Ask any Malayalee (Keralite) what the prettiest part of their state is and most will whisper: Wayanad... It is surrounded by forest reserves that spill into Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Wayanad's landscape is combines rice paddies, skinny betel nut trees, bamboo, spiky ginger fields, cardamom, pepper and coffee plantations.
Tourist infrastructure is beginning, though it is still fantastically unspoilt, with epic views. Surprisingly few tourists make it here, a shame since it is one of the few places you're almost guaranteed to spot wild elephants.
Paddy in Wayanad
The 345 sq km sanctuary has two separate pockets Muthanga in the east bordering Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and Tholpetty in the north bordering Karnataka. Three major towns in Wayanad district make good bases for exploring the Wayanad- Kalpetta in the south, Sulthan Bathery in the east and Mananthavady in the northeast.
Sights and Activities
Visiting the Sanctuary
Entry to both parts of the sanctuary (7-10.30am and 3-6.30pm) is only permitted as part of a guided trek or jeep safari, both of which can be arranged at the sanctuary entrances. Tholpetty closes during the monsoon period, while Muthanga remains open.
Tuskers in Wayanad wildlife sanctuary
At Tholpetty (Tel: 04935-250853; Sept-Mar), the 1 hour 30 minutes jeep tours (7am to 9am and 3pm to 5pm) are a great way to spot wildlife. Rangers organise guided treks from here.
At Muthanga (Tel: 04935 271O10), two-hour jeep tours are available in the mornings and afternoons. During the monsoon period, with a minimum of four people, rafting trips (two and half hour trip) may also be arranged.
The DTPC as well as most hotels, arrange guided jeep tours of the Muthanga sanctuary and surrounding Wayanad sights.
Kannur Ayurvedic Centre
For ayurvedic treatments, visit this excellent small, government-certified and family-run clinic, tucked away in the leafy backstreets of Kalpetta. Ayurvedic massage, longer treatments like full 21-day panchakarma cleansing are in offer. There are nice rooms some with balconies and views. Daily yoga classes are there.
Trekking and Rafting
There are some top opportunities for independent trekking around the district, including a climb to the top of Chembra Peak, at 2100m the area's tallest summit. Vellarimala, with great views and lots of wildlife-spotting opportunities: and Pakshipathalam, a formation of large boulders deep in the forest.
River rafting in WayanadPermits are necessary and can be arranged at forest offices in South or North Wayanad. The DTPC office in Kalpetta organises trekking guides, and offer camping equipment and transport-pretty much anything you might need to get you hiking. It also runs four-hour bamboo rafting trips from June to September.
Thought to be one of the oldest on the subcontinent, Thiruelly Temple is 10km from Tholpetty Non-Hindus cannot enter but it is worth visiting to experience the otherworldly cocktail of ancient and intricate pillars and stone carvings, set against a backdrop of mist-covered peaks.
8am-noon and 2-6pm
The 13th-century Jain temple near Sultan Bathery has splendid stone carvings and is an important monument to the region's strong historical Jain presence.
Close to the Jain temple, near Ambalavayal, these caves have prehistoric artwork thought to date back over 3000 years and jaw-dropping views or Wayanad district.
Wayanad Heritage Museum
In the same area as the caves, this museum exhibit its headgear, weapons, pottery carved stone and other artefacts dating back to the 15th century that shed light on Wayanad's significant Adivasi (Tribes) population.
(Tel: 04936-231400, 275443 8.30am-5pm Mon-Sat)
Around 6km southeast of Kalpetta is where a collective of bamboo workers create all sorts of artefacts from bamboo. You can visit the artists' work-shops, where they work on looms, painting and carving, and support their work by buying vases, lampshades, bangles, baskets, and much more at bargain prices from the small fixed-price shop.
Pookot Lake is 3km before Vythiri, a beautiful mirror framed by forest. Geared up for visitors, it has well-maintained gardens, a cafeteria, play ground and boats for hire. It gets packed on the weekends, though feels quite peaceful during the week.
Sleeping and Eating
This wonderful homestay is in the middle of an incredible lush 160 hectares of pepper, coffee, vanilla and cardamom plantations.
Tranquil plantation resort
The elegant house has sweeping verandas filled with plants and handsome furniture, and there are two tree houses that have to be the finest in the state - most romantic is the tree house, which is at a dizzying height and has a branch growing through the bathroom.
Victor, the plantation owner, will welcome you in like an old friend of the family. There are 12 walks marked around the plantation.
This fine old Kerala house lies just outside the gate of Tholpetty Reserve- handy for early-morning treks, tours and wildlife viewing. The varied rooms are simple and tidy, with polished wood ceilings, tiled floors and mosquito nets.
There is one stilt-bungalow surrounded by forest. Venu is a stupendous cook, and his son Dilip is a great guide to the surrounds. Besides trekking, they can arrange night animal- spotting safaris-not inside the park-where your chances of spotting wild elephants are pretty phenomenal.
It is isolated and set in a stunning location overlooking sprawling banana plantations and rice paddies, so this homestay halfway between Kalpetta and Manthavady is definitely worth seeking out.
Surrounded by bucolic villages, it has several large rooms that come thoughtfully and colourfully furnished. Two rooms are bamboo-lined and offer private balconies. There are hammocks and wicker lounges here to enjoy the sensational views. Call to arrange a pick-up.
Stream Valley Cottages
These plain modern cottages lie on the banks of a small stream, several hundred metres off the main road (2.5km before Vythiri). Each cottage has a separate sitting area, private veranda, dark-wood interior and comes with a hushed soundtrack of singing birds and bubbling brooks. Traditional Kerala meals are available.
With a fantastic setting 750m from the Thirunelly Temple, this remote-feeling KTDC property is set on its own in the countryside, has large rooms with verdant views, and is a good deal. There is a restaurant.
Somewhat set away from Kalpetta's busy main streets, this is a reasonable, comfortable hotel, and some of the rooms, with lively orange, green and blue colour schemes have good views across the town's greenery from their balconies.
PPS Tourist Home
This agreeable and friendly place in the middle of Kalpetta has budget rooms in a motel-like compound that are fairly clean and comfy. The helpful management can arrange trips around Wayanad and hikes up Chembra Peak (six hours).
The pick of Sulthan Bathery's bunch of hotels, this quiet and no-nonsense place has routine, large and relatively tidy rooms in a U-shaped building. The deluxe rooms differ from the standard ones in price only.
The somewhat disorganised DTPC office (Tel: 04936-202134; 10am-5pm Mon-Sat) at Kalpetta can help organise tours, permits and trekking. There are UAE Exchange offices in Kalpetta and Sulthan Bathery and Federal Bank and Canara Bank ATMs can be found in each of the three main towns, as can a smattering of internet cafes.
Getting There and Around
Autorickshaw and Jeep
There are plenty of autorickshaws and jeeps for short trips within the towns.
Buses brave the winding roads between Calicut and Sultan Bathery (three hours), via Kalpetta, every 15 minutes. Private buses also run between Kannur and Mananthavadi every 45 minutes (two and half hours). From Sultan Bathery, an 8am bus heads out for 0oty (four hours), with a second one passing through town at around 1pm. Buses for Mysore (three hours) leave every 30 minutes or so.
Plenty of private buses connect Mananthavady, Kalpetta and Sultan Bathery every 10 to 20 minutes during daylight hours (45 minutes to one hour). From Mananthavady, regular buses also head to Tholpetty (one hour), Mysore (7three hours, five buses) and Ooty (6 hours, two daily). You can hire jeeps to get from one town to the next.
DTPC can help arrange car hire.
Best Hotel / Homestay Deals
Book a Hotel at the best price from 30+ online booking services. All hotels rated by guests.
Subscribe to the Kerala Tourism Guide E-zine. It is absolutely free
[?] Subscribe To This Site