Elephants, undulating small hills, aromatic smell of spice plantations in the crisp and clean air – the very mention of Thekkady creates images of nature at its pristine best in one's mind. Thekkady is also one of the few safe homes of the majestic Indian Tiger- which is now on the verge of extinction. This ideal place for a romantic escapade has a remarkable landscape with exotic spice plantations, dense lush green tropical forests, tea gardens and the crystal clear Periyar River. A scenic journey rediscovering misty mountains, spice plantations and open grasslands lined with spectacular waterfall and courageous trekking trails forms base to your memorable trip. This strip of nature's marvel beckons the adventure enthusiast, wildlife lover and the romantic with the same vigour.
Location: Thekkady is located on the Western Ghats mountain range. It is 190 km from Kochi and 140 km from Madurai, Idukki district, East Kerala.
Climate/ Best Time to Visit : The climate is humid with temperature ranging from 13 C to 30 C. The best time to come here is between October and May. Generally the rainy season from June to September is avoided.
Good to know : Many of the caretakers of Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary were rehabilitated from being wildlife poachers and smugglers. Thekkady is one of the rare places where such rehabilitations have been successful. The government has been able to enlist the support of villagers and self-help groups of women in all eco-tourism ventures thereby promoting responsible tourism.
What to see around
The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
This green land is the oldest and one of the twenty-seven reserves in India. Located in the southern region of the Western Ghats, this rambling 777 sq kilometer of foliage is a habitat of the Asian elephants. A storehouse of rampant, rare and diminishing biota, this sanctuary is a major seminal point for two important rivers, Periyar and Pamba. This area is also renowned for the two pilgrimage centers- Sabarimala and Mangala Devi Temple.
Periyar is a combination of tropical evergreen, semi-green, moist deciduous forests and grasslands. The statistics records prove that there are 62 species of mammals, 320 variety of colorful birds, 45 species of reptiles, 27 species of amphibians, 38 species of fish and 160 collections of butterflies and 1,966 varieties of flowers. 'The Travancore Evening Brown', one of the most difficult to find butterflies in the world was spotted here. Boat cruises are a thrilling experience at dawn and dusk when the chances of viewing wildlife are bright. Herds of gaur, sambar and wild boar can often be noticed in a distance grazing in the grasslands. If you are lucky enough then you might see the pride and national animal of India, the Indian Tiger. Water birds like darters, grey herons, egrets and kingfishers can be sighted here. Some of india's most fascinating rain forests are found here, and there is an opportunity to observe not only mammal species such as the sloth bear and the Nilgiri languor but also rare birds like Paradise flycatcher, racket tailed drongo and pied hornbill. The Periyar Valley, a great place for wildlife lovers, bird watchers and trekkers, is also a holiday of choice for families. There are three watch towers for observing wild life- at Edappalayam and Manakkavala and Thannikudi.
Kumily is 4km away from Thekkady which is situated on the outskirts of the Periyar Sanctuary. It is an important shopping centre and spice trade centre, the main bus station and most of the medium range accommodation in the Periyar region is in Kumily. It is the place where cardamom auctions take place giving an opportunity to get an insight into spice trade. Kumily is the best place to shop for quality spices.
Gavi is a unique experience 40 km drive from Kumily. Getting there by jeep is an experience in itself. The 2 hour jeep ride passes through tropical forests, waterfalls, plantations and hills and valleys. The chances for a wildlife encounter during this trip are also bright. Visitors at Gavi can indulge in trekking, outdoor camping, boating in the reservoir, bird watching or a stay at scenic environs of an eco-lodge there. In short Gavi is a paradise for those who love nature and wildlife.
Tribal Heritage Museum
The Mannans are among the oldest ethnic group of people to inhabit the Periyar Tiger Reserve who used to make a living by fishing in the lake and cultivating a few basic crops. The authorities have set up a heritage museum as a part of eco-tourism inside the Mannan settlement. This museum features various types of artefacts related to ancient agricultural practices, marriage ceremonies, cultural events, dress and rituals. Display of fishing gear, hunting weaponry, sacred medicines, medicinal herbs, bamboo furniture are other attractions.
Pandikuzhi, Chellarkovil, Ramakkalmedu are sleepy little hamlets around Thekkady which offer spectacular breath-taking views of the plains and waterfalls and a glimpse into the neighbouring state Tamil Nadu. Pullumedu which means green meadows is also an awesome picnic spots around Thekkady.
This temple is believed to be more than 1000 years old and the remains of this legendary temple can be seen on the northern boundary of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Through a 12km stretch of dense forest and high altitude grasslands we reach the temple complex which has 4 structures made of granite slabs each housing an idol. The temple is open to public only during full moon day during the months of April-May.
Activities & things to do
Boating in the sanctuary
A boat cruise is a great way to see the beauty of the Periyar Sanctuary from a distance. A glimpse of wildlife is also highly probable during these trips. Fishing is also a great way to unwind in these soothing environs.
The forest department offers elephant safaris through the dense forest. This is a very unique and wonderful experience.
Periyar Tiger Trail & Other eco-tourism programmes
This is a protection oriented trekking and camping programme which is organized by reformed poachers acting as tourist guides. They know everything about the forest and enlighten you on the flora and fauna of the region and also help in cooking food. This has been the flagship programme of the Periyar tiger reserve. However only a maximum of 5 persons are taken in a group and stringent medical check ups are done before the trip as physical endurance required in high.
Kumily has a line of shops selling a range of spices including cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and tea. Authentic products which are fairly priced are available at farmer's shops in Kumily. Thekkady is also a good place to buy handicrafts and tribal artifacts
On a guided plantation tour you will get enticed by the aroma of cardamom, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg. It is also an opportunity to see how these are cultivated, harvested and processed before they go to the local market. Peeling and drying of cinnamon and the tedious process of hand pollination of vanilla is worth seeing.
How to Reach
By Air : Thekkady does not have an airport of its own; the most convenient airport is Kochi about 190 km from here. Kochi has a very good air network and is connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, Kochi and Kolkata. Madurai is the nearest airport which is 140 km away from here.
By Road : Thekkady is 5 km from Kumily on NH 220. Thekkady is well connected by road to various tourist centers around Kerala like Vagamon and Munnar and some major towns in Tamil Nadu
By Rail : The nearest rail head to Thekkady is Theni. In Kerala, Kottayam which is 114km away from Thekkady is the nearest rail head.