Meghamalai On Wheels: The Underrated Beauty of Tamil Nadu
Meghamalai, a beauteous mountain range in the Theni district along the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu, is about 70 kms form Theni. Meghamalai also called as Megamalai is the least exploited land by the commercial tourism and it still retains its pristine beauty. The entire region was under the private dominance until 2009. After the proposal for wildlife sanctuary by the Tamil Nadu forest department, it was open for public access. It is a unique destination for ardent nature lovers, who want to stay away from the commercial world.
Originally, the British people developed tea estates in this region. They call it as “High Wavy Mountains”, because of the rise and fall of the mountains which creates a wave like pattern. Meghamalai refers to cloud clad mountain which belong to the part of the Varushanad range of hills in the Western Ghats. Meghamalai is free from plastics, as you will not find plastic carry bags and plastic made materials except water bottles. Human interference is very minimal in this area, as people who are engaged in tea estates are residing over here.
The dense evergreen forest is rich in flora and fauna. There are about 100 species of birds spotted in this forest. Because of cardamom plantations and tea estates Meghamalai appears to look like a lush green carpet. Meghamalai is a hub for birds, butterflies, wild animals and reptiles. Wildlife includes Asian elephants, Oriental honey buzzard, Great pied hornbill Indian brown mongoose, Gaur, Tiger, Leopard, Asian elephant, sloth bear, sambar deer, wild boar, barking deer, barn swallow, spotted dove, Mouse deer, Nilgiri langur and many others.
Meghamalai can be reached in two ways, one form Theni via Chinnamanur and the other from Andipati via Kandamanayakkanur. It is preferable to take Chinnamanur route as the entire way will be an eye-arresting scenic. It is about 43 kilometers from Chinnamanur. One has to pass over eighteen hairpin bends to reach the hill top. The beauty of these hairpin bends is that each posses a flower name. The Ghat road heading towards Meghamalai from the foothill is completely ravaged. It will be a rousing travel, because of the absence of safety walls across the road. It is better to take SUV or jeep because small cars will suffer to climb. Biking is an option but you have to break your back due to the thumping rhythm of the road.
Meghamalai is a place where weather will change at no time and it will start pouring. You have to choose the right time to visit this place. Witnessing the beautiful landscapes of the valley, adorable lush green mountains, chirping and tweeting sounds of the birds are an immense paradise to the eyes and ears. You can see the waves like mountains when you draw closer to the top. Tea estates are the most common thing visible in Meghamalai.
The tourist attractions are highwayvs dam, Highwayvs Lake, Manalar Dam, Deep Cumbam valley, Upper Manalar estate, Vattaparai, Iravangalar Dam, Maharaja Mettu, Magarajothi hill view, Thekkadi view point, Elephant corridor, Pothai pull medu, Manalar waterfalls and Vellimalai.
Vellimalai, also called as Silver Mountain lies in the heart of Meghamalai. Situated at an altitude of 1650 meters, it offers spectacular view of serene valley amidst mountains. The eye-catching view of the silver lined clouds resting atop of the green carpet is an awe inspiring sight seen normally. The Vaigai river originates from here.
Meghamalai waterfall is another iconic tourist attraction which is also called as Cloud Land falls which originates from the Maghamalai mountain rage. Also known as Chinna Suruli falls, located in the Varusanadu village is a secluded waterfall. The waterfall cascade down from the height of 190 feet and it never dries throughout the year. You will experience charming picturesque greenery alongside the way to falls.
There are about six dams in Meghamalai. Entry is restricted to all of them. However, you can observe the elegant sight of dams while crossing them. Some of them are located alongside roads and some are in dense forest. One can view the alluring Cumbam valley and the villages around from Manalar dam.
Trekking through the tea estates would be eye-catching and breathtaking as there are possibilities of sighting wild animals like Indian hornbill, Indian brown mongoose, gaurs, wild boars, Asian Elephants, leopards and tigers too. Beware of leeches in the greens, as they stick to your legs.
Meghamalai experiences absolutely spectacular climate all around the year and one can plan for the best holiday destination all the time except monsoons. During monsoons, the roads will be slippery with no safety walls so it would be a risky ride to the hills. Landslides might happen at any time due to heavy rains and it is advisable not to travel during monsoons. The best time to experience the pristine beauty of Meghamalai is from November to March.
As the commercial tourism has not exploited the divine beauty of this land, accommodation is quite complicated. There are cottages maintained by the tea estate groups, one panchayat guest house and an inspection bungalow. Make prior arrangements for accommodation before visiting this place. Tourists are not allowed to travel through the Ghat road after 5pm as it is not possible to ride the vehicle late evening.
Sighting the picturesque landscapes of the mountains, white curtains covering the green carpet, serene lake would be the best description of paradise. The tranquility of the place will never let you to return.
By Road: Meghamalai can be reached by road from Madurai, Trichy and Chennai. You have to reach Theni, which is the connecting point, head towards Chinnamanoor and you will reach Megamalai. It is about 130 kms from Madurai, 294 kms from Coimbatore and 560 kms from Chennai.
By Air and Rail: You have to reach nearby cities like Madurai, Trichy or Chennai and hire a cab for a comfortable riding.