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Meghamalai Travel Guide

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    Meghamalai - the name may not sound too familiar, unless you have extensively explored the South Indian territory (in general) or the Western Ghats mountain ranges (in specific). Even if you originate from one of the four South Indian states, the probability of you being aware of this little paradise is relatively unlikely - if you are not an avid traveller.

    Being an unknown entity to most of the typical hill-station tourists, Meghamalai is one of those rarest Indian hill stations that has managed to stay away from the claws of uncontrolled commercialization. Meghamalai, popularly known as the 'High Wavy Mountains', is a tiny little high altitude hill station engulfed with misty atmosphere situated in the Western Ghats mountain ranges in Theni district of Tamil Nadu. In the native Tamil language, the place is known as 'Paccha Kumachi' - which can roughly be translated to 'Green Peaks'.

    Situated at an altitude of 4500 feets above the sea level, a trip to the winding, exciting and adventure filled Meghamalai will provide you the most amazing view of the Western Ghats with mountains rising into and above the clouds.

    Meghamalai is the origin point of Suruli (Shurily) river, which flows through the thick evergreen forests and adds to its eternal charms. Moreover, Meghamalai's lush green tea, coffee and cardamom plantations attract the nature loving tourists in decent numbers every year.

    Meghamalai is also frequented by wildlife enthusiasts. Being surrounded by Meghamalai Wildlife Sanctuary and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Meghamalai remains an isolated town. It's far from being your typical 'happening' hill station. Meghamalai can be treated as an off-beat destination that offers quiet stay on the nature's lap.

    Best Season for Planning Meghamalai Trip:

    Except for the rainy days of mid June to mid September when road condition is at its worst, Meghamalai can be visited throughout the year. Winter days of December to March is the peak season, while October-November and April-May are regarded as the semi-peak seasons for visiting Meghamalai.

    The peak season is also the most difficult time to find an accommodation at Meghamalai. So if you are planning for a Meghamalai trip during Dec-Mar, then your first priority should be to confirm your hotel booking and then schedule the trip accordingly.

    Getting There:

    With the nearest airport situated at a distance of 125 KM (at Madurai), air travel is not the ideal way for traveling to Meghamalai. The same argument holds true for train journey as well. Kodai Road, located 106 KM away, being the closest railhead, it doesn't make much of a sense to board the railway compartments. With both flight and railway travel ruled out, you are left with the only mode of travel via road surface.

    Using road transport, Meghamalai can be reached via Theni and Chinamannur. It's a rugged terrain and perhaps one of the most desolate areas you could encounter in South India. There is no human settlement after you cross Chinamannur and you will only see the reserve forest areas on either side of the road. For its scenic beauty, this is the route that most of the travellers prefer while travelling to Meghamalai on private and rented vehicles.

    Bus service too is available, although pretty few and far between. You can avail TNSTC operated ordinary buses from either Madurai or Dindigul. Approximate travel time from Madurai by bus is 5 hours (125 KM).

    Alternatively, you can board one of the many government buses operating between the Madurai-Theni and Dindigul-Theni routes. From Theni bus stand, you need to catch another bus for arriving at Megamalai, which is 70 KM away.

    In spite of the difficulties en-route Megamalai, the journey gives marvelous moments of joy to the ones that love raw nature.

    From Madurai: Madurai - Theni - Chinnamannur - Megamalai (125 KM / 5 Hours)

    From Coimbatore: Coimbatore - Pollachi - Periyakulam - Theni - Chinnamannur - Megamalai (295 KM / 8 Hours)

    From Bangalore: Bangalore - Salem - Dindigul - Theni - Chinnamannur - Megmalai (490 KM / 10 Hours)

    From Chennai: Chennai - Trichy - Dindigul - Theni - Chinnamannur - Megamalai (550 KM / 12 Hours)

    There is an alternative route via Andipatti and Kandamanayakkanur. This is a less traversed road and the road condition is even more pathetic. Take this route only if you are keen on off-roading and have a 4WD SUV to tackle the challenges.

    Tourist Attractions:

    1. Highwavys (Maharajamettu) Viewpoint:

    This place offers a brilliant bird's eye view of the entire Varusanadu Hills, which constitutes part of Western Ghats mountain ranges. The mountain peaks kissing the snow-white clouds with an amazing backdrop portrayed by the green forest cover and blue skyline is a sight to behold. Sunrise is a phenomenon not to be missed when you are on a trip to Meghamalai.

    2. Vellimalai Peak:

    Vellimalai Peak or Silver Mountain rises up to 1650 meters above the sea level. It is a tribal hamlet where you can get yourself acquainted with the simplicity of tribal culture. You will be amazed by the clouds forming a silver lining and reclining gently on green hilltops. It is also the source of water for the Vaigai river and gives shelter to numerous wild animals. The picturesque view of distant tea plantations covered with early morning mist can rejuvenate your soul.

    3. Suruli Falls (Suruli Teertham):

    Situated off the Meghamalai-Cumbum road, 10 KM away from the Cumbum town, and set amidst lush greenery surrounded by high-rise mountains, the Suruli Falls truly portrays nature's spectacular craftmanship.

    It is actually a 2-stage cascading waterfalls. In the first stage, it drops from a height of 150 feet (46 meters). After flowing steadily for a few meters, it finally takes another dive to form the second stage with an additional 40 feet (12 meters) descend.

    Similar to Meghamalai Falls, even this one originates from the Meghamalai Mountain Ranges.The waterfalls is at its majestic best during the monsoon season, but even in the winters, it doesn't dry up - although the flow of water reduces significantly.

    This waterfalls is frequently visited by wild animals at dawn and dusk. Spotting elephants, spotted deer, gaur and other wild animals at the falls is not too uncommon. All in all, it can be a treat to the eyes.

    4. Meghamalai Falls (Clouds Land Falls)

    Many tourists have the misconception that Suruli Falls and Meghamalai Falls are actually the same waterfalls. This is not true. Even the Wikipedia has got it all wrong.

    The Meghamalai Falls, also known as the Clouds Land Falls, is a remote and isolated waterfalls which originates from the Varusanadu Ranges and descends from a mountain stream that receives water throughout the year. It is much smaller in stature compared to the Suruli Falls, hence sometimes it is also referred to as the Chinna Suruli ('Chinna' means 'small').

    5. Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary & Periyar Tiger Reserve:

    Meghamalai and its surrounding areas are rich in wildlife. Because of very little human interference in this entire region, the Periyar Tiger Reserve was set up here. Periyar Tiger Reserve is a part of the Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary which sprawls across 600 square kilometers forest cover.

    The main attraction at this wildlife reserve includes Tiger, Gaur, Leopard, Asian Elephant, Indian Mongoose, Nilgiri Tahr, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Sloth Bear, Bonnet Macaque, Lion-tailed Macaque and the endangered Grizzled Giant Squirrel.

    Besides, the sanctuary is also home to over 100 species of native and migratory birds including the rare Great Indian Hornbills. Some other widely spotted avian species include Red-whiskered Bulbul, White-browed Wagtail, Blyth's Reed Warbler, Barn Swallow, Spotted dove, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Brahminy Kite and Long-tailed Shrike.

    6. Tea Estates:

    The Highwavys Estates owned by the Woodbriar Group is one of the largest tea estates in the region. A scenic lake located centrally is the main attraction here. You can also get a hands-on experience on the process of tea leaf manufacturing. You can also bring home some of the finest quality of tea leaves and impress your family and friends. Ananda Plantations, Ponsiva Plantations and Feildmede Estate are the other notable tea estates in the Meghamalai Hills.

    7. Manalar Dam:

    Manalar Dam provides an excellent view of the Cumbum Valley and surrounding hamlets to the tourists. The serene Manalar dam with its greenish hill backdrop is a sight to behold. It's a perfect picnic spot, that has nature's pristine beaty in abundance. With the introduction of boating service by the Department of Tourism, this spot is beginning to attract large number of visitors.

    8. Iravangalar Dam

    It offers a spectacular combination of clouds, valleys, water and mountains - all at the same place to create absolute magic. The reflection of the pristine nature on the tranquil water creates a romantic feeling. In-fact, no word can do justice to the beauty of this place.

    9. Elephant Corridor Trekking:

    Upper Manalar to Maharajamettu, popularly known as the Elephant Corridor, is a popular trekking trail for the nature enthusiasts. Besides the natural splendor, animal sighting is an added bonus on this trek.

    10. River Bathing / River-side Walk:

    If you are travelling with kids, then they would love to indulge in some kind of water play. Suruli River offers you an opportunity to fulfil their wishes. Walking down the mendearing path of Suruli river-bed and taking a dip in its crystal clear waters are a couple of fun-filled activities that you should not miss.

    Accommodation Options:

    As pointed out earlier, Meghamalai is not a typical, commercialized hill station. So don't expect lavish luxury stays during your tour.

    There are two state government operated guest houses at Meghamalai where you can pre-book your stay. Otherwise, you can spend your nights at one of the few guest houses operated by the tea estate owners. Cloud Mountain Bungalow, owned by and located inside the Woodbriar Tea Estates is arguably the best accommodation you can find at Meghamalai.

    Sand River Cottage is another very good accommodation option, but the tariff is on the higher side. A cheaper option is the guest house owned by Raja Andhuvan Estate.

    Besides, a few homestay options are available as well for very basic level of accommodation at affordable prices. Given below are a few reliable staying options at Meghamalai with their respective contact numbers.

    1. Megamalai Travellers Bungalow: Contact No - (+91) 98421 14647

    2. Megamalai Inspection Bungalow: Contact No - (+91) 94878 50508

    3. Briar Tea Bungalows: Contact No - (+91) 94422 02001

    4. Sand River Cottage: Contact No - (+91) 98940 55554

    5. Raja Andhuvan Estate: Contact No - (+91) 94870 23533​

    Important Things to Note Down:

    1. Bus journey to Meghamalai is not at all a comfortable ride. Condition of the road is poor, and the condition of the buses are even poorer. If you are planning for a family trip, then try to avoid the bus ride.

    2. Be extremely careful if you are driving to Meghamalai during the rainy days. You may encounter land-slides, slushy roads, rugged terrains and water crossings frequently, especially after crossing Theni.

    3. There is no vehicle repair or servicing center along the road. So it is absolutely important to carry a spare tyre and basic toolkit.

    4. BSNL is the only mode of mobile connectivity available in this region. So either carry a BSNL SIM or be prepared to get disconnected from the rest of the world.

    5. The place is infested with leeches. Salt water can help you to get rid of them from your body. So be careful and carry a bottle of concentrated salt water.

    6. Last, but most important - respect the local tribal culture and don't get in to their private spaces. They are usually very simple and conventional, but if you behave in an annoying manner, be ready to face the consequence.​

    So are you all set to explore the undulating Meghamalai? Go ahead and pack your bags, Meghamalai, with its scenic beauty, will not disappoint you for sure.