A detailed guide to Wayanad, Kerala
A journey into Wayanad is like no other. Wayanad has everything -lush tea estates, lofty mountains, gushing waterfalls, secret lakes atop hills, adventure sports, and hiking trails, or it can also be the relaxing getaway of your dreams!
I love Wayanad! I’ve been here twice, and I’m hoping I can make it there for the third time to trek to Chembra Peak. Fingers crossed, 2020 is the year I make it back, else, 2021 for sure!
Wayanad is huge, and to plan a trip there you need to decide what you want to do there, and then choose the location of your stay.
If you just want to relax at your hotel whilst enjoying the views of misty mountains and tea estates, then you have nothing to worry about-just book a hotel that fits within your budget, and enjoy your stay.
It is recommended that you have a private vehicle at your disposal to travel at your convenience as distances are fairly long between points of interest.
**Important tip: All national parks (this includes access to all hills and viewpoints) are closed during the summer due to the possibility of forest fires. So if you are planning a trip to Wayanad to go to any of the national parks, or viewpoints- AVOID the summer. It is best to go between end of October to end of February.
I have compiled my list according to location, so it is easier for you to decide where to stay and what to do.
1. Neelimala viewpoint
*33km from Vythiri*
The drive to Neelimala view point is the most beautiful drive in Wayanad for me. It is not just tea esates, but through forests and arracknut, and other such plantations. To get to the viewpoint, you have to park at the foot of the hill and take a jeep up. The view from the top is of the lush green mountains, a waterfall in the distance, engulfed in floating clouds.
2. Chembra Peak (Meppadi)
*The foothills of Chembra peak is at Meppadi, which is 17km from Vythiri.*
Chembra Peak is the highest peak in Wayand at 2100m. You need prior permission from Meppadi forest office before the trek. Every morning, only a certain number of people are allowed to trek up, so you need to get there before 6am.
Do ask at your hotel for correct timings & how to get tickets. The trek will take 2-3 hours depending on your fitness levels. Almost three quarters the way to the top, there is a heart shaped lake called ‘hridayathadakam’, which is the highlight of this trek.
It is not advisable to do the trek during the monsoons as the slopes will be very slippery. Chembra Peak is closed in the summer.
3. Lakkidi view point
*6.2km from Vythiri*
This viewpoint gives expansive views of the valley below, and of the many hairpin bends that you have to take to reach Wayanad.
4. Soochipara falls
*28.8 km from Vythiri*
Also known as Sentinel falls, it is a 3 tier waterfall surrounded by forests. The best time to visit the waterfalls is during the monsoons, to see it in all its glory. The drive to the falls is scenic with tea estates along the way. It is possible to swim in this waterfall.
5. Tea Estates
There are tea estates everywhere in Wayanad, but most of them are in and around Vythiri. Many tea estates allow visitors in for a tour, some even have activities on their property- like zip lining & cycling.
Though the zip line is over a short distance, it is fun to give it a try, especially if you are scared of zip lining over the rivers, or over heights.
Near Banasura Lake
6. Banasura Sagar Dam & Lake
Banasura dam is the largest earth dam in India. The Banasura hills surround the lake and dam. Boating in the lake is popular activity.
7. Trek Banasura Hill
You can start trekking up the hill from the dam, but you do need to get permission from the North Wayanad Forest Division office at Mananthavady. It is best to ask about routes to take and any other queries you may have at the office, or ask a local from your hotel.
8. Makkiyad Meenmutty falls
*23km from Banasura Dam*
This 3 tiered waterfall is beautiful and can be viewed from all three levels. Parking is available near the waterfalls, but it is a steep climb to access the higher tiers of the waterfalls. Else, you can walk till the lowest tier of the waterfall, and see the other tiers from below. Swimming is allowed in the waterfalls. It is surrounded by lush greenery and tea estates.
There are many locally owned makeshift stalls on the way to the the waterfalls, from where you can buy souvenirs and refreshments.
9. Kuruvadweep Islands
*34.8 km from Banasura Dam*
Kuruvadweep is a group of three uninhabited islands that lie in the tributaries of the Kabini river. The densely wooded islands are home to many species of birds and some wildlife. Large bamboo rafts are used to tour the islands.
10. Karlad Lake
*9.7km from Banasura Dam*
Karlad Lake is a picturesque lake surrounded by arracknut plantations and lush greenery. Wayand Adventure Camp has plenty of activities on offer here at extremely reasonable prices.
- Zip line across Karlad Lake
Zip Lining across the lake is a thrilling experience, do give it a try.
-Kayak at Karlad Lake
Kayaking here is extremely cheap, so if you ever wanted to try it, there is no better place!
Near Sulthan Bathery
11. Edakkal caves
*12.8km from Sulthan Batheri*
Edakkal caves are two natural caves at a height of 1200m above sea level, that were the camping sites of people from the Neolithic age. Within the caves there are engravings from the Neolithic age. The engravings are not very clear, and a little hard to make out. There are no guides to explain what the engravings are, but the security guard at the entrance did explain a little about what we saw. The engravings show the hierarchy of the tribes, and their way of of life.
These caves are the only evidence of the Neolithic age in Kerala.
Getting to the caves is not easy. There is ample parking near the caves, but the route to the caves is a long stretch of steep incline, that will be quite the workout. But there are many makeshift stalls along the way for refreshments, so you can stop and go at your own pace.
From one end of the caves you can peek out at the view of the forests below- quite a sight considering you would have climbed up a fair bit of that height!
12. Muthanga Wildlife sanctuary
*14km from Sultan Bathery*
The Muthanga/Wayanad Wildlife sanctuary is the extension of Nagarhole & Bandipur National Parks of Karnataka, and Mudumalai national park of Tamil Nadu. The tiger and elephant are the biggest draws here. Keep in mind the national park is closed during the summer.
To enter the national park, there are two timings- around 6-7 AM, and then around 3PM, but you need to queue up much earlier to get entry, as only a certain number of vehicles are allowed entry ( I think around 30-can’t remember the exact number) You cannot take your private vehicle in, you will have to take the jeeps provided by the forest department.
There are many private jeeps outside the park which promise tourists a ride into the national park, when they don’t get tickets from the forest department. Don’t take these jeeps, as all they do is take you through a public road that runs through the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary to Bandipur national park. You can take that drive if you don’t get tickets into the forest, and hope to spot wildlife. I spotted deer, and a couple of species of monkeys when I took this drive in our own vehicle.
13. Ancient Jain temple
*850m from Sulthan Bathery*
This is a small 13th century temple entirely made of stone. It is protected under the Archaeological Survey of India. It is one of the most important Jain temples in India, though it is not an architectural marvel like the many temples in the country. It is worth a quick visit if you are in the Sulthan Bathery area.
14. Phantom Rock
*11.3km from Sulthan Bathery*
It is a rock formation atop a hill that resembles a human skull. Don’t go during the summer, you will be disappointed, as the hills will be parched and brown, but during/after the rains, and in the winter, the view from up here will be lush green. It can be seen from your car as well, so if you are on a tight schedule you can see it from the distance and carry on. Else, park your car, and trek the short distance to the rocks.
15. Restaurant hopping
Wayanad has some of the best food I've ever had. It wasn't at the resorts that I stayed in, but at the restaurants along the road that I tried on a whim. The food was good at every place that I tried, and that's something that is very rare. So, take a chance and go into a restaurant on the roadside.
The two restaurants I remember are:
Jubilee Restaurant at Sulthan Bathery
Address: Main Road Sulthan Bathery
I had the beef biriyani here, that was so so good! Both times that I visited, I had the same thing, but I hear most of their food is really good- so give it a try.
Wilton Hotel & Restaurant
Address: Dhottapankulam NH 766 Sulthan Bathery
I had a beef biriyani, and a few seafood dishes, they were all really good! If you are in Wayanad, please come and eat here!
I hope you liked my guide to Wayand. Do leave me a comment below to let me know your thoughts!