Athirappilly Falls was perhaps the most spectacular waterfall in Kerala (pronounced like Carol-uh) and was certainly one that Julie liked very much. We remember this 24m high falls most because we stayed at a pretty nice upscale and comfortable resort called the Rainforest Hotel which yielded nice frontal views of the falls. This place was also conveniently located within a 10-minute walk to the official entrance of the falls along the main road (we were able to buy the tickets from a booth just a few paces to the left of the easy-to-miss gated driveway for the resort).
Even though the walk to the entrance was short, we were sweating bullets well before we even got there thanks to the humidity. Beyond the official entrance, there was more walking on developed walkways flanked by native teak trees along with some interpretive nature signs (though it appeared they were mostly in the local Keralan Malayalam script; not that we could read them anyways). We noticed some birds as well as the ubiquitous monkeys (which I suspected were fed by visitors and locals alike) while walking through the complex.
Ultimately, we reached a fork where one path descended to the misty bottom of the falls while the other path continued straight to the top of the falls (where we got the photo you see at the top of this page). The path to the bottom went down several steps under the shade of the forest (though I don’t think the shade helped too much with the humidity). We did see some locals in dhotis and lungis (both were kind of like a cross between a towel and a kilt) opting to go barefoot on a steep and slippery shortcut bypassing the established walkway altogether. By the way, we were told that dhotis were intended for going out while the lungis were for home or other non-outside purposes).
Due to the late monsoon when we visited, Athirappilly Falls had a pretty healthy flow despite signage suggesting that there was a hydroelectric facility further upstream. The dam was out of sight, but the presence of high voltage power lines in the surrounding forested hills of the Western Ghats suggested to us that the hydro was definitely there. Moreover, there were signs warning us that water could be released from the dam at any moment.
We had been told that the falls’ three segmented columns could actually merge and span the entire width of the Chalakudy River during sustained downpours in the monsoon. That statement kind of brought back memories of what we were told regarding the behavior of Ntumbachushi Falls in Zambia. Speaking of timing, I happened to take most of my photos in the early morning before the sun came up. It seemed that when the sun would go high enough on the horizon, morning would not a good time to see the falls directly because the sun would shine against us while casting a shadow on the falls. I’d reckon early to late afternoon would be the time when the light would be more favorable for frontal views of the falls.
Apparently Athirappilly Falls was very well known in Southern India as I’ve seen it in some of the complimentary magazines on the domestic flights as well as being featured in several TV shows of both Bollywood and Tamil origins. I’m sure the presence of the upscale resort also helped the falls’ accessibility and popularity.
We certainly appreciated the comfortable and clean rooms along with some pretty delicious Keralan food, especially after staying in pretty basic accommodations in both Sirsi and Murudeshwar (both in Karnataka state) the previous two nights.
Finally, you might also see Athirappilly Falls spelled Athirapally Falls as well as Athirampally Falls. As is often the case when you Romanize a typically non-Roman language, you get variations on spellings as attempts were made to approximate their pronunciations in the English language. A local Keralan tour representative pronounced it slowly to us as “ah-TEE-ram-Pah-lee.”
Note that Vazhachal Falls was merely 3km from the official entrance of Athirappilly Falls though we didn’t have time to visit it. There was also another falls 5km from the entrance as well but the name of that one escaped me.
It took us about 75-90 minutes of driving north from the Cochin (or Kochi) Airport to the Rainforest Hotel in the Vazhachal Forest of the Thrissur District (near the town of Athirappilly). Even though the road was winding and flanked by thick forest, it was in pretty good shape so our evening arrival wasn’t that big of a deal if you (or your driver) take it slow.
I even recalled that our driver had to watch out for some pretty big sambar deer as one happened to cross the road in front of us en route to the Rainforest Hotel.
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