Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly

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Route Map. Source: Google Maps

Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly by Jeetendra Ajmera
Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly 1/1 by Jeetendra Ajmera
Photo: Aditi Das Patnaik/Flickr/Getty Images . Source.

Tea plantations, dense rain forests, misty waterfalls, sharp hairpin bends, mighty water dams, and whatnot. You name it, and this trail residing in the alluring Western Ghats would not let you down. Known for its beautiful curves, and thrilling on-road experience, Valparai Forest trail is a sure treat to travelers looking to boost their adrenaline rush. This 6 hours route begins from Chalakudy and ends at Pollachi, via Athirappilly-Vazhachal-Valparai.

Beginning from Chalakudy, onwards the Chalakudy - Anamala Road, the first in the package comes the humongous Athirappilly falls. The roadsides on either side offer views ranging from street side shops and townhouses to never-ending giant tea plantations.

Few miles and one would see the Chalakudy river which fuels several falls around the region. Huge rocks, sharp cuts, deep valleys, roaring sounds of water rushing, and you would know that it’s the gorgeous Athirappilly falls.

Athirappilly falls. Source.

Photo of Athirappilly Water Falls, Pariyaram, Kerala by Jeetendra Ajmera

Athirappilly Falls is the largest waterfall(with a massive height of 80 feet) in Kerala and originates from the upper Western Ghats, at the entrance of the Sholayar ranges. Due to its popularity, the falls has also been nicknamed as the Niagara of India.

Vazhachal/Charpa falls. Source: Wikipedia

Photo of Vazhachal Waterfalls, Athirapilly road, Pariyaram, Kerala, India by Jeetendra Ajmera

To climb up the falls, travelers can find a thick bamboo-clustered paved pathway made beside the falls. This pathway is a major tourist attraction and is generally occupied, especially during the monsoon season. Windy roads ahead takes you to another nearby attraction, called Vazhachal/Charpa waterfalls. Here shops on both sides of the road serve delicious fresh fish from the river.

Moving onto the next destination, take the Valparai - Athirapilli Road. A clearance from the forest check post at the Vazhachal is required at this point. After the clearance, the trail takes you through the Sholayar rain forests with occasional mid-way appearances of green meadows, dense green forest trees, and casually walking elephants among others.

The curves and bends along the journey makes for an exciting experience. The next spot on the route, Malakkappara is a village located on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. One can rest and have refreshing meals in the region. Driving past the Tamil Nadu check post, the surreal silence of the forests engulfs you. Dense tropical trees coupled with sounds of the wild surrounds the environment.

While on the route, one might even want to take a look at the Sholayar Dam, Urulikkal estate; as both offer quite a view.

Further comes Valparai, and you know it; a hill town 3500 ft above sea level on the along the Western Ghats with lush green forests merge with manicured tea gardens and rich wildlife. Dark grey skies, drizzling thunderstorms, and dense tropical forests only add to the aura.

A view of the Valaparai. Source.

Photo of Valparai, Tamil Nadu, India by Jeetendra Ajmera

Tea plantations at Valaparai. Source.

Photo of Valparai, Tamil Nadu, India by Jeetendra Ajmera

A plantation town, a hill station, a biodiversity hotspot, and tropical rain forest – all rolled into one. Valparai is one of the most pristine spots located in the Anaimalai Range of the Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu.

The tea plantations at Valparai is run by Tata Tea, where the majority of the tea estate workers lives in small houses, painted in Bright Green and Blue Colors which were made during the British Raj.

The Wildlife at Valparai!

This rich biodiversity houses some of the most unique and endemic species including the famous Nilgiri tahr, Great Indian Hornbill and LTMs [lion-tailed macaques]. Locals, NGOs, and wildlife conservationists are striving to protect these species in this pristine environment. You can find them in and around Puduthottam Annexe or sometimes they meet you on the roads. Locals have learned to coexist with these creatures, as they grow in their own habitat. Other creatures which can be spotted around are woodpeckers, eagles, babblers, coucals, thrushes, mynahs among others.

The great Indian Hornbill. Source.

Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly by Jeetendra Ajmera

LTM [lion-tailed macaques] Source.

Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly by Jeetendra Ajmera

The Nilgiri tahr. Source.

Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly by Jeetendra Ajmera

With such rich wildlife, gorgeous waterfalls, enormous dams (including the Aliyar and the Sholayar), dense wild&wet forests, Valparai is not just a tourist destination; but a journey in itself. It is a journey into the rich and cultural life of forests, and an eye-opener to the breathtaking power that Mother Nature is.

Another amazing narrative that goes around the region is of a man named Velu. An old man who claims he saw God in a nondescript park that now bears the name “Seen God”. The man still comes to the same point, Nallamudi Poonjolai, at 11 am to test his luck to see God again.

Aliyar Dam. Source: Wikipedia

Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly by Jeetendra Ajmera

Man named Velu. Source.

Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly by Jeetendra Ajmera

Post-Valarai, the route(via NH 83) further to Pollachi is challenging and comprises over 40 hairpin bends on the path.

Hairpin bend. Source.

Photo of Valparai Forest Trail: Road trip from Kerala to Tamil Nadu via Athirappilly by Jeetendra Ajmera

Things to keep in mind:

1: Do not forget to get clearance at the Vazhachal forest check post.

2: Roads are narrow and bumpy on the trail, you might want to be prepared for that.

3: Chances of wild friends bumping over in the middle of the roads are really high; keep your senses awake.

4: Travel during the night is not advised.

5: There is not much Public transportation available for the entire route, only a few buses cover it. So check-in with your travel agent before you plan for the same.

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