When you list the top hill stations in South India, you usually restrict to Ooty, Kodaikanal and Munnar . The recent additions include Top Slip, Yelagiri and Walparai as well. But I recently got to discover a beautiful mountaineous zone nestled right in the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Its called Thekkady and this is also where the biggest tiger reserve park of South India is located. Surrounded by dense forests on all sides, it’s exactly on the border of two states and easily accessible by road. If you are planning a quick 2-3 day trip from anywhere in South India, Thekkady Kerala should be right up in your alley.
How to Reach Thekkady Kerala ?
Thekkady is equidistant from Kochi and Madurai, roughly 150KMs away. You can reach this place by bus or through your own transport. From Madurai , head to Aarapalyam bus stand and you’ll find buses almost every 20-30 minutes to Kumuli (alias Thekkady). Ticket price is 80 INR/ person. You can find the same from Kochi too , though the frequency may be less. An one way journey roughly takes 4 hours though you’ll not feel bored as the route is extremely beautiful and scenic. The mountaineous cover, small waterfalls from a distance and a beautiful weather makes it even more awesome.
As you pass through Andipatty, Usilampatti, Theni, Cumbum and other small cities in TN, you can’t help but wonder how underrated these small towns are and practically hidden from tourist radars.
A 2 Day stay at Thekkady Kerala
Thekkady is relatively a small hill station and you can cover the whole area in just a couple of days. Yet for leisure lovers, you can also get to stay here for a week and get to relax. There are multiple activities for different kinds of people, right from treks, plantation visits, mountain hill top sceneries, boating, staying inside forest camps, massages and much more.
Things to buy in Thekkady Kerala
- Massage Oils
- Scented Agarbathies
- Different types of Tea and coffees
- Roll on gels and quick relief mediines (made out of Thulasi and herbs)
- Home made chocolates
- Souvenirs from Periyar Tiger Reserve shop
Here’s a 2 day plan for your Thekkady Trip
Visit to Periyar Wildlife & Tiger Reserve Park :
A Visit to Thekkady should definitiely include a visit to the Periyar Tiger reserve park . The trip here includes short 20 min journey into the reserve and a 90 minute boating deep into the reserve. If you are lucky you can spot the occassional tiger, wild elephants, cheetah etc. Due to excessive deamnd, the boating is predominantly sold out , days before. So it’s better to book it online and reserve in advance ( Per person boating costs 225INR). This trip starts as early as 5.30 am , so you can be back by breakfast if you can time it right. You can also get prior permission and book a cottage right in the middle of the reserve amidst the jungle. This is available in their website itself. This includes wildlife sighting, boating, trekking and a chance to stay in the forest. You can book the boating trips here : http://www.periyartigerreserve.org
This trip starts as early as 7 am , so you can be back by breakfast if you can time it right. You can also get prior permission and book a cottage right in the middle of the reserve amidst the jungle. This is available in their website itself. This includes wildlife sighting, boating, trekking and a chance to stay in the forest.
Visit to Gavi Mountains
Being a full day trip ( from 7- 5PM), you get to go on a long tour to the nearby Gavi mountains. This includes bamboo rafting, elephant safaris, trekking and some scenic views of the surrounding mountains. Even Sabrimala, the abode of Swami Iyyappa is roughly 25 miles from here and clearly visible. The roads are not really that great and could be a rough bumpy ride in the narrow Ghat roads , as they take you in a 4×4 Jeep.
Visit to Chatram, Kerala
If you don’t want to spend an entire day here, you can instead opt for a 3-4 hour visit to the Chatram hills. This will take you through a series of 4 scenic viewpoints in the Chatram area. The views are simply amazing and count your blessings if it’s not surrounded by cloud cover sometimes. Your jeep driver may also help you spot a wild elephant across the mountains (tough to spot for the average person).
Kerala Martial Arts (KalariPayattu) & Kerala Dance (Kathakali)
If you are in the mood to experience the culture of Kerala, you should definitely give these two a try. Held in the evening from 5 onwards, each show ( Kalaripayattu and Kathakali) is held for an hour in adjacent buildings. Ticket for each costs 200/person and definitely a recommended activity towards late evening.
The artisans fight over swords, bamboo sticks , jump over fires and perform all kinds of daredevil activities in the Kalaripayattu show. The Kathakali show gives you a glimpse of the famous dance form of Kerala and illustrates the movements of each part of the body in the dance with a short storyline.
Thekkady is filled with different kinds of spice plantations. This includes an one hour visit to a beautiful spice plantation, a vast garden with every possible type of tree from different parts of the world. These trees and plants are the main sources to extract medicines for major ailments including skin diseases, fitness, cancer, headaches etc. The tour along with a personal guide costs 100/person.
Though haven’t personally tried any of it, I saw quite a number of Ayurvedic massage centres and spas. They offered the authentic Kerala Ayurvedic oil massage , that relives you of stress and pain and is very relaxing. These range anywhere between 750-3000 Rs depending on the type of massage you opt.
Idukki District – Dam & Tea Plantation
If you still have half day available, it is recommended to go to the Iduki district and visit the famous Idukki dam. There are also plenty of tea estates which warrats a visit. This is more closer to the Kochi(Cochin) and rouhgly 90kms away from Thekkady.
Combining Trip to other places
If you are visiting Thekkady Kerala from far north or other places, it’s better to combine other nearby cities in this belt. Either combine Thekkady with a 2 day trip to Munnar(Kerala), 1 day trip to Madurai(Tamil Nadu) or a 1 day trip to Kochi (Kerala).