Wayanad, about 2100 sq km of undulating greenery, is a district in northern Kerala, India and the ideal destination for adventure travel or a green holiday. The picturesque landscape of this place offers the tourist the entire spectrum of green, from paddy fields and tea plantations to dark thick forests and exotic spice gardens. Wayanad has derived its name from the words 'Vayal Nadu' - meaning, the village of paddy fields. Nestling among hills, at a height of 700 to 2100 metres above sea level, Wayanad is the perfect combination of enchanting sights and delightful weather throughout the year.
Kerala is a popular holiday destination in South India and has more than 15 hill stations, but Wayanad is unsurpassed when it comes to natural beauty. The scenic district lies on the southern most part of the Deccan plateau and is home to many primitive tribes. There are 3 towns in Wayanad – Kalpetta, the district headquarters, Manthanvady and Sultan Batthery.
The nearest international airport is at Kozhikode, about 95 away (from Kalpetta). The nearest railway stations are at Kannur and Kozhikode. Wayanad is well connected to the other parts of the state and the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu by roads. From Kozhikode, the best way to reach Wayanad would be to take a bus or hire a car to Kalpetta. Once in Wayanad, one can hire a taxi to soak up the local sights.
The best place to start your itinerary in Wayanad is surely Lakkidi, the gateway to Wayanad, located at 5 km from Vythiri. Interestingly, this 2297 ft high pad of survival registers the second highest degree of rainfall in the world, only after Cherrapunji! While there are many hotels in the towns, there are a good number of holiday resorts in Wayanad, most of them located close to one or the other tourist spot. The discerning traveler can take his pick and stay on a hill, in a valley, close to a waterfall or in the midst of a plantation. The adventure traveler can choose to stay in jungle resorts or tree houses. The other option is the “home stay”, very popular in these parts. Many of the residents here let out a portion of their house to tourists. Whichever the choice, advance booking is recommended.
While Wayanad has misty mountains, velvet green valleys, plantations and waterfalls in abundance, it is also known for its rich cultural heritage. From the Edakkal caves with their Neolithic drawings and rock carvings to the tomb of Pazhassi Raja who fought against the British, there are many historical places of interest. Edakkal literally means 'the stone in between' in Malayalam, and is a fissure made by a corner of rock splitting off from the main body due to some natural causes. What makes it a cave to the ordinary observer is the fact that in the other portion of the large cleft, an enormous rock, weighing several tonnes, has fallen forming a roof over a large part of it. The caves, located on an ancient route connecting the high ranges of Mysore to the ports of Malabar, are a source of mystery to archeologists.
The Banasura Dam, India's largest earth dam (and second largest in the world) is in Wayanad. Wayanad is also home to many old temples like the 12th century Thirunelly temple and the Jain temple at Panamaram, built in the 13th century. Kuruva islands, Pookode lake and Pazhassi Raja park are popular tourist spots to visit with children. Thirunelly, 34 km from Mananthavady on the northern side of Brahmagiri hills, is a place that have been unianimously referred to as the Heal station. Spend some time at the Thirunelly Temple, known for its tough, unpolished architecture and shielded by 30 granite columns. Male devotees can enter the temple only if they are bare-chested and carry a mirror at a side. While you are at Pookote Lake, a visit to the Uruvu Eco shop is a must. Check out products made out of two dozen varieties of bamboo. They are mostly made by tribals and women of the area.
Pakshipathalam in Bramha Giri hills at Thirunelly is a challenging tourist spot. It is 7 kms. north-east of Thirunelly temple and is situated 1740m. above mean sea level. To reach 'Pakshipathalam', 17 kms. have to be covered through wild forest. The deep rock caves formed among the thick blocks of rocks at the northern top end of the Brahmagiri is the abode of various birds and wild beasts. To go to 'Pakshipathalam' special permission has to be obtained from forest department. DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council) arranges vehicle, guides, camping apparatus etc. to the tourists on hire charges.
Muthanga and Tholpetty are wildlife sanctuaries in this region. Elephants, leopards, deer and snakes can be spotted here. For trekking holidays in Wayanad, places like Chembra peak and Pakshipathalam are the adventure traveler’s delight with treks through hills and forests.
The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is located at a distance of 18 km east of Sultan Bathery in the rainforest of Muthunga. The sanctuary forms an integral part of the Nilgiri Bio Sphere Reserve. Animals that can be seen in this sanctuary include Tigers (though there number is slightly less), Elephant, Jungle Cats, Panthers, Civet Cat, Monkeys, Wild dogs, Deers, Spotted Bears, Bisons, Gaurs, Cheetah, Wild Bears, Peacock, Owls, Jungle fowls, Woodpeckers, Babblers, Cukoos. Off late, the shrinking of waterholes in the the sanctuary is posing a great problem for the forest department.
The list of places to see is exhaustive. The district abounds with waterfalls, named and unnamed, and there is a viewpoint at literally every turn on the road. The best time to visit Wayanad is September through May.