The fragrant hills of Sugandhagiri in Vythiri are truly an enchanting place which offers unending sights of beautiful nature. Though the cardamom plantations, which the hills were once famous for, are no more, the place still exudes an impeccable charm. Sugandhagiri would unleash its magical beauty to the ones who passionately seek it.
The main entrance to Sugandhagiri is near the 12th bridge on the Vythiri–Tharuvana road, which was built during the time of Tipu's Sultan's expedition. The valleys, which once belonged to Kottayam Thampuran, a feudal lord, were taken over by the government as forest land. It is said that the British reached here during the first few decades of the 18th century. The remnants of the structures, believed to have been built during the British era, can still be seen scattered around at many places.
Later, to ensure a safe livelihood for the tribal community in the region, the Cooperative Farming Act of 1976 was passed. Cardamom was mainly grown at the hills and estates were developed. Plots were allotted for the members of the cooperative society to build houses and develop farms. Though the area which is spread over 3000 hectares has human settlements now, it remains a forest area.
The magical caves
A feast of mesmerizing sights begins at the entrance of Sugandhagiri from the main road. Amba, Anpathekkar, Plantation, Vrindavan, and 1–7 units as per the divisions made when the area existed as a plantation estate are the main places of attraction.
Huge trees and the mud paths which meander through it are common sights here. The lush greenery, misty mountains, pristine rivulets, and brooks truly capture the minds of the visitors. The mystical caves in Amba are a unique feature which are equally amazing and intriguing. There are many such caves on the sides of the mud path, and most of them appear as huge burrows from the outside. However, it is said that they are as high as a person, and people can even walk a few meters into it.
There is a huge cave near the school in Amba. It would be quite an adventurous task to get into that cave which lies close to a giant tree. Once inside, it is easy to walk around and enjoy its charm. The well-carved and smoothed cave walls are really awe inspiring. However, most of these beautiful caves are on the verge of ruin as they are not protected by the authorities. Some caves have become dumping sites of waste materials and others are half closed due to mud slides. Scientific studies or researches have not yet been conducted about these exquisite caves which may even date back to centuries ago.
The forest path from here leads to the beautiful Vannathipuzha River. The water which meanders through the rocky hills will excite the adventure enthusiasts and the nature lovers alike. The cascading waterfalls are alluring and it would feel amazing to take a dip in the cool waters of it. The remains of the check dam constructed by the British can still be found in the river. Structures like these have amazed many, and how it was possible to build these in the middle of the dense forests remains a mystery.
Pamban rock and Thookku rock
Though the visitors are able to get a glimpse of the Thookku rock from Amba, one has to trek through the woods for at least 6 km to reach Pamban rock. The thookku (hanging) rock is a set of rocks which look as if it may fall off any time and are flimsily hanging in the air. One has to walk through the dense forest paths, cross the rivulets and climb steep rocks to reach here. This place, in fact, is one of the highest points in the Wayanadu district and the enchanting beauty of the Thamarasserry mountain pass and the surrounding valleys could be enjoyed in all its glory from this point.
The Pampan rocks resemble the anatomy of a giant snake while slithering. It is said that there are many ancient artefacts on the top of this rock including swords made with stone. Small yet rare living organisms can be abundantly found in this place. A trip to the Sugandhagiri hills would truly be a treat to the adventurous ones.
Lack of facilities
The authorities have turned a blind eye towards this incredibly beautiful place which has historical significance and also is home to unique biodiversity. The lush green forests and the historically and archaeologically important sites are not protected. Besides, appropriate studies and researches too have to be conducted to know more about the social, cultural and environmental significant of this place.
Nature lovers and archaeology enthusiasts say that proper research should be done to discover who may have built the caves or about the various measures to be taken to protect these. Experts suggest that the area could be turned into a tourism hot spot if adventure/trekking trips are arranged to the place. It could potentially give an impetus to the tourism development of the district if the forest department, by coordinating with other departments, could make the necessary arrangements here.
How to reach
Though there are a number of routes which would lead to this enchanting place, the path near the 12th bridge at the Vythiri–Tharuvana road is considered as the main entrance to Sugandhagiri. From Vythri, one has to travel in the vehicle for almost 12 kilometres. There are places where one can only walk or trek, and these sure would excite the adventure buffs.