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The Hills are Alive in Kerala

Straddling the ridge

Straddling the ridge

A sliver of land in southern India, Kerala is a lush landscape that’s bordered by the ocean on one side and the mountains of the Western Ghats on the other. If you have time to spare away from its backwaters and coastal towns, Kerala’s mountainous interior offers visitors a window into Kerala’s wilder (and cooler) side.

The Western Ghats acts like a wedge between the two states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and is home to many hill stations that sit amidst undulating fields of tea.

While it is one of the least visited hill stations in Kerala amongst foreign visitors, Vagamon is popular amongst locals as the setting for plenty of South Indian movies.

Men in dhotis in the rolling hills of Vagamon

The area’s landscape is characterised by an undulating series of hillocks and valleys, with roads that wind through green-capped hills and rolling plains. This picturesque setting is host to the annual Kerala ParaGliding Grandprix, when over 60 glider pilots draw thousands of spectators to the sleepy plantation village of Vagamon during the three days.

You can sit on a grassy knoll and watch paragliders whoosh by, or you can have a go at zorbing down one of the hills in an inflatable ball.

The first hill station on many travellers’ maps is probably Munnar, which is famous for its endless rolling tea hills. The verdant landscape is dotted with picturesque waterfalls and manmade lakes.

Tea plucker in Munnar

Tea plucker in Munnar

Munnar is also a good base to access the many hiking trails that line this section of the Western Ghats, which is covered with montane grassland while dense tropical forests line the streams that slice through the valleys.

This rich forest area is home to the endemic mountain goat – the Nilgiri Tahr – which is an endangered species. Often seen in groups, you may sometimes catch a glimpse of them at water sources or hopping from rock to rock.

Nilgiri tahr

Nilgiri tahr

Many people come to this part of the Ghats to hike. A popular trail is one to Meesapulimala (2,640m), the summit of which is often shrouded in clouds. The Western Ghats effectively blocks rainfall to the Deccan Plateau, so you can often see clouds billowing just below the ridgeline.

As you straddle the ridge of the Western Ghats, you are effectively also straddling the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


Another hotspot along the Western Ghats is Thattekkad, one of the finest lowland birding enclaves in South India. The Thattekad Bird Sanctuary covers approximately 25 sq. km. of land, it is the ideal location for spotting a good number of the endemics of the Western Ghats.

Among the species you can spot include owls, flycatchers, babblers, woodpeckers, bulbuls, thrushes and plenty of water birds as well. A highlight here is a canoe ride in the river along the edge of the sanctuary, and from the water, you may be able to spot some waterfowl and perhaps an elephant taking a drink along the banks.

2 Responses to “The Hills are Alive in Kerala”

  1. itchierfeet says:

    Always wanted to go to Kerala! Nice images. Thanks for sharing.

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