After traveling in South India for last three years, if I have to select my top picks from the list of places which are still not spoiled by large number of tourists and over commercialization, they would be without any doubt : Valaparai, Vagamon and Varkala.
I always get excited for a trip to a non-commercialize and non-touristy place because of some obvious reasons :
- I don’t have to wait or request people to move before framing a shot of an amazing landscape.
- There is no need to search over the internet for the list of places to visit in such trips. The whole place is so amazing that every corner is a sightseeing spot.
- I feel more closeness with nature as there are less number of people around to interrupt.
We did bike trips to Valparai (460 km) and Vagamon (550 km) from Bangalore. Varkala (680 km) will be little hard to cover in one day but definitely can be combined with other destinations for a long planned trip. Initial 200 km are same for all three destinations which is Bangalore to Salem (awesome six lane highway to test your bike’s top speed). Road condition of State Highways after Salem is also great even in the Ghats sections which offers a complimentary scenic view along with nice roads.
Everyone must have heard about Munnar as a perfect long weekend gateway from Bangalore for scenic tea plantations and natural beauty of Western Ghats. I believe none of us will disagree to a fact that, Munnar now turned into a highly commercial hill station because of its popularity. There is a hidden gem in Anaimali Hills of Western Ghats named Valparai, which is far more scenic than Munnar with very less number of tourist.
Things to Do
There is no specific view point for tea plantations unlike Munnar, where you have to wait in line sometimes and get bugged by photographers for an iconic picture. In Valparai, you can park your vehicle on road side and there is a landscape shot waiting for you to get clicked. You can roam around the whole day without any specific place to go and appreciate the nature’s beauty.
You can go to Sholayar Dam and Aliyar Dam which are near by. You can also plan a ride to Athirappilly waterfalls, which is just 75 km (1.5 -2 hr) from Valaparai and the ride through Athirappilly forest is just amazing.
Accommodation and Food
There are not much options for stay in this place. We stayed in a hotel named Green Hill Hotel which is in the centre of the town and provides a basic stay option at a price of Rs.1450/night (prices are higher as compared to the facilities). Hotel has a restaurant where the only available item in the menu was Masala Dosa. We went out to explore other options and to our surprise there were none. Yes, we didn’t find any restaurant or small shop for dinner but there were so many bakeries which serves great coffee/tea and different snacks which were sufficient as a meal replacement.
Vagamon, another hidden gem in Kerala, where I clicked one of my best sunrise shot of 2016.
After our ride to Valparai, we were really excited to explore other hidden places in Western Ghats. This place came as a suggestion from my wife’s Keralite colleague over a discussion in her office, when she was telling her about our seven different trips to Kerala. When we searched this place over the internet, pictures were great and another interesting thing we learned from wikipedia was that a Naseeruddin Shah’s movie named, “The Blueberry Hunter” was shot in Vagamon.
Things to do
Suprisingly, this place offers a lot of options to have a great weekend trip :
- Paragliding with awesome view of tea estates and pine forests. Paragliding cost is 3000 rupees and you have to pay in cash (not sure about the current situation after demonetisation :P).
- A short trek to Kurisumala
- You can roam around in the tea estates which we did through out the whole day.
Accommodation and Food
We booked our stay at Golden Park Holidays, which is not exactly a hotel but an independent house located at the end of the town at a tariff of Rs.1100/night. We had a really peaceful evening in the balcony of the hotel with a sunset view. They prepare food on request, we ordered chicken curry and Kerala parota in the dinner on one night and went to explore local restaurants the other night of our stay. There are multiple restaurants in the town which serves awesome Kerala food.
I always ask this question to people, “What would you prefer for you ideal vacation, Mountains or Beaches ?”, which segregates them into two major categories of travellers. Some people prefer beaches and some are self proclaimed mountain addicts. I appreciate beaches because of the sense of infinity it provides at the horizon. But I personally prefer a sunset view from a mountain anytime over a beach destination due to the calmness and a feeling of uninterrupted closeness with nature.
Imagine an evening when you are sitting in a nice cafe with a beer/coffee in your hand, right on the edge of a cliff facing Arabian Sea with colorful clouds in the sky and no interruption of waves. Varkala is exactly such kind of a place, which combines the calmness of a mountain with a sense of inifinity at horizon of sea. I won’t say that Varkala is completely non-commercial like above two places but you can definitely get your own section of peace easily with out getting bugged by other tourists.
Things to do
This place offers something for everyone. If you are a photographer soul, you can pick one corner in the street to setup your tripod and there are endless frames waiting for you to be clicked. It is a perfect destination for a solo trip and someone can easily spend the entire weekend appreciating the natural beauty with a coffee and a great book. There is a nightlife too to have a great weekend. You can also read 5 reason to pack your bags to Varkala.
Accommodation and Food
We booked our room at a place named Clafouti, at North Cliff, with a tariff of Rs.1100/night for Non-Ac room. Once we reached there, we realized that AC room is mandatory due to humidity. We upgraded to AC room by paying 400 rupees/night extra. The place is a nice resort with spacious rooms and great view from each room. I would recommend to book your stay near North cliff where the street is narrower and less number of shops which leads to less crowd.
Every resort has a restaurant/cafe on the main street with all types of cuisines. You can select a place according to your food preference and ambience.