The picturesque hill town of Vagamon is gaining popularity among tourist for the accessibility to major towns and transport hubs, sleepy nature, beautiful weather and the lack of the effects of heavy tourism in the location. Situated in the descends of the western slopes of Western Ghats along the borders of Idukki and Kottayam districts. The town was not known to the outside world, blocked off by the fear of hard terrain and wild animals till the early century when the British missionaries found their way in. What were grasslands and forests where having the ideal conditions for growing Tea, an expensive commodity in the British books. The strategic location has attracted fortune seekers and spiritualists to this hill town in search of tranquillity. There are enough attractions in the area to spend and explore over a weekend or as day trips to keep coming back for more.
Vagamon is located at an altitude over 1100 meters in the wind direction of the Western Ghats. The geography is high inaccessible terrain that slowly descends to the plains of Western Ghats. This uniqueness add to the heavy down pour received during the monsoon months ,which is reflected in the trees and plants that grow here though a lot of it is lost over the years as clearings in the name of agriculture. The constantly washed off top soil inhibits the growth of big species of trees and the region Is meadows of rolling grass hills that might remind of ‘Scotland’, the comparison often made by travellers.
Vagamon was well hidden from the outside world until the arrival of British who in an effort to secure more fertile lands for their cash crop cultivation where interested in the interior high lands away from the sea coastal competition. The original inhabitants of these regions were tribals who lived worshipping the nature gods and causing little or no harm to nature in their way of life which was mainly that of a hunter gatherer and migrating farmer.
When the British arrived they used the tribals to clear the forest for the cultivation of cash crops such as tea, coffee, rubber and spices which fetched great prices in the European market. This greatly contributed in the demise of local species of plant and animals due to exploitation.
Getting to Vagamon
Vagamon is well connected to the rest of Kerala though the driving conditions can get a bit testing in the monsoon months and late nights.
The location can be reached from multiple directions in the coast making it a ideal run around trip from the coastal plains.
The nearest Airport would be Cochin International Airport at 100 km and the nearest Railway station in Kottayam at 65km.
Vagamon is also the gate way to the high range area of Idukki district as it shares the district border with Kottayam.
Vagamon have a year around pleasant climate averaging between 10 to 25 degree with the coldest months being in the winter and post monsoon months.
The summer months are ideal for activities for people with the right temperature as the monsoon and winter months can be a little bit testing of your health and throw in a bad surprise. The least preferred month is the monsoon as the slippery and less visibility makes it tough to carry out any outdoor activity and makes it tough to enjoy the views or visit places of interest.
Attractions in Vagamon – Sightseeing Places – Top Places to Visit
There are plenty of places to lose yourself in nature if you are a lover of outdoors. The place boasts of unmatched natural beauty quite unique to the mountains with that feel of European county.
- Pine Forests
Pine is alien to the Western Ghats and was introduced by the British for meeting needs of timber and firewood and their ability to prohibit under growth thus reducing maintenance of cleared lands. Though an invasive species the pine trees have managed to blend in and match the landscape and its progress to a local attraction. A walk along the forests and a picnic by the fringes of pine forests is popular ways to enjoy them.
- Meadows of Vagamon
The rolling hills of Vagamon as mentioned does remind one of Europe and is a sight to watch as there is no such a landscape in Kerala. The stroll along these hills are not intense as mountaineering yet rewarding with the best views with a treat of a lake in the middle which is often picked as a destination for the walk by the tourist.
Monsoon blessed Vagamon is not short of waterfalls, especially right after the monsoon months but there is a predominant one in the village only 2 km away that is perennial and gorgeous with a view from the Pine forests and other locations.
- Moopan Para viewpoint
This funny shaped canyon in Vagamon with a beautiful view of the meadows from the top is a popular view point. It’s named after the word Moopan- meaning leader in tribal language. It surely is a point not to be missed when visiting as the trek is not treacherous and pretty much suits all age groups.
- Tea gardens of Vagamon
Like most of the hill stations in Kerala, Tea dominates the agriculture and is all around you. Though it is a beautiful sight the truth of destruction caused to nature for the same is heart breaking. But its they’re everywhere and the well -manicured Tea gardens are a sight to watch as they go on well with the rolling meadows of Vagamon.
Spirituality in Vagamon
The spirituality in Vagamon goes back to the times of the missionaries and though time is not available other religions too established themselves with shrines or spirituals not too far from each other which is a striking example of religious harmony. The 3 hills claimed by different religions tolerate and respect the other a sight only to be seen in Kerala.
Murugan hill in Vagamon have an old rock shrine cut from a single rock. Believed to be made sometime in the stone age ,the shrine is known for the natural cut path with resting spots, the unique architect and the view of the whole valley of Vagamon from the top. The annual temple festival attracts huge gathering of pilgrims from all corners and is a busy matter. The ideal time would possibly be to visit in the quieter months. This is must visit while in Vagamon.
Thangal mala adjacent to Murugan hill is a place of religious importance. A Sufi saint named Sheikh Fariduddin from Afghanistan is believed to have lived and dead here and his tomb is a part of worship to Muslims. A decent walk takes to the top with a moderate view of the valley below and is good enough for anyone young or old.
Another place of religious significance and spirituality in the heart of Vagamon is a beautiful church. The beautiful sight is enough to cleanse you spiritually and the ashram goes back to the 1950s when it was established. Here established is the first Pentecostal mission
This is the residence of former Padmasri winning architect Laurie Baker, renowned for low cost affordable homes build in harmony with nature. He had great contribution towards the building up of infrastructure for the poor and other communal amenities. His former residence is now a point of attraction both for the architecture and the information provided there.
Adventure activity in Vagamon – Things to do in Vagamon
Paragliding festival- Every year thousands from around the world flock to Vagamon to compete and watch the world paragliding grand prix, an initiative by the government and paragliding club in an effort to attracts tourist and place Vagamon in the map as an adventure destination. The location is ideal for the sport with the barren grasslands, rolling hills and perfect wind in the right months. The event runs after the monsoon and has carved itself a slot in the adventure tourism map.
The festival gives everyone an opportunity to try hands on the adventure and also watch the flying colours in the sky adding to the magic of landscape.
Vagamon fantastic trekking opportunity for trekking with locations like Moonlight hill being one of the favourites of trekking groups. The place is also safe to trek in small groups and there are enough facilities to find the same for larger groups. The treks are a mix of hard stony mountains as you progress and small grassland meadows enroute. Some of the places do require a permission taken in advance for the safety of trekkers and preservation of the wildlife.
Mountaineering and Rock climbing
Though Mountaineering and rock climbing tourists are a occasional sight in the season the activity more or less stays restricted to the Europeans and there is a lack of expertise to offer the services for the domestic crowd though the conditions here are ideal for the same.
This is a sport that’s looked forward to in the recent future along with the paragliding festival.
Nearest places of Attraction
Vagamon being located in Idukki district gives it a great advantage of being In the middle of many locations within a few hours’ drive. In fact the tourists are spoiled with choices for the location to choose from waterfall to high ranges or meadows or more. Peermadu,Periyar wildlife reserve, Gavi and Munnar are some of the popular tourist destination in the driving range of Vagamon.
Flora and Fauna in Vagamon
Vagamon is enriched with a diverse variety of plants and animals. Several rare species of orchids and other flowering plants are identified from the region and the same applies for wildlife as the grasslands are ideal place for grazing animals ranging from Elephant to wild hares and the hunters that follow them with Tiger being the predominant one, given the proximity to the wildlife reserve.
The sighting of a herd of Elephant grazing the grasslands is a sight to have and strict guidance of experts is advised for the same.
The food in Vagamon does have a bit of Tamil influence considering the history and spices, tapioca and meat are consumed in high proportion like any other hill side hamlet. There are several cuisines made of the locally sourced jackfruits and the fishes from the dam and local lakes. The food is spicy and hot which does help in fighting the cold and altitude as the locals say. Rice is the staple diet like most places in India.
Life in Vagamon
Before the invasion of people of the plains the Vagamon inhabitants lived a plain and simple life. They were tribals engaged in gathering and hunting without exploiting the goodness of nature. Well hidden from the normal path of people the location fell in the eyes of British explorers eager to find places for their crop
The current dwellers of Vagamon are either descendants of plantation workers brought in by the British from Tamil nadu, Tribals and the locals from the plains who migrated. Soon the population of Vagamon multiplied and so did the area under forest was cut down to meet the demands of increasing numbers.
Tourism in Vagamon
Vagamon though only a stone throw away have managed to stay preserved and away from the exploitations by tourism inflation. The place have managed to stay on the sleepy pace for centuries hence the facilities related are to match a small number of tourist. This is great news for the travellers who enjoy off the beaten track and in search of solitude.
The location is popular among movie makers due to the accessibility and beauty all around.
Agriculture have always been a main source of living for people in Vagamon though the trend changed from paddy and other edible products to cash crops like Tea,coffee,rubber and spices. These were introduced by the British for export purposes and over the years have changed into the main source of income for the state.
The tea grown in these areas are known to be distinct in taste and flavour and appreciated worldwide.