Kolukkumalai near Sooryanelli in Kerala's Idukki district hosts the world's highest organic tea plantation. A cool weather prevails in this region lying on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border and visitors can stay amid the misty surrounding in tents to watch a stunning sunrise.
A jeep would take travellers to Kolukkumalai from Sooryanelli. The ideal time to start is around 4 pm. Greenery spreads all around and the path cuts through it. Rocky outcrops appear at several areas. The path passes near steep gorges and the drive is risky. It takes 90 minutes to reach the tents at Kolukkumalai from Sooryanelli.
Situated 8,000 above sea level, travellers trudge to Kolukkumalai from around the world to enjoy the sunrise. With stay options available, the number of visitors is steadily going up.
The first sight that greets visitors is the mist that surrounds everything. A steady breeze and biting cold also prevails. However, the tents offer protection from the weather.
At night, one can step out of the tents wearing sweater, jacket and gloves. To liven up the night, camp fire, live music, zip line and barbeque have been arranged at Kolukkumalai. Fireflies surround the lights in front of the tents providing an unearthly feeling.
To escape the cold, travellers crowd around the campfire. There are friendly get-together, family reunions and rendezvous of lovers. Singers among them break into a song, accompanied by a guitar. A cool breeze blows from the valley. Though the visitors are in Kerala, the wind originates from Tamil Nadu.
In some tents, hectic cooking takes place and even barbeque is attempted. After having food, spending the night under the stars is a heavenly experience.
The pitch darkness blocks the view of the landscape but there is a special pleasure in sitting in the open doing nothing. In fact, Kolukkumalai is among the spots where the night could be more beautiful than the day.
After a short nap in the sleeping bag placed in the tents, one can prepare to enjoy the sight of the sunrise. By daybreak, the stars disappear from the sky and far in the valley, the first sign of the sun rays can be noticed. Sunrise at Kolukkumalai is unique and indescribable. Far down the hills, a spreading light similar to a fire comes into view. It emerges from the headlights of the jeeps carrying tourists heading up the hill from Sooryanelli. The visitors too are eager to watch the sunrise.
The sunrise at Kolukkumalai is now a globally renowned phenomenon and visitors arrive here from all parts of the world. While earlier, Kanyakumari was the most popular spot to enjoy the sunrise and sunset, the younger generation prefers Kolukkumalai.
As soon as the first sun rays appear in the east, the sky begins to turn red. While the Sun rises, hills appear too come into view and soon the red of the sky gives way to green. Watching the sunrise from behind Pulippara (Leopard Rock), you can observe light coming out of the mouth of a leopard. It offers a great photo opportunity.
After relishing the sunrise, visitors can head to the tea factory. It was established in 1935 with machinery brought from England. Tea leaves are processed utilizing the traditional method here and Kolukkumalai tea is considered among the best in the world. Before the roads were built, foreigners used to trek uphill to buy packets of the tea.
Awarded the 'Gold Leaf' in 2007, Kolukkumalai tea is, however, given a miss by most travellers who reach the place to enjoy the sunrise.
Contact numbers at Kolukkumalai
For tent booking: 07907460427, 09447031040
For jeep safari: 09645509820, 08281994011