Vintage Pathimoonu Kannara Bridge: Colonial Charm of the Indian Railways - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Vintage Pathimoonu Kannara Bridge: Colonial Charm of the Indian Railways

The beautiful railway bridges near Punalur, Kerala

It is a colonial era bridge that was the first of its kind in South India and connected the then Travancore kingdom with the Pandya land of Tamil Nadu. This 13 arch stone and concrete bridge is a 120 year old architectural marvel. It was made out of stone, wood and limestone mortar when this bridge used to support a meter gauge. Today, it has been strengthened with stone and concrete to support a broad gauge line. This bridge that is a part of the lesser known mountain railways of Kerala is a treat for nature lovers. Many movies have been shot here. Katradhu Tamil, Jayam, Vettam and Megham to name a few. I am talking about the Pathimoonu Kannara bridge or the the 13 arch bridge at Kazhathurithi that is a part of one of India’s oldest mountain rail lines.

13 Arch Aryankavu Railway Viaduct - one of the oldest mountain railway bridges of India

Running parallel to the Kallada river and the Kollam – Sengottai road highway, the vintage pathimoonu kannara bridge (13 arch bridge) is a sight to behold. Standing on 13 granite pillars that is almost a hundred feet tall, this bridge is 337 meters long and is surrounded by tall mountains and lush greenery. On either side of the bridge are dark tunnels that have been cut through the Western Ghat mountains. In fact, most of the Kollam – Sengottai rail line is famous for its tunnels. The longest one on this route is the 892 meter long Aryankavu tunnel, one of the longest railway tunnels in Kerala. It connects the Aryankavu railway station in Kerala with Bhagavathipuram railway station in Tamil Nadu.

Photographing the scenic mountain railways of Kerala near Punalur

This railway line and the 13 arch bridge was conceived by the Maharaja Uthram Thirunal of Travancore and constructed by the British in the foothills of the Western Ghats to transport forest products, spices and cashew from Kollam to Chennai. This route was once the lifeline for the people of South Kerala and South Tamil Nadu. It supported the plantation economy in this region. Today, this 13 arch bridge, the umpteen tunnels and this mountain railway line is a treat for nature lovers. On one end is the herbal waterfalls of Courtrallam, the forest waterfall of Palaruvi, Thenmala forest and on the other end is the backwaters and beaches of Kollam. In total, it makes for a fabulous weekend trip in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Aryankavu 13 arch railway viaduct and the Kallada River, Kerala

There is a flight of steps that allow you to climb to the top of the bridge. These steps are primarily kept for maintenance purposes, but tourists are generally allowed to climb up during the dry season. During the rains, the steps get slippery with moss and water and hence it is closed. If you climb up to the bridge, you can enjoy the spectacular vista of the Kallada river and the Western Ghat forests and mountains and you can also take a sneak peek into the tunnels. Do remember to keep an eye out for the trains plying on this route.

So, if you happen to be in India’s deep south in either Kerala or Tamil Nadu, do remember to drop by this vintage 13 arch bridge and soak in the colonial charm of the Indian Railways.

One of the many tunnels in the scenic mountain railway route of India's deep south

Best season to visit:

The pathimoonu kannara bridge is open all year round, but it looks the prettiest during the rains and right after the rains (June to December). If you wish to climb to the top of the bridge, opt for the dry months between January and May.

How to reach there:

The best way to explore this bridge and this route is to take the Kollam – Sengottai passenger trains that ply every day. You can stop at any of the stops enroute, do your exploration and then take the next train to your other destination.

There are also regular buses that ply between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Most of these buses stop at all the stops, though frequency of buses might vary during the day or night.

The most flexible way to explore this route is to have your own vehicle. It will allow you the comfort of spending more time at the location of your choice. Cars, motorcycles and cycles are all equally good choices on this mountain route. Each offer different benefits.

The scenic railway ride in India's deep south - Thenmala to Punalur, Kerala

Where to stay:

If you like to stay within forests, opt for the forest guest houses located inside Thenmala forest.

If you like properties surrounded by paddyfields and mountains, you should look at the resorts in and around Courtrallam.

If you wish to stay within traditional Tamil Brahmin agraharams, opt for the home stays and guest houses in the villages of Kallidaikurichi and Sengottai.

If you wish for luxury properties, do look at the ones in Thiruvanathapuram and Kollam.

The tunnels of Kerala mountain railways, India

Where to eat:

There are some places to eat near Thenmala forest eco tourism center, but the food options would be basic. If you wish to find better quality restaurants, you might need to go to Tenkasi in Tamil Nadu, Punalur, Kollam or Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala depending on the direction you are heading.

13 arch Aryankavu Railway Viaduct Bridge, Kerala

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Courtrallam: The herbal bath holiday destination of Tamil Nadu

2) Kasi Visvanathar Temple: 13th century temple located at Tenkasi that is famous for its large gopurams

3) Aryankavu Saastha Temple: Famous temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa

4) Thenmala Forest and Palaruvi Falls: Offbeat nature and wildlife getaway

5) Punalur suspension bridge: Historical gem of Kerala

6) Ponmudi: The offbeat hill station of Kerala with a a 360 degree panorama

7) Kappil beach: Sandy beauty hemmed in between the sea and the backwaters

8) Varkala beach: Stunning cliff beach of Kerala where you can wash away all your sins

9) Papanasanathar Temple: 1000 year old temple by the river Thamirabharani where you can wash away all your sins

10) Sivasailam Temple: 1000 year old temple surrounded by the lush mountains of the Western Ghats

11) Mannarkoil Rajagopalaswamy Temple: Magnificent 10th century temple with an ashtanga vimana

12) Kallidaikurichi: The village of the Saaral season

13) Iruttu Kadai Halwa: Icon of Tirunelveli

14) Nellaiappar Temple: A 7th century cosmic dance wonder

15) Pattamadai Pai: GI tagged beautiful handwoven mats from a tiny Tamil Nadu village

16) Thamirabharani river delta: A motorcycle route full of rustic gorgeousness

17) Karaiyar Dam: Offbeat wildlife and nature holiday destination in India’s deep south

18) The hidden gem called Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

19) Tiruchendur Murugan Temple: Sea shore magic

20) 10th century Kailsanathar temple at Brahmadesam

21) 10th century Valiswara temple at Thiruvalisvaram

22) Kallidaikurichi to Manimuthar Dam: A top scenic and rustic cycling route

23) Garuda Sevai from the agraharams of Kallidaikurichi

24) The festival of Karthigai Deepam from a traditional Tamil Nadu village

25) Cycling through the backyards of Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

26) Manjolai: The offbeat hill station of Tamil Nadu

27) Kudrevetty: The remote and windy hill station of Tamil Nadu

28) Manimuthar Falls: A great forest waterfall

29) Agastyar Falls: A gorgeous waterfall on the Thamirabharani river

30) The exotic fruit shops of Puliyarai

31) Thenmala Dam: A monsoon pit stop view

Welcome to BE ON THE ROAD Travel Blog! I am Sankara, its founder, a 40 something male from Bangalore who is living his dream of exploring the world and simultaneously trying to inspire others to live their dream.
Wanna live your dream? Find Some inspiration here!
Wanna know more about me?
Track blog updates from facebook and/or twitter!

Logo Credits : Jobi T Chacko. UI/UX Credits : Murugan S Thirumalai
Copyright © 2009-2024 Sankara Subramanian C (
Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. All Rights Reserved

Join the Travel Club for FREE!!
and every fortnight get in your inbox...interesting experiential and off-beat travel stories , destination guides, handy tips (travel, photography and visa) based on personal experience, global vegetarian delights with helpful survival guides and gorgeous world travel images and videos as I (the Indian traveler) trot the globe! And a lot of other travel invites and soon to be launched goodies !

* indicates required