Lush green tea gardens, dense forests, brooks, waterfalls, and a road with 40 hairpin bends! It is Valparai, a charming hill station in the Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu. Nestled in the Anaimalai Range of the Western Ghats that run parallel to the west coast of India, Valparai is an offbeat tourism destination because of its natural scenic beauty, waterfalls, British-era bungalows, tea and coffee estates, biodiversity, and an association with football.
About 64 km from Pollachi and 102 km from Coimbatore, Valparai is a pollution-free hill station, which is 3,474 feet (1,059 m) above sea level.
To reach Valparai from Pollachi, one has to take the Valparai Ghat Road with 40 steep, hairpin bends, which make the journey both mesmerizing and memorable.
The road was constructed by the Forest Department of Tamil Nadu.
Valparai, earlier known as Poonachimalai, is home to 56 sprawling tea and coffee estates that carpet the hills and offer picturesque landscapes. For tea lovers, the place has options to take guided tours to tea factories and witness the tea-making process. There are trekking facilities for trekkers as well.
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For nature lovers, Valparai has many waterfalls including the Monkey Waterfall and Chinna Kallar Falls besides Sholayar Dam and Nirar Dam. They provide breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and are ideal spots for nature enthusiasts.
Valparai’s Nallamudi View Point, amid expansive tea plantations, offers panoramic views of the Anamudi Peak, the highest in South India.
History of Valparai
Valparai’s recorded history begins in 1846 when K Ramasamy Mudaliyar started a coffee plantation here. In 1864, the Karnatic Coffee Company also began their coffee plantation here but sold part of their land as it remained a loss-making venture.
The British soldiers built roads and guest houses in Valaparai in 1875 for the visit of England's Prince of Wales. While the visit was eventually cancelled, the roads helped make the place more accessible. In 1890, two Britishers, W Wintil and Nordan bought land in Valparai from the Madras State Government under the British Raj. Wintil deforested the area to plant tea and coffee.
Carwer Marsh, an experienced planter, helped Wintil in the cultivation of tea and coffee.
Carwer, for his dedication to work and the hills, is known as the Father of Annamalai. Kavarkal Estate is dedicated to Carwer, and his statue has been erected there.
After Wintil’s plantation, Valparai started attracting others and now there are 56 tea and coffee estates in the area.
The hill station boasts a few vintage and heritage British-era bungalows and wooden chalets that harken back to the colonial period. These bungalows have spacious rooms and gardens set amid tea or coffee plantations. They also have antique furniture, and the architecture reflects the colonial influence of the British era.
Another must-visit place in Valaparai is the Balaji Temple, about 10 km from the Valparai Bus Station. A private temple inside Karumalai Tea Estate, it is one of the most beautiful and the most visited tourist places in the hill station. The statue of Lord Balaji, also known as Lord Venkateshwara, in the sanctum is made of pure gold. The idol and pujas performed here resemble that of the Tirupathi Balaji Temple.
Adjacent to Valparai is the Anaimalai Tiger Reserve, earlier known as Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park and Anaimalai Wildlife Sanctuary. It is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna including elephants, tigers, leopards, Nilgiri Tahr (an endemic wild ungulate), lion-tailed macaque, barking deer, wild boar, and the common langur among others. Valparai is also a great place for bird-watching.
The Great Hornbill, the Malabar Pied Hornbill and the Grey Malabar Hornbill are regularly seen here. One can opt for safari tours to explore the sanctuary.
Valparai is also well-known for its association with football. The town hosts a popular state-level annual football tournament known as the Valparai Trophy. The tournament attracts teams from various regions of Tamil Nadu, adding to the town's sporting heritage.
With a pleasant climate during most of the year, Valparai is an untouched tourism destination where tourists can enjoy trekking, sightseeing, tea tasting and a host of other activities. More pictures here: