Located 169km from Kochi, Marayur (or Marayoor) is a quaint village in the Idduki district of Kerala. Nestled in the Western Ghats, it is a nature lover’s paradise. It is widely believed that Marayur dates back to the Stone Age civilisation, and is a great place to visit if you are looking for a quick getaway from the bustle of everyday life.

Interestingy, Marayur is the only place in Kerala where sandalwood trees grow naturally. If you have to take something back from here, make sure it’s the authentic sandalwood oil produced in Marayur. Home to over 1,000 species of flowering plants and many medicinal plants, the forests of Marayur are also home to the endangered grizzled giant squirrel.

If you’re a wildlife aficionado, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-visit. With over 225 species of birds and a variety of reptiles including the mugger crocodile, other commonly spotted animals are the white bison, langur, gaur, leopard, tiger and elephant. Especially during the monsoons, the sanctuary is also home to a large number of beautiful butterflies.

Other attractions in the town include the ‘dolmens’ or burial chambers. Also known as the muniyaras and built during the Iron Age, these structures were made by placing four stones on the edge and the fifth one on top as cover. You will spot several of these located around Thenkasinathan Temple, built by the banks of Pambar river.

Another attraction you must not miss is the Ezhuthu Guha located at Attala. It is a hub of interesting rock paintings, and about 90 of these motifs still exist. Most of these painted motifs are abstract in design; there are also a few in animal and human figures. It’s the most popular rock art site in Kerala, however, unruly tourism has resulted in vandalism of a lot of these rock paintings.