For an ardent lover of nature, it is difficult to ignore the majestic UNESCO designated World Heritage site of Western Ghats in India. If one makes a trip to this glorious region once, the innumerable and varied attractions of the imposing mountains are sure to beckon him again and again. The landscapes, full of lush greenery, are absolutely marvellous, and create the perfect picture post card settings. Adding to the sublime beauty of the region are the numerous waterfalls which are literally a treat for sore eyes. Words alone may not be sufficient to describe the charming waterfalls dotting the landscapes. Only a firsthand experience will help the reader to soak in their enchantment and allurement. The 1600 km long Western Ghats, a group of hills running parallel to the western coast of India, is also one of the world’s ten ‘hottest biodiversity hotspots’. It is extremely rich in flora and fauna and is home to innumerable species of flowering plants, mammals, birds and amphibians. The range commences from Gujarat’s border with Maharashtra, and runs right through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, before ending at Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of India.
For the travellers, these mountain ranges provide an array of trekking prospects and opportunities to explore wildlife. The not so adventurous can simply hang out in the cooler climes of the innumerable pretty locations dotting the region. The major hill ranges of the Western Ghats are known as the Sahyadhris, Nilgiris and Anaimalai Hills. The Ghats are home to some stunningly beautiful and magnificent hill stations amidst serene natural surroundings. Ooty, Coonoor and Kodaikanal (all in Tamil Nadu) are the more popular ones.
Here is a list of five of the lesser known, yet pleasant hill locations in these mountain ranges.
Kudremukh is a small town located at the Chikmagalur District in Karnataka. In local parlance, ‘Kudremukh’ means ‘horse-faced’, and this refers to the extravagantly beautiful and picturesque view of the side of a mountain that looks like the face of a horse. With its rolling grasslands and thick dense forests, the place is also well known for bio-diversity conservation and is identified as one of the twenty five hot spots in the world. To reach Kudremukh one can board private or state operated buses from the nearby Kalasa town.
A visitor to Kudremukh should not miss out on an opportunity to visit the Kudremukh peak, situated at an altitude of approximately 6214 feet above sea level. The views one will be treated to from top of the peak are spectacular. Particularly, that of the Arabian Sea is mesmerizing. The location is also ideal for the adventure-minded who are on the lookout for trekking opportunities and exploring the forests. Home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, the lion-tailed macaques can be easily spotted near the Kudremukh Peak. In this tiny hill station, another major attraction is the Kudremukh National Park. It is home to animals like sambar, lion-tailed macaque, wild pig, tigers, wild dogs and leopards. To reach the park, one can take local buses, autos or rickshaw. However, in order to explore the entire national park, tourists need prior permission from the authorities.
Accommodation: There are plenty of forest lodges and guest houses to take care of your accommodation needs. One may also check out the set of five guest houses and resorts run by the various wings of Karnataka Forest Department. The guest houses offers accommodation in permanent structures as well as in tents. For those who would like to splurge, the Silent Valley Resort with cottages amidst picturesque locales is the best option. Double occupancy cottage rates start from Rs. 4000. (Ph. No. +91-824-2211672). The budget options are Hotel Chandan and Seethanadi Nature Camp. The latter has two options available, dormitory accomodating upto 14 people where per person charges comes up to Rs. 300 and tents sleeping two persons costing Rs. 1500 (both rate includes the entry fees for the National Park) Contact No. 09480807650 Major distances: Kalasa – 22 kms, Chikmagalur – 25 kms, Bangalore – 340 kms.
This quaint little town is a mountain pass in the Western Ghats range in Pune district. It lies nestled between the lofty rugged hills of the ghats. Being here, one realizes how being away from the scorching sun and oppressive heat of the plains can have an invigorating effect on the senses. The refreshingly cool weather and splendid beauty of nature at Malshej Ghat will inevitably captivate any visitor. The charming little town is an ideal summer retreat of a different kind.
The place is rich in flora and fauna. Bird lovers, especially, will be delighted to have close encounters with a large variety of the winged species such as quails, rails, crakes, flamingos and cuckoos. Malshej Ghat is also renowned for the large number of migratory birds which fly into the region between the months of July and September. Visitors at this time of the year should also not miss out on the mating dance of the pink-legged flamingos which indeed is a spectacular sight.
Accommodation: Malshej Ghat can conveniently make a day-trip from Mumbai or Pune but for those who would love to relax, staying is recommended. There are budget hotels in Malshej Ghat to accommodate those who look for budget options. There are star rated hotels too that provide the ultimate in style and opulence. Since the area is at a considerable distance from a small town, there are not many posh restaurants and shopping malls. The Flamingo Hill, a resort run by MTDC – Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation is in the vicinity. (Contact no. +91-22-22024482) Other than the MTDC resort, there are other private resorts like the Ranvara Residency located by the picturesque backwaters of Pimpalgaon Joga Dam which are also good stay options. Accommodation is also available in a nearby village called Madh, 6 km away from Malshej ghat.
Major distances: Mumbai – 160 kms, Pune 130 kms
Sakleshpur is a small pleasant hill station nestled amidst serene surroundings of the Western Ghats. Located at an altitude of approximately 3114 feet above sea level, Sakleshpur is an ideal, rejuvenating getaway for jaded city travellers. Located near the Bangalore – Mysore highway, the hill station is easily accessible. Sakleshpur is also well known as a major producer of coffee and cardamom in India. Nowadays, Sakleshpur is turning out to be a popular destination for trekking enthusiasts. The Bisle Forest Reserve trek as well as the Kumara Parvatha trek is worth undertaking. Those who are not hardcore trekkers should not worry; taking long and leasurely walks around the town can also be quiet rewarding.
Accommodation: In and around Sakleshpur there are quite a few resorts and homestay options to cater to all the different categories of tourists. Some of these resorts are cuddled amidst absolutely serene natural surroundings. Some of the homestay options are Prakritik Homestay, Swastha Homestay, Nyrit Villa Homestay and Megha Homestay. The discerning tourist can also check out The Hills resort (+91-9535511771). At this luxurious resort, travelers can allow their tired mind and bodies to recuperate and rejuvenate amidst the lush green mountainous surroundings of the resort. Hotel Ashrita is a mid budget option (+91-8173-243050 / 243412)
Major distances: Mysore – 155 kms, Bangalore – 223 kms.
This place is located just 24 km from Sakleshpur at an altitude of 3700 feet above sea level. The natural surroundings at Rotti-Kallu are absolutely heavenly. Accommodation: There is a homestay option at Rotti Kallu by the same name as the hill station. The resort, spread over 20 acres, amidst beautifully decorated landscapes, is equipped to cater to all the varied needs of travellers.
Major distances: Sakleshpur – 24 kms, Mysore – 183 kms, Bangalore – 250 kms
This charming hill station is situated about 250 km from Bangalore at an altitude of approximately 4700 ft above sea level. Popularly known as the KR Hill Station, this quaint place was the summer retreat of Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV. A visitor to Kemmanagundi can expect to be completely enthralled by the spectacular views of the valleys. Gushing waterfalls and mountain streams amidst the coffee estates combine to add to the picture perfect serenity of the place. There are innumerable things to see and do while at Kemmanagundi. The Karnataka Horticulture Department maintains a guest house right on top of a hill. The department also maintains a rock garden and a rose garden on top of Kemmanagundi. From the guest house, a narrow trek route leads to the Z point with awesome views of the valley. Shanti falls is also on the trek route to Z point.
Accommodation: There are homestay options at affordable rates here. The only private hotel is the Kemmanagundi Hotel (+91-8261258148, +91-8261258259). The hotel charges on per-person per-day basis. For single person, the per-day the rate is Rs 1750 and for two days it is Rs 3300 (food and lodging inclusive). The location is ideal to unwind and rejuvenate the mind of many a stressed-out urban dweller.
Major distances: Sakleshpur – 71 kms, Mysore – 171 kms, Bangalore – 252 kms
The best time to visit the Western Ghats: The best time to visit the ghats is during the monsoon season when the entire region is washed by the rains.