Stunning landscapes(Clockwise from top) Vivekandana rock and the Thiruvalluvar statue at Kanyakumari, Vattakotta fort, Thottipalam; Neyyar Dam and the viaduct at AryankavuPhotos: Sreejith R. Kumar, S. Gopakumar

December 27th: It’s a journey of barely 90km to the Indian subcontinent’s southern most point, but there are a whole lot of historic places to discover on the way. If you are travelling to Kanyakumari from the city, it’s worth taking the quieter route via Kovalam and Vizhinjam to Kaliyakkavila, stopping at the 18th century rock cut cave temple at Vizhinjam. Just across the border at Chitharal, near Marthandam, make your way uphill to the ancient Jain rock cut temple. Feeling too hot? Backtrack and take a dip in the Thripparappu waterfalls a few km away, if you don’t mind the crowd that is.

Climb up the steps to Thottipalam (Mathur Aqueduct), to get a birds’ eye view of the greenery all around. Back on the National Highway, at Thuckalay, take a detour to the sprawling Padmanabhapuram Palace, with its wooden carvings and cornices that make it a hallmark of Kerala-style architecture. Take in the history of Udayagiri fort and go for a guided tour of Suchindram temple with its unique sculptures, before driving into Kanyakumari to see the famed sunset at the juncture where the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean meet.

There are quite a few budget accommodation options available in the city. Catch the dawn of a new day from atop one of the hotels near the beach and make the short boat journey across the sea to the Vivekandana rock and the Thiruvalluvar statue. Before heading home, take a brief detour to historic Vattakota fort and beach and Muttam beach.

GO ECO-FRIENDLY AT THENMALA

Forested hills, flora and fauna, sparkling waterfalls, clear blue skies and winding roads on the way to Thenmala and Achenkovil are just what you need to connect with nature. On the way, drop in at the TBGRI, Palode, and explore a variety of endemic trees and plants. At Thenmala ecotourism centre, about 72 km from the city, there are plenty of activities, from chasing butterflies in the butterfly safari to boating on the reservoir. Walk the wooded path of the ‘leisure zone’, which culminates in a view of the dam. Stay overnight in one of the hotels on the Punalur road and in the morning drive to Palaruvi waterfalls. Motor the winding ghat road up to Achankovil, which touches Shenkottai. Be sure to tuck into the scrumptious ‘border chicken’, sold in a number of shops along the border with Tamil Nadu.

It will set you in a good mood to click a picture at the awe-inspiring viaduct at Aryankavu. There are plenty of other photo ops all along the undulating terrain, waterfalls, charming rivulets, the odd peacock et. al., all the way to Achankovil. Spot the endemic ‘Chengurinji’ tree that gives the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary its name. Take a dip in the Achankovil river, picnic on its banks, or just meditate surrounded by nature.

PANORAMIC VISTAS OF NEYYAR

It’s a place where the sky meets the mountains meets the river and it’s just 40-plus km away from the hustle and bustle of the city, via the rubber plantation-fringed road from Malayinkeezh and Kattakada. That’s why Neyyar dam makes for a perfect day trip. Go to the top of the dam, just so that you can get that breathtaking view of the reservoir, framed by the majestic Western Ghats. Get an even better view from the watch tower of the dam. See if you can spot the Agasthyamala peak. A boat ride around the reservoir is a must-do. Just about the only animals you can see, though, save the odd monkey, are the lions in the lion safari. It’s also a good birding destination to spot forest birds. Pop into the aquarium that has loads of colourful fish.

Walk or drive the short distance to the Crocodile Rehabilitation and Research Centre to see tens of crocs and gharials lounging in the sun. On the way back, pop into the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre at Kottoor, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to pet or feed a baby elephant.


Source: The Hindu