No, if you stand in my backyard you cannot see any hills, but I like to believe that they are in my backyard because these gentle rolling hills and meadows are just about an hour’s drive from my home.
Vagamon, is a hill station in the Idukki district of Kerala. It is about 60 kilometers from Kottayam town. It is not one of those places filled with tourists and resorts but is filled with everything a nature lover would want.
The perfect time to visit this place is after the rains, when small cascades come to life and the rocks are carpeted by light green grass, and just when you think this place cannot look more beautiful is when the mist arrives, first blanketing the mountains and then floating into the road. Driving through the mist feels like driving through clouds, almost like a dream.
I am not a great fan of cows on the road but in Vagamon, it feels the picture would be incomplete without them. Cows roaming the roads across lovely green meadows, silver oaks towering amidst tea gardens and streams and rivulets decorating the landscape. It looks like a place straight out of a postcard.
There is a beautiful little chapel and a monastery on top of a hill called Kurusumala. ‘kurusu’ in Malayalam means Cross and ‘mala’ translates to mountain. The 14 Stations of the Cross can be found along the path leading to the top of the hill making it an important pilgrim centre during the Holy week. The monastery houses priests belonging to the Cistercian order of the Syro-Malankara Catholic church of Kerala.
Visitors are not encouraged to visit this monastery, unless you obtain prior permission, however, people are allowed to go to the chapel to pray. The hike up the hill is absolutely worth it. A narrow tarred road winds its way up through verdant meadows on either side. When you reach the top, set in the midst of pink bougainvilleas, is the little chapel. The priests also have a cattle farm, which used to be open to visitors but now closed.
There are other meadows that are open to public and they will remind you of scenes from the ‘Sound of Music’. If you feel like having an aerial view of all that beauty, paragliding would be the ideal choice. Paragliding season begins in September and goes on till Jan and then from March to May. Paragliders from around the world meet in September for an annual event.
For those of you would like to be surrounded by tall conifers, there is a pine forest in the area. Beware of leeches in the monsoon season and the place will be filled with many local visitors. However, the pine forests are large and wide and have enough room for all.
There are many tiny shops selling snacks and hot and cold beverages in the area. When the steam from your hot tea rises in the middle of mist covered meadows, you will be happy that you chose to explore the hills in my backyard.
PS – There are a few resorts for those who wish to stay in Vagamon.