The South of India has too much to offer to the wanderers. A lot of its part still remain raw and untouched. With so much to explore down the map, there are some widely known hill stations which make up to every travellers’ bucket list.
Coorg, also known as Kodagu, for one, definitely sits somewhere on the top for most. So, without much ado, let me guide you through its must-visits and must-dos, most of which lie in two of its well-known towns, Madikeri and Kushalnagar.
Our bus from Bangalore stopped at Madikeri early in the morning somewhere around 6. The moment we stepped down, smiles painted across our faces. There was nothing to see, really, just a feeling of accomplishment. We, being the first-timers here without any plans and research, just went along as guided by the locals, also sometimes by our guru, Google. And, that was our only plan!
Having gotten a business card from one of the many homestay and jeep owners, who were persuading us to use their services, we left off. The card had all the famous destinations of Coorg written behind it. Enough for a rough plan which we made within minutes of us receiving it. For the short weekend trip, what else could we ask for?
Our first stop was Abbi Falls which was around 3 kilometres away from the bus stand. Since we didn’t want to exhaust ourselves yet, we took an auto-rickshaw which would leave us at our next stop once we were done with the falls. Even after spending so much time at the bus stand while freshening up and sipping our cups of tea, we ended up reaching the falls way too early. The entry into the area is allowed only after 9 AM, however, we reached at 8.
What the best thing about the hills is that the time seems to fly by in no time, ha! A little bit of strolling around, clicking pictures, having Maggi at the shop right at the entrance of the falls and buying ourselves a couple of homemade wine bottles, we were finally welcomed. Few hundred meters in, and we could hear the waterfall, which in turn increased our pace. The walk towards the fall is beautiful, having cemented pavements and coloured metal boundaries on either side.
Since we’re not allowed to go near the falls, we stood by the boundary and took in its beauty. We could feel the water droplets falling on our faces, and that made us stay longer than we anticipated. With our closed eyes, we enjoyed the water sprinkles for a while. While leaving our eyes fell upon the broken bridge and landslide struck hill on the other side of the viewpoint. It struck us that the flood, a few months back, had affected this area too. With pity in our eyes, we left off for our next stop.
Protected by the archaeological department, Madikeri Fort is not just a tourist place. It is now being used as the local government office. The campus also has St. Marks Church, which is now converted into a small museum, containing so much about the history of Coorg.
The fort might not make you travel time at first, but once you start looking closely, you’ll realize just how must history it has seen.
Walking distance away from the fort sits Rajaseat Park. Maintained really well, this one offers viewpoint to the beautifully laid hills and forests. The tourists who are not much of adventurers could easily get the feel of being at the hilltop without trekking their way through the toughest paths.
Looking at the view in front of the Raja’s Seat, meaning ‘seat of the King’, I finally realize what a privilege it must be during that era to be able to get this view every day. The park, on the other hand, is full of seasonal flowers and artificial fountains, another view to admire.
Near the park are other famous tourist points including Omkareshwara Temple and Raja’s Tomb. The opposite side of the park has the toy train station, which unfortunately is under maintenance to date. At every corner of Coorg, you can find handmade chocolates, homemade wines, spices, and filter coffee.
The aroma drove us to so many vendors and shops. However, we finally gave in at the ‘Coorg Trails’. It is located near the fort, selling everything Coorg is famous for, except landscapes. You got to work for that one on your own, ha!
Mandalpatti is basically a nearly 1600m high heaven, which takes one hell of a ride to reach. My personal suggestion would be to go there only if you’re an adventurer. The hill itself is not a problem, the trouble is with the untamed path. Situated at around 18kms away from Madikeri bus stop, it is suggested to ride here in a Jeep. One can also trek their way up, but we obviously didn’t! Renting a Jeep, we left off.
The view up the hill kept getting better whereas the roads, worse. Tired, as we were, the only thing which was keeping us awake was the beauty that laid ahead of us and the trail which we were leaving behind us. Also, the bumps were helping us stay totally conscious throughout our ride. Once we reached the parking space, we started with the short trek up the hill. To get to the viewpoint one needs to get the ticket, so did we. And, what a breathtaking, mesmerizing and definitely priceless view it was!
Just as much as we wanted to retire to the bed and get some rest, the explorer inside us knew no calm. Once reaching back to Madikeri, we started our next search. Taking our bus to Kushalnagar, while keeping our stomachs calm with little snacks on the way, we anticipated this destination more than any other. The bus ride was a difficult one since we didn’t really find the best seats for ourselves. As much as we wanted to catch up on our sleep, as many bumps and crowd were waiting for our welcome to Kushalnagar.
Unlike in Madikeri, the first thing we did once we reached here was to find ourselves a place to stay. Although there were plenty of options available online, we wanted an impromptu plan and see for ourselves what our luck had in store for us. In the search for economic homestays near coffee plantations, we reached out to the auto-rickshaw drives near the bus stand. Being the locals, they knew no less. With a few phone calls, they finally found one homestay suitable for us.
Although nowhere near coffee plantations, we still managed to get ourselves the best deal. The driver took us to the villa we booked on the call. And, what a surprise it was! Did I ever mention that we were just three girls on the trip? And, this villa was too huge for just the three of us. Since it was just a matter of night and we didn’t ask for food services, it became the cheapest deal of our trip. Along with the villa, we booked the same auto driver for our entire stay at Kushalnagar.
Namdroling Nyingmapa Monastery
The Nyingmapa Monastery is the largest teaching centre of the Nyingma Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism in the world, hence, definitely a must-visit tourist spot.
Founded by Penor Rinpoche, the 11th throne holder of the Palyul Lineage of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, in 1963, this one definitely demands a lot of attention.
So it gets! The visit to the Golden Temple and a stroll around the campus was so fulfilling after one heck of the tiring day we had.
Dubare Elephant Camp
We started early in the morning the next day. The auto driver took us to have an amazing South-Indian breakfast at a local shop. With happy stomachs, we headed towards Dubare Elephant Camp.
After waiting in the queue for a while, we finally got our tickets. Hopping on our boat, we left towards the other side; where the kings were waiting for us.
A little later, after a little wandering around, the kings finally arrived. Some showed clear signs of ageing and to my surprise still looked strong enough. Some even paid to bathe the elephants, we, on the other hand, were content as just onlookers.
This was hands down my favourite place to be at in Coorg. Maybe, because it was not crowded yet; or because my stomach was yet to demand another meal; or simply because it was just so beautiful. I am a huge sucker for the combination of mountains, forests, and waterbody.
And, this one had them placed so beautifully that I could not take my eyes off. Although the water level was not too high, the still water was too calming to complain about anything. There was this house, in particular, the middle of the forest, I couldn’t stop thinking about living in. What bliss!
After having our cups of filter coffee in the small shop in front of the reservoir, we headed in. This one is like that antique statue which you can just look and appreciate. However, touching is forbidden.
With the huge campus so well maintained, this one was another form of beauty. We went to the farthest ends; wherever the normal population was allowed.
However, if one really wishes to see or touch the water, they should be going to Harangi backwaters. A quiet place to enjoy some time with nature in its raw form.
Around twenty minutes ride from the Harangi Reservoir is located Nisargdhama. While one side of it is mostly bamboo park with benches, cottages and a few other picturesque offerings; the other is on a completely different dimension with the nature lovers.
The street market and a few rides for kids offer a completely different world. The bargain here is real. It took us a while to finally understand the rates, and once we were thorough, we charged.
From filter coffee to goodies for our loved ones; we got all we wanted to take back.
The entire trip was a little rushed. However, at the same time, it was extremely fulfilling. With no idea whatsoever about Kodagu, we tried to experience it first-hand. Apart from the smallest gifts we carried back, the biggest gift we got was for ourselves; the beautiful memories.
Till date, this is the one trip where I grew up the most, as a traveller. The trip I will cherish for the lifetime. We definitely missed out on a few experiences. Most prominent ones being visiting coffee plantations and camping. However, it left no regret in our hearts, since we knew we would come back soon!
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