The Kongu Nadu is a fertile region of Western Tamil Nadu that stretches from the northern slopes of the Palani Hills to the borders of Karnataka near Mysore. Encompassed within this diverse landscape are fertile farmland bursting with rice, coconut, banana and other produce, all fed by the bountiful monsoon. In the west, the ground gives rise to the mighty Western Ghats which include tea and coffee plantations, hill stations and wilderness reserves teeming with animal and birdlife.
In the south of this region, explore quintessential Tamil villages that are part of the four large Zamins, a system that goes back several hundreds of years, when local noblemen ruled large tracts of farmland, forest and villages. It is a wonderful way to experience rural Tamilnadu both through farm and village, as well as its more regal history. In one of these villages, you can visit a local temple, experience a santhai (local village market), go on a bullock cart ride, and stop to see local potters, weavers and sculptors. And with so much food from its fertile soil, it’s no wonder that this is a true home for Tamil vegetarian food – also know as Kongu cuisine.
Further north, the Tamil flatlands are blocked by the Nilgiri Hills or Blue Mountains that get their name from the blue-gum eucalyptus that was planted by the British as they struggled to escape the summer heat of the Coromandel and create a little England of their own. Here they made one of their settlements, called Ootacamund, their summer capital. They built English-style cottages, elitist clubs, went on jackal hunts, and planted tea everywhere. Today, the Nilgiris offer you a slice of Raj-era history, stunning tea-covered mountains, lovely walks, and lovely heritage bungalows to relive the past in. Top among the experiences is a ride on the UNESCO World Heritage Blue Mountain Railway that has been running since 1899.
The northern slopes of the Nilgiris give way to the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu’s most popular wildlife destination, set close to the borders with the erstwhile Kingdom of Mysore. Set over 320 square kilometres and at an elevation of over 3000 feet, the reserve consists of tropical deciduous forest that is home to one of India’s largest elephant population. Animal and bird species are large in number and both prey and predators abound. The area has numerous deer species, wild dogs, monkeys, Indian bison, leopards and tigers.