The ‘blue mountains’ or Nilgiris will don a purplish-blue look come August. The rare phenomenon occurs once in 12 years when the legendary flower Neelakurinji blooms for a few months. The best way to experience this natural visual extravaganza? With us at Niraamaya Retreats’ Cardamon Club, Thekkady.
Hordes of travellers make their way every spring to see the gorgeous tulip fields in mid-March when large parts of Netherlands are converted into a sea of flowers. If you missed your trip to Holland this spring, you can always plan one for next year.
But if you miss the 2018 blooming of the Neelakurinji in the Nilgiris you will have to wait till 2030 to view the natural spectacle of India’s ‘blue mountains’ covered by a sea of delicate purplish-blue flowers. Neela in local language translates to blue, and kurinji is the native name for this rare flower.
A natural phenomenon
The fuss around the flowers isn’t just hype. Those who’ve seen the blooms, swear to have been blown-away by the vision in blue.
Neelakurinji, botanically known as Strobilanthes kunthiana, is a purplish-blue flower that belongs to the family of Plietesials that blossoms every 12 years. Plietesials grow for a number of years, flower gregariously (synchronously), set seed and then die. Neelakurinji will make its much-anticipated appearance in the Nilgiris in August, and captivate visitors through October of this year. The dazzling sight of the purple flower carpet that grows up to 60cm high is bound to leave nature lovers and tourists mesmerised.
Kerala Tourism expects around one million travellers, including those from Europe and the USA to visit Eravikulam National Park. While the plant grows in the Eastern Ghats as well, Munnar in Kerala records the highest number of Neelakurinji blooms across India, stretching across 3,000 hectares.
The forest is also a sanctuary for Nilgiri Tahr or mountain goat and boasts south India’s highest peak, Anamudi, which towers at 2,695m above sea level. This picturesque vista transforms into a striking blue landscape in the year Neelakurunji blooms. Lonely Planet’s ‘2018 Best in Asia’ has already declared Eravikulam National Park as the fourth most important destination in the Western Ghats this year.
The mass flowering Neelakurinji nurtures the eco-system and provides an unlimited banquet for bees, butterflies and other insects. The purple flowers are said to hold a large amount of nectar, which has medicinal properties and can last up to 15 years without going sour.
Rolling out the blue carpet
The Kerala state government is literally rolling out the blue carpet to welcome travellers from around the globe. This is the best time to get working on your travel plans to stay ahead of the curve.
Make this trip into a holiday of a lifetime by choosing to stay at the Niraamaya Retreats’ Cardamom Club. This stunning property in Thekkady’s forest country is hugged by cardamom plantations and skirts one of Kerala’s best wildlife sanctuaries. A stay here, surrounded by raw beauty of its bountiful surroundings, will make you reconnect with nature effortlessly.
To commemorate the blooming of Neelakurinji this year, Niraamaya Retreats Cardamom Club has come up with great packages for discerning travellers. You can choose from four-and-five day packages that include pickups and drops from airports, exploring local markets, visiting a tea museum, and, wait for it—a three-kilometer long walk through the Eravikulam National Park to view the blooms. Our packages include several curated local experiences, besides the exquisite experience of the natural Neelakurinji phenomenon.
Here is how the four-day package will roll: we send out our sedan to pick you up at Kochi or Madurai airport and drive you down to the Niraamaya Retreats’ Cardamom Club, Thekkady. A lavish lunch awaits you, after which you could choose to rest for the afternoon or opt for one of our other experiences, such an elephant ride, exploring a spice plantation or a market visit. End the first day with a high tea enjoyed to the view of mist-laden Thekkady forest and the mountains, and then a leisurely dinner.
Day 2 includes experiences such as cruising down Periyar lake, on the banks of which you will see an abundance of wildlife such as elephants, deer, wild buffaloes and wild pigs, and a wide variety of birdlife. On the third day, we will drive you down to Munnar where you spend the night at Fragrant Nature Resort. After lunch, we will drive you down to Eravikulam National Park. You’ll arrive at the park on the eastern slope of the Western Ghats, get into the official park vehicle, and witness the Neelakurinji blossom and track the famed Nilgiri Dahr as it scales steep cliffs.
Spend the Day 4 morning exploring the Tea Museum and tea plantations-swathed rolling hills of this former summer retreat of the British Raj elite. Check out of the hotel after lunch; the package includes a drop to Cochin.
A few guidelines while you visit
The Kerala government plans to implement a series of measures to protect the plant during this influx of travellers and ensure facilities and systems are in place to preserve the delicate ecosystem within the Kurinjimala Sanctuary—the core habitat within the Eravikulam National Park—that spans across the Idukki district in Kerala.
*The plants are an endangered species because of climate change, encroachment of the land and the ever-growing number of tourists. Do not pluck the flowers or the plants.
*The plants only grow above an altitude of 1,500m. Plucking plants for cultivation at alternate locations will not be fruitful.
*The flowering area is a strictly no plastic zone. Do not litter.
Enjoy one of the most natural, untainted and untamed flower shows in the world. Come visit. Capture the purple-blue carpet with your eyes, seal it in your heart and immortalise it in photographs. Make a lifetime of memories with your family, friends or that special someone.