Settled into the lap of the majestic Western Ghats, Wayanad is a picturesque plateau brimming with delightful views in every direction. Wayanad was formed on the 1st of November, 1980, and was named after its lovely paddy fields – literally the vayal (fields) naadu (land). Exciting wildlife, fertile lands growing exotic spices, the evergreen forest cover and the magnificent peaks highlight this beautiful countryside. Geographically, Wayanad lies towards the northern part of Kerala and have altitudes ranging from 700 meters to 2100 meters above the sea level. Wayanad accounts for a significant share of spices, tea and coffee grown in Kerala and is also a major tourist destination.
Wayanad, in its earliest known history was ruled by the Rajas of the aboriginal Veda tribe. Later on, it came under the rule of the Kottayam royal dynasty, the rajas of which were titled as the Pazhassi Rajas. Through the centuries, the quaint land had witnessed many invasions and attacks. Attacks by Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore, invasion of Tipu Sultan and the British rule were major markers in the political history of the province.
Pazhassi Raja was a valiant ruler who fought relentlessly for the freedom of the region. Though during Tipu’s rule, he had restored Wayanad back to the Kottayam dynasty, the freedom didn’t last long. Tipu surrendered the region to the British after the Srirangapatna treaty. An unhappy Pazhassi Raja fought the British accession but was forced to go into exile. Even that could not dampen his valorous spirit. Pazhassi Raja along with his tribal troops of kurichyas and kurumas, and his nair forces resorted to tactical attacks on the British. His war time strategies included the guerilla warfare, which caused some major setbacks to the British troops. In 1805, the British could finally manage a decisive win over Pazhassi, but before they could catch him, Pazhassi Raja killed himself ending an era of folkloric gallantry. The modern history of Wayanad starts here, when the British opened up the fertile plateau to the cultivation of spices and tea. They also built roads along the slopes of Wayanad, improving its connectivity with its neighboring regions and aiding its emergence as a prominent producer of spices and tea in the south.
Towering high at a majestic 2100 meters, Chembra is the tallest, and conceivably the most beautiful, of the many breathtaking peaks of Wayanad. It is located near Meppadi, a small town in the southern part of the district. The mountaineering possibilities offered by the rocks and valleys of Chembra are sure to quench your adrenaline rush. Chembra also offers its tourists peak-top accommodation in temporary camps set up by the District Tourism Promotion Council. Tourist guides, sleeping bags, huts, trekking gear and canvases can be hired at the base station before you embark on your exhilarating trip exploring the scenic beauty of Chembra.
Trek your heart’s content at Neelimala – Wayanad’s very own piece of paradise with many exciting trekking paths taking you uphill. Located to the South-East of the serene town of Kalpetta, Neelimala is also approachable from eastern Wayanad via Sulatan Bathery. The eye-catching panorama from atop the Neelimala hills, highlighting the majestic Meenmutty waterfalls against the lush green valley of the ghats, is a view to die for.
At a stone’s throw away from Neelimala is Wayanad’s largest waterfall – Meenmutty. The two kilometer trekking route from the road connecting Ooty and Wayanad will bring you to the gush of crystal clear waters cascading down the 300 meter deep hillock of Meenmutty.
Chethalayam falls is closer to the town of Sultan Bathery, in the northern part of Wayanad. Though smaller in comparison to Meenmutty, Chethalayam is still a birdwatchers’ delight and a favored trekking destination among the locales.
Edakkal cave is a must visit for the history buffs and the archeological enthusiasts. At 25 kilometers from Kalpetta is Ambalavayal, from where you can reach the Edakkal cave which is tucked into the cliffs of Ambukuthy. Technically a cleft, rather than a cave, the 96 by 26 feet expanse of Edakkal is roofed by an enormous rock which has fallen over, making it look more like a cave to the ordinary onlooker. The intricate rock carvings of Edakkal are believed to date from the prehistoric age. The carvings depicting human and animal figures are so amusing that they may tempt you to revisit the history of civilizations all over again.
Far from the madding crowd lies the soothing 950 acres spread of the uninhabited Kuruva Island. The evergreen forests, abundantly watered by the tributaries of river Kabani, robe the island in a calming green. Tourists take delight in spotting the rare species of birds, orchids and herbs that can be found in abundance here.
Speak of scenic beauty and Lakkidi, the gateway of Wayanad, cannot fall behind. Located atop the 700 meter high Thamarassery ghat pass, Lakkidi boasts of wondrous views of the magnificent peaks, the gurgling creeks and the rich flora that it hosts. Experience the thrill and the astounding views from the nine hairpin bends that highlights the 12 kilometer drive from Adivaram to Lakkidi.
Muthanga, the largest habitat of wildlife in Malabar, covers an area of 345 square kilometers. Close to the Karnataka border, it lies at 16 kilometers to the east of Sultan Bathery. Apart from spotting the wildlife including Indian elephant, spotted deer, bison, tiger, cheetah and wild bear, one can also enjoy the elephant rides offered here by the forest department.
Tucked away from civilization and within the evergreen forests of Brahmagiri, Pakshipathalam makes for a perfect home to a variety of birds, animals and distinctive species of plants. It takes a 7 kilometer forest trek, starting from Thirunelli near Manannthavadi, to reach the place. Visitors have to obtain permissions from the District Forest Officer to venture into the protected area. Vehicles, tour guides, camping equipment etc. are available for hire at the District Tourism Promotion Council.
The Lion of Kerala, Pazhassi Raja, has his name etched into the history of the state, thanks to his tactful guerrilla warfare techniques in fighting the British. The Pazhassi Raja tomb now stands at the spot where the valiant ruler was cremated about two centuries ago. A picnic spot now, it also houses a tourist resort and an aquarium. Coin operated toys for the kids and boating facilities also attracts tourists to the place.
Three kilometers to the South of Vythiri is a natural fresh water lake, the Pookot lake. The lake is spread over an area of 8.5 hectares and has a maximum water depth of 6.5 meters. Nature is at her best here, unspoiled and fresh in green all year round. The Pookot lake tourist resort at Vythiri is made more engaging with the aquarium, greenhouse and the boating facilities here. Tourists can also shop for some exotic spices and hand crafted mementos at the outlet here.
The waterfall at Vellarimara near Chooralmara in Meppadi panchayat is yet another attraction of Wayanad. The Sentinel rock that stands high at 200 meters is ideal for a day picnic or some rock climbing fun, and offers some in-house fun activities too.
Kanthanpara is ideal for a peaceful getaway and a leisurely hike. Smaller than Sentinel Rock waterfall in comparison, it is also less frequented and hence an ideal place if you are looking for a quiet retreat.
Treat your eyes to the refreshing waterfalls of Soochippara, each ranging from 100 to 300 feet in their drop. Relish the bird’s eye view from the treetop huts, take a dip at the pool, raft and swim. Soochippara is located near Meppadi and is considered to be an unexplored treasure of nature.
Banasura Sagar, the largest earthen dam in India, is located to the southwest of Wayanad, close to the Karalad Lake. From here, tourists can take a trek to the top of the Banasura peak, relishing the sights and sounds of the quaint countryside. The islands formed within the reservoir of the dam here makes for a spectacular view against the backdrop of the majestic hills. The approach to the dam is from Kalpetta which is at 21 kilometers from the here.