Ponmudi : A picturesque hill station of Kerala, Ponmudi Hills literally means ‘Golden Crown’ in Malayalam. As we move higher and higher towards Ponmudi, the thick tropical forests forming a canopy of thickly matted foliage recede gradually to neatly clipped tea bushes. The aromatic plantations of rubber, pepper, cardamom and tea form the major part of the region’s identity. It is amazing to see tappers that are skileed in clibing up and down the trees and collecting milky fluid from rubber trees in coconut shells in graceful, easy and quick movements. One can see coconut thatch mats protruding on the roads on which black pepper can be seen drying. The tamed elephants strolling across the roads with their ‘mahaouts’ (trainers) mounted on their necks are a common sight here.

Smaller but as attractive as Munnar hills, Ponmudi offers a stroll in its vast tea estates. One can see and visit the mini-zoo while trekking up to the Ponmudi Crest. The thick deep forests and birds adorned in their colorful plumages make it one of the most interesting treks. The brilliant red southern trongons look like flowers, while the loud raucous chuckling of heavy billed Malabar hornbills and the shrill notes of the blue-black Malabar play to the tumes of natural orchestra. The rare long-tailed paradise flycatchers can also be spotted in this open aviary. Narrow, winding pathways surrounded by cool, green, wooded environs lend a surreal beauty to Ponmudi. Situated at 915 m above sea level, Ponmudi has beautiful mountain flowers, exotic butterflies and small rivulets along with a deer park and the excellent trekking trails. Aaranmula Boat Race featuring Aaranmula Temple festival and snake boats called ‘Palliyodams’ and Varkala Beach with a 2000 year old shrine of Lord Vishnu are some of the most interesting places nearby.