Some mountain peaks in the South Indian state of Kerala simply outdo the others. And Kurisumala happens to be one of those. While the world knows this hill station by the name of Spring Valley Mountain, locals better recognize the moniker, ‘Kurisumala’.
The name ‘Kurisumala’ translates to ‘cross hill’ in Malayalam (as ‘kurisu’ means cross, and ‘mala’ is the local term for ‘hill’). True to its name, the top of this hillock has a simple Christian house of worship, St. Thomas Church, with a cross at its pinnacle.
Spring Valley Mountain is a favourite among hikers because of the unrivalled view of the Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary that it offers from its summit. One does not have to be a religious traveller to enjoy one’s time is Kurisumala!
Spring Valley Mountain Timings & Entry Fee
While the mountain has no entry fee or designated timings, the hilltop shrine is open only from 4 AM until 8:30 PM on all days of the week. However, there is no fee to enter the Kurisumala Ashram, also known as St. Thomas Church.
Interesting Facts About Spring Valley Mountain
While Kurisumala largely remains a pleasant mountain top in Vagamon, with pine forests and tea plantations at close quarters, there are some other facts about this hill station that you might find intriguing:
1. The Kurisumala Ashram atop Spring Valley Mountain, which was built in 1958, is a Syro-Malankara Catholic church.
2. Kurisumala happens to be the highest peak in all of Vagamon, at an altitude of about 4,000 feet above sea level.
3. Spring Valley Mountain is also called the ‘Mount of Transfiguration’ by some, alluding to the eponymous mount mentioned in the Bible.
4. The Catholic monks who lead a monastic life in Kurisumala Ashram are known to incorporate some Hindu rituals into their traditions, involving walking barefoot, eating while seated on the floor, etc.
Image Gallery of Spring Valley Mountain / Kurisumala Thekkady
Places to Visit Near Spring Valley Mountain
While Kurisumala only needs a couple of days to be explored, if you have more days or even hours to spare, you can drive up to these other lovely hill stations and even lakes and waterfalls to make the best use of your extra time:
1. Vagamon Hill Town: Located in the Idukki district, Vagamon is a hill station worth at least one visit. At an altitude of 3,600 feet above the sea level, Vagamon boasts of chocolate hills that roll over its terrain. The hills are mainly tea plantations that grow varieties of Kerala’s famous beverage. Also known as Wagamon, the town lets people indulge in hiking and other outdoor activities, apart from mystic encounters with sages and oracles.
2. Vagamon Lake: Ideal for a couple of hours of relaxation, Vagamon Lake is only a few kilometres from Spring Valley Mountain. The lake lies in the valley between the hills of Vagamon, and offers a nice retreat for those who wish to do some boating. You can even set up your tents by the banks of this artificial lake and have your very own camping experience. This location happens to be a popular shooting spot for South Indian movies. You can also choose to kayak under the lone wooden bridge across Vagamon Lake.
3. Karikadu View Point: When you take the Erattupetta Elappara Road along State Highway 14, you will find the Karikadu View Point. You will be able to park your car on the narrow road that leads to the view point. The panoramic views demand that you take your camera along to capture the views of the Vagamon hills and valleys shrouded in fog. There are a handful of food vans and ice cream carts that stop by to feed the travellers. Keep an eye out for a tiger statue which is a prominent landmark to locate this view point.
4. Kaithapathal View Point: Situated well within the bounds of Vagamon, Kaithapathal has a viewpoint for those who just cannot get enough of the mountains. Winter is the best time to be here as the fog and mist tend to clear by this season, making monsoon a time with very low visibility. You will have to hire an off-roader with good ground clearance to be able to navigate the tough roads to Kaithapathal View Point.
5. Murugan Hill: Located to the east of Spring Valley Mountain, Murugan Hill is home to a Hindu temple. Also known as Murugan Mala, this hill station has a rock-cut temple hewn out of a single piece of rock (monolith), dedicated to the mythological deity of Murugan, who is said to be the son of another Hindu god called Shiva. The tourist season runs from October until April, as this is the most pleasant time for strolling about and enjoying the nip in the air. The quietude is regarded as quite precious by solo travellers and photographers alike.
6. Thangalpara: At a distance of 5 km from Kurisumala, Thangalapara is located in the neighbourhood of Kolahalamedu. Famous for its giant rocks shaped in the form of balls, the place also has a religious history behind it. It is said that a Sufi saint named Husrath Sheikh Fariduddin Baba arrived here about 800 years ago to preach where the present-day dargah stands. A miraculous occurrence is that of a water source in the cracks of these rocks that never dries up, no matter the season. The Sufi saint is believed to have used this place to chew on betel nuts and this is where he would grind them. Thangalpara offers amazing views of the other hills of Vagamon.
7. Vagamon Pine Forest: Located on the idukki-Kottayam border, the popular pine forest of Vagamon betrays its British history as the former colonial rulers planted these lovely coniferous woods for us to enjoy today. Even the sloped ground is carpeted with pine needles that often fall off these trees, making it a fun activity to collect them. For just INR 4,000, one can opt for a 6-people jeep safari through the Vagamon Pine Forest and enjoy the cool of the day (thanks to the dense pine cover) even when the sun scorches outside. The scenery is ideal for photo shoots.
8. Palozhukum Para Waterfalls: If you are up for a drive of about 6 km to 7 km from Spring Valley Mountain, then you are in for a sweet surprise. The Palozhukum Para Waterfalls are huge, to say the least. While you can only gaze at this wonder from a distance, outside a barbed wire fencing, you will not regret taking your time out to witness these milky waterfalls which turn almost white due to the froth forming over its length due to the speed at which it rolls down the hills. In fact, the name ‘Palozhukum’ literally translates to ‘the rock on which milk flows’ in Malayalam.
9. Vellappara WaterFall: Located in Urumbikkara, Vellappara Waterfalls are not only a delightful sight to behold but also a great option for a day trek. Since this is not frequented by regular tourists, you will find the roads free of the general crowd, and that adds to the serenity of the place. To make the best of Vellappara, visit in the monsoon when the falls swell up and make the viewing experience even better. During breezy evenings, the misty air is full of the waters which are thrown about in the winds, giving you a refreshing sightseeing experience.
How to Reach Spring Valley Mountain
Kurisumala’s proximity to Thekkady and Periyar have made it very popular amongst trekkers and sightseers in general. If you wish to spend a day or two on Spring Valley Mountain, here are some of the most plausible ways to get here:
By Air: A little over 3 hours worth of drive from this hill is the Cochin International Airport, which happens to be the nearest, at approximately 100 km. This airport at Kochi is an international airport, and you will find it rather convenient to fly down even from some South East Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
By Train: Kottayam is the nearest railway station to Spring Valley Mountain, at a distance of 65 km away. You will have to hire a cab at the station to cover the distance which will take about a couple of hours to navigate through. Kottayam may not necessarily be a stop on any of the train routes from your city. In that case, you might have to change trains to arrive at this hill station.
By Car: The easiest mode of transport to Kurisumala is by road. Since these are mountain roads you will be driving across, it is better to hire a cab with an experienced driver from top car rental companies in Kerala who knows the routes well and can easily handle the increasing altitude and winding paths. Self drive is only recommended if you are an expert with driving on the mountains. Taking a car has its unique conveniences of being able to stop to take pictures of the lovely views along the way or halt for some local snacks.
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