of the MarayoorForestry department. We heard most of the hotels and resorts are being frantically pre-booked for Christmas and new year. We think you should still give it a try.