Kalyanathandu is an unexplored destination that can quench the wanderlust of a traveller, at least temporarily. Mostly familiar only to the natives and to the tourists treading off-beat routes, this hidden treasure is yet to figure on the Kerala tourism itineraries. Also known as Calvary Mount, Kalyanathandu is a viewpoint in the Idukki district of Kerala, and gives a panoramic view of the Idukki reservoir and its surroundings, from about a height of 200 meters above the reservoir. I was guided to this location by a native adventurer friend of mine.
The mossy green slopes set against the backdrop of the bright blue sky, the endless stretches of the reservoir, the spectacular scenery surrounding the mountains, the meandering, placid, sparkling blue waters of the catchments of Idukki Dam, and the picturesque little islets of the reservoir that are seen when the water level dips—Kalyanathandu is a picture perfect postcard with its surrealistic beauty and blissful ambience, making one literally wonder, “Seriously, how did I make it to heaven?”
Kalyanathandu is located near to SH33, on the Cheruthoni–Kattappana route, in Idukki district. About a couple of kilometres from Calvary Mount junction on the state highway, towards Cheruthoni direction, a deviation to the left takes you to Kalyanathandu. This serpentine path has a steep climb, adding to a trekker’s delight, and one needs to ascend it to reach the viewpoint. Now here is the deal for the adventurers—this road is paved only half the way. The rest is a steep and very rugged path. For the non-adventurer, it is preferable to hike this rough terrain on foot. Adventurers, confident in their driving skills, can try driving this trickier terrain to the summit in a 4WD, SUV or a vehicle with high ground clearance, and even on motorbikes, although in monsoons, chances of the vehicle skidding or getting stuck are pretty much higher.
Once you reach the top, the entrancing surroundings beckon you. Wooden crosses can be seen here, and this place is frequented by the Christian pilgrims during the lent period and on Good Friday, hence the name Calvary Mount. Magnificent views of the Idukki reservoir caught from this view point leaves one breathless. Sometimes, particularly in the cooler months, dense mists blanket the landscape, making a bewitching vista out of Kalyanathandu. However, the rustling breeze unveils the misty Kalyanathandu in the very next instant, revealing yet another angle of her marvellous beauty. One moment in Kalyanathandu is just never the same as the next, and thereby serving as an ideal retreat for the photographer and a nature lover.
At a distance, the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary and Idukki Dam can be seen. The reservoir is bordered by the sanctuary and tea plantations, on the fringes. Down the hill, on the other side, one can see the lush dark forest, which is a protected area under the forestry department. Remnants of tribal villages and huts that inhabited the place once is said to be still here. If lucky, one can spot elephant herds down the hills, and their swimming sessions in the lake. Since Kalyanathandu is a less frequented tourist destination, the place is almost always bereft of much populace, and is an ideal point of tranquillity.
Another off-beat attraction nearby is the Anchuruli tunnel and waterfalls. One can cover this after a visit to Kalyanathandu. Situated along the same state highway, the place got its name from the five hillocks seen on the water that appears like five inverted vessels, when the water level goes low. Anchuruli has a large circular tunnel through the mountain, which connects Erattayar and Anchuruli. The water from the Erattayar River, flows through this tunnel and transforms into a spectacular waterfall, particularly during the monsoons. During summers, when there is less water flowing, the adventurer in you can walk through the tunnel.
•Calvary Mount is located about 12km from Cheruthoni on SH33, 15km from Kattappana as well as from Painavu, and 6km from the Idukki Dam Township. Buses ply from Idukki and Kattappana, and one can alight at the 10th mile or the Calvary Mount junction, and can walk from there to the Kalyanathandu view point. If driving to the view point, take a deviation after about a kilometre from the junction towards Cheruthoni side.
•Kalyanathandu is an idyllic scenic spot for a good couple of hours, and the place, including Anchuruli, can be covered in one day. These places can also be covered as a part of Idukki or Thekkady tourism.
•Anchuruli is located about 20km from Calvary Mount, towards the Kattappana route.
•No food and accommodation options are available at these places. The nearest towns are Painavu, Cheruthoni and Kattappana.
•Since the terrain to Kalyanathandu is very rough, do not drive it out if it seems risky, since once the drive gets started all the way up, there is no way one can back out midway.
•Kalyanathandu is good to visit any time of the year, although in monsoons, traversing the rugged road might get very tough (if driving), and getting unobstructed views of the reservoir and the landscape might be difficult.
(The author is a freelance writer and a travel blogger, and authors the blog, 'The Road Less Travelled')