Like many other towns in Kerala(see my Kerala Itinerary here), this again was the one I never heard of (Probably my ignorance). Thekkady is located very close to Tamil Nadu state border amidst dense forest region of Western Ghats and is a very important part of Periyar Tiger reserve area.
Forest department of Thekkady is very active and considers tourism as an imperative part of overall growth of the surrounding area while preserving what needs to be preserved well. They acknowledge that forest not just comprises of wild animals and dense trees but also is home to various human cultural forms and age-old traditions. Name it KalyariPattu – Kerala’s own martial art form, or old tribal traditions – tribal music and dance forms, as well as their style of living in forest, Thekkady is a place to witness all of them.
Besides, forest department run programs are quite impressive, well planned and exhaustive for all kind of tourists. Thekkady will never fail you if –
- You are a nature lover, or;
- A cultural enthusiast, or;
- Just looking for some good relaxation time after your hectic work life ,or;
- Adventure seeker, or;
- Wish to witness wilderness in their home
There is so much to do in just one place and that makes it a must visit destination in Kerala.
Things to do in Thekkady!!
- Periyar Tiger Reserve – If someone will ask me where you would like to specially categorize Thekkady its Eco tourism. Most of the activities are based out in Periyar Tiger reserve. Forest department is amazingly active here and runs various programs. These programmes are conducted by local people with the help of forest department and are responsible for the surveillance of the vulnerable parts of the reserve. Visit http://thekkady.org/ to see an exhaustive list of activities you can try out here. Green Walk/Nature walk, Bamboo Rafting in Periyar lake, Jungle jeep safari, Border hiking (Kerala – Tamil Nadu Border), are just a few of the most famous activities you can try.
- Kalyaripattu (Indian Martial art form) – India has its own martial art form and Thekkady is one of the major base of Gurukul’s ( Ancient Indian School forms) which still teaches this form to their disciples. A must watch if you are here. Usual shows run for 1 hour and are ticketed at Rs 200-300/-. Show timings are usually in the evening from 6:30 PM onwards.
- Kathakalli – Though, we had to give it a miss, but yes based on my discussions with various other travellers it’s much recommended in Thekkady.
- Tribal Dance and music show – We were extremely lucky that this was included in our full board stay package and we could enjoy the show. I was not an ardent fan of tribal heritage possibly because I never got any chance to witness the same. The show gave a nice and short glimpse of western ghat’s tribal life. Moreover the effort of forest department to preserve this Indian traditional life form are clearly visible.
- Boating in Periyar Lake – A must visit, the only reason I wanted to mention this separately from Periyar tiger reserve is because it is a must do. Just don’t take this as yet another boating experience, there are high chances of seeing wildlife in their groups along the shores of this lake.
A quick Suggestion – Getting the ticket of Boating in Periyar Lake is not an easy task. Long queue might just lead you to a decision of dropping the plan. Consider staying in Bamboo Grove “A Resort run by Forest Department” with full board package, it is quite cheap for the accommodation provided and includes Green walk, Tribal Dance Show, and most importantly tickets for Periyar Lake boating without Queue.
- Plantation tour – Kerala is quite famous for its spices and hence for spice plantation. Thekkady in particular have many such spice farms. Visit one of those to get yourself refreshed. They are a much recommended visit if you are planning to buy some fresh and authentic export quality Kerala spices.
- Chellarkovil – Just 10 km before Thekkady, the village Chellarkovil is declared as an eco-tourism village. A better place to see herbal plantation and a view-point centre with much wider view of the Valley. Chellarkovil is also home to Aruvikuzhi waterfalls which start from Kerala and by the time water reaches the rocks, it’s already Tamil Nadu.
- Visit to Kalvari Mount (Idukki dam) – World’s biggest/World’s only; these term usually excite any traveller and Thekkady offers one such point to tick out. Idukki dam is one of Asia’s highest arch dam. Moreover, the “Kalvari Mount” Mountain provides beautiful views of the Idukki Reservoir as well as the two prominent tribal villages of the region, namely Kamakshy and Mariyapuram. Elephants can also be seen roaming in the forests, near the foothills.
- Elephant Ride – A suggestive way of enjoying Spice plantation along with Elephant ride is to go with Elephant Junction. This park is just 4 km from Kumily bus stand offering a unique opportunity to experience elephant safari through a spice plantation. Elephant Junction is a place where one can actually interact with the elephants, get a rare chance of indulging into activities such as bathing elephant, elephant ride and enjoy getting around with playful elephants amidst spice scented air.
How to reach Thekkady!!
Though area is more famous by the name of Thekkady, Kumily is the destination which can be termed as the tourism nest of the region. Kumily is not connected by train and the only way of reaching down to this place is by Bus or by hiring Private taxi.
Note – If you are not very fond of hill roads and get motion sickness easily, consider using your own Taxi/cab to Kumily. Road leading to Kumily is quite curvy and people usually feel motion sickness along the way in the bus.
This is the cheapest way of travel down to Kumily. We started from Alleppy with Kumily being the next destination. There are only two buses directly to Kumily and luckily we could grab one.
Direct Kerala state KSRTC bus to Kumily at 7:30 AM and 1:00 PM- this is the best option if one could grab it. It takes around 5 hours to reach Kumily; road along the way goes through dense forest which is quite scenic also.
If, direct bus is not an option, there are buses every 20-30 minutes from Kottayam to Kumily. So, just take a bus to Kottayam from Alleppy and get a connecting bus to Kumily.
From any other destination
Kottayam is the junction which connects Kumily with all other destinations around Kerala. Kottayam has both Railways as well as bus station. So, just get a connecting public transport to Kottayam and board a bus to Kumily town. Make sure to use Kumily as the destination name and not Thekkady.
From Kumily, there are direct KSRTC buses to almost all the major destinations in Kerala, but with very limited frequency. Most recommended route is to reach Kottayam, which serves as a junction for both KSRTC buses as well as Indian railways and have buses and trains leaving to all major destinations in Kerala.
One bus which I happened to miss to Trivandrum was at 10:45 AM from Kumily junction.
Please use aanavandi website to plan your journey using buses in Kerala. This blog gives an easy to use interface to search for buses between almost all destination in Kerala.
- Littering in Thekkady is strictly prohibited, avoid polythene as much as possible.
- Entrance fees for Periyar tiger reserve for foreigners is Rs. 450/-, while for Indian adults it is Rs 33/-.
- Boating in Periyar Lake is must, but the main season time (October mid to January end) attracts a lot of visitors and boating tickets get sold out. Consider buying those by being early in queue.
- Go for Green walk if you are doing boating. “Nature walk” is around the same boating area.
Make sure to carry!
- Do carry SLR/DSLR camera, as the area hosts some of the “not available anywhere else” or “difficult to find” wild species.
- A water bottle before entering Periyar tiger reserve area, as the only canteen inside might run out of supplies or not in operation few of the times.
- It gets really cold in the evening or early morning around the area. Consider carrying a light Jacket as well.
Where to stay
Stay in Kumily area is not an issue at all, area is quite touristy and hence, has more Hotels/Homestays/Resorts/Hostels than home for locals. Bookings can be done both in advance and also once you reach there and you can certainly get the accommodation of your choice.
Try considering your stay in one of the many government-run forest tourist stay options – “Bamboo Grove”. It is one of the cheapest and nicely maintained resort. We took their full board package which costs around Rs. 4000 in 2017 for two persons and includes all the meals, accommodation in a personal cottage room amidst forest like environment, Periyar lake Boat rides for two with all entrance without any long queue, tribal dance show and green walk of almost two and half hours. Overall this was the cheapest option around that area.
Vedanta wake up is another good choice for backpackers looking for just night lodging, which is a fairly good branded hostel in that area.
Most of the wild life safaris in Thekkady are either Walk or Boat and sadly none of them supports wheel chairs. Certainly, on demand ramps (on the stairs leading to boats) are possible based on my discussion with forest officials. So, boating definitely is one option available to witness animals in their wilderness in Thekkady.
Besides, few jeep safari and off track jungle jeep safari are also available through private operators in Thekkady. They are keen on taking all sort of individuals for their adventure jungle trips. Though a caution is surely recommended!!
If you are in Thekkady, do not forget to enjoy your time with various shows of Kalyari (the martial arts), Kathakali (Kerala state dance show) and Tribal dance. The shows have good accessibility to all types of wheel chairs with designated sitting areas as well.
Please note, the buses of both Tamil Nadu as well as Kerala government doesn’t have ramps for wheelchair accessibility!! Consider using your own taxi/cab/car to come down to the town.
I hope you find this article on Thekkady useful to decide on your travel plans. If you have any suggestions to me or information to share, please comment and let us all know of the same.
Thanks for reading and happy travelling!!