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  • Writer's pictureYogesh Kardile

Valparai : a dream in the Sahyadri mountains

Updated: Mar 14

Valparai ( which is often pronounced Valapara in Tami ) is a lesser explored neighbour of Munnar. The latter comes in Kerala and this one is in Tamilnadu. Mighty ranges of Sahyadri spread out leisurely here and one can see the expansive tea estates & forest. The gradual slope of hills makes them look extremely pretty.

While climbing up after crossing 77 kms of dense forest from Athirapalli we entered into this picture perfect place. Cooler climate and rich shades of green makes it an ideal destination for couples. Even if you are single you will love it because the road is awesome for driving. From Kerala side there's 15 kms patch which is bumpy and dusty. Otherwise it's a smooth ride.

When I saw tea estates stretching over hundreds of acer the first thought comes about ancient trees who were standing there few decades back. The sadness comes to mind. But the other mind says enjoy the beautiful vista. It looks very pretty. Also the drive towards Upper Sholayar dam from Valaparai town is a kinda romantic drive through beautiful tea estates punctured by dense forest patches.

Especially early in the morning the whole scene is very different. When the plains of Tamilnadu are baking in the scorching heat Valaparai basks in the glory of mild sunlight and fog wraps it from all sides. If you are nature lover and beautiful landscapes are on your mind then this is the place.

No one is going to disturb you here. People are very nice. Language is a bit challenge if you don't know Tamil or Malyalam but basic signs are same everywhere . Make sure you ask the price of food or anything you want to purchase. Let there be clarity :-) With respect to wildlife it is a paradise. Right from Tigers, Elephants, Indian Gaur, Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Langue, Lion tailed Macaque, Giant Squirrel and various other species dominate this land. It's a treat just to pass from this forested region.

Nilgiri langur

Valaparai town is small and it offers various delicacies. Local tea, coffee, homemade chocolates are must to try especially for family and friends. The forest department of Kerala have built a beautiful shop run by local tribals at Malakkapara which is on the Kerala side approx. 20 kms from main town. You will get authentic forest produce right from sandalwood, red sandalwood, padimokkam, turmeric, honey, jam etc... Don't miss this place. Your purchase helps tribal community and forest as well. If possible meet Beat Forest Officer Shri. Rajesh Sir. He is a nice soul who loves to talk about the forest and local culture.

Lion tailed macaque ( endemic to the Western Ghats )

One last thing is that Valaparai is known for 40 hairpin bends while you descend down to Pollachi. But don't be sacred. The road is really amazing and shows you various types of forest while descending from height. The flora and fauna changes and you see changes in trees right in front of you. Thank you Valaparai I will come again.

Thick rainforest of Valaparai

Valaparai is not only a hill station but part of Anamalai Tiger reserve. This land is dominated by three top animals. Tigers, elephants ( Ana ) & Indian Gaur. And while you travel here they may cross your path any time. Especially if you are descending towards Kerala side ( Ahtirapalli waterfall route ). So just be patient, wait on the side of the hill not to the valley side unless you want to see the bottom. ( Jokes apart don't take risk. In case if they dodge your car / bike even if gently you will hit the wall not the empty vacuum and later on the valley floor.)

Tea estate and the Anamalai reserve on the way to Pollachi.

Do not bother them by honking or flashing light. Give them respect and take respect ( save yourself ). No don't fret. We saw elephants twice from really close on road but it was very beautiful experience because we respected them. They are very kind and gentle creatures. Felt like almost a human family. So if you spot them watch them from distance and admire.

Anamalai mountain ranges ( near Munnar from the famed 40 hairpin bends of Valaparai )

How to reach :

From Kochi / Athirapalli : if you happen to be at Athirappali to watch the magnificent waterfall then you need to cross 77 kms dense forest. There's nothing in between. So fill up your fuel tank. But what you will see will be the beauty of Western Ghats. Not to miss this route.

Coimbatore / Palakkad / Pollachi : This route is very easy. You starts from the plains and see the changes in the forest flora as well as fauna. There are 40 hairpin bends that looks really amazing. Just drive carefully. Tamilnadu government has done amazing work of laying down proper roads, mirrors on bends. Your work is driving without getting high of the butter smooth roads.

Do's & Don'ts : Follow the guidelines of forest department. This is really a wonderland. Please please do not throw any garbage. Avoid anything that is packaged in plastic. It will help the land and your next generation to see this place intact. Any season is good season for Valaparai. The nature will show its rainbow of colours in all seasons.

A morning shoot in the tea estate with Raginee.

Words & Images : Yogesh Kardile

Muse : K Raginee Yogesh

All rights reserved.

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