Adventure sports, romantic dinners in a natural cave, walks through coffee and spice plantations, and photography workshops in rain forests; Wayanad in Kerala’s Western Ghats offers loads of eclectic and fun things to do on your great escape this summer
At the risk of using the most widely used cliché this season, ‘Beat the heat’ is the first thing that comes to the mind when we step out into Mumbai’s merciless summer. It’s fair then to contemplate a quick getaway to someplace that offers respite for soaring temperatures. While Kerala doesn’t pop up as the first destination to seek out, Wayanad in the northern part of the state, nestled the Western Ghats might be an ideal escape.
Trekking is one of the best ways to explore this pristine hill station. Pic courtesy/Muddy boots
Wayanad is dotted with picturesque, mist-clad valleys, sprawling spice plantations, luxuriant forests and rich cultural traditions. The temperature here ranges from 13 degrees to 32 degrees in summer and stays uniformly pleasant all year. Here are the guide’s top five activities to try in Wayanad.
Cross country on a bicycle
One of the best ways to explore this hilly terrain is on a bike or doing a trek. We signed up with Muddy Boots that organises adventure sport activities and holidays across Wayanad. Trails can be customised as per the age group, fitness levels and convenience. We chose a trail that covered the base of a huge hill surging out of the surrounding plains. In course of the ride you can choose to stop at many points of interest — famous temples, a bamboo handicrafts factory, an NGO that empowers women, a biodiversity research station, and a tribal hamlet. The route covers back country roads, mud trails and crosses paddy fields and villages where one can chat with villagers or tuck into local delicacies. The group offers other adventure sports like kayaking, rappelling, and river crossing.
Candle-lit dinner in a natural cave at Edakkal Hermitage
Dinner in a cave
The Edakkal Caves are two natural caves at a remote location, 25 km from Kalpetta in the Wayanad district. These lie 1,200m above sea level on Ambukutty Mala, beside an ancient trade route that connected Mysore to the ports on Malabar’s coast. Inside, you can spot pictorial writings supposed to date back to least 6,000 BC, indicating the presence of a prehistoric Neolithic civilization here. Edakkal’s Stone Age carvings are rare and are the only known examples from South India. The Edakkal Hermitage Resort located near the caves offers a cosy, memorable candle-lit dinner experience in a natural cave, within their premises.
Monkey Crawling with at Wayanad. Pic s courtesy/Muddy boots
Relax with Ayurveda
Wayanad is a haven to enjoy the benefits of Ayurveda with its rejuvenating massages and treatments that can cure every kind of ailment. A highly recommended treatment is the Shirodhara, which involves gently pouring liquids over the forehead. Depending on ones treatments the liquids can range from oil, milk, buttermilk, coconut water, or even plain water.
Some of the main crops grown in Wayanad are coffee, pepper, tea, rubber, cardamom and vanilla. Like the spa routine, many resorts and homestays in Wayanad are built on or close to coffee plantations. Most homestay tours conduct such trails. Our walk was at Wynberg Resorts where its owner, KR Vancheeswaran, the then managing partner and head, Wayanad Tourism, guided us around his property to explore the plantation life including cultural practices of coffee/rubber/pepper/vanilla. Being agricultural graduates, the promoters could share more insights into the cultivation aspects.
Elephants at the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Call of the wild
The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is a must visit. This area is famous for tigers and leopards along with other wildlife including bonnet monkeys, mongooses, jungle cats, squirrels, jackals and hares. Elephants, bears and other wild animals from the neighbouring wild life sanctuaries of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, stray into the Begur forest range and the forests around Muthanga, which is 20 kilometers away from the town of Sulthan Bathery.
Stay: The Aranyakam homestay is blessed with Nilgiris on one side and Nilambur forest on the other. A cluster of independent huts along with a heritage bungalow, built to blend perfectly with its natural environment, it offers a stunning view of the dense forest and vibrant wildlife. The hosts, Rajesh and Neema look into every detail to assure a memorable stay.
PS: Don’t miss the tourist attractions of Meenmutty Falls and Pookat Lake, also in Wayanad.
From Mumbai 1,115 km
Air: Nearest airport: Kozhikode (Karipur)
Rail: Nearest railway station: Kozhikode. Rail distance from Mumbai: 1,425 km
Road: Well connected by roads from Kozhikode (distance: 97 kms); (Ghat-72 Km from Kalpetta), Ooty (120 Km from Kalpetta) and Mysore (140 Km from Kalpetta).
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