The misty Meghamalai, is a perfect weekend getaway to unwind. We explore the surprises in store for us

As the dusk falls and city lights up on Friday, people with wanderlust break their heads over a weekend getaway. All one wants is a change from the week routine. One of the ideal weekend spots near the city is Meghamalai in Theni district where one can spend some quality time and re-connect with nature.

Land of greens and blues
Meghamalai is a misty mountain range located in Theni district (part of Western Ghats) at 1,500 metres above sea level. The place is more popular for the tea estates where access is restricted. However, one can still enjoy the sight of the lush green forests and valleys. Sivaraman, a tourist says, “Till now, we assumed Kodaikanal to be the only weekend spot. However, after visiting Meghamalai, we are happy to have found an alternative place to unwind.” If you choose to travel via Chinnamanur, you cannot miss the scenic beauty along the way. “The main attractions include tea estates, forest, dams and water falls. If you are planning a day’s trip, then you can reach by morning and spend the rest of the hours relaxing in waters and scouting for elephants and bisons. If you’re lucky, then you can catch a glimpse of the jumbos quenching their thirst in the water,” adds Sivaraman.

Bird’s eye view
Meghamalai hills are the originating point of river Suruli. Hence, the twin waterfalls located at its course is perennial throughout the year. Karthikeyan, a tourist guide explains, “The tourism officials help tourists get a better view of the wildlife in this area. Due to the presence of water throughout the year, some of the wild animals like the spotted deer and gaur hit the spot frequently during sunrise and sunset.” Apart from the waterfalls and the tea estates, the main attraction of Meghamalai is the Vellimalai (the silver mountain). Vellimalai is 1,650 metres above sea level. “This is the place from where the River Vaigai originates. The hills are also home to six dams, including the Manalar dam from where one can view the Cumbam valley. A weekend of fascinating facts is only a hours away our monotonous life,” adds the excited tourist guide.

A haven for rare species
“Wild animals are spotted near the foothills,” says Kamala Devi, a student who has returned from a recent visit to the hills of Meghamalai. “The hills opens up to a huge expanse of the tea and coffee plantations that is enveloped by the aroma of the spices. But the road narrows down as we approach the top of the hill and paves way for the dense forests that is least disturbed. Also, this place is a perfect spot for bird watching as different species of birds including the great Indian hornbills can be spotted here. The most adventurous part of the tour would be to spot a leopard or a tiger in the area.” An endangered species of squirrel (flying squirrels) are found flying between the trees of the forest. However the major gripe tourists have is that the place lacks hotels for accommodation. Although the Panchayat rest houses and forest lodges can be booked much in advance to secure a perfect stay for an entire family, informs Kamala.
Meghamalai is a place of natural beauty dotted with cardamom plantations and tea estates. With all this and more it’s definitely a perfect weekend spot especially for summer.

Location: on the Western Ghats Hills and around 5000 Ft above sea level

Climate: Very heavy monsoons from June to September. Annual rainfall 270cm.

When to go: Meghamalai is a pleasantly cool and refreshing place to visit at most times of year except monsoon season. During mansoon heavy rains and drizzles and leaches will lock you in the room Winters are cold! And during monsoon days the downpour is steady.

By Air: Madurai airport, about 127 km from Meghamalai, is well connected to all major cities. The nearest international airport is in Chennai. There are daily flights from Chennai, Trichy, Bengaluru and Coimbatore. Taxis can be hired from the airport to get to Madurai. You can also pre-book a cab to travel to Meghamalai.

By Train: Madurai is the nearest railhead which is connected to most cities of India. It takes about seven hours from Chennai to reach Madurai and trains run every day. The fastest train on the route is the Vaigai Express, a super-fast day train between Chennai Egmore and Madurai. You can hire a cab to get to Meghamalai from the railway station in Madurai.

By Roads: The frequency of buses is best in the evening to and from Meghamalai. You will have to change buses to reach Meghamalai from Madurai. You can take a cab or hire a private car from Madurai to reach Meghamalai. The condition of the road is bad and it would be advisable to hire a SUV.