The only sizeable gap in the mighty wall of mountains marching 1200km down the western flank of peninsular India is the Palakkad Gap.
If you're passing through, it'll probably be en route to one of the heritage homestays and ayurvedic resorts scattered around Palakkad's well watered hinterland or to pick up transport to the little-visited hill station of Nelliyampathy to the south.
For close encounter with regions forest creatures, you should set aside a few days for Parambikulam, a remote reserve high on the Nelliyampathy plateau, which can only be approached from Tamil Nadu side of the range.
Sun set in Palakkad
An obvious overnight halt on the journey between central Kerala and plains of Tamil Nadu is Palakkad, 79km up NH from Thrissur. Set against a distant backdrop of saw-toothed peaks and dark cliffs of brown laterite.
The town is the hub of a major rice-and vegetable-growing area, as well as site of Kerala's best-preserved fort, built by Haider Ali of Mysore in 1766. The stronghold, these days, it is besieged every weekend by streams of local school groups and picnickers.
Arrival and Information
Palakkad is well connected to the rest of Kerala, and most of the express trains passing through stop at the mainline railway station, 6km northeast of the centre.
The KSRTC bus stand is right in the middle of town. DTPC's tourist office, at Fort Maidan (Mon-Sat 9.30am-5pm; Tel: 0491 2538996), is a good source of advice on local festivals and cultural events.
Tipu's Fort (Palakkad Fort)
The old granite fort situated in the very heart of Palakkad Town is one of the best preserved in Kerala. It was built by Hyder Ali of Mysore in 1790. It is now preserved b the Archaeological Survey of India.
Jainamedu Jain Temple
3km south of Palakkad, situated on the western suburbs of Palakkad Town, not far from the railway station, this historic 32 ft long, 20ft wide granite temple displays images of the Jain Thirthankaras and Yakshinis.
10km from Palakkad, this famous picnic spot which comprises a dam and beautiful landscaped gardens, is situated on the lower hills of the Western Ghats.
A popular escape from the heat in this area is the ramshackle hill settlement of Nelliyampathy, 52km south of Palakkad. Surrounded by teak forests and estates where tea, coffee, cardamom and oranges grow in profusion, the hill station certainly makes a refreshing change from the sweltering plains below.
View of the plains from Nelliyampathy
There is a marked shortage of decent accommodation at Nelliyampathy. Rather than staying the night, visitors tend to travel up for the day, taking jeep rides and short walks to viewpoints.
Nelliyampathy, spread over undulating terrain at an altitude of a little above 1000m, is set amid some magnificent scenery, and the journey to get there, winding up a succession of spurs above the Pothundi Dam and reservoir, ranks among the most spectacular in the state.
A scenery from Attappady
38km northeast of Mannarkad, a beautiful synthesis of mountains, rivers and forests, Attappdy is of great interest to anthropologists as this is the habitat of many tribes like the Irulas and Mudugars.
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary
With Periyar (Thekkady) over-commercialized and overcrowded these days, and rapidly falling out of favour with foreign visitors, Parambikulam, immediately south of the Palakkad Gap in an isolated valley sandwiched between the Nelliyampathy plateau and Anamalai range in Tamil Nadu, is fast becoming the park of choice for most serious wildlife enthusiasts in Kerala.
Bamboo rafting at Parambikulam
Smaller, more remote and less frequented than Periyar, it is buffered on all side by exceptionally well-protected forest, ensuring superlative biodiversity.
What really sets Parambikulam apart, though, is the opportunity to actually get close to nature. A superb choice of treks and activities deepens your appreciation of this uniquely beautiful habitat, and the go-ahead Forest Department Wildlife Warden and his team have also devised some memorable accommodation option where you're right in the thick of things.
Silent Valley National Park
Kunthipuzha river at Silent Valley
Silent Valley National Park is in one of the least disturbed, extensive patches of tropical rainforest remaining in the Western Ghats in north east of the Palakkad District. This prime rainforest of 90sq km is well known for its endangered monkeys.
Mayiladumpara (Choolannur Pea Fowl Sanctuary)
Situated 30km south Palakkad and 40km east of Cheruthurty, this grove at Nedungathpara takes its name from the large number of peacocks (mayil) found here.
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