Wayanad in Kerala – the pristine queen of Indian hills.

T. P. Gopinath Aug 27, 2016.

Summary:

Of all those places people love to travel often, hill stations have both the nature and the cool climate. Though Wayanad is not at a very high altitude, it can still be a wonderful experience as a destination with easy access particularly for south Indians.

During the trip home this month, as always, it has been my dream to continue seeing my country, north and south. With two weeks in hand, I knew no grand plans will work. Thekkadi, Munnar circuit is what came to my mind. Shame on me I did not see jewels in Kerala including world famous backwaters of Alappuzha yet travelling fairly extensively in rest of India. Finally, I only managed an unplanned Wayanad trip courtesy, the children’s obstinacy and my brother-in-laws call to the beautiful hills of Wayanad next door. But it turned out that I had the crown jewel next door.

Embedded YouTube videos are taken by me during our tour. They have been titled as Amateur. I apologize for the quality. Where courtesy is due it has been given to pictures. Other external links have been marked accordingly.

Introduction:

Wayanad in Kerala has not been considered a major tourist interest till ten years back. However, fortunes of Wayanad as a sought after destination seems to be turning rapidly and steadily in the last ten years. My last trip home included a hastily arranged trip to Wayanad where we visited Tholpetti (Wayanad) wild life sanctuary and Thirunelli temple. Thanks to Jyothi (my brother-in-law) for the exhilarating tour into the beautiful hills in the time of the Monsoon.

Beautiful hills of Wayanad - glowing in the Monsoon.
Beautiful hills of Wayanad – glowing in the Monsoon.

Wayanad is my neighbouring district. But how there is a saying that flower on the courtyard doesn’t smell good, i have visited Wayanad only for work purposes. While employed with the HCL, I used to visit the NIC (National Informatics centre) at their collectorate in Kalpetta and a few times to the tea estate offices and businesses where PCs were installed. Though it is just two hours away from my home, as i have mentioned, I have more often looked northward in India for my sojourns  during visits to India.

Wayanad is about Spices, Tribals, Rivers, Wild life, and the cool hills. It is the least populated district of Kerala.

Please take a look at the following video that shows how you enter the district. ‘The hairpin bends from the top’.

Thamarassery  Churam wayanad – Arial Helicam Youtube Video – approach to the district from Kozhikode side –

 Elephants can be terrifying:

On the way back from the hills after praying at the ancient Thirunelli temple in Wayanad, it was 7.30 PM and begun to get dark. By the time we started our descent, night fell with drizzling rain. Children as well as adults were worried about sighting wild elephants on the road. Elephants are known to stand on the road blocking traffic and even approaching vehicles scaring the passengers.

Exactly as we feared, five minutes on the road towards Mananthavadi, we sighted an elephant on the left side of the road in the bushes close to us. The elephant was muddy in colour unlike the black colour we normally see the elephants in. Muddy colour is normal for a wild Elephant as they play in the soil and there is no one to wash them in the wild. We went past at good speed and were relieved to be safe and that the elephant did not turn to us though we felt it had taken a peek at us.

A little ahead after that elephant encounter, on the same side of the road very close to us, we saw a Byson which is known as a very dangerous animal with ample strength to charge at anything. Wayanad is a traveller’s delight and going by what i see on the net, resorts are pouring in across Wayanad.

In fact we were warned from the temple premises to leave at least before 8 PM to avoid encountering wild elephants on the way.

Our journey to the Wayanad wild life Sanctuary (Tholpetty) and Thirunelli temple:

Our first stop in Wayanad was at Tholpetty (Wayanad) wild life sanctuary. Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary or Wayanad Wildlife sanctuary has a wide variety of animals. Visitors are restricted to the outer tourist zone where you can enter in a jeep for around Rs.500 for approximately an hours travel in the jungle. This is apart from the entry ticket that you have to take at the sanctuary gate. We mainly saw Deer’s and Peacocks inside the sancturay. The guide driver told us that he saw animals including Black Panther and there would be plenty of animals during summer. We moved with timidity through the forest fearing any sudden appearance of wild animals. But none came.

During the travel, we questioned the Guide on wild animals. He said that the wild animals and elephants behave differently. Sometimes they would be just crossing the road in front of us. They also stand still and they could come running towards the vehicle. The action that they would take if an elephant come charging at the vehicle is that they take the vehicle towards the elephant in an effort to scare the animal and make it leave.  The sanctuary is located 20 km east of Mananthavady, 13 km from Thirunelli on the Kodagu Road.

Once inside the forest, guide also told us that the mud road that we were travelling stretches to hundreds of kilometres inside the forest though we were not allowed for the most part of that stretch. He said that it would take the whole day, if one were to travel the entire stretch. You can imagine how big is that sanctuary from this statement of the guide.

Another thing that he showed us as we were moving inside the forest was a building seen far on the hills on top of a large rock manned by two forest guards. They are stationed there to monitor the forest far and wide round the clock. They were mandated to look for any forest fires and sound of firing and looking out for poachers and wood smugglers.

Guide has explained some bit about the special trees inside the forest, their use, and how the plantations are done and structured.

After close to an hour of tour inside the land of the wild life, we exited the forest with not so many anxious wild life encounters but a feeling of having gone inside the forest successfully.

Heading for the famous Thirunelli temple:

Once we finished at the wild life sanctuary, unlucky that we could not see any really wild animal, we headed for the famous Thirunelli temple. “Thirunelli Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Maha Vishnu on the side of Brahmagiri hill in Kerala. The temple is at an altitude of about 900m in north Wayanad in a valley surrounded by mountains and beautiful forests. It is 32 km away from Manathavady” – according to Wikipedia.

Temple is quite different from any other I have had pilgrimage in Kerala. It is known mainly for a specific kind of religious purpose where thousands visit to offer bali tharpanam (paying obeisance to the ancestors). During the last time, on the occasion of Karkidaka vavu, more than one lakh devotees are known to have visited the temple for Pithru Tharppanam.

Thirunelli Temple
Thirunelli Temple. Picture Courtesy – wayanadtourpackages.net

Thousands offer bali at Thirunelly

Papanasini is a rivulet of the Kabini river flowing close to the temple, where people carry out their rituals as part of the Bali Tharpanam.

“Emanating from the heart of Brahmagiri flowing through roots, leaves and flowers of ancient trees and medicinal herbs, Papanasini is a holy mountain stream accessible around 1 km northwest of the temple premises. One dip in the cold Papanasini waters is reputed to wash away all sins committed in a lifetime. It is further believed that Papanasini is the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Saraswathy.” – According to Wikipedia.

Not many temples in Kerala lies so much in the lap of nature and all around wild life. Visit to the temple and main purpose of the visit as Bali Tharpanam is performed very early in the morning. It is also advised to make the return travel during the day while there is still sun light as there is a clear risk of elephants on the road once it gets dark. There are boards on the road marking elephant movement routes.

Tourism potential of Wayanad:

Wayanad has a lot of tourism potential owing to its geography, lush green forests, hills, plantations, rivers, a few dams and tribal life in certain areas.

Most recently Government of Kerala has announced spending to the tune of Rs. 300 crores to create new tourism initiatives mainly focused on places of tourist interest in Wayanad district. A recent report says that the project to create a tunnel that at Banasura Sagar Dam area has been also announced.

District administration has recently announced that the plastic has been banned in Wayanad due to the districts ecological sensitivity.

The rise of tourism is a sure shot considering the fact that Wayanad is close to major cities such as Mysore and not very far from the mega IT city of Bangalore.

Thomas Issac announces Rs 300 crore hydel project in Wayanad

Major places to see in Wayanad:

Kabini River front – Kabini has been a mystifying name to me for a long time although it wasn’t very far for me to head to its banks. At the next chance, i want to go for the river somewhere on the way from Wayanad to its confluence at Kaveri. Kabini river originates from Wayanad and joins Kaveri in Karnataka. What attracts me most about this river is the fact that it flows almost entirely in a hill district and the wide variety of wild life that the river boasts on its way especially the elephants in large number.

Wild life sanctuaries – While Wayanad wild life sanctuary and Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary are part of the district, Nagarhole national park in Karnataka is not far from the district.

Kuruva Island – This is an island in the Kabini river which is now a popular tourist destination in the district that has a unique biodiversity-rich ecosystem with a collection of rare flora and fauna. Tourists cross to the island through the Kabini river on bamboo rafts.

Kuruva island Bamboo Raft Crossing. Picture courtesy - The Hindu.
Kuruva island Bamboo Raft Crossing. Picture courtesy – The Hindu.

Iruppu falls – The water falls which our guide talked about while we were inside the Wayanad wild life sanctuary which we could not visit because the road will be closed early due to wild life presence looks beautiful in the picture. It is in Kodagu district of Karnataka, India bordering Wayanad. Wikipedia says that there is a famous Siva temple en route to the falls and according to popular legend, Rama and Lakshmana, passed along the Bhramagiri range whilst searching for Rama’s beloved, Sita. Due to this legend, the Falls is believed to possess the power to cleanse sins and is visited by thousands of devotees on Shivaratri day.

Iruppu Falls. Picture courtesy - Wikipedia.
Iruppu Falls. Picture courtesy – Wikipedia.

Banasura Sagar Dam – This has been another place I am longing to visit for a long time. It has excellent scenic beauty and has boating into the reservoir.

Banasura Sagar Dam Picture Courtesy : travelokam.com

Banasura Sagar Dam Picture Courtesy : travelokam.com

Youtube video on boating in the Banasura Sagar reservoir area and Meenmutty water falls

Thirunelli temple – As i have already noted, Thirunelli temple is one unique temple in the middle of beautiful hills in Wayanad.

Chembra peak (the tallest peak in wayanad) –  This is the highest peak in Wayanad, at 2,050 m (6,730 ft) above sea level. It is located near the town of Meppady and is 8 km (5 mi) south of Kalpetta. According to Wikipedia, a lake, heart shaped, on the way to the peak is a major tourist attraction. Apparently one has to trek to the peak with permission from forest officials. While it might be a great idea, it will require some endurance skills as the trekking may not come easy to all.

Chembra Peak. Picture courtesy -Wikipedia
Chembra Peak. Picture courtesy -Wikipedia

Other interests: Wayanad is an entirely hilly district. Depending upon your tastes, Tea plantations, visiting tribal villages, Pookode lake  where I have done boating several years before, various water falls in Wayanad and for those driven by the desire for adventure, various trekking circuits in Wayanad might be of interest.

Resorts i am considering for future visits:

While I first contemplated visit to this serene hill district which is our neighbouring district, I have done a fresh research on which resort to choose for a one night stay. Apart from the Vythiri resort which has been established several years before as probably the first big one in the district, I was surprised to find several others some with outstanding facilities and features.

If you become inspired by Wayanad, and might be planning a visit, please use tripadvisor to find the appropriate resorts to stay as user’s rate these resorts based on their experience.

Wayanad District Kerala – Tripadvisor

Those that interest me have been listed below.

Red Earth Kabini:

The theme of the visit to this resort is to be on the Kabini river side which as I have mentioned have been a plan that I have been nurturing for quite a while. For more details on what you can do there, please visit their site. The issue in going to the Kabini river side is that it is relatively far when we are approaching from the Kerala side and probably better connected from the Mysore side.

http://www.redearthkabini.in/

Sharoy Resorts:

This one looks really out of the ordinary for our little Wayanad. If the pictures that they showcase in the site are true, this is a resort not to be missed. It is situated on the banks of the largest earth dam in India and the second largest of its kind in Asia which is Banasura Sagar Dam. The resort building on a hill is with the stunning view of the reservoir below. Location is close to Padinjarathara near Mananthavady.

http://www.sharoyresort.com/

Vythiri Resorts

This one is a well-established resort which has developed over the years and has a good name among the guests. The approach to Vythiri is better from the Kozhikode side rather than the Kannur or Thalassery side.

http://www.vythiriresort.com/

Wayanad Silver Woods:

Extract from their site – “Take a pilgrimage into the outstretched arms of nature and surrender yourself to an experience that enables you to grow, prosper and flourish. Perched on a hill lock and nestled on the banks of the infinite stretch of the Banasura Sagar dam, Wayanad Silverwoods is a luxurious, expansive, intimate, and exceptionally styled retreat for travelers seeking a plethora of enriching lifestyle experience without limitations. Wayanad Silverwoods is set on a sprawling area of 16 acres providing a breath-taking view of the Banasura sagar with the mighty banasura mountains as the back drop.”

As stated, this one is again built on the backdrop of the beautiful dam in Padinjarathara close to Mananthavady in Wayanad. I had visited Padinjarathara several years before to visit a friend’s house in Wayanad. Never knew the place has this potential. In fact Banasura Sagar Dam project was started in 1979. It took several years to complete just like any project in our Gods own country.

http://www.wayanadsilverwoods.com

Vythiri Village:

A TripAdvisor visitor who stayed here writes the following.

“Your memories of the stay here won’t easily fade away. Perfect place to stay. Classy, I would say. I’m impressed by their service as well and would suggest you to not think twice and just go for this resort. You’ll love it.”

As the name suggests, this one is in Vythiri area which is closer to approach from Kozhikode side.

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“Wherever you go, go with all your heart” – Confucius.

Wish you a nice journey.

 

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