The hitchhiker’s guide to the stunning & 160 million years old Western Ghats

Yes, 160 million years old. That’s older than the Himalayas themselves. Welcome to Western Ghats, the Sahyadri Mountain range that runs parallel to the Western Coast of India.

Lush-green mountains, pristine waterfalls, rugged cliffs, picturesque hill stations & endemic flora and fauna, the Western Ghats are more than a mountain range. It’s a collection of curated experiences, a nature museum with artifacts dating back millions of years & a World UNESCO Heritage Site. 

Traversing majorly across Indian states: Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala & Tamil Nadu, Western Ghats is the reason behind Bombay’s obsession with Mahabaleshwar, Matheran & Goa as well as partly the reason behind calling Kerala, God’s own country. ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

Matheran, Maharashtra (Western Ghats);
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Jog Falls, Karnataka (Western Ghats);
Image Credit- Life on Weekends

Treasures abound: 62,000 square meters in a stretch of 1600 kms

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Evidence suggests that the West coast of India came into existence about 100 to 80 mya after it broke away from Madagascar. Yes, that old! The Western Ghats are stretched across 1600 kms covering about an area of 62,000 square meters.

Being one of world’s ten hottest biodiversity hotspots, Western Ghats are home to over 7042 species of flowering plants, 1814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 227 reptile species, 179 amphibian species, 290 freshwater fish species & 6000 inspect species.

It’s believed that there are many undiscovered species alive in Western Ghats, living away in oblivion, away from the glitz and glamour, off the grid. Isn’t this the dream? Or may be, not. I can go off the grid. But can I tolerate that kind of silence & quiet. May be, I can, in a few years from now. Today, give me all the weekends I can get, and let me organize travel and parties on each one of them. Did I get distracted? I think, I did. ๐Ÿ˜€

If you are a birder/ wildlife photographer/ Tiger-lover, Western Ghats got you covered with its indigenous and voluminous varieties of animal kingdom across the wildlife parks, Tiger Reserves & out in the wild.

Igatpuri, Maharashtra (Western Ghats);
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Igatpuri again, Maharashtra (Western Ghats); Image Credit – Life on Weekends
More of Western Ghats, Maharashtra โ™ฅ๏ธ;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends
Tungabhadra Dam (Tungabhadra River originating from Western Ghats), Karnataka; Image Credit – Life on Weekends

Several years (or shall I say a lifetime of two) worth of experiences in the Western Ghats

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Most of my favourite experiences of this lifetime (yes, of this lifetime) are from Western Ghats: spotting the tea plantations in Munnar, drinking a hot cup of cinnamon-flavoured tea overlooking the rolling hills in Munnar, going on a long walking trail of 8 hours amidst the forest opening up to gorgeous views of Western Ghats in Matheran, trekking to Mullayangiri in Chikmagalur, getting drenched in the rains & waking up to the mist-covered hills in Kodaikanal. All of this – in Western Ghats.

It can take you a few months, a few years, or if you are serious, a lifetime to explore Western Ghats. But then, let’s be honest. We are the generation who doesn’t believe in commitments of lifetime, why would be spend a lifetime exploring only one mountain range…when the world is our oyster?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

But then, you will miss out on something exceptional if you don’t visit Western Ghats.

And I am right.

I really am.

Even if I am not right, let me guarantee this: Western Ghats will make you forget all your troubles (even if for a short while), forgive one or two criminal colleagues who unnecessarily mark you on Slack/ Meeting invites, find the elusive peace in your heart, and make you really, really happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

“I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Take out 42 weekends for 42 destinations on the Western Ghats

“The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is…42.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams

If you are a fan of the book, its phrases or the author, you would know how significant is number 42. ๐Ÿ˜€ I once met a really cool, talented guy (brother of my colleague from one of my ex-companies), who was such an ardent fan of the book, that he had actually tattooed number 42 on his arm. โค๏ธโค๏ธ

In the same spirit, here is a list of 42 tourist destinations on Western Ghats that will bring you close to the history, the nature & hopefully yourself:

1. Matheran, Maharasthra

A great preview of the stunning Western Ghats, Matheran is one of the smallest hill stations of India. Being an eco-friendly place, it doesn’t allow any cabs, taxis or cars inside. In fact, they charge you an entry fee when you visit Matheran. ๐Ÿ™‚ Once inside, you can ride a horse or a pony and be taken around in a hand-held rickshaw. ๐Ÿ™‚ A photographer’s heaven, the place is full of viewpoints from where Sunrises and Sunsets appear nothing short of magical. This place is romantic, beautiful and magical – all wrapped in one.

2. Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra

Whether it’s the gorgeous Wilson Point, or Arthur’s seat, or a boat ride in the Venna lake, Mahabaleshwar has options for all kinds of travelers. From serving delicious food in the Mapro Garden to taking you to a trip down the history lane in the Pratapgad fort nearby, Mahabaleshwar is an ever-green hill station indulging your senses. View points (Elephant’s head Point etc.), waterfalls (Lingmala & Dhobi) & temples – you will find everything here.

Also read: Where Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj defeated Afzal Khan: the Pratapgarh fort

3. Igatpuri, Maharashtra

Located at a distance of 121 kms., Igatpuri is a low-hanging fruit when it comes to weekend getaways from Bombay. But then, this low-hanging fruit can burn a hole in your pocket if you are not careful. Expensive retreats/ stays, absence of OLA/ Uber & overly priced local transport can really feel too much. But then, the memories will trump everything. The memories of waking up to a lush-green hill, rainbow-coloured sky, gushing waterfalls, trekking to Kalsubai peak or searching for ‘inner peace’ inside Vipassana International Academy, Igatpuri – are all precious.

Also read: Igatpuri, in the Western Ghats: found on maps but not by cabs

4. Panchgani, Maharashtra

Famous for its strawberries, Panchgani is a beautiful hill station with rolling hills, pleasant climate & view points that would want you to stay such as Sydney Point, Parsi Point, and Kate’s Point. Buy a box of Strawberries (if it’s the season) and find a boulder to sit on while you enjoy the nature, for free. Or visit a cafe & get a cup of tea/ coffee, some snacks to binge and let life pass by, even if it’s only for a short while.

Others: Lonavala, Bhimashankar, Kalsubai Peak & more.

5. Dudhsagar Falls, Goa

Located on the border of Goa & Karnataka, Dudhsagar falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in India. The roaring sounds of the falling water, clouds of mist travelling up in the air & a beautiful train journey/ rugged jeep ride leading up to the falls add wonders to your experiences.

Others: Sada waterfall, Chaudi, Devil’s Canyon & more

6. Coorg/ Kodagu, Karnataka

Coorg or Kodagu is a beautiful hill station of one of my favourite states, Karnataka. Known for its coffee & spice plantations, Coorg is a really gifted place that takes you closer to nature with its waterfalls, scenic routes, misty-magical places like Talacauvery (mind the season of your visit) & sunset points like Raja’s seat.

Also read: The Scotland of India: Coorg, Karnataka

Also read: A memorable sunset at Rajaโ€™s seat: intimate, beautiful and rainy

Coorg ๐Ÿฅฐ๐Ÿฅฐ;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

7. Chikmagalur, Karnataka

If you are a coffee-lover, visit Chikmagalur for it’s believed to be the place where coffee was brought first in India. ๐Ÿ™‚ And if that’s not enough, Chikmagalur’s delightful coffee plantations and a deep-seated coffee culture will definitely sway you. The hills, trees and the drive will be all bonus. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you are in Bangalore (or Bengaluru), this is a wonderful weekend destination.

Chikmagalur;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

8. Jog Falls, Karnataka

Jog Falls is one of my favourite places to be. It’s a magical place that takes you by surprise. Known to fall from an impressive height of 830 ft., it’s one of the tallest waterfalls in India (along with Dudhsagar Falls). Surrounded by green foliage & stunning views, it appears nothing short of a paradise.

Also read: Jog Falls, Shimoga: magical, musical waters

9. Dandeli, Karnataka

Famous for its wildlife, Dandeli is the go-to place for adventure fanatics with options for jungle safaris, kayaking, trekking or for a simple walk down an off-trail. I went to Dandeli with friends back in college & my mind springs fond memories whenever I think about the place.

10. Karwar, Karnataka

Anything that’s even remotely related to Rabindranath Tagore, I get super interested in that, and Karwar is that and more. A coastal town, Karwar is a reminder of the calm of the 90s, a promise of unlimited fun, and a place where time stands still. Do visit Tagore Beach when you visit Karwar. And do not forget to check out the night flea market nearby the beach that hosts many food stalls. You will love it. You will probably feel the pinch the next day, but it would be worth it ๐Ÿ˜€

Also read: Leave the worry at home & bask in the glory of Tagore beach, Karwar

Karwar;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

11. Nandi Hills, Karnataka

When you go to Bangalore, the first weekend visit is Nandi Hills. Atleast it used to be back in 2008, when I landed in Bangalore with a bag of luggage and a heart full of dreams.

A weekend destination, Nandi hills is famous for its Sunrise. You leave early morning so that you reach there by Sunrise. ๐Ÿ™‚ On the way, you make memories.

12. Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna, Karnataka

Srirangapatna near Mysore is a historic town, situated on the banks of River Kaveri. If that doesn’t make this special, the ancient Ranganathaswamy temple, dating back to the 9th century puts it on the spiritual traveler’s circuit. Known for its splendid architecture & spiritual significance, the temple attracts many visitors, travelers and spiritual souls throughout the year. You should visit too.

13. Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka

I think every wildlife sanctuary and Tiger reserve must find a mention on a travel blog. And hence, the recommendation. Located in the Chikkamagaluru district, it’s a picturesque wildlife sanctuary for it’s nestled amidst Western Ghats. Popular amidst birdwatchers, this is the place to be.

14. Kabini River, Karnataka

Go on boat safaris or coracle rides along the river and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets. Who knows you might spot an elephant taking its weekly/ monthly bath or a Tiger out on a prowl. Why? Because the river is insanely famous for its proximity with wildlife.

15. Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka

Deciduous forests, innocent-looking swamps, and exceptional wildlife of Gaurs (Bisons), Leopards, Tigers, Elephants, Sloth Bear and Wild Boars, Nagarhole is a premier wildlife park of South India.

16. Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka

When we first visited Kudremukh National Park, we couldn’t believe that we were in India. Yeah, some places manage to surprise the ‘Indian’ out of me. Steep Hills, Valleys and picturesque views of Western Ghats in all possible shades of Green, Kudremukh is rightly recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

17. Shimoga, Karnataka

Nearby Jog Falls, Shimoga or Shivamogga is a town known for its cultural heritage. Much like the place where I grew up as a kid, Shimoga caught my fancy and we stayed there for breakfast. The cafe that we chose was playing Carnatic music and served food on banana leaves. I think I had the most memorable breakfast of idl-vada that day. You could never forget a place like Shimoga. Club it with your trip to Jog Falls

18. Mullayangiri, Karnataka

Mullayangiri is the highest peak of Karnataka (one of my favourite states). ๐Ÿ™‚ That’s why you must visit it. ๐Ÿ˜€

If that’s not enough, the trek is worth it for the view atop is beautiful. The surrounding coffee plantations is an added bonus. Do not forget to carry a raincoat because it can put Mumbai to shame when it comes to rains.

Mullayangiri, Karnataka;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

Others: BR Hills, Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Agumbe

19. Ooty, Tamil Nadu

Known for its colonial charm, gardens and beautiful view points, Ooty is one of the most popular hill stations of India. Botanical garden, Rose garden, Doddabetta Peak, tea plantations – everything adds to the beauty of this scenic hill station.

The best part is the toy train ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Well, some of us drift off to sleep in the toy train but then who says sleeping inside a toy train is no way to enjoy ๐Ÿ˜‰

Also read: Rejuvenate in Nilgiris; 11 things to do in Ooty

Nilgiris;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

20. Coonoor, Tamil Nadu

Located at a distance of 2 hours away from Ooty, Coonoor is more laid-back, calmer and quieter. Known for its heritage toy train ride, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Coonoor is paradise for a troubled soul. You would not know what hit you. And before you know it, you would feel intense peace and sleep like a baby.

21. KodaiKanal, Tamil Nadu

Situated in the Palani Hills of the Western Ghats, Kodaikanal is full of tourist spots & is referred as the ‘Princess of Hill Stations’. The Croakerโ€™s Walk, Pillar Rocks, Bryant Park, Dolphin’s Nose – are all view-points that will leave you awe-inspired.

Also read: Picture yourself in the Pine forests of Palani Hills, Kodaikanal

Kodai kanal, Tamil nadu
Kodai kanal, Tamil Nadu;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

Are you thinking that it’s too much? Well, worry not! Do what Douglas Adams said:

“Don’t Panic” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams

22. Valparai, Tamil Nadu

This is another hill station in Tamil Nadu. See, Tamil Nadu has a lot of hill stations, thanks to Western Ghats. Waterfalls, Wildlife and View points are what Valparai offers. If you are looking for a budget-friendly options, this is the place to be.

23. Annamalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu

It’s not possible for me to stay away from Tiger Reserves for long. So, here: another recommendation for another Tiger Reserve. We crossed this Tiger Reserve so many times when we drove to Munnar, but never took notice until we developed the passion for wildlife including Tigers. If you are keen on sighting the Royal Bengal Tiger, this Tiger Reserve should be on your list

24. Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu

Situated in Nilgiris, of Western Ghats, Kotagiri is one of the three main hill stations of Nilgiris along with Ooty and Coonoor. Need I say more?

Yes, waterfalls, vantage points, scenic views, pakoda-worthy climate – you get the whole package.

25. Velliangiri Hills, Tamil Nadu

Situated in Coimbatore, Velliangiri Hills are home to Isha Yoga Centre. ๐Ÿ™‚ Many humans (and other life forms apparently) have found solace in this place. This is also the place where they host one of the biggest all-night long celebrations of Shivratri. ๐Ÿ™‚ Go figure!

26. Silent Valley View Point, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

A popular tourist destination of KodaiKanal, Silent Valley Point warrants a separate mention. Best experienced early mornings or during sunsets, you can trek to the Silent Valley View Point & enjoy the panoramic vistas. True to its name, the viewpoint is magical and musical. Magical because of the mist-surrounded valleys and hills. And Musical because of the Silence.

27. Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu

Also known as Elephant Hills, Anamalai has rich biodiversity, beautiful flowers & scenic landscapes. Now, that’s not something you should miss especially if you are around the area.

28. Mudumalai National Park, Tamil Nadu

Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mudumalai National Park is beautiful with deciduous forests, grasslands, and water bodies. Book a Jeep Safari and explore the wilderness of this beautiful national park.

29. Meghamalai, Tamil Nadu

Commonly knows as High Wavy Mountains, Meghamalai is a beautiful hill stations dotted with cardamom and tea plantations. There is of course a Tiger Reserve located inside the hills as well as dams and view points. ๐Ÿ™‚

30. Munnar, Kerala

The more I speak about Munnar, the less it is. It is one of my favourite places in the whole-wide world. Be it the tea plantations, the Ayurvedic massages, show of Kalaripayattu, views from Top Station or eating until my stomach hurts in Sarvana Bhavan, everything feels amazing. Often when I visit Munnar, I come back with my bags stuffed and my heart full.

Also read: Emerald Green Tea plantations of Munnar that are way more gorgeous than those of Sรฃo Miguel, Portugal

Also read: The pursuit of tea & the road to Munnar!

Also read: 50 shades of green in Munnar!

Also read: Waah Chai: from the diary of a tea addict!

31. Wayanad, Kerala

Another hill station. Another wildlife sanctuary. Plus the many options to go on a trek, enjoy the rolling hills, eat amazing food and go for a nature’s walk. That is Wayanad. Beauty abound!

32. Edakkal Caves, Kerala

Known for their prehistoric rock carvings, the caves are a window into the ancient civilisations of India. Edakkal means ‘stone in between’ in vernacular, which is why, there are many boulders surrounding the site that test your endurance and make a laughing stock of you in case you fail. Well, I did not become a laughing stock but wasn’t an embodiment of grace either.

Also read: Rich & Rustic Rock Art at Edakkal Caves, Wayanad

Eddakal Caves;
Image Credit – Life on Weekends

33. Thekkady, Kerala

Another beautiful hill station, in the Idukki district of Kerala. Go & romance with the hills. Eat, sleep and spend time in the nature. Thekkady has many options. On the days when you would crave for something different, you can go for a Kathakali dance and Kalaripayattu performance.

34. Idukki, Kerala

Known as the land of dams, Idukki is another beautiful, stunning location in the Western Ghats. Go for a long walk, by the dams, by the river or through the tea plantations.

Idukki โ™ฅ๏ธ; Image Credit – Life on Weekends

35. Athirapally Waterfalls, Kerala

A favourite of filmmakers, Athirapally Waterfalls has served as a shooting location for many movies, songs and iconic scenes. One of my favourite songs, Achii Lagti ho (Bollywood) was shot at this location. This is one of the most beautiful waterfalls of this country, hands down.

36. Chembra Peak, Kerala

Chembra peak calls for a trek, a not-so-easy trek, through the forest, foliage and grasslands. And in return, you reach the Chembra Peak that offers beautiful views. The highlight though is the heart-shaped lake. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, there is a heart-shaped lake mid-way that is believed to never dry up even during Summers.

37. Eravikulam National Park, Kerala

Eravikulum National Park is beautiful. You can walk around the park hoping to meet the rare and endangered species of Nilgiri Tahr, a kind of goat. And if not that, click pictures and enjoy the view. That’s what you do in Western Ghats, anyway.

38. Mattupetty Dam, Kerala

If you are in Munnar, do visit the dam for a mini picnic. You can even go for a boat ride. Near the dam, there are many photographers who will be willing to offer you a photoshoot in the woods, or on the dam, for a nominal cost. ๐Ÿ™‚

39. Malampuzha Dam, Kerala

Are you wondering who visits dams, now? Well you do, if they overlook Western Ghats. A dam appears so energetic and powerful. A picnic on the dam with family, friends or self is a great idea to spend an otherwise ordinary day & turn it into extraordinary.

40. Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala

Yes, another Tiger Reserve. ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, I am a fan of Royal Bengal Tiger. ๐Ÿ˜€ Go for a Jeep Safari and experience the beauty of Periyar Tiger Reserve.

41. Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala

Much like other wildlife parks, Chinnar gives you a tour of wilderness too. What Chinnar gives you extra is the limitless possibilities of finding the ‘birder’ in you. Spotting a bird perched high on a tree, via your binouculars, is a different kind of high – which no amount of tea, coffee, drugs, rewards, salary increments or promotions can match. You will also see many sandalwood trees inside the forest. Stay careful. Sandalwood forests often have an enchanting effect on humans. ๐Ÿ˜‰

42. Kolukkumalai, Kerala

Kolukkumalai is a star-place. Away from the craziness of the city, closer to nature, Kolukkumalai offers views of huge, sprawling vistas of tea plantations that can make you pause. The local restaurants server delicious food, which tastes even better after an early morning trek.

You also get enough and more options for offroading in Kolukkumalai. You can book yourself for the Kolukkumalai Jeep Safari that will pick you around 3:00 am or so, and take you to the peak through such a rugged terrain that your intestines will curse you. You will reach the place before Sunrise and a short walk will take you to the Sunrise point. It’s the most magical/ beautiful experience when the Sky turns Blue – a signal of Sunrise happening soon. And slowly, all bright colors start to appear in the sky. The misty mountains add to the experience and before you know, it’s Sunrise!

Also read: The quest for Neelakurinji- the once in 12 years wonder

Thanks for reading this post. This is the largest post of my blog because it would have been a huge disservice to sum up Western Ghats in a small post.

This is the third post of Theme 3 of our ongoing travel campaign, โ€˜Rediscover India, Incredible Indiaโ€™. As part of this campaign, take you on a guided tour of the incredible art, architecture, natural & manmade wonders & heritage of India, one story at a time. Each week, we post one blog dedicated ro the theme of the month.

This monthโ€™s theme (Theme 3) is – โ€˜From the land of Kanchenjunga & the Himalayas, mountain ranges of Indiaโ€™

To check out the previous themes, visit the Homepage of the blog. Stay tuned for more such stories.

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. giriraj bajaj says:

    So many amazing places in one page! Simply Amazing!

    Like

    1. Just Yamini says:

      Thank you, Giri ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

    2. Anil says:

      Enchanted!!

      Like

      1. Just Yamini says:

        Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

        Like

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