Wayanad, a gem hidden amidst the folds of Western Ghats, is a fascination for travelers who wish to walk the untrodden paths. Pristine greenery, mighty mountain peaks and abundant jungles are the attractions that Wayanad offers to tourists. Pleasant weather throughout the year is a factor that puts the hilly district of Wayanad ahead of the other tourist destinations in Kerala. Although this district is geographically aloof from Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, most tourists venturing to befriend God’s Own Country make it a point to include Wayanad as well in their itinerary. Let us get more information about this wild beauty through our Wayanad travel guide.
Wayanad is the only plateau in the state of Kerala. It is an elevated mountainous plateau settled close to the Western Ghats. Abundant forests and wildlife of Wayanad enthrall tourists. The word ‘Wayanad’ has its origins in two Malayalam words, ‘Vayal’ and ‘Nadu,’ which mean paddy field and land respectively. So Wayanad translated into English means land of paddy fields. Even today, Wayanad is famous for its exclusive brand of short grain rice which is locally called ‘Jeerakashala’ rice. This is an aromatic rice, and is mainly used for making Malabar biryani. Several areas in Wayanad had human settlements that predate history.
The region that forms the present day Wayanad was a part of Malabar district during the days of British rule. The region attained the status of a separate district only in 1980. Wayanad is home to several indigenous tribes such as Paniyas, Kurumas, and Adiyars. If you are interested in getting close to the tribal population of Kerala, Wayanad is one of the places to visit.
How To Reach Wayanad
Wayanad does not have a convenient location with respect to connectivity. It does not have an airport, nor does it have a railway station. Kalpetta, Mananthawadi and Sulthan Batheri are the three major towns in Wayanad district.
By air: If you are travelling by air, Karipur International Airport at Kozhikode is the closest option to reach Wayanad. It is located at a distance of around 86 kilometres from Wayanad. Kannur International Airport is another option, and it is located at a distance of over 100 kilometres from Wayanad.
By rail: Wayanad does not have rail connectivity. The nearest railway station is at Kozhikode. You can hire a cab or board a bus from Kozhikode. A three hour drive will take you to Wayanad from Kozhikode railway station. As Kozhikode has excellent rail connectivity to most major cities in India, rail travel will not be very hectic.
By road: Road travel is the only way to reach Wayanad. Hence, Wayanad has an excellent road connectivity to other parts of Kerala, and to the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Being a hilly district, roads in Wayanad are mostly winding, and with sharp turns. So our Wayanad travel guide recommends you to pop some pills in advance, you are prone to travel sickness.
Top Tourist Attractions in Wayanad
There is so much to explore and enjoy in the mist-laden hills of Wayanad that you will lose track of time. Prehistoric caves, enchanting waterfalls, tranquil lakes, and fabulous mountain peaks are waiting for you to delve into their beauty. Our Wayanad travel guide gives a list of the best tourist places in Wayanad.
1. Edakkal Caves
Edakkal Cave is probably the most popular tourist attraction of Wayanad. These caves are famous for their natural rock carvings and paintings that date back to centuries. The word ‘Edakkal’ can be translated as ‘the rock in between.’ Although we call it a cave, it is actually a cleft formed by a piece of rock splitting away from the main rock body. A huge boulder forms a roof over the cleft giving it the appearance of a cave. On the walls of the cave, you will find amazing shapes and drawings that were carved over ages. The oldest of these petroglyphs may date back to over 8,000 years. A visit to the caves will give us insights about the way of life of our ancestors, and how they fought with the forces of nature for their existence.
Edakkal Caves are located at a distance of 10 km from Mananthavady, and 25 km from Kalpetta in Wayanad district. It is situated over the Ambukuthi Hills, at a height of 3,900 feet above sea level. You need a moderately difficult trek to reach the top of the hill. There are railings built in some parts, but the path can be treacherous especially in monsoons. If you suffer from serious heart or knee ailments or asthma, it is advisable to avoid the trek. You will need an entry ticket for Edakkal Caves. Entry timings are from 9 AM to 4 PM. Mondays are holidays.
2. Banasura Sagar Dam
The largest earthen dam in India is the pride of Wayanad. Banasura Sagar Dam is built over the waters of Karamanathodu, a tributary of Kabini River. The aim of the dam was to provide water for irrigational purposes and also for the hydro-electric power project at Kakkayam. This dam is a must-visit for admirers of engineering and architectural brilliance. The entire dam is built using massive stones and boulders. Views from above the dam are breath-taking! There is greenery all around. You can see several tiny islands in the dam’s reservoir. These are the result of the reservoir submerging a few nearby areas. They look splendid in the backdrop of the Banasura Hills.
Banasura Sagar Dam is ideal for family vacations. You can soak the natural beauty of the place, while kids enjoy activities like zip lining and boating. It is located at a distance of around 20 km from Kalpetta. The drive to the dam is through picturesque paths. There are eateries nearby, so you can munch on some mouth-watering Kerala snacks as well. According to our Wayanad travel guide, Banasura Sagar is a must-visit place in Wayanad.
3. Kuruva Island
Kuruva Island or Kuruvadweep as it is locally known, is a cluster of islands formed on River Kabini in Wayanad. It is a protected river delta. There are three dense uninhabited islands and a few tiny satellite islands in this cluster. Kuruva Islands are the abodes of pristine greenery. The uninhabited islands nurture several rare and medicinal plants and trees. A bamboo raft or boat will take you to the islands. You can explore the depths of the islands on foot. You can even take a dip in the shallow waters surrounding the island. Tall bamboo trees and thickets transport you to another world. Bamboo bridges and rocky streams will instill a sense of adventure in the tourists.
Kuruva Islands is located at a distance of 17 km from Mananthavady. It is under the management of Kerala Tourism Department. You will need to buy entry tickets from the ticket counters operated by DTPC Kuruva. You can board the rafts to reach the islands from here. There are safety barricades and notices displayed at several areas in the islands to ensure the safety of tourists. Entry to the island is restricted during the monsoon seasons. Kuruva Island is a leading tourist spot of Wayanad, and tends to be crowded on weekends. The authorities allow only a specified number of tourists per day. If the number of tourists exceeds the permissible limits, they may close the entry counters without any prior notice. So it is better to reach early in the day. As this is an eco-tourism area, you cannot carry food or plastic materials inside the islands.
4. Pookode Lake
Pookode Lake is a beautiful freshwater lake situated in Wayanad district. This natural waterbody is enveloped by thick jungles on all sides. Boating is the major tourist attraction in Pookode Lake. It is the smallest freshwater lake in Kerala, but it is also the one which boasts of the highest altitude. A boat ride through the calm waters of Pookode Lake is soul-stirring. You will enjoy the sight of the crystal blue waters and the blue lotus flowers scattered in the lake. The shape of the lake resembles the map of India in an aerial view. You may not exactly feel it when you watch the lake from the sides. A view from a drone will help you realise this.
Our Wayanad travel guide recommends Pookode Lake as one of the best tourist spots in Wayanad. You will need to pay a nominal entry charge for entering the lake premises. Speed boats, row boats and pedal boats are available here. The area surrounding the lake looks splendid. You can simply take a leisurely walk around the lake, or rent a bicycle and explore on wheels. There are a few handicraft shops from where you can buy local stuff and souvenirs. Like all tourist spots, Pookode Lake also attracts crowds, especially on weekends and holidays.
5. Thirunelli temple
The district of Wayanad is a spiritual abode for many. Thirunelli temple is one of the reasons behind this. A serene temple located at the foot of mighty Brahmagiri hills, Thirunelli Temple is significant in many respects. It is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This is a temple where Hindu worshippers can perform rites for their departed loved ones. This is one of the most ancient temples in India. There are no records regarding the date of consecration of the temple. According to legends, the temple was erected by Lord Brahma. Thirunelli Temple is not huge or imposing in terms of its appearance. The ancient architecture and surroundings of the temple are examples of grandeur in simplicity.
Thirunelli temple is open on all days, from 5:30 AM to 12 PM, and from 5:30 PM to 8 PM. According to our Wayanad travel guide, a Wayand tour is incomplete without a visit to Thirunelli Temple. Whether you are a worshipper or not, a visit to Thirunelli Temple will soothe your soul. Spiritual aura emanating from the temple will relax you instantly. Papanashini, a stream that originates from the Brahmagiri forests, runs near the temple premises. The word ‘Papanashini’ means destroyer of all sins. People believe that a bath in this stream will absolve us of all sins. If you are a believer, take a dip in the waters and rid yourself of all sins! You can also perform last rites for the deceased in Papanashini.
6. Pakshipathalam Bird Sanctuary
Very close to Thirunelli Temple is another famous tourist destination of Wayanad. Pakshipathalam Bird Sanctuary is a bird sanctuary as well as a trekking site. It is located in the Brahmagiri Hills, and is at a distance of 7 km from Thirunelli town. Trek to Pakshipathalam begins from Thirunelli. You will need the permission of the Forest Department to undertake this day-long trek. A guide will accompany the tourists for the trek. These dense forests are home to many wild animals, and so, trekkers need to be cautious.
Brahmagiri Hills are home to a variety of herbs and medicinal trees and plants. This is a moderately difficult trek through rocky terrains and deep forests. There are valleys and grasslands too in between. Every second of this trek will be enthralling for nature lovers. You will find many species of birds and animals all along the way. At the summit of the hills, you will find the mysterious caves of Pakshipathalam. These caves are narrow and devoid of sunlight at many points.The walk or crawl through the caves is not for the faint-hearted.
Myths and mysteries surround these caves. People believe that sages of the yore meditated in these caves. These caves were also the hiding places of Naxalite leaders during the turbulent past years of Kerala. Rows of bats inside the caves give it an eerie feel. There are people who believe that these bats are the reincarnations of departed souls whose last rites are performed in Thirunelli temple. Our Wayanad travel guide recommends Pakshipathalam for hard-core trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts.
7. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is another top rated tourist attraction in Wayanad district. It is a heaven of lush green forests and abundant wildlife. This sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere. It lies contiguous to the Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks in Karnataka, and the Mudumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu. The jungles of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary are teeming with wild elephants. You will find tigers, gaurs, deer, and a variety of birds. A jeep safari is the best way to get close to the jungle and its inmates. Tholetti and Muthanga are the best areas inside the sanctuary for wild animals.
Wayanad Wild Sanctuary is located close to Sultan Bathery town. There are eco-tourism centers at Muthanga and Tholpetty. Tourists can avail jeep safari from 7 AM to 10 AM, and from 3 PM to 5 PM. Elephants are the easiest to spot while you are on a safari. Tigers generally stay away from the limelight. Whether or not you spot wild animals, the drive through the thickets is a wonderful experience in itself. If you are interested in staying close to the jungle, you can avail the accommodation facilities provided at the Sanctuary, where they have dormitories as well as rooms. Our Wayanad travel guide recommends this wildlife sanctuary as one of the best spots in Wayanad for nature lovers.
8. Soochippara Falls
Soochipara is an amazing waterfall located in the middle of the jungles of Wayanad. It is also known as the Sentinel Rock Waterfalls. This is located in Vellarimala, near Meppady in Wayanad. This three tiered waterfall looks magnificent especially in monsoons. Frothy water cascading down from a height of over 600 feet throws splashes all around. Salubrious weather of Wayanad makes every tourist spot even more attractive. The cliff face near the waterfall is a favorite spot for rock climbers.
As with most tourist spots in Wayanad, a small walk is needed to reach Soochipara Waterfalls. You will need to walk for almost 2 km from the parking lot to reach the fall. The walk is steep, but the path is paved and has railings in most parts. You cannot carry plastic bottles to the waterfall. It is safe to travel to this waterfall with kids. Old people may find it difficult to walk through the steep paths. There is a small water pool surrounding the fall where you can bathe if you wish. But this area is rocky and may tend to be slippery. During scorching summers, waterfall may reduce to a trickle. Nevertheless, the beautiful surroundings make the place worth a visit.
9. Chembra Peak
Our Wayanad travel guide has a suggestion for all wanderlusts out there. Wayanad is best if you are willing to explore by foot. Trekking is the best way to enjoy the beauty of Wayanad in totality. Chembra Peak, the highest peak in Wayanad, is one such fabulous tourist spot which asks you to climb on foot to enjoy its beauty. This peak is situated at a height of 2,100 m above sea level, and is at a distance of 8 km from Kalpetta. You will need permission from forest department authorities to trek to the top. They allow only a specified number of people per day, so make sure to reach early in the morning,
Unlike the other treks in Wayanad, the trek to Chembra Peak starts with fabulous views of tea gardens. There is tall grass, natural springs, steep climbs and gentle slopes in this trek. The authorities will assign a guide to accompany the trekkers. As this is a sensitive area, tourists should refrain from lighting cigarettes or matches. A heart shaped pond on the way to the peak is one of the biggest attractions of the trek. This perennial pond looks magnificent with greenery all around. Currently, the authorities do not permit trekkers to the summit of the peak. But you can go till the pond, and enjoy the views of the nearby mountains and valleys from there. Trek to Chembra Peak is exhausting but exciting.
10. Lakkidi Viewpoint
At last, here is a place which offers you stunning views without any huffing, puffing and climbing. Lakkidi Viewpoint is an awesome viewpoint located beside the Kozhikode-Mysore Highway. It gives a bird’s eye view of the Thamarassery Churam or Thamarassery Mountain Pass. The viewpoint also goes by the name, Gateway to Wayand. Lakkidi Viewpoint is at a distance of around 32 km from Wayanad, and opens our eyes to the natural gem that Wayanad is. This is not a typical tourist spot, but just a beautiful location along the highway.
The specialty of the place is that you can view the zig zag roads of the mountain pass and also the mighty mountains and valleys of Wayanad, without even stepping out of your vehicle. In fact, parking at the viewpoint is illegal. If you are passing through the highway in the early mornings or evenings, the foggy views from the viewpoint will mesmerize you. Although the authorities do not allow parking near the viewpoint, there are tourists who park their vehicles along the roadside and step out to enjoy the views. This causes trouble for other vehicles. Our Wayanad travel guide suggests that you should obey the rules, and enjoy the views without creating a nuisance for others.
What to Buy From Wayanad
Wayanad is the green paradise of Kerala. It goes without saying that the place is good for shopping for all natural and organic products. Wayanad is famous for its pure honey. You can buy organic honey obtained from the forests of Wayanad. You can also shop for spices while you are in Wayanad. Wayanadan pepper is highly popular in the world of spices. Coffee is another product that shows the presence of Wayanad in the global market. The special aromatic coffee of Wayand has lovers all over the world. Apart from these, you can also have a look at the local handicraft items. Tribal societies in Wayanad make their own unique handicraft pieces which are unique and beautiful.
Where to Stay in Wayanad
Wayanad is a place where your dreams of staying close to nature will come true. Here you find resorts in all types and budgets. If you wish a luxury stay, Vythiri Village Resort, Morickap Resort, Arayal Resort, Windflower Resort, Mount Xanadu and Banasura Hill Resort are a few good options. Vayal Veedu is a set of luxury farm villas which offers splendid views of the paddy fields of Wayanad. If you do not wish to spend a lot on accommodation, you can opt for affordable stays such as Pugmarks Jungle Lodge, Cavern Resort, Orchid Trails Resort or KTDC Pepper Grove.