March 8, 2017

Coorg- Beyond the Coffee Plantations


Aroma of the coffee flowers wafted across as I entered Virajpet, a town in South Coorg. Long trails beyond the small gates meandered through the coffee plantations leading to more aromas of the blooming flowers. It was the month of February, blossoming and plucking time in the coffee estates of this beautiful hill station. Apart from coffee, Coorg is also laced with pepper, cardamom and oranges as they entwine and blend with each other over acres of lush greenery.

Located in South Karnataka, Coorg also known as Kodagu is not just about coffee. It is also known for its waterfalls, treks, temples and undulating landscapes. Coorg is home to the Kodavas, a warrior clan known for their unique culture, lifestyle and cuisine. Many Coorgis have large plantations, live amidst the coffee beans and some have also converted their homes into home stays and resorts. Staying in one of them is undoubtedly the best way to know Coorgi culture and to explore coffee plantations.





The bustling Madikeri is the major town in Coorg and a popular jaunt with travellers as it is well connected to all major attractions. Abbey falls, a few kilometers from Madikeri, is a beautiful waterfall set amidst coffee plantations. It is a short walk down to falls which cascades over a few rocks and flows to join river Cauvery further down. Though best enjoyed during the monsoon or immediately after that, Abbey falls does have good water levels even in the winters.



Built by Kodava rulers, Madikeri fort was occupied by the Tipu Sultan and the British as well. Dilapidated to a small extent, the fort walls, bastions, canons, secret passages and prisons are a testimony of its past. Located in the middle of the town, the fort also houses a few old buildings and a chapel that has now been converted into a museum which has a wide display of artefacts and sculptures. Further down from the fort, a narrow road goes past a residential area to Gaddige, the tombs of Kodava kings, Doddaveerarajendra, Lingarajendra and Rudrappa, the royal priest. The beautiful domes and minarets depict the influence of the Indo- Sarcenic architecture. Apart from the tombs, the insides have beautiful arches.


Madikeri fort



Fort walls



Gaddige
Raja seat, near the fort is one of the favourite places to spend an evening for the locals and as well as visitors. The spread out garden and seating area offers a panoramic view of the sprawling hills and valleys apart from the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. People happily sit here, play mellifluous songs and enjoy the vistas. As the sun goes down splashing a mélange of colours over the horizon, sporadic lights turn up across the valley. The Kodava kings and their family loved enjoying the sunsets from here and hence the name. Omkareshwara temple at the centre of Madikeri has a unique blend of Islamic and Gothic architecture. The colourfully painted temple with a beautiful pond is dedicated to Shiva and was built in early 19th century by Lingarajendra, the Kodava king.







A short ride away from Madikeri lies Dubare, known for its water sports and elephant training centre. A short boat ride across the Cauvery takes you to the elephant training camp which gives an opportunity to feed, bathe and interact with the pachyderms. This is definitely an exciting place to visit for children. Rafting on the Cauvery is another popular activity in Dubare.





To the west of Madikeri, the road goes past numerous coffee plantations and lead to Talacauvery. This is where river Cauvery originates as a perennial spring in a pond and makes its way through the lush green hills of Coorg and then to other parts of the country. There are a couple of shrines here and gets quite crowded with pilgrims during weekends. A short trail behind goes all the way up and offers nice views of the surrounding hills. En-route Talacauvery lies the beautiful temple at Bagamandala dedicated to Baganandeshwara, a form a Shiva. It also has shrines of Vishnu and Brahma making it a unique temple. The dangling Chendas (drums) and mural art on its walls adds to the charm.

Talacauvery
Bagamandala temple
More sprawling plantations take you from Madikeri to Kakkabe, a serene town amidst the lush green estates of coffee and spices.  A detour from the main road leads to Padi Iguthappa temple, a revered deity of the Kodavas. Set on a hillock, the temple has low rise roofs and is amidst a serene surrounding. A narrow winding road from the town of Kakkabe leads to Nalknad palace, which was the hideout of the last Kodava king, Chikkaveerarajendra before surrendering to the British in 1834 CE. Built in 1792 CE by Doddaveerarajendra, the two-storeyed structure has beautiful mural paintings, colourful ceilings, decorated pillars with intricately carved windows and doors which are a peep into the regal past of the royal kingdom. There is a dark room and a narrow passage that leads to it, which is quite interesting. Chinkara falls, near Kabinakkad junction in Kakkabe is a lovely cascading waterfalls which one can reach after a very short trek. Gurgling past the boulders, the falls is best viewed during the monsoon. Tadiyandamol, the highest peak (5730 feet) in Coorg and the second highest in Karnataka is located close by. One can either trek from Palace estate or start from Honey valley estate to trek Tadiyandamol peakChelavara falls is another beautiful waterfall in Kakkabe region. This is however a bit isolated and requires a short trek and a long detour from the main road. One can spot numerous colourful butterflies here.


Nalknad palace


Virajpet in south Coorg is an important trading centre and one of the largest producers of honey in Asia. Located close to Iritty in Kerala, the town is a cultural melting pot and is known for its secular outlook.  St. Anne’s church inside a school premises with a European and Gothic architecture is a landmark structure. First built in late 18th century, the present structure was rebuilt in mid 19th century and has gorgeously decorated interiors.The clock towner in the middle of Virajpet town is more than a hundred years old and was built to commemorate King George V’s visit to India. The road that leads to Iritty takes you to Perambady lake, which is known for its picturesque surroundings.






To the north of Madikeri lies the secluded Mallalli falls, the largest in Coorg. Gushing through lush greenery, the falls lies close to the trekking route to Kumara Parvata. Irpu falls near Nagarhole national park is a two tiered falls in Southern Coorg. Lakshmana theertha transforms into Irpu falls here as it rages through a set of large boulders. Look around and you would be able to spot numerous colourful butterflies (Papilio Buddha). The trail further up from the falls requires permission from authorities. 


Irpu falls
Though not in Coorg, Bylakuppe located near Kushalnagara is a huge Tibetan colony with many monasteries and is a must visit place while in Madikeri.

Kodavas are known for their traditional attires which are mostly worn during functions and to temples. While women clad sarees in a different style, men wear a turban along with a gown and a peechekathi (dagger). It is a crime to leave Coorg without a taste of the ever popular Pandi curry (Pork curry). It goes well with kadumputtu (rice dumplings), akki roti (rice roti) and nool puttu (rice noodles). Wash it down with a cup of hot Coorgi coffee. Coorg is also known for its honey and home made wines.


Coorgi women at Omkareshwara temple

Kadumputtu and Pandi curry

Travel Tips:

  • Make Madikeri the base to travel to all tourist destinations.
  • Though coffee blooming season is January and February, the ideal time to visit Coorg would be post the monsoons.

Location:

South Karnataka
Madikeri to Mysore- 118 Kms
Madikeri to Bangalore- 248 Kms
Madikeri to Kakkabe- 31 Kms
Madikeri to Talacauvery- 44 Kms
Madikeri to Dubare- 37 Kms
The closest rail head is at Mysore (118Kms) and the nearest major airport is in Bangalore (285 Kms)

Food and Accommodation:

Relish the Coorgi cuisine at Taste of Coorg and Coorg Cuisine, which are located near the fort. There are other restaurants too which serve south Indian and Coorgi cuisines. Being a popular tourist destination, there are wide ranges of accommodation options available across Coorg. I stayed at Thelma Studios, a couple of kilometers away from Raja seat. This is an excellent place to stay which offers all basic facilities and is definitely recommended.


22 comments:

  1. Wonderful post. We just love this place in Monsoon.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Coorg in the rains is absolutely gorgeous.

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  2. Beautiful pics and all points of interest are so well covered in this post. Coorg is so different from any other hill station,the food ,the history ,the elephant training camps and the ever alluring scenery.

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  3. You have covered Coorg so well in a single post, few of these places we have never heard before and we can't wait to go on a road trip to the land of Kodavas some day.

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  4. Amazing post.. You have covered all major attractions of Coorg.. This post reminded about our trip to Coorg.. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Madikkeri to Mangalore International Airport distance is just 145 Km.Also I think nearest railway station is Tellicherry in Kerala.Very good travelogue.

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    1. Bangalore airport has a better connectivity and hence the reference. Same applies for the rail head too. The time required from Madikeri to reach Mysore is much lesser than Thalassery.

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  6. Coorg is always enchanting and particularly if you have friend to guide your trip it is lovely. I lost my friend to destiny. Well penned travelogue Das.

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    1. Thank you and sorry to hear about your friend.

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  7. Wonderful shots. Pretty well covered.

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  8. Beautiful!! Nice to see the coverage of Nalknad Palace. I missed it last time..

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  9. A very good reference for Coorg Visitors

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  10. Such a lovely collection of pictures!

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  11. We have been to Coorg several times, but your blog and the current bangalore weather is making me plan for a revisit soon :)

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