Athirappally, Hotels, Waterfalls
Set against a backdrop of the densely forested Sholayar Hills, the waterfall at Athirappally, 50km northeast of Kochi, are the most spectacular in Kerala. Streams of day-trippers travel up here by coach on weekends to watch the Chaladudy River plunge 24m down vertical, brown-granite cliffs.
The main tourist path down to the foot of the falls starts at a car park on the roadside. Once you've reached the bottom you can join the groups of locals posing for photos with dramatic curtain of white water and spray frothing behind. Other paths head downriver through the trees, but it is virtually impossible to escape noisy coach groups here at the weekend.
Getting to Athirappally
Athirppally makes an ideal staging post on the journey to or from Parambikulam, or you can travel up from the Cochin in an easy day-trip by taxi. By bus, first pick up any service running northwards on NH-47 from the KsRTC central stand to Chalakudy, and change their onto one of the hourly service continuing east to the falls. En route you pass a Forest Check Post and pay the entrance fee.
Though not as spectacular as the Athirappally falls, Vazhachal has its own charm. Near the waterfall is a medicinal herb garden, with plants that can cure arthritis, skin diseases and blood pressure. There is a small canteen too on the premises. Swimming in the falls is not permitted.
The only accommodation in the area that actually boasts a view of the falls is the stylish Rainforest boutique hotel, just below the road, where Abhishekh Bachan and Aishwariya Rai spent town months during a Bollywood shoot.
Designed in mellow natural stone and palm wood, its split-level rooms are gorgeous, with layouts that ingeniously preserve your privacy and big windows looking straight across the valley.
If you're travelling with someone special, splash out on the "Celestial" suite, where you can savour the views from the comfort of a candle-lit jacuzzi or- for the ultimate honeymoon experience-their secluded treehouse, whose bed has an uninterrupted, totally exclusive view of the waterfalls.
There is also an overflow pool in the garden, and a lawn terrace restaurant serving tea, home-baked cake or full-scale meals. A friendly slender loris regularly puts in an apperance here at supper time.
Other places to stay punctuate there road lower down the valley, but they're uninformally grungy and/or overpriced. If you're desperate, the Bethania Resorts, set back from the river 1km down the hill from Rainforest, is the best value of the bunch, with clean, chintzy rooms that have little entrance halls but not much outside space to speak of. Simple Kerala and Chinese meals are available.
Near Athirappally Waterfalls
Tel: 0480 2784071, 72
Tel: 0480 2769666
Banks of Chalakudy River
Tel: 0480 2769024
Banks of Chalakudy River
Tel: 0480 2769140/454/517
Spring Valley Holiday Home
Tel: 0480 2769067