Spanning over 1600km of the ethereal western coastline of the Indian peninsula is the majestic Western Ghats. Home to a gamut of flora and fauna, they are also referred to as the Great Escarpment of India. An escarpment is a steep cliff that separates land, with two different elevations - in this case, the Deccan Plateau and the Konkan coast.
Running through the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala; The Western Ghats is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the eight hotspots of biodiversity in the world!
From tea plantations to hill stations and bayous, the Ghats have so much to offer to the weary explorer. But here are our top ‘must see’ places, embedded in the nooks of the Ghats:
• Ooty, Tamil Nadu
Ooty was a summer resort founded during the British Raj, owing to which it has an actual working steam railway line! From Tea tasting to Jungle Safaris, Ooty has it all. We recommend visiting its Botanical Gardens, the Dolphin’s Nose View Point and the Nilgiri Mountain toy train (another UNESCO World Heritage site) that takes you on an utterly scenic joy ride from Mettupalayam to Ooty. If you are visiting during May, do remember to see the stunning floral art at the Ooty Summer Festival. Ooty has beautiful weather all year round, but the months between April to June are the most ideal to plan a trip.
• Cardamom Hills, Tamil Nadu and Kerala
Also known as the Yela Mala hills, the area is also referred to as Kerala’s Scottish highlands. They are generally visited in unison with other popular tourist destinations like Thekaddy and Periyar Tiger Reserve. The woody forests of the hills grow pepper and coffee, and offer the most adventurous “snaking road” bicycle and trekking trails for the thrill-seekers.
• Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu
Spread over 240km is the beautiful Tiger reserve of Mudumalai. The reserve is home to other endangered species like the Bengal Tiger, The Indian Leopard, Gaurs and Indian Elephant, along with 266 species of birds including the rare and critically endangered Indian white-rumped vulture and the long-billed vulture. The resorts here offer comfortable stay and safari packages. While Mudumalai is easily reachable via Ooty; the nearest airport to it is in Coimbatore.
• Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
The picturesque hill station nestled in the Nilgiri hills is a nature lover’s paradise! Take its famous Sim’s park for example - which boasts of over 85 varieties of roses! The Hidden Valley here is all an adventure seeker can ask for-the rainforest offers multiple trek lines and is also a beautiful photography spot. 5km ahead of Coonoor, is the famous Law’s Waterfalls, a perfect spot for a day out with family.
• Agumbe, Karnataka
On the coastline of the Arabian sea, this rainforest has so much to explore! Also known as Cobra Capital because of the number of Cobras (and 70 other species of snakes!) found there, Agumbe is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from enjoying the quiet scenic delights of Agumbe, one can also indulge in trekking, hiking and rafting here. The Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary is another tourist attraction of the region. Though it has an extremely enjoyable climate all year round, it is best to avoid visiting Agumbe during the monsoon months.
• Kalpetta, Wayanad, Kerala
One of the most popular cities in Kerala, Kalpetta is a recreational heaven! One can indulge in the beauty of the Meenmutty Falls which also offer a picturesque trekking trail or can explore the wonder that is Vaduvanchal’s Phantom rock and Chethalayam falls. Families can also enjoy the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary’s thrilling safaris and elephant rides.
• Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra
There is so much to do and experience in Mahabaleshwar. But our favourite thing to do here is a visit to the Mapro Gardens and some really sweet strawberry indulgences!
Once you have satiated your sweet tooth, you can experience the beauty that this city is engulfed in. Start with visiting the Venna lake and taking a ride on the Shikaras; catch the breathtaking view of the city’s landscape at Elephant’s Head Point or Arthur’s Seat, or get that adrenaline pumping with some rock climbing and horse riding. And lastly, indulge in some retail therapy by shopping for local trinkets at the Town Bazaar! Mahabaleshwar is easily reachable by road from Mumbai and Pune. And is a definite “must” visit when in Maharashtra.
• Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
Gorgeous lakes (Kodaikanal lake) to boat upon, and mysterious caves (Guna Cave) to explore- is the best escape during the dreaded summer months. A visit to Kodaikanal is incomplete without a visit to Byrant Park for a cozy picnic. You could also trek to Dolphin’s Nose and Echo point, but beware of the rocky and rather difficult trails that shut by 6:00 pm. We have it on good record that the drive to Berijam lake is spellbindingly beautiful as are the views from Caps Fly Valley (super fun and unusual boomerang location 15km away from the city centre). Kodaikanal also offers night time safaris of the Plantations and forests that are both exciting and thrilling.
• Mollem and Chorla Ghat, Goa
Away from the party central that is Goa are the small quaint villages of Mollem and Chorla. Mollem, is home to some exquisite trekking trails, the beautiful Dudhsagar falls and the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. Whereas Chorla is a photographers paradise - full of waterfalls and jungles! So the next time you find yourself exhausted with options on ‘what to do when in Goa’; you know where to head!
How many of these gems have you visited so far? What’s next on your agenda? Share your thoughts and ideas with us!