Ten reasons why you must visit Western Ghats
I have always enjoyed my geography classes during school. And drawing, shading and marking maps has always been a personal favourite. Perhaps that is why I am addicted to adult colouring books right now. But that is an aside.
Everytime I think of the Western Ghats, I remember my class when we used to mark and colour the western stretch of India on the map, all the way from the tip of Tamil Nadu to Kerala and right up to Goa. And then there was the Eastern Ghats as well.
I used to have two different shades of brown – the darker and bolder one was used to mark the Western Ghats and the lighter shade was for the Eastern.
I love the Western Ghats. Period. I was introduced to it as a three year old when we used to drive from Chennai to visit Sringeri and then we stayed in my grandfather’s coffee estates in Chikmagalur. And the fascination stays even today. There is an element of nostalgia every time you think of it irrespective of whether it was a road trip or a train journey.
I have traversed the Western Ghats several times and it has almost become an annual pilgrimage.Some statistics from the Wikipedia – the 1600 kms long unbroken chain of mountains occupies an area of 160000 sq kms. There are about 39 individual sites that make up this World Heritage Site including reserve forests and national parks.
But then there are mountains and mountains and there is the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And personally I think there is more to it as, than just hills stitched together forming ranges, peaks and valleys.
Here is a post on why it is so special to me and the reasons you must visit the Western Ghats in India
The woods beckon.
The green cover is all encompassing. From evergreen tropical rain forests to deciduous jungles to shola forests, the dense canopy here can take you to a different world. It is not just about tiger tourism.
From elephants to big cats, wild dogs to langurs, sloth bears to wild boars, the forests are home to wildlife. And there are several endemics which are found only here.
Snakes and frogs, mongoose and civets, flying squirrels to giant squirrels , this is a wild lifer’s paradise.
The flora is exotic and endemic. Be it the ferns or the fungi, lose yourself in a world of woods and trees.
And then there is my personal favourite – birds. The birds of Western Ghats are special – resident, migratory and the endemic. Almost 500 species are found here. I have seen varieties of bulbuls, hornbills .sunbirds, flycatchers, thrushes and melted away like Keats listening to their songs.
There are some exclusive birding destinations as well – one of my favourites being Ganeshgudi on the banks of the River Kali in Karnataka.
And as for wildlife destinations – my personal recommendations are KMTR – Kalakadu Mundanthurai Tiger Sanctuary and Bandipur and Nagarhole forests separated by the River Kabini. There is BR Hills and Valparai as well, which you must not miss. The forests of Goa are another favourite.
Iconic Mountain Ranges
We have grown up talking about the Himalayas and the Alps, the Atlas and the Andes, but in a very special way, the Western Ghats has its own special iconic ranges too.
The Sahyadris, the Annaimalais and of course, the Nilgiris, where the West and the East meet.
And then there is the Cardamom Hills and B R Hills and the highest peak is Anaimudi in Kerala. Trek, camp, relax – how can anyone not be beckoned by the mountains ? Another reason for you to visit Western Ghats.
Springs and streams
A mountain spring forms into a tiny rivulet murmuring through the woods and becomes a little river. The Western Ghats has given many a river its source. The Cauvery’s little birth place in Coorg is called Talacauvery.
The Tungabhadra, the Krishna, the Godavari , the Zuari, the Mandovi and my very own Tambiraparani – all have their origins here and their tributaries run amok in the hills, charting their own courses.
They are confined in dams or they gush as cascades. Look anywhere around you and you will find a river nearby. So if you love the water, you will definitely want to visit Western Ghats.
Where oceans meet the mountains
The Western Ghats run parallel along the coastline of India and some of the most virgin beaches meet the mountains here. Karwar in Karnataka is so beautiful, almost oblivious of its own beauty as it stands perched between the oceans and mountains.
The coastal plains along Kanyakumari, located in the Southern most tip of India also comes to my mind. Some coastal towns in Goa, Karnataka and Kerala are my favourite haunts.
Tea or coffee or spices
The British destroyed these forests and created plantations here . And you see the mountains carpeted by tea, coffee and spices. Even today plantation tourism is one of the biggest draws. The coffee plantations of Malnad or the tea estates in Nilgiris with the spice plantations are tourist destinations .
Coorg, Chikmagalur, Saklespur, Munnar, Wayanad, Valparai are some of my favourite towns. If you are planning to visit one of them I recommend the beautiful tea plantations of Munnar where you can find a slice of British charm in the estates there.
Take an early morning walk – watch the mist play with the mountains and relive the colonial era in some of these towns.
Heritage in the hills
A temple in the forest, a fort atop the hills, ancient ruins and monuments call me here. You wonder who built these shrines in the middle of a dense canopy of trees with crickets murmuring all around you. I am lured to heritage sites in general and all the more reason, when they are built in a pretty setting.
Coorg has some palaces and temples tucked away in the jungles, there are ancient temples in the Goan forests.
Sringeri in Karnataka is one of my favourite spiritual destinations, where Adi Sankaracharya established his mutt in the South on the banks of the Tunga Bhadra . It was my very introduction to the Western Ghats.There are several temples around like Hornadu set deeper in the forest.
The Hoysalas built several temples along Malenadu and some of them are still in ruins, in dense forests and in coffee estates.
Padmanabhapuram palace in Kerala – Tamil Nadu border talks about the legacy of the Travancore kings.
Ancient Jaina sites, cave temples, monoliths, churches – they are all scattered in the mountains and forests here. There is a spiritual mystique here that can only be experienced.
Western Ghats may be an unbroken chain but they span different states and each region has its own little culture. Festivals and traditions change from region to region. There are several lores and legends here. Some destinations have their own tribal culture too – Nilgiris, BR Hills, Coorg.
While most tourists are wrapped in the natural beauty of the Western Ghats, very little attention is paid to the myriad cultures in the region – something that has always personally fascinated me.
Flavours of the Western Ghats
When you think of travel, you think of food. And it forms a part of the culture of the region. There is a unique culinary spread across the Western Ghats as every region or state has its flavour. Coorg’s speciality is different from Malenadu.
The towns spread across Maharashtra or Goa offer a different cuisine from that of Kerala or Tamil Nadu. You can taste everything from coastal delights to seasonal produce here.
However,being a vegetarian, I am never disappointed as i can relish some of the local preparations here
Tourism for everyone
So it does not matter if you do not want to hike in the mountains. The Western Ghats beckon every kind of traveller, including lazy ones like me, who are content to meditate upon nature and do absolutely nothing.
The bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts flock here, there is fishing and angling and there is even water sports and river rafting for the adventurous.
You can just chill in hill stations, sip coffee or tea, visit temples in the forests or focus on living traditions and tribes living here.
However I will just go for long walks in the mist or read a book and sip ginger tea.
Destination for all seasons
In the summer you can run to the hills and sing The Sound of Music and look for tigers in the jungles or in winters, you can imagine like Ruskin Bond, that there are ghosts melting away in the cold , brooding mist.
But my favourite time of the year is monsoons, or perhaps to be right, precisely just after the monsoons.
The forests are scrubbed well after a refreshing bath and they wear a new coat of green. The birds start beginning to sing. The waterfalls are in full flow and the rivers are smiling, coursing down the valleys..
And so, you get the general drift. The best time to go is right now !! So, what are you waiting for ? Visit Western Ghats right now.