The town of Kuttikkanam, in the vicinity of Peermede, is a well-known adventure sport destination providing great opportunities for trekking.
Kuttikkanam is at an altitude of 3,850 feet from the sea-level. The beauty of the place, the surrounding lush green hills and the cool clime make it ideal for a tranquil break. Kuttikkanam also offers breathtaking views of the sunrise and sunset. In winter, it gets pretty cold and if you wander too far from your accommodation, you could get lost in the fog.
With many professional colleges and educational institutions coming up in the area, Kuttikkanam is becoming a prominent educational centre in Kerala.
The summer palace at Peermede was built for the Travancore royal family in the early 1900s. Though it is now in a dilapidated condition, many facets of the palace evoke a glorious past.
The smoke-stained hearth, the durbar hall, which would have witnessed many a royal intrigue and discussion, the vast kitchen and dining area, the bed chambers and the endless corridors all tell tales of an opulent time. The palace also has a prison cell and an underground passage. Outside, you will find a huge central courtyard and stables. A caretaker at the palace will show you around the entire building.
Another landmark that has left the mark of the Travancore royalty on Peermede is the Ammachikkottaram ( the Maharani’s palace). Today, this erstwhile summer residence of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bai is private property. The summer residence of the Dewan of Travancore is also nearby.
This hill station is four km from Peermede and a kilomrtre from Kuttikkanam. It is named after the Sufi saint, Peer Mohammed as is Peermede. The view from the top of the hills, which is surrounded by ravines on all sides, of thick greenery and the gushing waterfall of Valanjanganam, is absolutely enchanting.
There is also a partially damaged mausoleum at the foot of the hills that attracts a lot of visitors.
St. George’s CSI church, Pallikkunnu
Pallikkunnu houses one of the oldest churches in the high ranges of Kerala, the St. George’s CSI Church. The church, an architectural marvel in 17 acres of land, was built by Rev. Henry Baker Junior in 1867.
The teakwood beams, majestic arches and the beautiful ceiling stand testimony to Baker’s dedication, eye for beauty and attention to detail. The church, surrounded by cypress and pine trees, also has a beautiful bell tower. Inside, you will see an old and much-used piano. Though it was renovated in 1990, the church still carries an old-world charm that attract a lot of visitors.
During the last decades of the 20th century, Tamil Mass was conducted at the church for a few years, owing to a rapid increase in the number of Tamilians attending the service. The Church Mission Society appointed Nallathampi, a Tamilian, as the clergyman during that time. Mass in English too was conducted for foreigners. Even now, Mass in English is conducted once a month.
Another peculiarity of the church is that it is the resting place for the British planters and other Europeans who came to the area in the 19th and early 20th century. The churchyard carries many stones erected in memory of European planters. A birth and death record is kept at the church which carries the details of many Europeans who settled here during the 19th century.
Eagle Rock or Parunthumpara
Parunthumpara or Eagle Rock is a sheet of rock more than half-a-kilometre in diameter at an altitude of about 3800 ft from the sea level. This large stretch of rock, resembling the head of an eagle, protrudes into the gorge below. It is located about eight km from Peermede and is also called Padanthanpara or sprawling rock.
While travelling from Peermede to Parunthumpara, you can also see a deep gorge on the side of the winding road, which is known as Mathai Kokka. The way to Parunthanpara includes hairpin bends and a meadow with a small deserted temple. From the top of the rock, one can view deep ravines on one side and the silver streak of a waterfall down in the valley. The serene beauty of the place makes it a great spot for meditation.
The place is adjacent to the tribal settlement of Plakkathadam, also known as Grampi. Guided tours to the tribal colony may be arranged.
Amrita Medu is the highest point in Kuttikkanam and the second–highest peak in South India. Anamudi peak is the highest. A trek to the top of Amrita Medu will reward you with a birds’s eye view of the entire Peermede region in all its beauty, vastness and rich greenery.
The hills surrounding Amrita Medu are known as Kokkad Hills. The place is of religious importance to Christians and a lot of Christians gather at Amrita Medu on Good Friday in memory of Christ’s crucifixion.
Pattumala or Silk Mountain is seven km from Peermede, on the way to Thekkady. As the name indicates, the place is a beautiful hill covered in silky green. An early morning walk through this area with a view of the lofty peaks, the green expanses of tea plantations and the gurgling streams is sure to be an exhilarating experience.
Apart from its scenic beauty, Pattumala is famous for a church made entirely of grantite, the Velankanni Matha Church. The church, at the top of the hill, is a well-known pilgrim centre. The history of the church dates back to the 1960s when the Franciscan Missionary Brothers built an ashram or monastery at Pattumala. The Brothers, who worked for the uplift of the people here, brought a statue of Virgin Mary (Velankanni Matha) to Pattumala in the 1980s. The sculpture was blessed in Kottayam and brought to Pattumala in a procession.
In the latter half of the 1980s, the church was renovated. The impressive gothic architecture of the church attracts a lot of connoisseurs too. There is a lofty spire constructed on either side of the façade and arched windows that give the church a charming appearance.
From the church, you can see a nearby flower garden that houses many flowers including the ever-popular roses, anthuriams and orchids. The view, from the church, of the tea plantations and the greenery all around, is astounding. The two major tea plantations at Pattumala are Harrison Malayalam and AV Thomas & Co.
Harrisons Malayalam Limited is South India's largest cultivator of tea and India's largest producer of rubber. The A.V. Thomas Group of companies, popularly known as AVT, is another big player that commenced operations as a plantation company nearly a century back.
Thrisangu Hills, about two km from Kuttikkanam Junction, is used as a firing range by the armed forces. These hills provide an ideal height to enjoy the sunset and sunrise, as well as the rolling hills and the magnificent landscape all around. The mists here are sudden and all engulfing. When the mist lifts, it is as if Mother Nature is revealing a beautiful treasure gradually.
Madammakulam, about two km from Kuttikkanam junction, is a pond under a gushing waterfall in the midst of thick greenery.
During colonial times, the wives of British planters used to come to bathe here and that is how it got its name which translates as ‘Madam’s pond’. The locals were prohibited from using the pond.
A few metres above the waterfalls are two rocks that seem like the breasts of a reposing maiden who is looking up at the sky. Hence, the rocks are named as Irumulachipara. Irumulachipara offers a panoramic view of the valleys and plantations below.
Panchalimedu, about 10 km from Kuttikkanam, is a place of picture postcard beauty at an elevation of 2500 ft from the sea level. Standing on the beautiful meadows of Panchalimedu, one can see green valleys and misty hills all around.
Though Panchalimedu is not an established tourist destination, many tourists arrive every year. The place, a seven km hike from Murinjapuzha on the Kottayam-Kumily route, is worth a visit any time of the year. You can feel the refreshing breeze right at the beginning of the trek. The pathway is flanked by greenery and blooming flowers of various hues, and leads to quietly beautiful meadows. There are many ancient stone relics in the area of Panchalimedu.
During monsoon, the place offers a breathtaking view of hills canopied in verdant green. You can walk through the meadows on the slopes of the hill except for the western side that ends in deep ravine. From Panchalimedu, one can see the Mundakkayam valley as well as the Makaravilakku (the celestial lamp that is set alight during the Makara Sankranthi festival) of the Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Temple amidst thick greenery.
Vallinankavu, a four-km trek away, is a tribal village of the Malayaraya community. A visit to the place will offer you a glimpse into the life of this tribal community. You can also visit the old temple at the village.
Legend and religious significance
Legends say that the five kings of the Pandava dynasty spent some time in these mountains during their exile. The granite edicts seen here are believed to be the remnants of their stay. A cave, about six feet high, houses a huge footprint, believed by the locals to be that of Bhima. Panchali, the wife of the Pandava princes, is said to have used the nearby pond, and hence it is named Panchalikulam or Panchali‘s pond. The pond, which has water even during the dry summer season, attracts a lot of visitors.
In a corner of the hill, there is a small place dedicated to the worship of Goddess Bhuvaneswari. Remnants of a Shiva temple and idols of serpent gods can be seen here. The hill has religious significance to Christians as well and one can find a number of crosses on the slopes of the hill.
Mundakayam, situated about 15 km from Kuttikkanam, is a stopover for tourists on their way to the high ranges. While cardamom, tea and coffee are the plantations of the high ranges, Mundakayam, lying along the foothills, is known for its rubber plantations.
It is the on the border of Idukki and Kottayam districts and is the gateway to the high ranges. River Manimala flows through this plantation town.
Till the 1840s, Mundakayam was hardly known. Rev. Henry Baker Junior of the Church Missionary Society was instrumental in its development. Baker brought the small town into the limelight when he made it the headquarters of his New Hill Mission in Travancore. Another person who contributed to the development of the place is J.J. Murphy, who started commercial production of rubber for the first time in the area, in the early 1900s.
From a sleepy, remote village, Mundakayam has now developed into a prominent commercial centre, one among the list of places whose consumer price indices are published by the Union Labour Ministry of India every year.
Koottikkal, four km from Mundakkayam, has forests, mountain ranges, and an artificial lake created by the check dam of the Manimala river. Nearby is the popular Vadakkemala waterfalls.
Sahyadri Ayurvedic Clinic
The Sahyadri Ayurvedic Clinic, at Pallikkunnu, is a well-known Ayurvedic centre run by the Peermede Development Society. It also has a manufacturing unit for Ayurvedic medicines.
A highlight of the Sahyadri Clinic is its seed and raw drug museum which also gives visitors general information on Ayurveda, Kerala’s traditional healthcare system. More than 100 varieties of rare and endangered herbs are preserved here.
The centre also has a sprawling garden of about 35 acres with more than 400 medicinal plants. With prior permission, guests can visit the herb garden as well as the drug manufacturing unit where various herbal ingredients are processed to make drugs and decoctions.