Discover Wayanad: From the wilderness of Muthanga to the tranquillity of Kuruva Island

Wayanad. Photo: Suhair/Shutterstock

Wayanad never ceases to amaze a tourist. Enveloped by mountains, hills, and forests, its scenic beauty remains unmatched. The scenery starts to unravel as you start your way towards the Thamarasheri churam. Amidst some drizzle and mist, it’s a visit that will always be a trip to remember. Here are some of the must-visit places in Wayanad. 

Muthanga 

Kerala’s second-largest wildlife sanctuary is located on the way to Mysore via the Sulthan Battery route. With deciduous trees and partial evergreen forests, Muthanga is known for its flourishing flora and fauna in the Western Ghats. It also acts as a link that connects National parks in Karnataka’s Nagarhole, Bandipur to Tamil Nadu’s Mudumalai.

Rich in biodiversity, the sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The management emphasizes scientific conservation with due consideration for the general lifestyle of the tribals and others who live in and around the forest region. The Sanctuary has a large population of pachyderms and has been declared a Project Elephant site. Elephants roam freely here, and tigers are sighted occasionally as well. Various species of deer, monkeys, and birds also live here.

The Reserve is also home to a plethora of birds, butterflies, and insects. A drive along the road to Muthanga and further offers chances to watch these roaming animals. Elephant rides can be arranged by the Forest Department. They can also arrange Jeep Safaris along with a guide. 

Chembra peak

Chembra Peak, also the highest peak in the Wayanad hills and one of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats can put you under a spell with its beauty. Visits to the peak are organized by the "Chempra Peak VSS" under the control of the South Wayanad Forest Development Agency; guides are provided for trekking.

Chembra Peak is accessible by foot from Kalpatta’s Melpadi. You can see acres of meadows, filled with wild plants and flowers and luminous lakes. The District Tourism Promotion Council provides guides and trekking equipment to tourists for fees. Banasura Sagar Dam and Banasura Hill are also in the vicinity. Need we add that the scenery is, even more, prettier during the monsoons?

Banasura Hill 

It is also one of the highest peak exceeding 2,000m between Nilgiris and Himalayas after Chembra Peak. Chenkuthaya hills remain its greatest attraction. It’s always an experience to drive through the dam (largest earth dam in India) that holds fort to the Banasura hills and is only 20 km from Kalpatta. It lies off the state highway from Kuttiyadi to Mananthavady. Mananthavady is the closest town and the closest state transport depot.

If you want to try trekking, you can take a digression at Vellamunda village and go via Pulinjal to reach the peak. You can also start your trek from the dam. You might also pass the Banasura Hill Resort, which is famous for its rammed-earth architecture. The narrow trail that leads up to the top of the hill winds through thick tropical vegetation.

There are some rare medicinal plants as well as monkeys, wild boars, deer, and wild elephants on the way. Did you also know that the forests surrounding Banasura Hill with numerous caves, streams, and watercourses formed an ideal hiding place for King Pazhassi Raja? There are four tribal settlements at the foot of the Banasura Hill belonging largely to the Kurichiya tribe. And it was the Kurichiya tribe who helped the King to fight the guerilla war against the British. 

Kuruva Island (Kuruvadweep)

Kuruva Island remains one of the most popular tourist destinations of Wayanad. Scattered on the banks of the Kabani river, this beautiful stretch of greenery lies in the route between Mananthavady to Mysore. Spread across 950 acres of land, it’s a cluster of around 150 little islands that constitute Kuruva Island. It’s 40 km from Kalpatta, 34 km from Bathery, and 17 km from Mananthavady. You have to check the weather (it shuts during the monsoons) before heading towards this largely isolated island which ironically is always swarming with tourists. Also, home to rare species of birds, orchids, herbal plants, these islands consist of dense and evergreen forest.

Even its silence has a special beauty to it. Recently, it has been named as the most visited place in the district by tourists from all over the globe. You can reach the island, which is encircled by streams and river by rafts or fibre boats (run by Kerala Tourism Department). Entrance to the island is restricted and monitored by the Forest Department of Kerala. An entry pass from the Dept of Forest (considering a large number of elephants and other animals living there) is mandatory. The best time to visit Kuruvadweep is from mid-December to late April. 

Pookkodu Thadakam

This is one tourist destination that witnesses a surge of tourists at any given point of the year. This natural freshwater lake dubbed as the Mirror with a tail (Valkannadi) of Wayanad and stands as this perennially flowing lake nestled between three hills is also the smallest and highest altitude fresh water lake in Kerala. Did you know that Panamaram, a rivulet that became Kabani river originated from this lake? There are several seats for visitors arranged around the lake and you can simply sit and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the place. Interestingly, the lake has the natural shape of India's map in an aerial view. You can see a lot of blue lotus, a special variety of blue water lilies, and freshwater fishes here. Boating services are available and at the entrance do visit this handicrafts shop which has everything from handmade soaps, ayurvedic medicines, and crafts.

There is a Children’s park near the lake and a temple. The freshwater aquarium is another attraction within the premises. There is an aquarium with a small display of freshwater fishes and do try their unique fish spa where you can rejuvenate. Get your feet in the water for your session, relax and let the tiny fishes nibble away dead skin cells.

The ideal time to plan a visit to Pookode Lake Kerala is in the winter season. It begins around October-November and remains until February.

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