Nestled on the slopes of the Western Ghats, Wayanad is one of the most beautiful hill stations of Kerala. Wayanad means the “Land of paddy fields”. This name came from two native words, Vayal” that signifies paddy fields and “Naad” which signifies land. It is one of the most prominent tourist districts in Kerala, however, it is also sparsely populated.
Trekking in Wayanad
1. Chembra Peak Trek
It is the main trekking trail in Wayanad, towering at around 6,900ft. It has a thrilling and steep climb to the top. Chembra is also home to a heart-shaped lake. Bestowed with lush green hills, Wayanad offers a unique hiking experience. To get here, you have to reach the forest office located 5km from Meppadi town. Permission for trekking needs to be obtained, once that is done, you can proceed towards the peak.
Halfway to the peak, a heart-shaped lake that never dries will catch all your attention. Locally named Hridaya Saras, it is also one of the most sought-after destinations in Wayanad. Hiking around 2km from the lake, you will reach the Chembra Peak From where you can enjoy panoramic views of Vaithair, Karapuzha Dam, and Banasurasagra Dam. This peak offers one of the best views of Wayanad.
2. Pakshipathalam Trek
As the name suggests, it is a home to many birds and one can trek here. In addition to birds and beasts, this site is also home to one of the rarest seen species of bats. Pakshipathalam also has caves, soaring at a height of 1,740m and buried deep in the woods. The mysterious Pakshipathalam Caves are located at the northern end of Brahmagiri Hills. These caverns are deep rock caves, made among the thick rows of boulders. Legend has it that saints used the caves for meditation.
Seven hours of a tough trek up from the foothills of Banasura Ranges leads one to Sahibkkunnu in Wayanad. Old folklore associates the place with a demon. Banasura Ranges serve as the base of this trek followed by steep slopes, deep valleys, mountain streams and captivating views of the surroundings. Deep thickets and green pastures welcome you to the hilltop. You can enjoy the panoramic views of the peaks and the entire valley underneath, from there.
Translated as the ‘Mountain of Cross’ or ‘Amrithamedu’, Kurisumala is a pilgrimage center and a trekker’s delight. The treacherous climb denotes the suffering of Jesus Christ. Further, the cross is believed to be a symbol of his sufferings. Sudden ups and downs during the climb make this trek one of the most enthralling things to do in Wayanad. As one goes up the hill, rough terrain laces the pathways, however on arriving at the peak, trekkers are rewarded with the stunning views.
5. Phantom Rock
Phantom Rock is situated about 13 km from Kalpetta adjacent to the Ambalavayal town. The rock has the shape of a skull and hence the name. Locally called Cheengeri Mala, the place offers great photographic opportunities.
A short uphill climb will lead you to the edge of a hill. From here this strange rock formation can be seen. It resembles a skull that is sitting precariously on top of the hill. It makes you wonder as to how it’s sitting so comfortably on top of other rocks.
Though, trekking is the most exciting things to do in Wayanad, cycling through the less frequented paths of Wayanad is thrilling as well. Riding through the pictorial tea and coffee plantations, rugged terrains and the green meadows is a refreshing experience. As Wayanad shares its border Tamil Nadu, you can also traverse down the paths that lead to the tea estates of Nilgiri. Depending on your cycling skills, you can also choose the most befitting routes for you. However, some of the best routes originate from Chundale and Kalpetta regions of Wayanad.
Waterfalls in Wayanad
1. Meenmutty Waterfalls
This beautiful waterfall is supposed to be the largest in Kerala. The waterfalls, in cascades, making it a delightful spectacle. The Meenmutty Waterfall is located in the middle of a tropical forest, off the Ooty Road, around 29 kilometres from Kalpetta in Wayanad. Meenmutty is a three-tiered fall. The water plunges down from about 300 meters in three stages, and all the three stages require separate treks. The path is quite dangerous and tiresome. The spray of water creates a mist which then floats gently down into the valley. However, it has been off-limits to tourists. There is hope because the local authorities are trying to convince the government to re-open it. However, it can be viewed from a distance.
2. Soochippara Waterfalls
The waterfalls at Soochippara near Meppadi is a treasure of nature, yet to be discovered. The pool below provides for water rafting, swimming, bathing, etc. The tree top huts at Soochippara give a unique view of the valleys of the Western Ghats and the glimmering shallow waters of the surrounding springs.
3. Kanthanpara Waterfalls
Although relatively smaller than Sentinel Rock Waterfall and rather less frequented, Kanthanpara and its surroundings are nonetheless very pleasant. An easy hike away from the main road, it is an ideal picnic spot.
Places to Visit in Wayanad
1. Bamboo factory at Uravu
In addition to other interesting things to see in Wayanad, it is also an example of how to build a self-sufficient economy. Located in the Thiraikkaipetta settlement, the motto of Uravu is that bamboo is the ‘green gold’ for the Indian economy and needs to be efficiently utilized. The factory recruits locals of the village to teach them the arts and crafts of bamboo processing and so they can be financially independent. The many bamboo products sold are spice boxes, lampshades and rainmakers that are bought as souvenirs.
2. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
It lies in the midst of green trees, spread across 344 km of land, consisting of two wildlife sanctuaries – Tholpetty and Muthanga. The Tholpetty wildlife sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri biosphere reserve. The aim of this place is to preserve the biological heritage of the region. The gems of these forests can be found in the stretches of swamps, teak forests, bamboo plantations, tall grasslands, rare herbs and medicinal plants. Part of an Elephant project site as well as Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Muthanga is an ideal elephant sighting spot. If you are lucky, you might even spot herds of elephants, spotted deer, bison, Malabar squirrels and leopards here. A safari in the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary is rewarded with fascinating sights and glimpses into Kerala’s wildlife.
3. The Edakkal Caves
This is one of the oldest sources in Wayanad that depict prehistoric etchings. These caves are located around 1,200m above the sea level. Over the years, these caves have become crucial in the study of the evolution of mankind.
The Edakkal cave paintings are remarkable in their sheer scale and complexity, but their origins are shrouded in mystery. Ever since their discovery in 1895, they have been a source of awe and wonder for tourists and historians alike.
The engravings are abundant and of great variety. Human figures, animals, tools, vehicles, day-to-day occurrences and scripts in different language scripts have been discovered here. The diversity of the engravings suggest that the Edakkal caves were inhabited several times at different points in history. The oldest among them date back to 6000 B.C, to the age of Stone Age man.
The engravings are not the only attractions at Edakkal. The Muniyaras, or ancient burial sites that have been discovered in these hills have yielded a rich collection of ancient earthenware and pottery. Most of the artifacts discovered here are now housed in the Wayanad Heritage Museum.
4. Kuruva Dweep
These are beautiful islands located on the delta of the River Kabini. Tourists come here in flocks. You need to buy passes and then have to walk down a series of stairs that takes you to the river. Once there, there is a massive bamboo raft that is expertly handled by the people who ferry tourists from the banks to the island. Offering a rustic charm and feel of Kerala’s local life and culture, these rafts take visitors through some of the most remote areas. Once there, you need to walk on a winding path, which will take you to the edges of the islands. On the way to these islands, there are lots of people who offer delicious homemade food at really cheap prices.
5. Sulthan Bathery
This town used to be populated mainly by the tribal folk and famous for its history. Now people from other places of Kerala have converged here and have outgrown the population of these tribes. There are good restaurants to eat here. Also one can shop for various snacks and sweets as well as shop for Gold. You will find many shops selling pickles, masalas, and handicrafts. This town has witnessed a series of battles across a few centuries. In the 10th Century, the local Jain traders and tribes fought against the ruler of Mysore who wanted to grab their wealth and kingdom.
6. Karapuzha Dam
This dam is enormous and extremely beautiful. Constructed on the river by the same name, it is a tributary of the River Kabini. The view from the dam is breathtaking, accompanied by the cool breeze, courtesy the water, a trip to this dam is worth its while.
Here too you will see endless stretches of the valley. Be careful of monkeys, as they would love to snatch whatever you’re eating or holding in your hands. Lakkidi is known for its wildlife and heavy rainfall. One of the highest locations in Wayanad, Lakkidi also commands picturesque scenery. The lofty mountain peaks, the gurgling stream, luxuriant vegetation and the bird’s eye view of the deep valley on the south, with its winding roads, is breathtaking. Although it is one of the rather expensive areas to stay in.
8. Koottamundu Glass Temple
The inner temple of this Jain temple is filled with mirrors and it is a dazzling display for the eyes.
9. Banasura Sagar Dam
This beautiful dam has lovely views of the Banasura Hills. To enjoy this, a walk to the viewpoints is necessary. However, there is also a jeep facility for an additional cost. From there, one can appreciate the views, which remind you of some exotic location like Scotland. Here there are boating facilities including speedboats. There is also a nursery here to buy some lovely ornamental plants. This is the largest earth dam in India. The topography here is such that many islands will be formed in the upstream of the dam when the dam is full.
10. Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary
This sanctuary is the fruit of more than 25 years of conscientious conservation efforts. It is a place of learning, a place that offers employment and empowerment, a place where you can lend a helping hand, and a place that conserves more than 2,000 plants. This is one sanctuary that you must visit to see just what sheer dedication is all about.
11. Padre Pio Shrine
Located in Panamaram this beautiful shrine is filled with relics of Capuchin saints. Some of the relics here are of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard, St. Ignatius, St. Veronica, St. Leopold, St. Felix, & St Lawrence.
12. Pookot Lake
It is a natural freshwater lake, brimmed with evergreen mountains. The weather here is sensational, the scenic beauty, enthralling and nature, pristine. Boating facilities are also available. Spices and handicraft items are also arranged for sale at Pookot. This lake is 3 km south of Vythiri.
Things to do
1. Adventure activities
There are many trails that one can opt for, for river rafting. One of them is on the River Anoth. The others are at River Mananthavady and Pazhassi Park to other locations depending on the length of the expedition you are opting for. At a distance of 4km from Vythiri, is Pozhuthana, a small village, through which the Pozhuthana river flows. It has a slow current making it perfect for river rafting for beginners. There is also a facility for rafting on bamboo rafts on this river.
Wayanad has numerous adventure activities such as zip lining, rock climbing, kayaking, land zorbing and archery. Off-road driving in a 4-wheel drive vehicle, with an experienced driver, can make for a thrilling adventure.
A rather different experience would be to go to a local village boat, at night on the river near any of the dams, the entire sky and river are usually lit up with fireflies. Being surrounded by this is an amazing yet simple pleasure.
Apart from private companies offering these services, the government tourism board has also taken an initiative in adventure sports. The District Tourism Promotion Council has set up an adventure camp near Karlad Lake.
2. Ethnic food
Local cuisine is famous for the halwa, which comes in many varieties such as almonds, raisins, dates, mixed fruits & coconut. The region is also famous for the Puttu with Kadala curry or Cherupayar curry, their Biryanis are very famous as well. Try the Chemeen Biryani or the Fish Biryani with date pickle.
Snack on Sweet Puffs, Banana Chips, Kappa Chips, Vadas, Pattiri, Chatti Pattiri, jellies or jujubes, pickled fruits and vegetables (Uppil Ittathu).
Try the variety of pickles, seafood dishes, mutton and chicken curries, as well as Appam and stews.
There are many restaurants serving Arabic food such as the famous Chicken Alfaham. Visit various shops such as Lala Sweets in Kalpetta. Try some dishes at the New Highway Mess at Edapetty, Paramount Hotel, Vazhiyoram, Crystal Palace and Woodlands Hotel.
Wayanad is well known for its Gold jewellery. Visit Kalpetta and Sulthan Bathery where you will find a number of shops selling gold. You will find jewellery that is designed for the locals but is delicate and beautiful. If you get a chance to purchase any of these ornaments, you will not regret it.
Handicrafts and spices are available wherever you go. You will find forest honey, eucalyptus oil, coffee, tea and a variety of spices. There are dried fruits, pickles, local chocolates, wooden handicrafts and kitchen tools, wooden spoons, candles and even walking sticks. There are also tribal art shops, selling handicrafts made by the tribal folk, which are unique and indigenous.
Places to Stay
Wayanad has unique places to stay in while visiting the district. There are resorts that offer treehouse accommodation, providing an authentic lifestyle experience in the wilderness. Apart from this, there are also several camping facilities in different parts of Wayanad. Cottages and homestays are another pocket-friendly options; moreover, a lot of these homestays organize their own trails, treks, and activities.
Best time to travel
The best time to visit Wayanad is from October to May. The weather is the most pleasant at this time of the year. Moreover, it is also the perfect time to participate in adventure activities. Wayanad is a place that young people will immensely enjoy. Especially those who have a love for trekking and adventure.