Nestled, within a quiet little-known corner of God’s own country, in the district of Palakkad is a place called Nelliyampathy. You could call it a hill station. But I rather not. For me, Nelliyampathy is a place like no other. It has the weather of a hill station but not the fancy hotels, impatient crowds, street hawkers and amusement parks. However, this place offers you something that the famous hill stations in the country cannot provide you anymore. Silence. Hence, if you are looking for creature comforts and fine dining restaurants, please don’t come here. This is a place reserved for people who want to escape from the “noise”. It is an escapist’s paradise. Trust me on this one.
Although, Palakkad is my hometown, I discovered Nelliyampathy only ten years ago through a childhood friend. But I had often heard of this place from my relatives who stay in the foothills of Nelliyampathy in a place called Nenmara. Before you start the ascent to the hills of Nelliyampathy you get a spellbinding view of the Pothundy dam. This irrigation dam was constructed in the 19th century. It is an earth dam with an unusual feature; that its core wall was constructed out of a mixture of quick lime and jaggery.
The drive from Nenmara to Nelliyampathy is breath-taking providing spectacular views of the Pothundy dam from the many viewpoints on the way . The journey upwards takes you through ten hair pin bends and you will reach your destination in about an hour.
(One of the many mountain streams)
As soon, as you reach Nelliyampathy, the first thing that will strike you is the silence. What you will hear though is the rhythms of flowing streams and the buzz of cicadas. I can advise you now, to go and visit the many famous sightseeing spots of this place. But I won’t! Instead, first take in the breeze. Get out of your car and walk through the desolate roads and soak in all the good energy.
I am compelled to quote Marie Curie here. She said, “All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child”. It is this joy that you will derive from the place.
So, take that road leading to the tea estates and venture into the small lanes leading you to a mountain stream. Sit down beside these streams. Touch the sparkling waters and sprinkle some on your face. Erase all your thoughts and just live in the moment. For truly, this is the unique gift of this place. Freedom and absolute abandon. If you have been to Nelliyampathy and not experienced this, then you have missed out on something.
My relatives often ask me, “What is there to do in this place?”. My answer to them is, “I go there to do nothing!”. For there is not much to do in a place like this. But that is the charm of places like these. Isn’t it? The adventure enthusiasts though can embark on a trekking trip or take an off-road jeep ride!
(Off road Jeep ride)
The much-famed “jeep ride”, which I have endeavoured to take a couple of times is something that I would suggest everyone to try. It might give you a backache, but it is worth it. You will marvel at the skill of these jeep drivers who will drive you through terrains you thought can never be conquered. What you will get in return is pure joy. They will take you to places where humanity is alien. In this 7 km journey through basically rocks and muddy puddles, you might just find a nice place to sit and gaze at the beautiful hills of the Western Ghats. If you want to go easy on your pocket with this one, carry a few friends along.
But if there is one thing that you should do here, is to hear the stories of the locals. Visit the many “thattukadas” (small rustic eating joints) and talk to the locals, while munching on some scrumptious meals. I assure you that they will narrate stories of the place. Stories about wildlife, the tribal population, lives of tea plantation workers, film shoots and so on. They make for some interesting hearing. Indulge the waiters of your hotel as well, their hospitality and their stories will astound you in equal measure. Everyone here has a little more time on their hands than city folks.
(Bonfire at ITL Hotel, Nelliyampathy)
As mentioned earlier, don’t come here looking for five-star luxury. Be prepared to be minimalist in approach and adventurous in spirit. However, the hotels here have all the basic amenities and are privately owned. Even if the restaurant menus carry all kinds of cuisines, do try the “nadan style” (village/native) varieties. Moreover, you may not get everything that is there on the menu.
For your stay you might also want to check out the home-stays and resorts of the place, which are decent. But don’t compare them to the ones available in the more famous hill stations. What they will provide you though is more indulgent staff members. If you go on a weekday you might be surprised to realize that you are the only one in the hotel with the entire staff at your service.
Of the many places that you should visit in Nelliyampathy is Seetharkundu. This is a picnic spot where many tourists frequently visit from Palakkad or Coimbatore during weekends. But they are mostly day visitors who leave for their homes by evening. Seetharkundu, is a viewpoint situated 8 kms away from Nelliyampathy, where Lord Rama, Laxmana and Seetha are believed to have rested during their exile.
The Palakkad Gap (a geographical phenomenon in the Western Ghats) which is a low mountain pass separating Coimbatore and Palakkad is visible from here. This place is a vantage point which will give you a jaw dropping view of the valley, as it stretches out like a giant carpet for as far as the eyes can see. You might also get a glimpse of a 100-metre waterfall from here.
The place is also home to the Asian Elephant, Indian Gaur, Leopards, Bears and the Giant Squirrel, in case you are a wildlife enthusiast. But you will be lucky to spot them in the wild without effort. Palagapandi estate with its lovely tea, coffee and cardamom plantations is also a popular tourist destination. The estate houses a charming bungalow which was built during the British Raj.
(tea estates of Nelliyampathy)
If you are a nature lover, a vagabond or just someone seeking new stories to hear, come to Nelliyampathy and it won’t disappoint you. So, pack your bags and give this place a try.
(Check out the video on the post to get an idea of what to expect from this place)
Photo credits: Ashwin Ramesh, Akash Singh and Siddhartha Krishnan
How to get there:
Nelliyampathy is located about 70 kms from Palakkad and 116 kms from Coimbatore. Getting to this place will not be a problem since the roads are very good. The nearest railway station is in Palakkad (65 kms) and the nearest airport is in Coimbatore (127 kms).
Best time to visit:
The best time to visit Nelliyampathy is between October to March. During these months the nights will be cool and the days moderate in temperature.
Online booking for most of the hotels, resorts and home stays of this place is not available. So, suggesting some of the ones I have been to or heard of:
ITL Holidays and Resorts, Nelliyampathy – its the place where I generally stay when I visit the place. The food, accommodation and service are all very decent and value for money.
Green Land Farmhouses – located near Seetharkundu it provides an excellent view of the valley. Details available on tripadvisor. Could be a good option if you are going with family and kids.