Posted by: getaway2india | January 4, 2010

Thekkady – The Land of Spices and Elephants

The word Thekkady conjures up images of elephants, unending chains of hills and spice-scented plantations. In the Periyar forest of Thekkady is one of the finest wildlife reserves in India and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks.

Periyar Elephants

It is home to herds of elephants, sambar, tigers, gaur, lion-tailed Macaques and Nilgiri Langurs. Thekkady is considered a heaven for natural spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove.

Periyar is prime elephant country and large herds are often sighted at the lake fringes. Among the 62 species of mammals, many are rare, endemic and endangered.

Exotic Squirrel

Sambar, the largest deer in India, are extensively distributed and constitute the principal prey base of tiger and wild dog. Wild pig also has wide distribution throughout the park. Small populations of the highly endangered Nilgiri Tahr are found in the high altitude grasslands of Mangaladevi.

The Nilgiri Langur,  Lion Tailed Macaque, Malabar Giant Squirrel,  the endangered species, Small Travancore Flying Squirrel,  the Large Flying Squirrel and the endemic and endangered Fruit bat too thrive here.

Tiger Basking in the Sun in Periyar

The Tiger is found in all types of habitats though their density is much less in the evergreen forests. Though sighting one is difficult because of the thick vegetation, evidences like pugmarks, clawings, and scats are located throughout the reserve. The population is estimated to be between 35–40.

The Striped-necked Mongoose is not uncommon, found in the semi-evergreen and evergreen forests.

Nilgiri Marten is an extremely rare and endemic mustellid, though recently sighted a number of times.

To See:

Periyar Tiger Reserve

Periyar Wildlife sanctuary is spread across 777 km² (300 sq. miles), of which 360 km² (139 sq. miles) is thick evergreen forest. The Wild Life Sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaiperiyar Dam across the Periyar River adds to the charm of the park. The greatest attraction of Periyar are the herds of wild elephants that come down to play in the lake. Entry timing: 0600 – 1800 hrs. Open throughout the year.

Tiger Reserve Programmes

Murikkady – consists of spice and coffee plantations. It is about 5 km from Thekkady.

Viewpoint, ChellarKovil

Chellar Kovil

This is located about 15 km from Kumily and leads to the Theni district of Tamil Nadu. This place has a lot of waterfalls and cascades. It is very beautiful and extremely serene. The village slopes down to the famous coconut groves of Cumbum in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.

Mangala Devi Temple

This ancient temple is hidden in the dense woods at the top of a oeak 1337 m above sea level.  The temple is built in the traditional Kerala style of architecture.  Visitors are allowed here only on the Chithra Pournami festival day.   The peak commands a panoramic view of the eastern slopes of the Ghats and some hill villages of Tamil nadu.  Permission to visit the area can be abtained from the Wildlife Wadren, Thekkady (Ph.0486-322027).


Spring Valley Mountain (Kurisumala)

A place for adventure tourism and trekking.  This will offer a panoramic view of Kumily town and Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Kumily (4 km from Thekkady)

This plantation town, closely associated with Thekkady, is situated on the outskirts of the Periyar Sanctuary.  An important shopping centre ans spice trade centre, the main bus station and most of the medium range accommodation in the Periyar region are in Kumily

Pandikuzhi (5 km from Kumily)

This picturesque spectrum of exotic flora, fauna and gurgling streams is cradled between Chellarkovil and the Tamil Nadu border.  A popular picnic spot, Pandikuzhi offers great opportunities for trekking and is a photographer’s delight.


Vandiperiyar (18 km from Thekkady)

The River Periyar flowing through the centre of this town nourishes its vast tea, coffee and pepper plantations.  A major trade centre, Vandiperiyar is also home to a number of tea factories.  The Government Agriculture farm and Flower Garden have a delightful array of roses, orchids and anthuria.

Tree Houses for Tourists….calling the Tarzen and Jane inside of you….


Vandanmedu (25 km from Kumily)

This is one of the world’s largest auction centres for candamom.  A walk through the sprawling cardamom plantations of Vandanmedu is a heady experience.

Pullumedu(43 km from Thekkady, 26 km from Periyar)

The winding journey to this hill town, along the Periyar River, offers a stunning view of the rolling hills draped in lush greenery.  Velvet lawns, rare flora and fauna add to the beauty of Pullumedu which can be accessed only by jeep.  The famous Sree Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala and the Makara Jyothi illumination at the shrine are visible from here.  Since it is part of the restricted forest zone, special permission to visit Pullumedu has to be obtained from the Wildlife Preservation Officer, Thekkady Ph:0486-322027 or the Range Officer, Vallakkadavu Ph:0486-352515.


Ramakalmedu (40 km from Thekkady and 75 km from Munnar)

Rolling green hills and the fresh mountain air make Ramakalmedu an enchanting retreat. The hills top also offers a Panoramic view of picturesque villages of Bodi and Cumbum on the Eastern slop of the western ghats.


It is considered to be the place where Pancha Pandavas lived during the exile forest life (Vanavasa Kalam in Mahabaratha epics). It is believed that Pancha Pandavas still hide there though nobody can see them, but they can see everybody. The tourist can see there are stones like furniture which are believed to be used by the Pandavas.

Peermade Taluk

Peermade (32 km)

Peermade is named after Peer Muhammed, the sufi saint who spent his last days here. The Mausoleum of the saint, the summer palace of the erstwhile Travancore Royal Dynasty and the residence of the Diwan are situated nearby and all are worth visiting. The GPS Coordinates of Peermade are 9.57 N ,76.99 E.


Grampi (24 km)

Grampi is also known as Parunthupara. Because of the panoramic view from its high peaks, rocky plains and hillside it has become a tourist centre.

Pattumala (25 km)

It can be called the home of tea plantations. The Velamkanni Church at the top of the hill is a pilgrim center.

Wagamon Paragliding Contest


Wagamon (60 km)

The cool mountain air, mist, grass-covered hills, velvet lawns etc make Wagamon a perfect holiday resort. The chain of three hills Thangal Hills (Muslim name) Murugan Hills (Hindu name) and Kurisumala (Christian name) is a mark of religious harmony.

To do:

Nature Walk – The guided day trek

Different nature trails traversing diverse habitats form the trekking routes, generally 4 to 5 km in length. This is an interpretive programme offering excellent opportunity to watch birds, butterflies and other wildlife. The trails often pass through evergreen and moist deciduous forests interspersed with marshy grasslands.

The programme is offered between 7AM and 10:30AM and between 2PM and 3PM and lasts for about 3 hours. A maximum of 5 persons can go for trekking at a time along each nature trail, accompanied by a trained tribal guide. The Nature walk is the right programme to feel nature, hear her whispers and smell her flowers.

The Periyar Tiger Trail

The programme is unique in being conducted by a team of poachers who turned protectors of the forests. The team members are hardy and dependable with an intimate knowledge of the forest terrain. The programmes are 1 night/2 days and 2 nights/3 days. The first day’s trek starts at 12 noon and ends by noon in the second or third day. The team consists of a maximum of 5 visitors, 5 guides and 2 forest officials. Normally 20 to 35 km of trekking distance will be covered, depending on the route chosen.

Here, one may chance to encounter much indigenous wildlife like Nilgiri langur, giant squirrel, elephant and who knows, even the tiger! The trek route passes through hills and valleys with a variety of tropical plants and wide-open spaces. Enroute vegetarian meals will be prepared and served and country tents will be pitched for holing up in the night. Trekking groups are accompanied by armed forest guards with good communication equipments, and geared to face any emergency situation. Remember to listen to unusual and strange adventure stories of the former poachers, now your guides and protectors of the forests.

Preconditions for joining the tiger trail: Visitors who are medically fit and aged between 15 – 65 are advised to take the tiger trail. Visitors should be serious nature lovers willing to sacrifice some of the luxuries and comforts of a hotel.

Bamboo Rafts

Bamboo Rafting

This is a dawn to dusk range hiking and rafting programme through some of the richest forest tracts of Periyar Tiger Reserve. Starting at 8AM from the boat landing, a mosaic of habitats will be traversed before the party gets into rafts made of bamboos.

The forests are rich in bird life and arboreal animals like giant squirrel and Nilgiri langur. The rafting is for about three hours and one gets a panoramic view of forest-clad hills reflected on the lake. Animals like elephant, gaur and sambar are sighted keeping close to the edges of the lake.

The team hitchhikes back to the boat landing by about 5PM. An armed guard and 4 guides will accompany a maximum of 10 tourists. Tea, snacks and packed lunch will be served enroute.

Plantation Tours

Plantation tours are arranged from the District Tourism Information Office at Thekkady Junction in Kumily (Ph:0486-322620).  Tours cover cardamom, pepper, coffee and tea plantations, tea factories, tribal settlements and the surrounding hill regions.

Elephant rides

The Forest Department, Thekkady offers facilities for elephant rides through the jungle.  Time: 1000 – 1700 hrs.  Duration: 30 Minutes.  Fare: Rs.30 per person.  Tickets are available from the Wildlife Information Counter.   Ph:0486-322028



Main trekking areas in Thekkady: Kurisumala near Kumily, Pullumedu, Ottakathalamedu near Kumily, Grampi near Vandiperiyar. The Forest Department conducts daily trels from the boat landing station at Thekkady to the Nellikkampetty area and Manakkavala.  Starting: 0700 hrs.  Fare: Rs.10 + entrance fee.  Booking can be made with the Wildlife Preservation Officer, Thekkady (Ph:0486-322027, 322028).

Boat on the Periyar

Boat cruises on the Periyar Lake

Timings: 0700, 0930, 1130, 1400, 1600 hrs.

Fare: Lower deck: Rs.50, Upper deck: Rs.90.

The Forest Department (Ph:322028) and the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Ltd. (Ph: 322023) conduct boating trips from Thekkady.   Entrance fee at check post:  Foreigners: Rs.50 (valid for one day), Domestic tourists: Rs.2.

Distance of Major Towns from Thekkady:

Route is mountainous and winding so approx speed by bus/car will be max 30 to 40km/ph.

Kumily 4 km (15 min)
Sabarimala via Pullumedu 50 km (2 hrs)
Idukki 65 km (2.5 hrs)
Munnar 106 km (4 hrs)
Peermede 40 km (1 hrs)
Vagamon 70 km (2.5 hrs)
Kumarakom 128 km (4 hrs)
Sabarimala via Erumeli 134 km (4 hrs)
Kodaikanal 149 km (5 hrs)
Alappuzha 164 km (5 hrs)
Kollam 220 km (6 hrs)
Ooty 390 km (11 hrs)
Thiruvananthapuram 265 km (7 hrs)
Cochin 190 km
Kottayam 114 km

Tourist Accommodation Facilities (2009)

Name Tariff Range Rs Fax Telephone
Email/ Website
Ambady 450-990 322192 322193
Aranya Nivas (KTDC) 2000-5500 322282 322023
Cardamom County 1300-3600 322807 322816
Carmelia Haven 1500-3500 870268 870252/ 870272
Highrange Residency 600-1500 323343
Lake Palace (KTDC) 3250-7500 322282 322023
Lake queen 350-700 322084
Leela Pankaj 350-500 322392
Michael’s Inn 800-1700 322356 322355
Mukkumckal Tourist Home 100-1250 323270 322570
Periyar House (KTDC) 800-1700 322526 322447
Revathy International 300-700 322436 322434
Shalimar Spice Garden Resort 2400-6100 323022/ 322754 322132/ 323232/ 323632
Silver Crest 1800-2500 322481
Spice village 3000-5500 322317 322316
Taj Garden Retreat 3800 322106 322403
Tebernacle Tourist Home 350-900 322240 322240

Getting in

Thekkady is located about 257 km (160 miles) from Trivandrum, 114 km from Madurai Airport, 185 km from Cochin International Airport and 114 km from Kottayam railwaation.

Best Season – September to March.

To Stay:

There are several categories of hotels in and around Thekkady.

For an accommodation or travel in Thekkady visit Galaxy Travel Club

Apart from hotels, there are good cottages and home-stay rooms available. These are basically owned by residents who have decided to make some money by renovating a part of their house and renting it out to travelers. These rooms can be quite luxurious and will give you a homely feel.

    Taj Garden Retreat Thekkady (now renamed Tusker Trail of Club Mahindra group),THEKKADY/default.htm

Close to civilization and yet totally removed from it, these charming thatched roof villas fit right in with their surroundings—the famous Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Rich in comfort and natural materials, this retreat offers a welcome respite of relaxation and seclusion. Total No of Rooms 32.

Also Visit:

  • Route For Detailed report and photos of route to Palani from Kochi thru Valpara go to Kochi-Valpara-Palani
  • Kodaikanal


  1. A very comprehensive post with beautiful photographs. Thanks.

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