Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Thekkady, has changed the face of Kerala Wildlife tourism in unprecedented ways. Situated on the banks of the Periyar Lake (which, interestingly, is an artificial lake), the sanctuary is bordered with dense evergreen woods, misty mountain terrains and lush green meadows.
The sight of herds of elephants loitering around the lake area is a spectacular view no traveller would want to miss. The protected region of the wildlife sanctuary (with a total area of 777 sq km) was officially upgraded to a National Park in 1982 and later it was declared as a Tiger Reserve as well.
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary draws travellers from all over the world primarily due to the wide variety of animal life it houses. According to the latest records, 53 tigers are protected in the tiger reserve and it is home to about 62 different mammals. Rare species such as Gaur, Sambar (horse deer), Mongoose, Foxes, Mouse Deer, Dholes (Indian wild dogs) and Leopards can also be sighted here.
Around 320 bird species and 45 different kinds of reptiles are also recorded in the region, making it a must-see sanctuary of the country. With its exotic flora and fauna, Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary offers a unique and exciting experience to wildlife enthusiast and nature lovers.
Abraham's Spice Garden, located on the Thekkady-Kottayam route, is an aromatic garden for organic spices. This garden gives the travellers exhaustive information on the cultivation methods, medicinal value, Ayurvedic cure and scientific facts related to different spices. Apart from spices, medicinal herbs, fruits and flowers can also be sighted here.
Visitors can also familiarize themselves with various processes related to spice gardening such as planting, harvesting, preparing the extracts and drying. This exotic world of spices was started by Mr. Abraham in 1952 and offers a guided tour through the gardens.
Wide-ranging information on various spices is provided not just in Malayalam but in English, Hindi, Tamil, French and Italian as well. Abraham's Spice Garden charges an admission fee of 200 INR and visitors are given permission to interact with spice cultivators as well as agriculturists. This garden is a true amusement for those who are interested in organic farming. Visitors can buy spices and seeds from this garden.
Mangala Devi Temple is one of the major tourist attractions located at a distance of about 15 km from Thekkady. The temple is positioned on top of a peak which is at a height of 1337 m above sea level and offers a picturesque view of the surrounding hills and tracts.
This ancient temple is surrounded by dense forests are travellers will find it truly mesmerizing. The structure of this spectacular stone temple attests to the grandeur of traditional Pandian architectural style.
Goddess Mangala, who is also known by the name Kannaki, is the presiding deity of the temple. Visitors are not allowed on all days except during the Chithra Pournami festival day which is observed in the month of May.
However, with prior permission from the Chief Conservator of Forests, travellers can make an entry into this temple on other days. The only means to access this 2000 years old temple are jeeps which travellers can hire from Kumily. The temple offers a scenic setting and tranquil ambience to the visitors and the spot is definitely worth a visit.
Murikkady is a scenic spot situated at a distance of 5m from Thekkady. This region is best known for its vast stretches of plantations. It is located closer to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and it would be smart to combine these two places in a single visit.
Coffee, tea, pepper and cardamom are cultivated abundantly in the plantations of Murikkady. The aroma of the spices fills the entire regions and the breeze passing through the plantations are sure to energize those who visit this place.
Various plantation tours conducted in the region of Murikkady attracts a good number of travellers. It is an ideal spot for trekking and family picnics. Enchanting pepper wines, salubrious greenery, aromatic fresh air, misty mountain ranges and green-carpeted valleys make this place a favorite holidaying destination. The picturesque beauty of the place is sure to kindle the interests of both nature lovers and photographers alike.
Vandanmedu, another popular tourist location near Thekkady, is a small hamlet blessed with greenery and surrounded by plantations. This region is best known for its export quality spice products and holds the record of being the largest producer of cardamom. The hilly tracts of the region are sprinkled with plantations that cultivate various spices and a visit to this place during weekends will serve as a truly exhilarating experience.
Vandanmedu is located at a distance of about 28 km from Thekkady and is reachable by road. Eco-tourist regions such as Murikkady, Pandikuzhi, Gavi and Chellarkoil are also located closer to this region.
Outdoor activities such as casual strolling and nature walk can be undertaken in this region. The plantations of Vandanmedu provide guided tours through the long stretches of cultivation.
Many budget resorts and guest houses are also available in this area. The sight of luxurious greenery, ripened fruits and richly grown plantations will delight and rejuvenate a visitor in no time.
Trekking is one of the most thrilling activities to be carried out in the hilly and jungle tracts of Thekkady. Trekkers and adventure enthusiast will find this region truly delightful and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary has a number of excellent trekking trails.
The most popular trekking areas in the location include Pullumedu, Kumily, Kurisumala, Ottakathalamedu and Grampi. Trekkers need to obtain permission from the authorities to trek through the sanctuary. Kerala Forest Department conducts daily trek tours in Thekkady.
Another interesting activity to be enjoyed in the area, is the plantation tours managed by District Tourism Information Office. The entire hilly region including the tea and coffee plantations, cardamom plantations, tea factories, pepper gardens, spice gardens and the tribal areas can be visited as part of these plantation tours.
Forest Department arranges elephant rides as well offering the visitors an excellent entertainment time. Night treks to the Tiger Reserve organized by both Tourism Department and private agencies are yet another major attraction.
A soft trekking slot of 3 hours will cost around 500 INR and maximum enjoyment is guaranteed. Green walks, nature walks, border trekking and guided hard treks are also organized by different authorities.
Kadathanadan Kalari Centre, located in Kumily, is an organization for the lovers and practitioners of the centuries old martial art named Kalari. It was started as part of renewing people’s interest in this art for which Kerala is much famed.
Characterized by swift movements and physical flexibility, Kalari (known also as Kalarippayattu) has a grand history that is woven into the cultural and martial history of Kerala. At Kadathanadan Kalari Centre visitors can watch Kalari from the gallery built for spectators.
Visitors can also get information on this traditional system which includes both physical training and self-defense techniques. Kalari is performed daily from 6 pm to 7 pm and this show that exhibits supple physical movements, as well as dexterity, is sure to leave the spectators spellbound.
Kadathanadan Kalari Centre offers different levels of trainings to those who are interested in this ancient martial system. Mastery of body movements, as well as physical balance, is taught at the basic level while the training gets tougher in the intermediate level.
Training in the usage of weapons such as sword, spear and spring sword (known as urumi) are offered only in the advanced levels.
Vandiperiyar is a small town located in Idukki District and is located at a distance of 18 km from Thekkedy. Periyar River runs through this green-clad region, enriching its culture as well as agriculture. The area is best famed for its long stretches of green and salubrious plantations.
Premium quality tea, pepper and coffee are cultivated in the finely maintained plantations of Vandiperiyar. The town has gathered recognition as a major commercial hub for spice products. The Government Agriculture Farm and Flower Garden which are located in this area offers a spectacular view of flower beds and greenery.
Renowned plantation groups such as AVT and Harisson’s Malayalam own vast tracts of tea plantations and factories here in the region. Travellers can visit some of the factories of this region with prior permission from the authorities. Vandiperiyar abounds in holiday resorts and budget rest houses making it an ideal location for tours and honeymooning.
Bamboo Rafting makes Thekkady a standout from other tourist destinations. This is a special tour program that takes travellers on a trek tour on a raft made of bamboos. Rafting, which was once the only means of transportation in the dense forests separated by rivers, has turned into an extremely popular outdoor adventure activity today. The program includes wildlife watching, trekking and traveling on the raft.
Travellers are allowed to raft only in teams and generally one rafting team comprises up to ten travellers and five tour guides. There will be one armed guard in every team to ensure safety since the tour is conducted in areas that are exposed to wild animals.
Travellers get to enjoy the vista of the lush green surroundings, pristine beauty of the lake, spectacular sight of animals and adventure of trekking through dense forests. The program’s duration is a day, starting from 8 am and lasting till 5 pm. The tour program is inclusive of food and snacks.