Thekkady is all about Periyar. And visiting Periyar is like looking at the vast green patches of Kerala wildlife through a pair of binoculars! Aptly located in the most dramatic of settings – amidst soul-soothing mountain ranges, lush valleys, picture book lakes and shimmering rivers – the tropical rainforests affords one of the world’s most ancient and complex enviornments.
Location 186 km SE of Kochi in the Idukki district of Kerala
Poular For Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Spice Plantation
Best Time To Visit September to March
To See Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Tribal Heritage Museum, Mangaladevi Temple.
Most Famous For Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Don’t Miss A Scenic Walk to the Ayurvedic Factory located 1 km away.
Must Experience Elephant Safari in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
Getting Around Peermade – 39 km, Pachakanam – 42 km, Gavi and Pullumedu – 48 km.
To Shop Kerala Spices, Cee Pee Spices, Indian Spices, Crescent Spices.
Inside Tip Stay away from the Wild Elephants in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary as they at times may become furious.
Where to Eat Muthoot Cardamom County, Hotel Kumily Gate, Hotel Lake Queen.
Staying Options Ashley Bungalow, Thrisangu Haven, Wood Palace Resort, Misty Mountain Plantation, High Valley Resort, Paradise, Plantation, Canaan Valley Home stay.
Air Nearest Airport : Kochin International Airport. Nedumbassery.
Rail Nearest Railhead – Kottayam 119 km / 2 hrs.
Road 5 km from Kumily on NH220. On NH 19, which runs the length of Eastern Idukki District.
The definition is transparent. Say Thekkady and the whole of Kerala will cheer up to playful herds of elephants wandering in the unending chains of hills. However, if you visit Thekkady (named after ‘thekku’, or teak trees), you will find that it is not as simple as it seems. For time immeorial, Kerala is known for its spices and traders crowd here for commercial gains. So how these slanting hills of Western Ghats cannot encourage, but sit idle to the ambrosial aroma of the Indian spices? It is a country that exudes the spirit and ethos of nature. Plan a holiday tour to the place where you can feel nature at every twists and turns. Stay in one of those raw cottages modelled after the jungle dwellings of the local tribal inhabitants. And a trip to Thekkady will make you articulate enough to describe your experiences in God’s own country so vividly, that many people will soon be eager to follow your itinerary in India.
Declared a protected area way back in 1933 by the Maharaja of Travancore, the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady, flaunts to be the largest sanctuary in the state of Kerala. Irrefutable pug marks of the Great Indian tiger are present everywhere, dotting the moist grounds of the terrain. It is here, that you can see spurting sambars, closely followed by a pack of wild dogs or pairs of green eyes turning inquisitively to the faintest of noises made. Ride an elephant at the Periyar wildlife sanctuary and you can’t resist yourself from falling in love with these sensitive and intelligent animals. Apart from elephants, one can also enjoy the the rare lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiri Langurs. It is not unusual to spot a few monitor lizards basking in the sun, on the rocks along the lakeshore or a python creeping the swinging branches of rugged timberlines of the Nilgiris.
The slopes of Thekkady abound in practically every conceivable type of plantation. Sprawling tea estates cover much of the landscape, but cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee plantations are also aplenty. Perhaps that explains the never-ending cups of green cardomom-flavoured tea proffered at any time of the day. Walk amidst the palatte displaying variant shades of green, neatly arranged into terraced farms, the symmetry broken only by the sudden appearance of a gurgling stream. A lazy mist curls through the hills tuning life into a dreamy rhythm, as you find yourself renouncing to this sensual overflow. It is believed that the spice trade dates back three thousand years in Kerala. As for the many spices that find their home here, Pepper still remains the king. Nevertheless, the slanting slopes also caress a variety of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, tumeric and curry leaves. Try to make a trip to the Sahyadri Organic tea factory in Peermade, a recent venture of the PDS. Housed in a white-washed building, the factory can be viewed from specially designed vantage points so that visitors can have a good view without disturbing the production line.
Apart from being the habitat of sundry wild animals, the woods of Thekkady also foster different tribal communities – Mannans, Palians, Ooralie – who still carry on with their age-old practices of herding and bee keeping in perfect harmony with nature. Contact the reserve and get along with the Tribal Heritage Programme that lasts for two hours. As a part of it you will be taken to the distinctive grey thatched tribal hamlets and also to the Tribal Heritage Museum. Ask your tribal guide and he will show you traditional fishing gears, hunting gadgets and indigenous medicinal plants – an important part of their culture and more importantly, their life. Drive 12 km from Thekkady past dense forests to reach the Mangladevi Temple, situated on the northern boundary of the reserve. The ruins of this stone temple houses the deity of Mangladevi or Kannagi – the protagonist of the Tamil epic ‘Sillapadhikaram’ – who is said to have burnt down Madhurai after her husband was mistakingly accused of being a thief and killed. The view from this site is breath-taking; grey relics standing solitary under the cobalt blue sky with the greens of Periyar at the backdrop.
Unspoiled and picturesque, the rolling hills of Peermade – named after the 13th century Sufi saint, Peer Mohammed – is situated at 39 km from Thekkady. Peermade town is fairly small with most of the sight-seeing being scattered in the vicinity. Visit the 160-year old Summer Palace of the Travancore maharajas, located down a dirt road at a spot 10 mins off NH 220. Ask the caretaker and he will help you to climb the stairs of history by a tour through the entire building – from the durbar hall to the dining and kitchen areas, from the bedrooms to the cramped prison cell. Don’t forget to tip him for his time and expertise.
Next in your itinerary should be the Sahyadri Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Factory and Treatment Centre, an institution set up by the Peermade Development Society (PDS). Rejuvenate yourself with a good ayurvedic massage by the expert masseurs and you will feel fresh and energetic enough to carry on with your journey. Enjoy a scenic walk to the Ayurvedic factory located at a km away. Remember to remove your footwear (rubber slippers are provided instead) and cover your head with hairnets. Inside, one gets a glimpse of the various stages of processing of herbal ingredients into ayurvedic decoction.
Shopping is really a fun in Thekkady. Everything is trivial but that’s the beauty. You will feel like buying everything displayed in the tiny colourful stalls of Periyar. Being in the heartland, it is not bizarre that you will find the best of fenugreek, white and green pepper, rolls of cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, star anise, coriander, cloves..and the list is endless (in short, every spicy fragrance you can dream of). You can also buy a sample of all these, packed in neat, little, transparent packets, complete with printed labels. Get a packet of banana chips, freshly fried in coconut oil, as you meander through the labyrinthine corridors of the spice markets. Well, in the end don’t forget to present your kids some good quality T-shirts with exclusive Periyar Tiger Reserve motifs, of tigers and elephants.