Thekkady, a major tourist attraction in Kerala is located on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu is mainly known for Periyar National park. And everyone who visits can vouch for the wildlife, natural beauty, and thick evergreen forest.
Tourists from every nook and corner of the world throng Thekkady to visit the Periyar Tiger Reserve but Thekkady has so much more to offer that we just got in love with this place. The peace and greenery enthrall you which is hard to find in the hustle bustle of the urban cities.
The Earth has music for those who listen ~ George Santayana
Our days spent in Thekkady were by far the best on our entire trip of Kerala. This place will fit in everyone’s bucket list be it a lover of adventure, wildlife, nature, culture or food.
5 Best Things to do in Thekaddy Kerala
1. Kalaripayattu Martial Art
Kalaripayattu or ‘Kalari’ in short, originated in Kerala, is one of the oldest martial art forms in the world. It dates back to 3rd century BCE. There are cultural centers that are putting their efforts into preserving this ancient art form. It was heartening to see the youngsters putting their heart and soul into this daredevil art.
The best place to see it is at Kadathanadan Kalari and Navarasa center. It was a continuous roar of applause seeing the performances especially the acts involving fire.
Timings: There are shows every evening from 6 p.m – 7 p.m
Tickets: INR 200 per person (age 5 and above)
There are Kathakali shows also in the evening that can be attended. If interested do arrive an hour early to witness the artists apply the elaborate makeup made of natural ingredients.
Another place to experience Kalari is at Mudra Cultural Centre.
2. Spice Plantation Farms
Kerala has an abundance of exotic spices that grow in this region and is one of the major producers of spices in India. It used to be a major trade destination in the silk route. During old times, black pepper was traded at a very high cost and hence known as ‘black gold’.
So what better way to see how these spices grow. There are many plantation farms that conduct tours to show around the massive spice wealth.
We visited the Greenpark Spice Farm. The owner is very knowledgeable and promotes sustainable farming to strengthen the economy. It is fascinating to see the plants of spices that we use daily in our kitchen like green cardamom, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf, ginger, turmeric, and coffee to name a few.
It was rather intriguing to see the cardamom fruit that evolves from the flower grows at the base of the plant and how they pluck the alternate fruits from a single stem. There were a variety of banana plants with one being the miraculous banana whose flower grows at the top and has seeds inside it.
Apart from them, there is a variety of fruits and vegetables and other herbs. We even got to know many home remedies for many ailments.
Did you know Kerala is one amongst the highest Vanilla cultivators in India?
There are two treehouses inside the Greenpark farm, which is given to honeymoon couples to stay.
Tickets: INR 100 per adult. No charge for the kids.
3. Tea Plantations
Although Munnar is mainly famous for tea plantations in Kerala, Thekkady even has breathtaking views of sprawling terraced tea hills.
There are tours available of the tea plantations and factory and see the whole process up close and get a taste of your favorite beverage. The tantalizing aroma and taste of the tea leave you smitten.
Pattumalay tea factory is one of the few tea factories still using the orthodox manufacturing process. Learn the nuances of tea making and taste the various varieties.
Other tea factories that offer tours are Connemara Tea Factory in Vandiperiyar.
Ticket: INR 150 per person
4. Periyar Tiger Reserve
Depending on your interest and time, you can spend from a couple of hours to days at this National park. It is a haven for wildlife lovers that boasts of animals like elephants, wild boars, bison, tigers, sambar (a species of deer) and birds.
There are many activities in Periyar National Park:
Kerala Forest Department (KFD) and Kerala Tourism State Department (KTDC) run 90-minute boat cruises at the famous Periyar lake. The lake is surrounded by the forest and has tree stumps standing out making it a sight to behold.
It is better to book tickets online to save from lines. Even if you book online you are required to go to the ticket counter to get the physical ticket.
Ticket: INR 240 for adults. INR 75 for kids aged 5 to 12 years.
Free for kids below 5 years of age. It is better to book tickets online.
Timings:7:30 a.m, 9:30 a.m, 11:15 a.m, 1:45 p.m, 3:30 p.m
Plan to reach at least 15-30 mins before the scheduled departure.
Note:It’s very unlikely to spot tigers during the boat ride, though elephants, bison, sambar can be spotted. Don’t forget to take your binoculars to spot the wildlife in their natural habitat.
There are early morning and late afternoon boat rides that are sought after as it is believed that animal sighting happens as they come out for a drink.
You will be smitten by the natural beauty, lush green forest and placid lake with tree trunks emerging.
It reminded me of one of my favorite Bollywood movie, ‘Dil Se’ from which a song was picturized here in the lake.
Hiking and Bamboo Rafting
Bamboo Rafting is a very popular activity among tourists. This is a dawn to the dusk program which involves hiking of about 10 km into the wild woods before rafting for 3-4 hours in the special bamboo rafts.
The guides from the park lead the group.
Note: Kids under 12 are not allowed.
Tickets: INR 2000 per person
Many private operators conduct jeep safaris that traverse the mud lanes of the forest to experience flora and fauna upclose.
Tickets: They range from INR 2500 to 3500 per person.
Note: The ride is bumpy.
There are many guided treks and hikes to choose from depending upon the time and route that intrigues you. It is a great opportunity to connect with the nature and hear its melodies.
Tickets: Most of the hikes are INR 300 per person, while Border Hiking is INR 1500 per person.
The night safari called the ‘Jungle Scout’ is a unique way to experience the wilderness. It is a 3-hour trek which includes an armed guard and 2 guides with the group of 6 people maximum.
These guides are usually former poachers who are well aware of the spots and trails best for sightings. Getting these poachers into the mainstream is an endeavor to stop poaching and providing dignity to these people which has been working well.
Timings: 7 p.m, 10 p.m, 1 a.m
Tickets: INR 1000 per person. Kids under 12 years are not allowed.
Note: Wear full-length pants and comfortable trekking shoes. Knee length socks to protect from leeches are provided by the forest officials.
Camping at Jungle
How would you feel spending your night by the placid lake, waking up to the chirping of birds and hot cuppa coffee? This includes food, trekking, boating, bird watching and even an adventurous trip to Gavi forest.
Tickets: INR 5000 per tent (accommodates 2)
Online Bookings – Tickets can be booked online for boating and other activities at the official website of Periyar Foundation.
Things to Take Care at Periyar
- Personal vehicles are not allowed inside the national park. About 1 km ahead of the gate, is the parking lot. There are park buses that take you to the park. The bus ticket is Rs 10 per person for one way. Parking rates are INR 50.
- There is an entry ticket to the park that can be bought at the parking lot or at the entrance gate. If you book activities online, do check if it is included as in the online boat cruise ticket.
- Indian Adult: INR 33, Indian Child (5-12 years) – INR 5; Foreigner Adult: INR 450, Foreigner Child – INR 155
- There is an additional ticket for the cameras.
- If going for hiking or trails, wear good boots and full pants and socks to save yourself from bugs and leeches.
- There are toilets close to the ticket counter.
5. Spice Shopping
How can you go back without shopping for fresh spices? The whiffs of the spices fill the streets. The spices worth buying are – cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, green cardamom, nutmeg, bay leaves, betel nut.
Since there are many shops and competition, there tend to be some bargaining. We got some help from our resort staff, else it was so challenging to decide.
To give an idea of the price range – black pepper from INR 400- 500 per kg, Cloves INR 800-1000 per kg, green cardamom INR 1500-1800, cinnamon sticks INR 400 – 500 per kg.
Packs of spices with small quantities of multiple spices are also available which are great to gift.
There is a lot of variety and quality of spice, so be mindful.
Some of the shops to buy spices are Lord’s spice and Lords spices
Tips: The bigger the size of the pepper, clove, green cardamom, the better quality it is. Also, press the clove hard to see if it exudes oil. This is the sign of its freshness. The green cardamom should be robust and not get pressed. This implies it’s full of seeds.
Other Places to Explore Near Thekkady
- Gavi forest:It is a small village about 1-hour drive from Thekkady. It is famous for its abundant flora and fauna. It is being promoted as an ecotourism spot by the Kerala Forest Dept with options of camping inside the forest. Jeep safaris are a common way to explore Gavi.
- Elephant rides: Although we would not promote and recommend doing this, you will see many places having exclusive activities with elephants. Apart from riding, you can even bathe the mammoth. Elephant Junction, Periyar tiger reserve are a few places to look for.
Places to Stay in Thekkady Kerala
Greenwoods Resort Thekkady is a luxury 5-star resort at the central location.
Hotel Periyar House is a KTDC property inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Hotel Aranya Niwas is another KTDC property inside the Periyar park, by the banks of Periyar lake. These Jungle lodges are the best who want to experience the wildlife up close.
Spice Village – CGH Earth is an eco-resort with tribal styled huts to give an experience of a tribal village.
Thekkady is not only home to the largest wildlife sanctuary in India but it also is a breathtaking little hill-station with a dreamy landscape in Idukki district of Kerala. You got to add Thekkady to your Kerala itinerary because you don’t need any reason or season to visit Thekkady.
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