The small town of Thekkady in Kerala is fast becoming one of the tourist hotspots of the state. I wanted to know what all the hype was about, and after doing some research, I set off in search of a new experience. When I reached Thekkady, I realized why so many people have paid visits to these parts. The entire length and breadth of the Thekkady landscape is filled with lush greenery. No matter where you look, you would find forests. It was as if the wilderness was all around me, inviting me to explore it.
However, going into the wild on my own would have been a foolish decision, as the locals told me later on. They said the best way to actually see the local wildlife in action was through Thekkady boating. They told me of the Periyar Lake and how I could enjoy a boat ride there. The idea seemed fascinating, but it was evening already. They told me it would be best to wait a day and head out the next afternoon. In the meanwhile, I decided to talk to the locals and gain more information about Periyar Lake.
I found out that the Periyar Lake is not a natural lake. It was created in the late 19th century, almost by accident. The dam construction over the Mullaperiyar River resulted in the Periyar Lake being created, and since then, it has fascinated both locals and outsiders. Over the years, it has also become an important part of the region’s ecosystem, as it helps many birds and animals to thrive in the region. The lake is within the famous Periyar Tiger Reserve, which makes it a wildlife lover’s delight.
I waited with great anticipation for the next afternoon, and as soon as it came, I rushed towards the lake. Once I got there, I found out that the boat rides here are one and a half hours each. I had to pay Rs. 225 to get on a boat. With several other travel enthusiasts on the boat with me, we started. Within a few minutes, we could see several unique birds flying over the spectacular lake and the trees of the surrounding forests. We were rushing from one side of the boat to another, hoping to catch glimpses of as many animals as we could.
The animal sightings continued, but the most memorable one was still to come. It was summer when I went to Thekkady and in summers all water sources in the Periyar Tiger Reserve except Periyar Lake, dry up. As a result, most animals and birds come to quench their thirst by drinking the water from the lake. Around one hour into our boat ride, we saw a herd of elephants. It was a spectacular sight, with many elephants using their trunks to splash water. They were having fun, and I immediately took out my camera to capture as much of it as I could.
The boat ride came to an end shortly thereafter, and I felt very glad about the fact that I visited this enchanting place.
Once the boat ride was over, I found out more details which may be of help to you in booking seats on a boat. If you go to Periyar Lake and book on the spot, you need to pay Rs. 225 like me. They charge Rs. 75 for children. Thanks to the internet, advance bookings are also possible, but they are more expensive. To book in advance, you have to pay Rs. 500 per seat. You also have to pay Rs. 35 as entry charges when you enter the Periyar Tiger Reserve. International tourists have to pay Rs. 300 to enter.
The boats leave at specific timings. There are 5 boat rides per day, with the first one starting at 7:30 AM and the last one starting at 3:30 PM. I was on the 1:45 PM boat as that is the best time to catch the local wildlife in action.
Like the Periyar Lake, this temple too is located within the boundaries of the Tiger Reserve. The temple does not feature elaborate architecture, but its setting is special. It is a holy place for many pilgrims who come to seek blessings from Mangla Devi, the local deity who symbolizes the moral powers in women.
Not too far from Thekkady lies the area known as Murikkady. The rolling hills of this place are simply mesmerizing. It is a center of coffee and spice plantations, which delightfully dot the slopes. The tea, coffee, cardamom, ginger and turmeric produced here are held in high regard all across India.
Another hotbed of spice plantations, Kumily is ideal for people who are seeking peace and solitude in and around Thekkady. Located at a distance of just 4 km. from Thekkady town, Kumily is full of greenery. It also has some great places to eat out.
If you want to spend the day with your friends and family in a serene setting, then you should definitely visit Pandikuzhi. This large flat area is completely green, and it features numerous streams crisscrossing through the meadows. This area is right on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.
The small village of Anakkara is just 13 km. from Thekkady, and it is a great place to visit if you want to know more about the local culture. The village also has some stunning waterfalls, which makes it a must-visit for nature lovers.
The dam whose construction led to the creation of the Periyar Lake is also worth a visit. People don’t really come here for the dam itself, but the views. The location of the dam is quite unique. It is set at an altitude of almost 3,000 feet, atop the Cardamom Hills. The views from the vicinity are stunning and you can get a bird’s eye view of the Periyar National Park from here.
Mingle with Elephants at the Elephant Junction: The Elephant Junction is a place where you can interact with elephants. After I saw them on my boat ride through Periyar Lake, I wanted to get close to these gentle giants, and the Elephant Junction gave me that opportunity. I had to pay Rs. 400 to enter, but I did not mind, as I got to spend hours with the elephants.
Learn about Kalaripayattu: Kalaripayattu is a famous form of martial art that originated in these parts. To know more about it and to see it in action, you have to visit the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre. You have to pay Rs. 200 to enter and you can see experts performing the art with grace and agility.
Know All About the Local Spices at Abraham’s Spice Garden: Abraham’s Spice Garden makes for a great destination for people who want to know about all the spices cultivated in this region. As you enter, you would be able to smell the aromas of various spices, which gives it a very organic vibe. The gardens here are full of unique spices and it is one of the landmark centers for organic farming in the Thekkady region. You need to pay Rs. 200 to enter the premises.
Thekkady is quite easy to reach even though the town does not have either an airport or a railway station of its own. The easiest way to arrive by air is to fly to Madurai Airport, which is 136 km from Thekkady. International tourists have to fly to Cochin International Airport, which is almost 200 km from Thekkady. From both Madurai and Cochin, you can easily avail buses or cabs to take you to Thekkady.
If you are planning the journey by train, then you need to board a train for Kottayam Railway Station, which is around 114 km. from Thekkady. From Kottayam, both buses and cabs are available.
If you want to make your journey inexpensive, then you should travel by bus. Kerala State Road Transport buses frequently ply from major cities in the vicinity such as Cochin, Madurai, and Kottayam.
I visited Thekkady in the summer months, just because I wanted to see the wildlife of the Periyar Tiger Reserve more than anything else. However, summers can be quite uncomfortable as the temperatures remain quite high. If you want the most comfortable experience in Thekkady, my advice to you would be to visit the town in the winter months. During winters, the weather stays delightful, and you can also do trekking without getting too uncomfortable. Monsoons are also nice as the rains make everything look greener. So if you want to see Thekkady’s greenery at their greenest, monsoon would be the ideal time for visiting.
Safety in Thekkady is not a big issue as crime rates in the region are very low. However, there are certain things that you need to keep in mind such as:
My Thekkady experience was one that I will never forget. I explored a place that I had never explored before and I am so glad that I did. This side of Kerala truly is one of the heavens on Earth. If you are a fan of nature and peace, you must visit this place.
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