Activities in Thekkady

Activities in Thekkady

Below is a summary of the activities in the Thekkady area that we recommend, plus the most popular activities that we don't necessarily recommend, with information about the intensity of the activity, location, price, how to buy tickets etc. There is also a star rating (1 to 5 stars) attached to each activity, which is entirely subjective, based on our own experiences and information obtained by years of lighthearted interrogation of guests. For the activities that are based on walking we will refer to these as walks (short and easy), hikes (long, lasting a maximum of one day, and more difficult than walks), and treks (lasting more than one day). A noticeable abbreviation: PTR is Periyar Tiger Reserve.

What all activities have in common is that the activity providers pay commission to the person who generates business for them. For instance, a taxi driver or accommodation provider who takes a traveller to an activity, buys tickets, or calls in advance to inform the activity provider that their client is arriving, will automatically be paid commission for their effort. The commission can be as little as 7% or as high as 100%. It depends on the activity and the activity provider's desparation for business. We have no interest in being part of the commission racket, and our staff is paid a decent salary that doesn't necessitate the generation of additional income from commission. However, the commission system is a fact that won't change no matter what we do, and not collecting the commission will, in most cases, not reduce the price of the service that is provided. Therefore, we have decided to collect the commission we are offered, and donate the collection to charity. We are closely connected with the Humane Animal Society (HAS) in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, which is lcoated 300 kilometres away. When commission is collected, we will donate the amount to HAS. The donation will be made in the name of the guest who generated the commission, and they will receive a receipt for the donation by email directly from HAS. This ensures complete transparency.

Table 1 provides a summary of all the activty information on this page. For some of the activities a minimum price is mentioned in addition to the price per person. The minimum price is required for the activity to happen. This means that if an insufficient number of people have bought tickets, and the minimum price therefore hasn't been reached, the participants have to pay up to the minimum price. Clicking on the name of the activity in the table should take you to more in-depth information further down on the page.

Table 1. Summary of all recommended activities

Activity INR (person) INR (minimum) Timings Distance
Nature & Green walk 350 1400 07:00 - 09:30
07:30 - 10:00
10:00 - 12:30
10:30 - 13:00
14:00 - 16:30
14:30 - 17:00
6 km
Jungle scout 1200 2400 19:00 - 21:30
22:00 - 00:30
01:00 - 03:30
6 km
Pugmark trail 100 NA 08:00 - 16:00
(1 hour duration)
3 km
Bamboo rafting 1800 3600 07:30 - 12:30
09:30 - 14:30
18 km
Bamboo rafting 2400 4800 07:45 - 17:00 20 km
Border hiking 1800 3600 07:45 - 17:00 22 km
Tiger trail 6000 8400 09:00 - 12:00 (day 2) 20 km
Tiger trail 9000 12000 09:00 - 12:00 (day 3) 35 km
Boating 225 NA 07:30 - 09:00
09:30 - 11:00
11:15 - 12:45
13:45 - 15:15
15:30 - 17:00
1 km
Tribal performance 300 NA 18:00 - 19:00 0 km
Kathakali 200 NA 17:00 - 18:00
19:00 - 20:00 (sometimes)
0 km
Kalaripayattu 200 NA 18:00 - 19:00
20:00 - 21:00 (sometimes)
0 km
Tea factory 100 NA Monday - Saturday
(Holidays closed)
On the hour 09:00 - 16:00
(1 hour duration)
3 km
Spice garden 100 NA 06:00 - 17:00
(1 hour duration)
1 km
Ayurvedic massage 600-3000 NA 10:00 - 17:00 (women)
10:00 - 20:00 (men)
0 km
Pool relaxation 300 NA All day 1 km
Elephant activities 350 - 3000 NA Any time during the day
(variable duration)
1 km
Madurai trip NA ≈5000 1-2 days 10-20 km
Temple trip ≈500 NA 08:00 - 14:00
15:00 - 21:00
5-10 km
Local walks Free NA Any time 5-15 km

Periyar Tiger Reserve: general information

Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) is the main attraction in the Thekkady area with a number of well-constructed walks, hikes and treks that suit any level of fitness, and with varying chances of spotting wildlife.

It is recommended to buy tickets for activities in PTR well in advance. However, for some activities (nature walk, green walk, pugmark trail and jungle scout) tickets may be bought on the day of the activity, and for some activities tickets can only be bought just before the activity starts (boating on Periyar Lake). Obviously, the longer you wait, the higher the risk that tickets will have sold out. We are happy to buy tickets for our guests. This is a free service, but you will have to pay for the tickets in advance.

If you decide to buy your tickets without our assistance, please note the following. Tickets can be bought online and offline. Unfortunately, PTR's online ticket facility is a perfect fail, and it isn't recommended to even attempt buying tickets online. There may be private agents who sell tickets online. If you choose to part with cash by paying these, with the expectation that tickets will be available for you to enjoy upon arrival in the area, please note that you will be doing this entirely at your own risk. Offline tickets for activities are sold at the Eco Tourism Information Centre in Kumily. The only exception is for tickets for boating on Periyar Lake which have to be bought at the boat landing in PTR. The tickets have to be bought by physically going to the the Eco Tourism Information Centre. Phone calls will yield no benefit. The office will not put tickets on hold for you.

In addition to the activity tickets, there is a requirement of a day pass to PTR. The day pass must be bought on the day of the activity at the main entrance to PTR (recommended if you are walking into the reserve) or in the ticket booth near Vanasree Auditorium (recommended if you are bussing into PTR as this is also the starting point of the buses).

Table 2. Prices in INR for daypass to PTR

Indian
0-12 years
Indian
from 12 years
Non-Indian
0-5 years
Non-Indian
6-11 years
Non-Indian
from 12 years
Free 33 Free 150 450

Cancellation rules: 1) More than 30 days before the start of the activity: 100% refund. 2) 20-30 days before the start of the activity: 50% refund. 3) 2-20 days before the start of the activity: 25% refund.

The activities in PTR start at different locations, some inside PTR and some outside. For the activities where the starting point is Thekkady Boat Landing, there are two different ways of reaching the starting point: by bus or by walking. The boat landing is located 3 kilometres from the main entrance to PTR, and as private vehicles are not allowed inside PTR, this makes for a pleasant walk with the chance of spotting giant squirrels, bisons, wild boar and a number of different monkey species. Alternatively, there are buses starting from the Vanasree Auditorium area that will take you all the way to the boat landing for a few rupees.

Minimum age required for most activities is 12 years. Maximum age is 66 years old. Only exceptions are the pugmark trail and boating on Periyar Lake where all ages are allowed.

Clothing that covers skin and isn’t brightly coloured is required. Shorts are not allowed. Shoes are preferable. Leach socks will be provided when necessary.

Online activity tickets at Periyar Foundation
Offline activity ticket office at the Eco Tourism Information Centre in Kumily
Daypass ticket office near Vanasree Auditorium in Kumily
Daypass ticket office at the main entrance to Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kumily

Nature walk (PTR)

A low intensity guided walk of 2.5 hours through grassland and forest with a tribal guide. Arranged by PTR.

The video below was shot on the nature walk. The video is not a typical representation of the nature walk in that, usually, the group consists of maximum six people. In fact, if two people buy tickets for the nature walk, they will get their own guide with no additional participants in the group.

The recommended timings for the nature walk are 07:00 and 14:30. The early walk because this is more likely to coincide with animals coming to the lake for food and drink, and the later walk for the same reason and because the guide is more likely to have more time to dedicate as this is the final activity of the day.

The starting point for the nature walk is Thekkady Boat Landing, which is located 3 kilometres inside PTR. There are two ways of getting to the starting point: grab a bus from near Vanasree Auditorium or walk. The walk is highly recommended as it will add 3 to 6 kilometres, with a good chance of spotting wildlife.

Tickets may be bought on the day of the activity, but we have experienced several times that tickets have been sold out. This is especially likely to happen at weekends, national holidays and in the high season for tourism (December and January).

Nature walk starting point at Thekkady Boat Landing in PTR

Green walk (PTR)

Low intensity guided walking of 2.5 hours through grassland and forest with a tribal guide. Arranged by PTR.

The green walk is very similar to the nature walk in that the timings, walking distance and pricing are the same. However, the green walk is inferior in a number of ways: you don't get to experience the short bamboo raft crossing of the lake, you don't see as much of the lake, you can't do the 3 kilometre walk in and out of PTR because the starting point isn't inside PTR, and the area you will be walking through is more populated by humans.

The recommended timings for the green walk are 07:00 and 14:30. The early walk because animals are more likely to be active in the morning, and the later walk for the same reason and because the guide is more likely to have more time to dedicate as this is the final activity of the day.

The starting point for the green walk is the entrance to PTR near Vanasree Auditorium.

Tickets may be bought on the day of the activity, but we have experienced several times that tickets have been sold out. This is especially likely to happen at weekends, national holidays and in the high season for tourism (December and January).

Green walk starting point near Vanasree Auditorium in Kumily

Jungle Scout (PTR)

Low intensity guided walking of 2.5 hours through grassland and forest with a tribal guide in the night time. Arranged by PTR.

You have to be particular dedicated to do the jungle scout walk because not only is it in the middle of the night, but there is also the fear factor. Even though the walk is only in the periphery of PTR, you are in a forest that is the habitat of tigers, leopards, bears, elephants, bisons and most of the snakes found in India. And some of these are particularly active at night.

The starting point for the jungle scout is the entrance to PTR near Vanasree Auditorium.

Tickets may be bought on the day of the activity, and are unlikely to sell out even at busy times.

Jungle scout starting point near Vanasree Auditorium in Kumily

Pugmark trail (PTR)

Very Low intensity walk in PTR of 1 hour duration with the purpose of identifying a Tiger's footprint. Even small children are allowed to take part in the pugmark trail. Arranged by PTR.

This activity is only recommended for people who are not doing any of the walks, hikes or treks in PTR. So, for instance, if you are only doing boating on Periyar Lake, the pugmark trail may be a useful addition.

The starting point for the pugmark trail is the main entrance to PTR.

Tickets may be bought on the day of the activity. Tickets will not sell out.

Pugmark trail starting point at the main entrance to Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kumily

Bamboo rafting (PTR)

Medium intensity guided hike for a half or full day through grassland and forest with a tribal guide. Arranged by PTR.

There are two versions of bamboo rafting: half day and full day. The amount of walking is not too dissimilar in the two versions. But the amount of time spent on the raft is different. In the half-day version the rafting part is around 45 minutes whereas in the full-day version the rafting part is up to three hours. As the rafting is pretty uneventful, and sometimes unpleasant as, on sunny days, you will be sitting for a prolonged period of time on a water body, half-day bamboo rafting is recommended over the full-day bamboo rafting. Half-day bamboo rafting is not perfect, though, because the walking is often a little rushed, which means the time to absorb or reflect on the nature around you becomes difficult.

The early start half-day bamboo rafting is recommended over the later start because the chance of encountering wildlife is much greater. The earlier start includes South Indian breakfast and water. The later start includes South Indian lunch and water. Full day bamboo rafting includes South Indian breakfast and lunch, and water.

The starting point for full-day bamboo rafting is Thekkady Boat Landing, which is located 3 kilometres inside PTR. There are two ways of getting to the starting point: grab a bus from near Vanasree Auditorium or walk. For the experienced hiker, the walk from the entrance to the boat landing is recommended as it will add 3 to 6 kilometres, with a good chance of spotting wildlife. The starting point for half-day bamboo rafting is near Vanasree Auditorium.

Tickets must be bought at least one day in advance, but further in advance is recommended as bamboo rafting is a popular activity in PTR. Tickets are likely to sell out quickly at weekends, national holidays and in the high season for tourism (December and January).

Bamboo rafting (half day) starting point near Vanasree Auditorium in Kumily
Bamboo rafting (full day) starting point at Thekkady Boat Landing in PTR

Border hiking (PTR)

Medium to high intensity full day hike through grassland and forest with a tribal guide. Arranged by PTR.

Whereas most of the other hikes in PTR are through quite dense forest, the border hike takes you around the mountain ridges, the border of PTR, which have stunning views, but many fewer trees. The walking distance is significant, and is made harder by the fact that, for much of the time, you are walking exposed to the elements.

The starting point for border hiking is Thekkady Boat Landing, which is located 3 kilometres inside PTR. There are two ways of getting to the starting point: grab a bus from near Vanasree Auditorium or walk. The walk is highly recommended as it will add 3 to 6 kilometres, with a good chance of spotting wildlife. However, whereas some people will want to use the 3 kilometre walk to the boat landing as a warming up exercise, others may want to skip the walk to conserve enerrgy.

PTR provides you with water, and South Indian breakfast and lunch.

Tickets must be bought at least one day in advance, but further in advance is recommended as border hiking is a popular activity in PTR. Tickets are likely to sell out quickly at weekends, national holidays and in the high season for tourism (December and January).

Border hiking starting point at Thekkady Boat Landing in PTR

Tiger trail (PTR)

Medium intensity guided trekking for one or two full days/nights through grassland and forest with a tribal guide. Tented accommodation in the jungle/forest inside PTR. Arranged by PTR.

The tiger trail is an activity of unfulfilled potential. It has everything, but not quite enough of what it is all about: trailing the tiger. A lot more hiking should be included as this is the queen and king of activities in PTR. The 2 night tiger trail is definitely recommended over the 1 night tiger trail as it gives that little bit of extra feel for the forest.

The starting point for the tiger trail is the main entrance to PTR.

Tickets must be bought well in advance as the tiger trail is only on 2-3 times weekly.

Tiger trail starting point at the main entrance to Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kumily

Boating on Periyar Lake (PTR and KTDC)

Boating on Periyar Lake is arranged by PTR and Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) who operate their own sets of boats. However, the differences between the boats, if any, are marginal. This activity requires no fitness level at all.

The recommended timings for boating are 07:30 and 15:30 because those are the times that are more likely to coincide with animals coming to the lake for food and drink.

The starting point for the nature walk is Thekkady Boat Landing, which is located 3 kilometres inside PTR. There are two ways of getting to the starting point: grab a bus from near Vanasree Auditorium or walk. The walk is highly recommended as it will add 3 to 6 kilometres, with a good chance of spotting wildlife.

The ticket sale opens at the boat landing one hour before departure. In high season and at weekends it is almost impossible to get tickets because the boat landing will be packed with people wanting tickets. Each person is allowed to buy two tickets.

Boating starting point at Thekkady Boat Landing in PTR

Tribal heritage performance (PTR)

Traditional dance and musical performance by the tribals of Kumily. Arranged by PTR.

On paper, this is a fantastic programme. Unfortunately, the video below paints a picture of great authenticity that doesn't exist in reality. The proper setting for the performance would be outside, in the forest, surrounded by natural lighting with the purpose of reproducing the setting that the original tribals of Kumily were living in. Instead, the performance is in an auditorium with electric lights and plastic chairs. However, if you have an artistic bone in your body, you may find some pleasure in watching the performance.

Tickets may be bought on the day of the performance. As the venue for the performance is Vanasree Auditorium, which is located outside PTR, a daypass to PTR is not required. Open for all ages.

The tribal heritage performance is at Vanasree Auditorium in Kumily

Kathakali performance (Mudra Cultural Centre)

Kathakali is a major form of classical Indian dance. It is from the story play genre distinguished by the elaborately colourful make-up, costumes and face masks that the traditionally male actor-dancers wear. Like all classical dance arts of India, kathakali synthesises music, vocal performers, choreography and hand and facial gestures to express ideas. However, kathakali differs in that it incorporates movements from ancient Indian martial arts and athletic traditions of South India. The traditional themes of kathakali are folk mythologies, religious legends and spiritual ideas from the Hindu epics and the Puranas.

Kathakali is always shown at 17:00, but sometimes, typically in the high season for tourism, the performance has a second run at 19:00. However, the 17:00 is recommended because if you show up at 16:30 you can witness the application of makeup, which is a performance in itself.

There are a couple of different providers of kathakali in Kumily, but Mudra is usually referred to as the superior performance. Tickets may be bought on the day of the activity. The risk of tickets selling out is very small.

Mudra Cultural Centre map
Mudra Cultural Centre's Tripadvisor reviews
Kathakali article on Wikipedia

Kalaripayattu performance (Mudra Cultural Centre)

Kalaripayattu, also known simply as kalari, is an Indian martial art and fighting style that originated in Kerala. It is believed to be the oldest surviving martial art in India dating back to at least the 3rd century BCE. Kalaripayattu was designed for the ancient battlefields (the word kalari meaning battlefield), with weapons and combative techniques that are unique to India. The form of Kalaripayattu shown in Kumily is a mix of the traditions of northern Kerala (weapon based) and southern Kerala (movement based).

Kalaripayattu is shown at 18:00, but sometimes, typically in the high season for tourism, the performance has a second run at 20:00.

There are a couple of different providers of kalaripayattu in Kumily, but Mudra is usually referred to as the superior performance. Tickets may be bought on the day of the activity. The risk of tickets selling out is very small.

Mudra Cultural Centre map
Mudra Cultural Centre's Tripadvisor reviews
Kalaripayattu article on Wikipedia

Tea factory visit (Connemara)

Connemara Tea Factory is part of Connemara Tea Estate, located 13 kilometres south of Kumily.

When the British colonialists came to Kerala, the high ranges were covered in forest and jungle. The colonialists identified locations suitable for tea cultivation, proceeded to cut millions of trees, and converted the now barren lands into tea plantations to feed the tea hungry mouths of Britain. Contrary to popular belief, tea, even though grown extensively in India, isn't a traditional Indian brew. The taste for tea in India was created by the colonialists, and after de-colonisation, India's acquired love for tea remained. And so did the tea plantations.

Whereas some areas grow export quality tea, the tea in the Vandiperiyar area, where Connemara is located, is mostly grown for the domestic market as the quality of the tea is lower, and, hence, difficult to export. In tourism, tea plantations are promoted as something to admire, something visually pleasing. However, once you have knowledge about what used to be in place of tea plantations, and knowing that tea is sprayed with the world's most dangerous pesticides, seeing a tea plantation can be quite disturbing.

That said, if you are a tea drinker, experiencing tea from plant to palate is highly recommended, and the Connemara Tea Factory experience is definitely more interesting than visiting the tea museum in Munnar.

The tour of the factory is conducted on the hour every day from 09:00 till 16:00, except on national holidays and Sundays. In addition to the factory tour, you can also take a stroll in the tea plantation.

Connemara Tea Factory map
Connemara Tea Factory's Tripadvisor reviews

Spice garden visit (Abraham's Spice Garden)

The Thekkady area, sometimes referred to as the Cardamom Hills, is the main spice growing area in India. Consequently, the concept of the spice garden has become a business opportunity for local farmers and business people alike. Abraham's Spice Garden was one of first established gardens in the area, from before tourism became important, and it is, by far, the best place to experience a spice tour. However, taxi drivers will actively discourage or even refuse to take their clients to Abraham's Spice Garden because Abraham doesn't pay commission. Instead, the drivers will recommend one of the 100+ spice gardens that pay between 50% and 100% in commission. Needless to say, those types of spice gardens are, by and large, a waste of time as they have no interest in providing even half decent tours because their only interest is selling products at inflated prices.

The only reason for not giving Abraham's Spice Garden a 5 star review is that only the tours guided by Mr. Abraham himself are truely exceptional, and that the location is next to a national highway which has a negative impact on the overall ambience.

As our area is the main spice growing area in India, the quality of spices is exceptionally high and the prices comparatively low. However, we discourage buying from spice gardens as these, as a rule, sell their produce at inflated prices, up to 10 times higher than the spice shops in Kumily. So, if you need spices or oils, please buy from a spice shop in Kumily to receive the lowest prices and highest quality. Even then there is room for bargaining with discounts of 10-20% possible. We recommend Hill Top Spices, located near Thekkady Junction in Kumily. They are closed for lunch from 13:00 till 15:00.

Abraham's Spice Garden map
Abraham's Spice Garden's Tripadvisor reviews
Abraham's Spice Garden's homepage
Hilltop Spices map

Ayurvedic massage (Cardamom County and Mayura Ayurvedic Centre)

Ayurveda is a traditional medicine system with historical roots in Kerala. Ayurveda therapies have varied and evolved over more than two millennia. Therapies are typically based on complex herbal compounds, minerals and metal substances. Ancient ayurveda texts also taught surgical techniques, including rhinoplasty, kidney stone extractions, sutures, and the extraction of foreign objects. However, it is important to note that there is no strong evidence that ayurveda is effective for treating any disease. Further, ayurvedic preparations have been found to contain lead, mercury, and arsenic, which are harmful to humans. In the tourism sector, ayurveda has been adapted from medicinal to recreational purposes in the form of heavily oil based massages. These are, most likely, done with oils that do not contain harmful substances, and should be safe to enjoy.

The best treatments (and at the highest cost) in the Thekkady area are available at Cardamom County Resort. The resort has Government certification which is rare in the Thekkady area. Alternatively, there are cheaper massage shops dotted around Kumily (30% discounts possible, bargaining skills required). Usually, Mayura Ayurvedic Centre is better than most, but which is best can change from week to week.

Please note that all massages in ayurveda are done by massage therapists of the same sex as the person receiving the massage.

Mayura Ayurvedic Centre map
Cardamom County map
Mayura Ayurvedic Centre's homepage
Cardamom County's homepage
Ayurveda on Wikipedia

Pool relaxation (Cardamom County)

At Indhrivanam there is no pool. There are many good reasons for not having a pool when your location is not too dissimilar to a forest with lots of trees, mammals and birds. Also, it isn't the most sustainable installation when water is a scarce resource.

However, if you like to spend time by the pool, there is good news! Cardamom County Resort in Kumily usually offers a daypass at INR 300 for using their pool. It clearly isn't perfect as there is no privacy at all, you may get overrun by unruly tourist children, and food and refreshments from the ajoining restaurant are very expensive. Staff is very good, though, and it isn't uncommon that you can have the pool more or less to yourself because the guests staying at Cardamom County are likely to take part in activities outside the resort, and the fact that the pool is open to the public is not commonly known.

Cardamom County map
Cardamom County's homepage

Elephant activities (Elephant Junction)

Elephant rides and other activities involving elephants are promoted heavily in the tourism sector in Kerala. Almost all accommodation providers, tour operators and taxi drivers will encourage their clients to do one or more elephant activities. The reason is simple: it is an activity that takes only a little time, hence leaving plenty of time for other activities, it is relatively expensive, and it is profitable because the commission is 30% - 50% depending on the activity.

We don't recommend any activities that involve captive animals as the animals are almost always mistreated. Elephants that are part of the tourism industry, and working elephants in temples and as log movers, have always been systematically beaten into submission from a very young age. There is more information about the mistreatment of elephants in Asia in the articles linked below.

For guests for whom engaging in activities with captive elephants is paramount, we recommend going to Elephant Junction as this is the place where the upbringing and conditions for the elephants are least bad.

Please note that almost all tourism related elephant facilities in Kerala are illegal as described in the article linked below.

Elephant Junction map
Elephant Junction's Tripadvisor reviews
Peta Asia article on the captive elephant industry
Guardian article on elephants in tourism
BBC article on how elephant tourism fuels cruelty
Manorama article on the ban on elephant rides in Kerala

Madurai trip (Indhrivanam)

A trip to Madurai where Meenakshi Amman Temple, Gandhi Museum, Thirumalai Nayakar Palace, various guided walks, and the food (!) are the main attractions. The trip can be done in a day or with an overnight stay. Arranged by Indhrivanam.

A blast from the past, Madurai has managed to remain true to the traditions of Tamil Nadu. At least, the centre of the city has the feel of a distant past, and with its centre piece, Meenakshi Amman Temple, it has an unrivalled attraction. The trip is especially recommended for non-Indian first time visitors to India who have decided to only visit Kerala. It is a more full-on India experience than Kerala will ever be able to deliver.

The trip can be done as a daytrip (car required) or with an overnight stay (bus recommended). The distance from Indhrivanam to Madurai is around 150 kilometres. In the daytrip variation most of the budget is spent on a taxi (unless you are self-driving), and in the overnight variation most of the budget is spent on accommodation. Both variations are a little hectic. The daytrip because everything is packed into one day, and the overnight trip because it involves the logistics of bus travel. Of course, the overnight trip can be done by car, but part of the trip's charm is to travel from the high ranges of Kerala in a bumpy local bus that gives a whole new meaning to the concept of travel sores. The travelling time is 3 hours by car and around 4 hours by bus. Either way, leaving as early as possible, say around 06:30, is recommended.

There are a huge number of places to stay in Madurai. For short experience filled trips we recommend staying in the centre of Madurai so that getting to and from the hotel by foot is quick and easy. Unfortunately, the hotels in the centre are usually not that great. However, we have found that Hotel Royal Court is good value for money, and it is one of only a few places we can recommend. For food it is almost always better to not eat in your hotel as there is very high quality food available in dedicated restaurants.

Madurai map
Madurai on Wikipedia
Hotel Royal Court map
Hotel Royal Court homepage

The programme for the day(s) could be approximately as follows:

06:30: Departure. If by car, we recommend having breakfast upon arrival in Madurai at around 09:30 at Hotel New College House, a cantine style place with brilliant traditional Tamil food, for instance dosa, idli, sambar and chutneys. It is conveniently located only 350 metres from Hotel Royal Court, the recommended place to stay. If by bus, we recommend getting tickets only to Theni Old Bus Stand (located in Theni, halfway between Kerala and Madurai), and have breakfast in New Vegetarian Restaurant which is conveniently located in the bus stand. After breakfast, you would jump onto one of the many buses departing for Madurai.

Hotel New College House map
New Vegetarian Restaurant (in Theni) map

Morning and early afternoon: If by bus, you will have arrived at Arappalayam Bus Stand, which is located a few kilometres from the centre of Madurai. From Arappalayam you will have to get a city bus from outside the bus stand or a rickshaw. The rickshaws are notoriously overpriced. The aim would be to get a rickshaw for around INR 100 to the hotel. Many of the city buses leaving from Arappalayam will stop at the Railway Station which is near the hotel.

The main attraction in Madurai, apart from just walking around soaking up the atmosphere, is Meenakshi Amman Temple which opens at around 16:00. Before then, a couple of reasonable activities would be to visit Thirumalai Nayakar Palace and Gandhi Museum. Thirumalai Nayakar Palace was built in 1636 AD by King Thirumalai Nayak who ruled Madurai from 1623 to 1659. The palace is a fusion of Dravidian and Rajput styles. The original palace was four times bigger than the present structure. Gandhi Museum was established in 1959 and is a memorial museum for Mahatma Gandhi. It is one of five museums in India for Gandhi. It includes a part of the blood-stained garment worn by Gandhi when he was assassinated. Opening times for both the palace and the museum are 09:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 17:00.

Arappalayam Bus Stand map
Thirumalai Nayakar Palace map
Thirumalai Nayakar Palace Tripadvisor reviews
Thirumalai Nayakar Palace on Wikipedia
Gandhi Museum map
Gandhi Museum Tripadvisor reviews
Gandhi Museum homepage

Lunch: You will find that Madurai induces a feeling of wanting to sit down. Sometimes for just 5 minutes, sometimes for long enough for the sound and the heat to disperse from your mind. Adyar Ananda Bhavan is a good place to have a light lunch or a traditional Tamil lunch, and it has the added benefit of having a comfortable upstairs A/C restaurant that is quiet and comfortable. It is the kind of place where white collar workers and middle class shoppers go for their lunch. Western toilets. Price range: INR 300 for 2 people.

Adyar Ananda Bhavan map

Late afternoon: Meenakshi Amman Temple is dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her consort, Shiva, known as Sundareswarar. The temple forms the heart of Madurai and is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature. It houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers), and two golden sculptured vimanas, the shrines over the garbhagrihas (sanctums) of the main deities. Apart from obvious restrictions, the following have to be followed: 1) You are not allowed to wear lungees, shorts or caps. 2) You are not allowed to wear foot wear or socks (there is safe storage at the entrance). 3) You are not allowed to enter for the first 5 days of your menstruation period. 4) Umbrellas, sticks, and materials made from animal skin must not be brought inside the temple. Opening times: 05:00 - 12:30 and 16:00 - 22:00. Price range: INR 50 per person in admission plus INR 50 camera charge. Donations in the donation box are welcome. Employing an official guide, who can be hired from the entrance, is recommended. The price for a guide is approximately INR 500.

Meenakshi Amman Temple map
Meenakshi Amman Temple on Wikipedia
Meenakshi Amman Temple homepage
Meenakshi Amman Temple Tripadvisor reviews

Evening (if staying overnight): If you decide to stay the night in Madurai, you could consider an evening stroll in the city centre after sunset. Evening life in the city is quite different from in the daytime. It is still pandemonium, but the general atomsphere becomes more relaxed as the heat of the day disperses. Shops will be open until 21:00, and this will be a good time for shopping anything from incense to clothes.

Fine dining isn’t a dominant feature in Tamil cuisine. The food can be extremely tasty, but there is a certain degree of function over form. There are a range of quite okay restaurants, but two of the best are Murugan Idli Shop and Surya Veg Restaurant. Murugan’s is a typical Tamil place that serves idli and dosa with sambar and various chutneys. For what it is, it is not cheap, but it is very tasty. Surya is a roof top restaurant at Hotel Supreme. It is more of a typical restaurant where you take your time and eat in a calm atmosphere. The roof top views are nice, and it is worth a visit.

Murugan Idli Shop map
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Murugan Idli Shop homepage
Surya Veg Restaurant map
Surya Veg Restaurant Tripadvisor reviews

Next morning (if staying overnight): Madurai is at its best in the early morning and late evening. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to be sufficiently disciplined to get up for an early morning Madurai walk. Fortunately, there is Vanakkam Madurai who organises the Special Walking Tour. If you are able to join this early in morning for a light stroll through Madurai, it is a highly recommended activity.

The logical conclusion to the trip would be a tasty Tamil breakfast, and maybe a quick morning visit to the temple, before heading back to Kerala.

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Tamil temple, town and tiffin trip (Indhrivanam)

A morning or afternoon trip by bus or car, with a duration of approximately 6 hours, into Tamil Nadu to visit a unique temple, a walk in the town, including, if possible, a visit to the local market, starting with breakfast or finishing with dinner (tiffin), depending on the timing, in a local vegetarian restaurant. Arranged by Indhrivanam.

There are a number of reasons for including Thekkady in a Kerala holiday: the activities, the cool and comparatively less humid climate where temperatures are usually between 20 and 25 Celsius, and the location on the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu that is ideal for half/full daytrips into Tamil Nadu. The temple, town and tiffin trip is, like the Madurai trip mentioned above, an exploration of this, when compared with Kerala, very different part of India. There is a choice between doing a morning trip (with breakfast) or an evening trip (with dinner). The destination of the trip is the town of Cumbum, located 20 kilometres from the border.

Our guests can choose to guide themselves as we will provide them with detailed maps and a schedule, or Morten and/or Sarah will be the guides for the day if time is on their side. If guides are required, the price for the trip equals the expenses (food and transport). Travelling is either done by local buses (the charm!) or car (the ease).

The following elements can be included, but are not all required. The morning version of the trip is from 08:00 till 14:00 and the afternoon version is from 15:00 till 21:00.

Rural temple: The first village you will encounter after leaving Kerala is Lower Camp, which is located just after the 7 kilometre descent from Kumily. Outside Lower Camp is a small rural temple surrounded by the farming areas where the majority of vegetables and fruits consumed in the Kumily area are grown. The temple staff is taking care of a number of local dogs that have made the temple their home. While in the area, you can do an improvised visit to one of the growing areas. The rural temple is only accessible by car.

Cumbum town walk: On the evening trip, the first part of visiting Cumbum is the walk from the bus stop (or parking area, if travelling by car) to the urban temple. It is couple of kilometres through shopping areas, markets and residential neighbourhoods.

Urban temple: The temple is truly unique. Not only is it a nandi (bull) temple, but the temple grounds of a couple of acres include an additional 8 or so smaller temples for different gods, and each temple has its own priest and practices. Evenings are particularly good for visiting the temple in Cumbum because it is the time where the temple's inhabitants, a huge herd of cows who live a fairly protected life in the temple, return between 16:30 and 17:00 from their grazing day out. The cows are not milked, killed or sold because they are the property of the deity of the temple: the bull. Shortly after the return of the cows, the poojas and blessings by the priests commence. You may, irrespective of your religion and beliefs, receive a blessing from the priest of the nandi temple. A small donation to the temple, INR 51 or so, and bananas for the cows are recommended travel items.

Dinner: From the temple, there is short walk to a well deserved traditional Tamil dinner of, among other things, idli, dosa and puri. Breakfast and dinner are, more or less, the same meals in South India.

Market: The morning version of the Tamil temple, town and tiffin trip is slightly different from the evening version, mostly in that the order of the activities is different, but also in that, on Tuesdays, the market can be included in the trip. It is the main local place for buying high quality vegetables, pulses and other stables. Whereas the order of the evening version of the trip is described above, the morning trip would start with breakfast, followed by a walk to the temple, and ending at the market (on Tuesdays).

Cumbum map
Cumbum on Wikipedia
Tamil cuisine on Wikipedia

Local walks: general information

Most people don't have or take the time to delve into the locations where they are staying while on holiday, which is a shame because Kerala, by and large, is very friendly towards outsiders. If you do make time for this type of experience, the optimum way of exploring our locality is through walking. It didn't take us long to figure this out, hence we created the project of identifying the Great walks around Indhrivanam. And there are a few. These days, most of them can be done with a little help from Google Maps, but as we do embrace some remnants of the past, we can provide you with offline maps as well. However, it is highly recommend to visit the Google Map of the walk that you are intending to do, and to download the map to your phone as an offline map. This will, with the support of GPS, make the walk much easier. Local walks are, of course, entirely free of charge, and may be done at any time during the day. All the Indhrivanam walks are listed below with descriptions and links.

A couple of important points: the location of Indhrivanam is sometimes called 6th Mile Village because it is located 6 miles from the main town in the area, Kumily. The closer you get to Kumily, the lower the milage, so to speak. So, when, in the following, we, for instance, refer to 2nd Mile Village, it is because this village is 2 miles from Kumily. In the walks below, we also refer to the difficulty levels where 1/10 is very easy and 10/10 is very difficult. And we will distinguish between various road surfaces, for instance asphalt and mud. Mud is, in fact, a soft, sticky matter resulting from the mixing of earth and water, but our mud roads are only literal mud roads when it has been raining. So, when we say mud road it may be a perfectly firm and entirely passable road.

2nd Mile Village walk (v1)

The 2nd Mile Village walk (v1) is a walk with a purpose: to get to the bus stop in 2nd Mile Village to grab a bus to Kumily. The walk takes you through plantation areas, past one of the area’s nicest views of Tamil Nadu, and through 2nd Mile Village. There is almost no traffic and very few people are around until you get to the village. Once you get to the main road (called Munnar Road because it runs between Kumily and Munnar), you have to turn left and continue for 50 metres until you get to the bus stop. Buses should come around every 10-15 minutes. Ask for Kumily. Kumily Bus Stand is the end station. You may also get a rickshaw from opposite the bus stop.

Google Map issues: Approximately 1 kilometre into the walk, you will pass an elephant riding facility on the right side. A few hundred metres further along, the road splits, and Google Maps instructs you to keep to the right (which is straight and a little up). However, if you follow the road to the left, the walk will be slightly longer and more pleasant. The walk on the map has a very steep descent as it goes over a hill whereas the alternative route is flat as it takes you around the hill.

The walk is 4 kilometres long and takes around 1 hour to complete. 50% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 50% on mud roads. Mostly downhill from 1100 metres to 900 metres elevation. Difficulty level: 3/10.

2nd Mile Village walk (v1)

2nd Mile Village walk (v2)

The purpose of the 2nd Mile Village walk (v2) is to get a couple of hours of decent exercise into your day. A round trip that starts and ends at Indhrivanam. The first half of the walk is exactly the same as the 2nd Mile Village walk (v1), and it takes you through plantation areas, past one of the area’s nicest views of Tamil Nadu, and through 2nd Mile Village. There is almost no traffic and very few people around until you get to the village. In 2nd Mile Village you will turn right up a steep hill and back towards THG, joining the road you were on previously.

Google Map issues: 1) Approximately 1 kilometre into the walk, you will pass an elephant riding facility on the right side. A few hundred metres further along, the road splits, and Google Maps instructs you to keep to the right (which is straight and a little up). However, if you follow the road to the left, the walk will be slightly longer and more pleasant. The walk on the map has a very steep descent as it goes over a hill whereas the alternative route is flat as it takes around the hill. 2) The elevation map on Google Maps shows a very sharp descent in 2nd Mile Village from 1100 metres elevation to 95 metres elevation! This descent isn't actually there.

The walk is 7 kilometres long, and will take 1.5 hours to complete. 70% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 30% on mud roads. First half of the walk is mostly downhill from 1100 metres to 900 metres elevation after which the second half is back up to 1100 metres. Difficulty level: 5/10.

2nd Mile Village walk (v2)

1st Mile Village walk (v1)

Apart from being a little more adventurous than the 2nd Mile Village walk (v1), the purpose of 1st Mile Village walk (v1) is the same: if you need to go to Kumily, this walk will take you very close. The walk takes you through plantation areas, past one of the area’s nicest views of Tamil Nadu, and through forest before reaching 1st Mile Village. There is almost no traffic and very few people until you get to the village. In 1st Mile Village you can easily hop on a bus into Kumily as the walk ends at a bus stop. The walk shares the first 3 kilometres with the the 2nd Mile Village walks.

Google Map issues: Approximately 1 kilometre into the walk, you will pass an elephant riding facility on the right side. A few hundred metres further along, the road splits, and Google Maps instructs you to keep to the right (which is straight and a little up). However, if you follow the road to the left, the walk will be slightly longer and more pleasant. The walk on the map has a very steep descent as it goes over a hill whereas the alternative route is flat as it takes around the hill.

Other issues: Once you enter the forest it is unclear whether or not this part of the walk is actually legal. If you meet any forest guards, you may refer to the fact that you are using Google Maps, and that you are only spending a short amount of time in the forest as you will be crossing into the village.

The walk is 7 kilometres long, and takes around 1.5 hours to complete. 30% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 70% on mud roads. First half of the walk is mostly downhill from 1100 metres to 900 metres elevation. At this point you will be entering the forest, which is more of an undulated walk. Difficulty level: 6/10.

1st Mile Village walk (v1)

1st Mile Village walk (v2)

The 1st Mile Village walk (v2) is very similar to v1. It takes you through the same plantation areas, and past one of the area’s nicest views of Tamil Nadu. However, the walk through the forest before reaching 1st Mile Village is longer. There is almost no traffic and very few people until you get to the village. In 1st Mile Village you can easily hop on a bus into Kumily as the walk ends at a bus stop. The walk shares the first 3 kilometres with the walks described above.

Google Map issues: Approximately 1 kilometre into the walk, you will pass an elephant riding facility on the right side. A few hundred metres further along, the road splits, and Google Maps instructs you to keep to the right (which is straight and a little up). However, if you follow the road to the left, the walk will be slightly longer and more pleasant. The walk on the map has a very steep descent as it goes over a hill whereas the alternative route is flat as it takes around the hill.

Other issues: Once you enter the forest it is unclear whether or not this part of the walk is actually legal. If you meet any forest guards, you may refer to the fact that you are using Google Maps, and that you are only spending a short amount of time in the forest as you will be crossing into the village. Further, as you will see, there are only maps for first and third part of the walk. The middle part in the forest is missing. However, the forest part of the walk is straightforward: stay on the path, and you will end up where the map for the third part of the walk starts. This place, where you have to leave the forest trail to re-enter civilisation, can be identified by the presence of a strange house made of wood, terracotta roof tiles and grey wall tiles. Behind the house, there is a steep path down to 1st Mile Village. From there on, it is an easy walk to the bus stop.

The walk is 8 kilometres long, and will take around 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. 30% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 70% on mud roads. First half of the walk is mostly downhill from 1100 metres to 900 metres elevation. At this point you will be entering the forest, which is more of an undulated walk. Difficulty level: 6/10.

1st Mile Village walk (v2, part 1)
1st Mile Village walk (v2, part 3)

Kumily walk

The Kumily walk takes the 1st Mile Village walks (v1 and v2) to another level. The first part of the walk goes through plantation areas, and past one of the area’s nicest views of Tamil Nadu before entering the forest. You will exit the forest in Tamil Nadu, 1.5 kilometres from the border to Kerala.

Google Map issues: Approximately 1 kilometre into the walk, you will pass an elephant riding facility on the right side. A few hundred metres further along, the road splits, and Google Maps instructs you to keep to the right (which is straight and a little up). However, if you follow the road to the left, the walk will be slightly longer and more pleasant. The walk on the map has a very steep descent as it goes over a hill whereas the alternative route is flat as it takes around the hill.

Other issues: Once you enter the forest it is unclear whether or not this part of the walk is actually legal. If you meet any forest guards, you may refer to the fact that you are using Google Maps. Definitely don't argue with the forest guards. Just follow their instructions. There are only maps for first and third parts of the walk. The middle part in the forest is missing. However, the forest part of the walk is straightforward: stay on the path. A confirmation that you are on the right track is that a couple of kilometres into the forest, you will pass a strange house made of wood, terracotta roof tiles and grey wall tiles. At some point, probably after a 4 kilometre forest walk, you will end up where the map for the third part of the walk starts, which is the state highway between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Turn right and continue for 1.5 kilometres until you cross back into Kerala.

The walk is 10 kilometres, and will take 2.5 hours to complete. 20% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 80% on mud roads. The first 3 kilometres of the walk is mostly downhill from 1100 metres to 900 metres elevation. At this point you will be entering the forest, which is more of an undulated walk. Difficulty level: 7/10.

Kumily walk (part 1)
Kumily walk (part 3)

Ottakathalamedu walk

The Ottakathalamedu walk will take you through plantation areas and villages towards Kumily with the ending point being the bus stop in 1st Mile Village from where there are frequent buses to Kumily. On the route, there is a convenient stop at Ottakathalamedu Viewpoint where you can see most of the Kumily area in an almost 360 degree view. There will be some traffic on the route, but the roads are by no means main roads except for a few hundred metres at the beginning and towards the end.

The walk is 9 kilometres long, and takes around 2 hours to complete. 95% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 5% on mud roads. First half of the walk is mostly level, whereas the second half sees quite a signficant descent from a maximum of 1160 metres to 900 metres elevation. Difficulty level: 4/10.

Ottakathalamedu walk

The Great Loop walk

The Greet Loop walk incorporates elements from all the walks mentioned above. The first part of the walk is similar to the Ottakathalamedu walk. This part of the walk takes you through plantation areas and villages to 1st Mile Village. On the route, there is a convenient stop at Ottakathalamedu Viewpoint where you can see most of the Kumily area in an almost 360 degree view. There will be some traffic on the route, but the roads are by no means main roads except for a few hundred metres at the beginning and in the middle.

When you get to 1st Mile Village, you will cross the national highway to enter the residential part of 1st Mile Village, which you cross through until you get to the forest. The final stretch of road towards the forest is a short but sharp ascent up a mud road. At the top, you will see a strange house made of wood, with terracotta roof tiles and grey wall tiles.

After passing the strange house you have to turn left. At this point you will be without a map for a couple of kilometres, but the route is pretty clear. However, once you enter the forest it is unclear whether or not this part of the walk is actually legal. If you meet any forest guards, you may refer to the fact that you are using Google Maps, and that you are only spending a short amount of time in the forest as you will be crossing into the village. Stay on the path until you exit the forest in a small bamboo grove just before 2nd Mile Village.

After exiting the forest, you are on the final part of the walk, which is also on Google Maps (part 3 below). It is a decent ascent which, it being the final part of the walk, will surely be challenging.

The walk is 15 kilometres long, and takes 3 to 3.5 hours to complete. 70% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 30% on mud roads. First quarter of the walk is mostly level walking, second quarter is a signficant descent from a maximum of 1160 metres to 900 metres elevation, and the final half is mostly an ascent. Difficulty level: 8/10.

The Great Loop walk (part 1)
The Great Loop walk (part 3)

The Waterfall walk

This walk could be called the Suranganaru Waterfall walk or the Aruvikuzhi Waterfall walk because the waterfall that is the first destination on the walk goes by both names. Either, neither or both may be correct. Nobody knows. It is also known as Suicide Point because it is the place where young people end their lives when they realise that their parents aren't going to let them be with the love of their lives.

The walk differs from the walks summarised above in a couple of ways. First, it takes you north rather than south, i.e. the final destination is 8th Mile Town, also called Anakkara. Second, there are a couple of really good very local type places to eat lunch in Anakkara, so it makes sense to time the walk so you arrive in Anakkara at around lunch time. After lunch, you can either grab a bus back down to 6th Mile Village, and walk back to Indhrivanam, or you can continue on the bus all the way to Kumily.

The purpose of the first 5 kilometres of the walk is to reach the waterfall. It is actually more of a waterdrop as it is at the top of the waterfall. If you follow the map linked below, you will definitely get there. At the place where the map stops, you will have to continue off-road for a couple of hundred metres with the view of Tamil Nadu on your right until you arrive at the waterfall. The waterfall drops a few hundred meteres down into Tamil Nadu where it provides water for farming. The waterfall is not permanent as it requires rain, so will only be there for 4 to 6 months of the year. The waterfall area used to be an area of outstanding naturalness, but this has changed. Kerala Tourism decided to construct a tourism facility, which, essentially, is a smothering of the area in cement. Phrased differently: a disaster. Alone for that reason, experiencing the waterfall area is worth it. But the waterflow and the waterfall are, just like the general area where the walk is done, sufficient for justifying the walk.

After soaking up the atmosphere, the next destination is Anakkara, another 5 kilometres of walking. You will have to cross the stream, and follow the asphalt road on the opposite side. In Anakkara, there is only one universally acceptable place to eat: Anakkara Restaurant. It is clean, and serves a variety of South Indian foods.

The walk is 10 kilometres long, and takes 3 hours to complete. 90% of the walk is on asphalt/cement roads, 10% on mud roads. Most of the walk is level with short, steep decents and ascents thrown in there and there. Difficulty level: 7/10.

The Waterfall walk (part 1)
The Waterfall walk (part 2)
Anakkara Restaurant
Anakkara 8th Mile Bus Stop