Thekkady is an eternally popular holiday destination nestled in the lap of nature. Lush verdant settings of the pristine Western Ghats that abound with rich plant, animal and avian life, roaring rivers and waterfalls, spices, tea and coffee plantations blanketing parts of the hillside, impressive views, thrilling treks/hikes and quaint traditional villages are but a few salient aspects of Thekkady that draw tourists to this destination.
The heart and soul of the place, however, is the Periyar National Park, at the centre of which lies an impressive dam across the Periyar River and a vast reservoir known as the Periyar Lake. Cool climate during winters makes travel more pleasant however warm summers tend to draw more animals to the Periyar Lake and river banks offering a better chance to the spot animals arriving and leaving in groups.
Apart from Safari at Periyar Reserve, Elephant rides through plantations, and Bullock cart rides through the countryside also prove quite refreshing.The main tourist attraction of Thekkady is none other than the wildlife sanctuary of the place, people travel from both within the country and from abroad every year to spot indefinite species present here.
Well the vast range of animals and plantation works as the magnetism for the Wayanad.
The Periyar River Valley has come a long way since being ruled by Pandya kings from Madurai (Tamil Nadu) in the 12th century. Construction of the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River in 1895 literally transformed the terrain into a rich habitat of wildlife and birds, making it the hunting grounds of the Travancore royal family in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Subsequently, the area has declared a reserve to prevent encroachments by plantation owners, before being announced as the Nelliyampathy Game Sanctuary in 1934 and later named Periyar Tiger Reserve in 1978. The sanctuary is an integral part of Project Tiger (1972), Project Elephant (1992), and India Eco-Development Project (1996). Significant efforts have gone into protect the ecosystem which today has a thriving population of Royal Bengal Tigers and Asiatic Elephants among other wildlife species.
Local culture is no different from that across Kerala. Traditional music and dance performances such as the famous Kathakali and Mohiniattam as well as the ancient martial art form Kalaripayattu are showcased at the different resorts. The Mudra Cultural Centre has regular traditional dance performances/shows and cultural events while the Kadathanadan Kalari centre organizes demonstrations of Kalari.
What you will like
- Cool, Refreshing Climate
- Natural Settings
- Adventure Activities
- Long strolls in vast plantations
What you might not like
- Insects when exploring forested areas
- Limited/lack of facilities (sometimes)
- Closed windows at Thekkady only jungle resort for fear of monkeys!
- Holiday crowds
- Nature, wildlife and adventure/outdoor enthusiasts
- Backpackers, families, couples and group tours
How to Reach
By Air– The nearest international airport is the Cochin International Airport, which is 190 kilometres away. And the Madurai airport located at a distance of 136 kilometres from Thekkady is the domestic airport to reach thekkady. One can hire a cab to get to Thekkady.
By Rail– The nearest railway station to Thekkady is in Kottayam, which is located at a 114 kilometres away. The station well-connected to major cities across India.You can hire a cab from Kottayam to get to Thekkady.
By Road– From cities like Cochin, Madurai, Trivandrum, Munnar, Kottayam, one can easily book a cab or taxi, to reach the destination.If you want to drive on your own, then its best to explore through the quaint countryside painted with the green colour of tea plantations and forests.
Vegetation and Wildlife
Heavily forested areas of Thekkady, primarily located within the boundaries of the Periyar National Park are indeed treasure troves for professionals specializing in flora and fauna of the land as well as conservationists. The bio-diverse terrain houses Tropical and SubTropical Evergreen Forests, apart from Moist-Deciduous patches and dry brush-land. The water bodies are bordered by reeds and tall grasses drawing a large number of herbivores to these feeding grounds.
Statistics reveal that there are nearly 2000 species of flowering plants, about 170 species of just grasses and 140 species of orchids. Some of this vegetation on the edge of the water is known to be resistant to fires.
Evergreen forests with tall trees and dense canopies totally block sunlight at the ground level, making it a challenge to traverse the terrain. Guided Nature Walk, Bamboo Rafting, Hiking and Trekking tours are the best way to appreciate the abundant natural wealth here, but travellers must stay highly alert and stay with the group for a safe and enjoyable outdoor adventure.
Thekkady, in fact, is the best place to shop for exclusive spices,tea,coffee. Visitors can directly purchase spices at the plantations during their excursions or at the different shops in Thekkady that sell quality spices at reasonable prices. Be it a small pouch of your favourite seasoning or bulk buys to restock your pantry no better place to indulge in shopping for spices. An ornamental spice box with an assortment of spices makes an excellent, compact gift.
Local Food at Thekkady
South-Indian cuisine that rules high in Thekkady that is typically a hot spicy fare is quite inviting in this serene setting. Delicacies vegetarian and non-vegetarian garnished with a generous sprinkle of grated coconut/coconut oil are characteristic of local cuisine. Upscale restaurants and hotels often have a wide choice of dishes to suit your palate. A cup of hot tea when out on a stroll is always a boon!
You will be able to cover most places of interest in and around Thekkady within a couple of days with enough time to relax and unwind during your trip. Some activities though may not be suitable for children and the elderly. Time your visit to best suit your holiday schedule and interests.
Day 1– The Periyar National Park is the highlight of Thekkady and hence first on your list. There are indeed different ways to explore this scenic setting. Those travelling with family or wish to play it safe can opt for a jeep safari through the sanctuary or a cruise through the Periyar River for a scenic and exciting tour of the sanctuary. While the road trips offer a possibility of close encounters with wildlife, cruises offer excellent views of animals at the waterfront from a safe distance. Typically cruises tend to last for up to 1.5 hours, and road safaris take double the time.
If you are adventurous go on a guided “Tiger Trail”. With experienced poachers-turned-guides putting their tracking skills to action you most likely will be able to spot a tiger. An exciting combo of boating, trekking, tracking and outdoor camping activities is bound to keep you enthralled.
Spend the evening catching up on traditional cultural shows/dramas featured at a local cultural centre. Dance performances and shows ideally are based on mythological stories or characters from local folklore, gods and goddesses.
Day 2-Rise early and take the Nature Walk – a guided walking tour through the forested landscape and once you get back to enjoy a relaxing half hour elephant safari at the Park, which is yet another exciting way to get a view of the settings perched safely on the majestic animal, moving slowly yet steadily through the forested area.
Go boating on the Periyar Lake. Most likely you will spot animals near the water’s edge.
Visit one of the many spice/tea plantations at the nearby town of Kumily, and sample/shop for tea or spices when at the plantations. Catch a spectacular display of the Kalaripayattu martial art Kadathanadan Kalari centre in this town.
Adventure junkies must sign up for Night Patrolling in the Jungle. The get to roam the open terrain accompanied by armed guards and watchers and the opportunity to experience the ultimate thrill, danger, and significance of this routine exercise.
Day 3– If you are up to the challenge, go on a guided/assisted Bamboo Rafting trip (anytime between 8 AM to 5 PM) through the Jungle, alight from the raft and trek across the forests soaking in the picturesque settings, tall, dense trees, flowers, sighting different animals and hop back on the raft for a return trip. The tour typically takes about 3 hours.
A trekking/hiking trip to the Mangaladevi Temple is also quite enjoyable and demanding yet refreshing as the panoramic views are just delightful. A permit is required from the local wildlife warden for you to visit this site.
The less adventurous can settle for a visit to the tea plantation/factory in nearby Vandiperiyar town or a trip to the Chellarkovil Waterfalls which is a stunning location about 15 km from Thekkady. You can indulge in trekking or merely relax and unwind peacefully. A watchtower, Spice Garden and Ayurveda facilities are also present here.