There is nothing quite like monsoons in the mountains and the mighty Western Ghats traversing 1600 kms across the western coast of India from Kerala to Maharashtra is a treasure trove of destinations. Rainforests, hill stations and biodiversity hotspots dot the mountain ranges. While there are several tourist destinations in this Unesco World Heritage site, you can plan a tryst with some of these pristine places this season.
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1. Valparai, Tamil Nadu
Surrounded by a thick layer of mist, Valparai is Tamil Nadu’s little secret tucked away in the Anaimalai Hills near Coimbatore. The journey itself is the destination as you meander through winding hairpin bends with breathtaking landscapes filled with dams and lakes. The slopes are dotted with tropical evergreen rainforests and verdant tea plantations. Gushing waterfalls, murmuring rivers and playful streams give you company as this ‘seventh heaven’ is a biodiversity hotspot with endemic flora and fauna.
Look out for lion tailed macaques, Nilgiri tahr, flying squirrel, Anaimalai frog, the great Indian hornbill besides leopards and elephants that roam in the jungles. The forest floor during monsoons comes alive with ferns and fungi. You can also go on a road trip and cross the border to Kerala where the mighty Athirappilly Falls greet you.
2. Agumbe, Karnataka
A small village tucked away in Malenadu region of Karnataka, Agumbe is known for its sunsets and snakes. The wet and wild rainforests of Agumbe are inundated during the monsoons with heavy rains that it is often dubbed as the Cherrapunjee of the South. While naturalists have been working on rainforest conservation here, several wildlife enthusiasts, trekkers and photographers are attracted to this village. The king cobra is the elusive lord of the jungles here while several endemic birds, reptiles and amphibians live in these forests.
However, Agumbe became popular for its “Akka’s Mane”, a traditional old home where RK Narayan’s Malgudi Days was filmed. Even today the house is a tourist’s delight and you can have a delicious meal or stay with Akka for a night and experience her hospitality. While there are several waterfalls and temples in and around Agumbe, you must visit mystical Sringeri, located on the banks of the River Tunga where Adi Sankaracharya established his mutt.
3. Lonavla, Maharashtra
The charming hill station located between Mumbai and Pune is a monsoon favourite when it comes to travellers and trekkers. Nestled in the Sahyadris, both Lonavla and Khandala transform into picture-perfect postcards painted in shades of green. The mist is a constant companion here. Head to any of the overflowing lakes or dams like Bhushi Dam or Pavna Dam or Tungarli Lake and soak in the monsoon atmosphere.
However for the adventurous, the monsoon experience is magical on a trek around the many rugged Maratha forts that hang precariously from the cliffs. Lohagad Fort and Rajmachi Fort are on every monsoon trekker’s agenda while some brave Visapur and Tikona as well. Bite into delicious vadapavs and crunchy pakoras and let the monsoons purge you.
4. Amboli, Maharashtra
Perched on the Western Ghats on the border of Maharashtra and Goa, Amboli is a romantic hill station in Sindhudurg. Surreal landscapes with breathtaking sceneries transform these ghats into a dream during monsoons. Playful mountain streams cascade into several waterfalls although Nangarta Falls and Amboli Falls are the main tourist sites. There are several temples in and around Amboli. Although Amboli Ghats are ideal for a road trip in the monsoons, trekkers also throng this hill station as there are several routes around the mountains and forests.
5. Chorla Ghats
The Chorla Ghats are Western Ghats’ hidden treasures where nature is at its pristine best, tucked away at the cusp of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa. Rainforests converge around you as you trek in the woods, with waterfalls for company. The forests have several endemic species of flora and fauna including rare varieties of snakes, frogs, birds and butterflies. Chorla Ghats is ideal to just soak in the monsoons as you can just lose yourself in the verdant landscapes.