Neelakurinji, the flower that blooms once in 12 years: Expectations vs Reality

We love seeing and posting photo diaries. This is our Neelakurinji photo diary from a visit to Eravikulam National Park in Munnar, Kerala. When we heard that these delicate purple flowers were blooming in 2018, we knew we had to go and see them first hand. Of all the options we had, we chose Munnar to view the bloom. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best idea, as the Kerala floods earlier this year played havoc with the flowering season and reduced the full bloom time to a single week in September, which we missed.

Expectations vs. Reality

Expectations | Photo Credit: Kerala Tourism

Once the rains ebbed, we started seeing a lot of hype on social media platforms especially WhatsApp. Neelakurinji has bloomed and how! The entire valley is bathed in purple flowers. This is the part where you need to be well informed. If you saw this picture circulated on WhatsApp, this was an image taken from the Kerala Tourism website which was shot in one of the previous blooming seasons. Going with this image in mind meant that lots of people were utterly disappointed.

Another thing you need to remember while assessing a photo on social media is filters. While Adobe Lightroom is a favourite amongst photographers for photo processing, some do take the colour saturation to a completely unnatural level. As a result, a regular non-blogger/photographer might see an image like this and believe it. Any image with such high saturation levels should be taken with a grain of salt.

This is the real colour of the Neelakurinji flower. It has a whitish purple colour which fades over time due to sunlight.

Our Verdict

To be honest, we went with very low expectations. We assumed that the bloom was destroyed and that we might just catch a glimpse or two of this elusive flower. We were overjoyed to see that there were still plenty of patches of flowers intact and were also lucky enough to find the Nilgiri tahr.

The Nilgiri tahr or ibex is closely related to the sheep of the genus Ovis and is a stocky mountain goat with curved horns. We spotted around 10 of these roaming freely in the national park. They seemed quite unperturbed by humans and continued to graze along the slopes. The park rangers did a fabulous job of not letting visitors touch the animal or go too close.

Neelakurinji Photo Diary - Nilgiri Tahr

We reached around noon and after about an hour or so, the weather got cooler and the clouds started descending beautifully. The misty mountains contrasted with this lovely wild animal making the scene look like something straight out of a movie.

The park is gorgeous, with or without the Neelakurinji bloom and we are glad that we could visit and tick off another item from our ever growing bucket list.

Tips for planning a trip to Eravikulam National Park

  • Tickets to the national park can be bought in advance online. However, the park does not allow bookings within 48 hours of your planned visit date, so book at least 2 days in advance. If you miss the online booking, you can buy it at the official counter in Munnar. We did not face any queues since we went on a weekday, but it might be worth planning ahead, if you wish to visit on the weekend.
  • Plan a visit in the morning. The weather in Munnar is slightly unpredictable. What seems like a sunny day, ends up becoming cloudy and rainy by late afternoon. The only advantage with the late afternoon gloomy weather setting in is seeing an amazing vista with clouds descending towards you.
  • It is not a difficult climb. You can wear simple sports shoes and comfortable attire. The state run buses (fare is included in the ticket) take you from the entrance to the park to the top of a hill about 6 km into the park. From this point, you need to proceed on foot. The walk can take around 1.5-2 hours at a leisurely pace. If that’s a bit much for you especially if you are travelling with children, you can climb up to wherever you wish and go back down.
  • Buses to return to the park entrance are usually arranged once every 15-20 minutes but can take longer if there are groups. We ended up waiting at the bus stop for 45 minutes.

Alternatives to Eravikulam National Park near Munnar

  • One of the alternatives that a few locals suggested to us is Kolukkumalai, a small hamlet around 32 km from Munnar. Unlike Eravikulam National Park which can be accessed by regular vehicles, Kolukkumalai is only reachable by off-road jeep. The rugged terrain requires a day trip which include some other attractions like a visit to a local tea estate.
  • Another option is the sandalwood forests of Marayoor. This lesser known area lies in the Mangapara hills of Kanthallur. Because it is slightly remote, it is a great way to escape tourists.
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Related Read: The mysterious Neelakurinji flowers that bloom once in 12 years


  1. November 4, 2018 / 8:27 PM

    Wow, the pink and purple flowers look so beautiful! Lucky you that you got to see the blooms and even a Nilgiri tahr! A 1.5-2 hours walk is definitely not too long. And good to know that the waiting time at the bus stop to leave the park can take up to 45 minutes if there are groups! We’d definitely go to toilets before catching the bus then! haha…

  2. Janiel Green
    November 5, 2018 / 9:18 AM

    I love that you did this because of I often see the ‘expected’ in all the Instagram posts, then am very disappointed when I arrive. I do love the natural colors of the flowers but can see much better what to expect from it.

  3. November 5, 2018 / 7:52 PM

    More travel writers should do this. It is important to set visitor’s expectations properly.

  4. November 5, 2018 / 8:55 PM

    I don not know what makes the travel writers distort the facts. Well , any way it is always better to go with low expectations and discover stuff which a lot of people dont even talk about. 🙂 🙂

  5. November 6, 2018 / 4:27 PM

    That’s true. Nowadays, due to filters, we have high expectations for a certain image. Or a place or food, or whatever that is. But the reality is, totally different. Neelakurjini tho is like a calming place and regardless of its expectations vs. reality, it’s nice to visit.

  6. Carissa
    November 6, 2018 / 5:07 PM

    I love that you are sharing us what we would really expect of the view of the park. Even though there isn’t a lot of Neelakurinji flowers when you visited, it doesn’t take away the beauty of the park. The clouds and misty mountains especially the Nilgiri tahr makes the place more magical and picturesque!

  7. November 6, 2018 / 8:13 PM

    The images of full bloom are gorgeous, too bad you missed it. But you got to hang out with the mountain goats so all is not lost! The small hamlet sounds like my kind of option

  8. November 6, 2018 / 10:57 PM

    I can see how it would be disappointing to arrive and not find the beautiful purple flowers but its good you were prepared due to the flooding. And still, the pink flowers are very pretty.

  9. November 7, 2018 / 6:06 AM

    It’s always interesting to see “real” photos versus what others might lead you to believe. But like you said, there were still plenty of patches so I’m glad you were still able to see some flowers. And the ibex is so cute! I’m glad people weren’t getting too close though. Sometimes people forget to respect animals when they’re so hung up on getting the perfect shot.

  10. November 7, 2018 / 12:37 PM

    Yes, unfortunately, the reality is often different than the photos on the Internet. For example, in Venice I was appalled by the crowd on the Rialto Bridge. Pictures show them only dreamlike romantic and never the reality. Maybe we should pay more attention as travel bloggers to show the reality.

  11. November 8, 2018 / 2:33 AM

    It’s always such a treat when our low expectations are met with wonderful sights! I am so glad you got to see patches of the flowers, and social media filter free! Seeing the ibex would be neat too as we see alot of animals here, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an ibex. Several bucket list check moments in a single day!

  12. November 8, 2018 / 4:10 AM

    That is a huge problem with Instagram these days, when so many people use filtered or fake photos. Without the filter the flowers are still beautiful, they don’t need any filters at all!

  13. November 8, 2018 / 5:32 AM

    Oh we LOVE this post. Overprocessing, boosting the “clarity” setting, oversaturating are the go-tos for WAY too many travel bloggers and Instagram feeds. It’s pretty easy to see when a photo is boosted and unnatural. Now that said, and being a photographer with some biology training, it is also very possible the blooms you see from the park were indeed more purple than you experienced (amount of rain, sun and nutrients as well as temperatures will affect a bloom color and intensity year to year) and that a filter was used on the lens as the sky in the shot is not overprocessed. And finally, as travel bloggers / writers / journalists / photographers, our job is to provide compelling, but truthful writing AND images all the time, every time. Overprocessing is never a good practice when striving for truth.

  14. November 8, 2018 / 6:07 AM

    The photos are lovely, whether saturated or not. But it’s good to know what to expect if you actually go to see them in person. I had a similar experience going to visit Cinque Terre in Italy. All the pictures on Instagram made those cities look like the houses were painted in vibrant colors, but when we arrived, we could plainly see that they were really pastels!

  15. November 8, 2018 / 7:21 PM

    Despite the lack of color, Eravikulam National Park sounds like a wonderful place to visit. For many years, I was so disappointed in my photography. Why are my shots so washed out compared to others? It’s that darn saturation! I realize now, that my photos were actually closer to real life. Advertising.

  16. November 9, 2018 / 11:00 PM

    I am so glad I stumbled upon this, I also planned to visit Munnar only to see the flower bloom, although it didn’t materialise. But, it’s really important to spread the reality and not just over-edited pictures. Thank you for sharing this 🙂 I am pretty sure I would be disappointed too if I had visited.

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