How to plan your dream Neelakurinji holiday? FAQ and Tips! - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Monday, October 01, 2018

How to plan your dream Neelakurinji holiday? FAQ and Tips!

The boys have finally chased the Neelakurinji and this is at a place of a mass bloom

Ever since we returned from our dream Neelakurinji holiday, my friends and I have been bombarded with questions on this rare flower, where to see it, how long it will stay like this, does it require trekking and so on and so forth. As much as we love to connect with people, I think it becomes pretty difficult to keep answering the same questions. Hence, I have prepared this detailed guide to help you plan your dream Neelakurinji holiday.

What NOT TO DO on your Neelakurinji holiday?

Picking up trash thrown by tourists at a Neelakurinji mass bloom site

Neelakurinji is found in a very fragile ecosystem in the Western Ghats. Hence, it is up to us to take care of it and ensure that it continues to bloom for the future generations to come. During our treks, we found cigarette buds, plastic water bottles, chocolate, biscuit and chip packet wrappers, beer bottles and many other things that should have never been brought to this ecosystem in the first place. I know that I am doing a disservice to mother nature by providing this detailed guide on the internet, but I hope you will help me offset the damage by promising to keep your Neelakurinji trips eco-friendly and if you can, do return with any trash that you find during your treks and flower visits. And most importantly, please do not stamp on the Neelakurinji plants or pluck the flowers. Both the plant and the flower are required for it to bloom again in the years to come. And a lot of bees and butterflies need the flowers to make their food and to do their pollination work. Also, the Neelakurinji only grows in the Western Ghats ecosystem between 1600 m to about 2400m, so don’t even bother to pluck the plant from the roots in a bid to plant it in your garden. The entire effort will be a big failure.

How long will the flowers continue to bloom?    
On a trekking trail near Vattavada to spot the Neelakurinji

If there are not much rains, the flowers should hold good till the 2nd or 3rd or may be even the 4th week of October. In rain shadow regions, where the flowers bloomed earlier, it might be on its way out. In the other regions, especially in Kerala, the flowers should hold good all through October. The first two weeks of October would be a great time to see the mass bloom, especially at places such as the Eravikulam National Park.

Where can I see these flowers?

Close up of the Neelakurinji flower

You can see the Neelakurinji flowers at a wide array of locations. These are the ones where I have seen them or where my friends have seen them:

1) Yellapatty, Kerala

2) Vattavada, Kerala

The Nilgiri Tahr and the Neelakurinji at Eravikulam National Park, Munnar

3) Eravikulam National Park, Kerala

4) Marayoor, Kerala

5) Kanthaloor, Kerala

The rolling Neelakurinji hills

6) Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

7) Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu

The Neelakurinji flowers and the gorgeous view of the Western Ghats

8) Thadiyendamol, Coorg, Karnataka

A green shola forest view

9) Pampadum Shola National Park, Kerala

10) Anaimudi Shola National Park, Kerala

11) Kurinji Mala Sanctuary, Kerala   
Which is the area of mass bloom?

One of the largest Neelakurinji bloom locations of 2018

I saw the best blooms near Yellapatty, Kollukumalai and Meesaipulimalai, the adjoining hills are also mass bloom locations. Eravikulam National Park is also a mass bloom location, but due to the recent Kerala floods, the blooms are lesser than the last time. Kanthaloor is also a good option. For photographers, I would totally recommend the Yellapatty location.

Is it safe to travel to Kerala?

Admiring the Neelakurinji mountain view

Yes. Kerala is well and truly back on track. The roads are back and all the hotels and people are ready to welcome you. The bright sunny weather has helped with the super quick bounce back.
What kind of permissions are required?

The blue Neelakurinji flowers right after a brief spell of rain

Most of the Neelakurinji blooms can be found on forest land or inside private properties where they border forest land. So, be prepared for some kind of permits. For Eravikulam National Park, Pampadum National Park, Anaimudi Shola National Park and Kurinji mala sanctuary, do go through Munnar wildlife forest department. For private places, do approach your hotel travel desk or local travel agents to help you arrange for permits, guides and any last mile logistics. If you do not wish to go through anyone, do strike conversations with locals to see if any Neelakurinji is blooming near their village, but this option is not much recommended unless you have a lot of time at hand.
Do I need to trek or walk to see the flowers?

The steep climb to reach the top of the Neelakurinji mountain

The mass bloom at Yellapatty certainly requires you to trek (about 4 kms and a lot of steep terrain). At Eravikulam National Park, you will have to walk a 1 km stretch of road (not too steep though). At meesaipullimalli, kolukkumalai and inside Pampadum Shola National Park, you will certainly have to walk a good bit to catch a sight of the Neelakurinji blooms. At many other places, do be prepared to walk at least a bit. However, there are places where you see the Neelakurinji right next to the roads. These are small roads in and around Vattavada and Pazha Thotthum and between Marayoor and Kanthaloor.
Which place can I make my base?

The Neelakurinji special moment

If luxury is your thing, Munnar is the best option. And if you are looking for a luxurious plantation holiday, I would recommend Windermere Estate, that is located just above the Munnar town at Pothamedu. This is where I stayed for 3 nights and I totally enjoyed their service and hospitality. Detailed property review to come soon.

The Neelakurinji slope and the tea estates

If you want the best of nature, I would recommend staying inside the forests and national parks. Munnar Wildlife department offers simple, yet extremely scenic cottages and forest bungalows inside Eravikulam National Park, Pampadum Shola National Park, Anaimudi Shola National Park and Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. All bookings can be made online at Munnar Wildlife website. This option is ideal for nature and wildlife enthusiasts and not for people who are looking for barbecues, camp fires, late night parties and lots of nightlife.

If you wish to stay in tents that are located right beside the Neelakurinji blooms, look up the Cloud Farm camping site at Yellapatty. Do refrain from smoking, drinking, trashing and any other activity that will cause damage to this fragile ecosystem. This camping site is located right next to forest land and hence this request.

Admiring the Neelakurinji photos while sitting amidst one of the largest blooms of 2018

If you are looking for authentic homestays, I would recommend staying in properties located on the Marayoor – Kanthaloor road or the Yellapatty – Vattavada road. These places enjoy great location, are totally away from the tourist circuit, are real close to the Neelakurinji blooms and can be booked easily via Airbnb or directly through the homestay websites.

Which is the best route?

Waterfall amidst the forests - enroute to Munnar from Marayoor

I would recommend the scenic Udumalpet – Munnar forest highway if you are traveling by road from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad or any other place in Tamil Nadu. For people traveling from Kerala, take the Kochi- Munnar mountain highway or the smaller highway from Idukki.

Which is the nearest airport?

The scenic motorcycle ride through Vattavada while looking for the Neelakurinji flower

Kochi and Coimbatore would be the nearest airports. 
Any words of advice?

The Neelakurinji mass bloom at Yellapatty, Kerala

Do remember to carry the following items with you:

1) A good camera to capture a once in a 12 year moment

The year of the Neelakurinji - 2018

2) A good pair of walking shoes to keep you comfortable

3) Sunscreen, a good pair of sunglasses and may be a wide brimmed hat to protect you from the mountain sun

The land of the tea estates

4) A bottle of water to stay hydrated during your walks

5) A rain jacket to keep you dry from the unpredictable mountain weather. This can also come in handy for those chilly evenings and mornings. You can also carry separate warm wear, if you wish.

The totally surreal Neelakurinji view - you just don't want to leave this place

You might encounter leeches during your forest walks. Walk fast and keep your emotions in check, else you might not be able to enjoy the Neelakurinji bloom the way you want to.

The Neelakurinji flowers and the beautiful view that they enjoy

Again, the Neelakurinji grows in a very fragile ecosystem that is full of amazing flora, fauna, shola forests and rolling hills. Hence, it is our responsibility to take care of this ecosystem. I hope you enjoy your dream Neelakurinji holiday. I certainly did and I would definitely recommend it to everyone!

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