Ayyampuzha, Kerala 680724, India
Most famous waterfall in Kerala nicknamed as the Niagra of India.
Location of Athirapally Waterfalls
More about Athirapally Waterfalls
Athirapally Falls are the most famous waterfalls in Kerala State of Southern India. The waterfall is situated at the Chalakudy River in the Thrissur District, and it is 25 meters tall and over 100 meters wide. The fall is nicknamed ‘The Niagra of India’ because of the water thundering down in the entirety of its width during peak monsoon season between June and October.
The 145 km long Chalakudy River originates from the Anamudi mountains of the Western Ghats and flows through Sholayar Reserve Forest towards the Arabin Sea. The river initially runs smooth, but becomes turbulent as it approaches the waterfall. At the fall area, the water surges on top of a huge rocky bed and cascades down in three separate plumes. The river remains turbulent for another 1 km until it reaches Thumboormuzhi Dam downstream.
The journey through the scenic route and exploring the falls
The journey from Chalakudy to Athirapally Falls passes through scenic landscapes of winding roads, small villages and lush green plantations and forest. The roadsides are either filled with palm/ teak plantations or green forests all the way till the waterfalls. With so much greenery on both sides and with the perfect zig zagging roads, the route to Athirapally is one of the best in the state for a road trip.
The neatly paved path from the entrance
Once at the entrance, a paved path through thick woods leads to the top of the falls after 5- 10 minutes of walk. The whole path will be covered with monkeys inspecting the waste bins for food items. There are plenty of shops near the falls and during the off monsoon season visitors could bath and swim in the many natural rocky pools at the top of the falls.
The view of the falls
Standing near to the barriers placed on top of the fall, it is easy to understand why it is featured in many of the Indian movies. The fall is massive with a huge rock as its face from where the water plunges down. The water is sprayed in all directions and both sides of the fall and the river is covered in thick green forest where you can spot birds as well as swarms of butterflies. Down below, the Chalakudy river flows magnificently hiding its dangers. The falls even though not extremely tall, are massive in width which is filled with water in its entirety during monsoon season.
The hike to the bottom of the fall
A hike down through a steep, narrow path for about 10- 15 minutes leads you to the bottom of the falls where you can enjoy the spectacular view of the water thundering down from top. The bottom portion of the falls will give you another perspective but in order to hike down, visitors have to reach before 4 pm at the entry point of the hike.
More safari options
Daily jungle safaris are conducted by the fall authorities for the visitors. The safari provides an opportunity for visitors to view wildlife as well as some of the other attractions along 90 km of Sholayar Forest Areas. For the details of the safari, you will have to contact the Athirapally Fall managing authorities.
Nature and Wildlife in the area
The wildlife in the area includes elephants, tiger, leopard, gaur (Indian bison), sambar (large deer native to Indian subcontinent), lion tailed macaques etc. The riparian forests in the area is the only location where all four South Indian species of Hornbills - the great hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill, Malabar grey hornbill and the Indian grey hornbill live together. Plantations in the reserve forest areas include teak, bamboo and eucalyptus and the river itself is home to 85 species of fresh water fishes.
Electric Power Project and the related controversies
In 1994, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) proposed a 163 MW Athirapally Hydro Electric Project. The project includes a dam of 23 meters high and 311 meters wide on the Chalakudy River about five kilometres upstream of Athirapally Falls and 400 meters upstream of the nearby Vazhachal Falls. Environmental groups and peoples collectives started opposing the project on the grounds that it would damage the environment, infringe the human right of the ‘Kadar’ tribal people living in the area and threaten tourism as both the waterfalls would eventually dry up.
Even though KSEB proposed adjusting the water release to maintain the falls, the debate is still continuing at present with some of the agencies opposing the project while some other supporting it.
Getting to Athirapally Falls and best time to visit
The nearest railway station and major town from the falls is Chalakudy 30 km away. The falls can be easily reached either by taxi or by buses from Chalakudy. Chalakudy is well connected with the rest of the districts of the state and other states of the country by means of buses and trains.
Though monsoon season in the months from June to October offers the best view of the thundering waterfall in its full glory, you can explore very little during this period. The large volume of water will make it too dangerous to enter the river, and the hike to the bottom of the falls will be difficult. November to January is the best time to explore the place as heavy rains would have stopped by then, resulting in relatively less water flowing through. During February to May, the water will be in its lowest, but visitors can swim in the naturally formed pools of the river in the upper portion of the waterfalls and comfortably hike to the bottom it.