Periyar

Periyar Boat SafariWith its unspoilt tropical forests, Periyar is best known for its wildlife. It is located in the southeastern part of Kerala and surrounded by beautiful destinations like Kumily and Murikkady. One can explore the tea, coffee gardens around or soak in the delicate aroma of the spice plantations.

The Periyar National Park is one of the largest, most visited and most fascinating wildlife sanctuaries of India, home to some of the rarest species of flora and fauna. Centered around an artificial lake created by the British in 1895 to supply water to the drier parts of Tamil Nadu, Periyar lies at an altitude of about 1,800 m. Eco-friendly tourism is promoted at the park with the locals themselves involved in the programmes. The locals - some poachers turned protectors - organize various community based eco-tourism programmes such as jungle patrols, nature trails, hikes, camps and canoeing. Although this is a tiger reserve ? there is an estimated 40 tigers in the park - visitors come to see the elephant, Gaur, sambar, Nilgiri langur, bonnet macaque, darters, cormorants, the great Malabar hornbill, kingfishers, pythons and king cobras. The Periyar lake which lies in the heart of the sanctuary is a paradise for birds and aquatic life.

About 2kms south of the park is Kumily where tourism and spice industry is the main source of income. The streets are filled with the fragrant aroma of spices, and almost every shop in the town?s main street sells freshly collected spices. There is a Cardamom sorting area in the middle of the market, where you can watch women sifting the green cardamom pods. Tea and spice plantation tours are a big attraction and most of the hotels organise packages at competitive rates.

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Located close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, it is a good base to make day trips to Cardamom Hills, tea and spice plantations, forests and waterfalls, and the Sabarimala pilgrimage at the Sri Ayappan forest shrine.

Periyar is basically a wildlife destination. People generally visit it for the national park and as such there is not much of a shopping opportunity here.

Besides picking up a few wildlife mementoes and spices, shopping should be left for Kochi.

Being tropical in nature, the weather remains moderately warm through out the year. Summer temperature touches a high of 27C. The best season to visit is between October and June.

Set around the Periyar Lake among the lush green, birds and animals are many wildlife resorts and hotels to totally pamper you, some of them being Hotel Spice Village, Hotel Taj Garden Retreat, Lake Palace, Jungle Village Resort, Shalimar Spice Garden, Silver crest, Elephant Court, Carmelia Haven and Cardamom Country

The nearest airport is Kochi (200 kms) or Madurai in Tamil Nadu (140 kms) and the nearest railhead is Kottayam (115kms).

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The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary

The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the largest, most visited and most fascinating wildlife sanctuaries of India, home to some of the rarest species of flora and fauna. It covers an area of 777 sq kms with an artificial lake created by the British in 1895 to supply water to the drier parts of Tamil Nadu. Periyar lies at an altitude of about 1,800 m and has an evergreen and deciduous forest cover which accounts for over 85% of the sanctuary.

Eco-friendly tourism is promoted at the park, with the locals themselves involved in the programmes. The locals - some poachers turned protectors - organize various community based eco-tourism programmes such as jungle patrols, nature trails, hikes, camps and canoeing.

Although this is a tiger reserve ? there is an estimated 40 tigers in the park - visitors come to see the elephant, Gaur, sambar, Nilgiri langur, bonnet macaque, darters, cormorants, the great Malabar hornbill, kingfishers, pythons and king cobras. The Periyar lake which lies in the heart of the sanctuary is a paradise for birds and aquatic life.

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Boat Safari

A two-hour boat safari is the best way of touring the sanctuary. Watch aquatic and bird life on the lake as well as wildlife around the lake. The boats move silently from shore to shore in clusters of five or six so as to afford tourists a glimpse of herds of elephants come for a drink to the lake, or simply just move by. Though spotting a tiger may be a very rare treat, the bison, wild boar, deer and other wildlife don?t disappoint, and one does take back wonderful memories of Periyar.

There are boats run by the Kerala Tourism Development co-operation and the Kerala Forest department. Boat safaris begin at 7am and operate till about 4 pm. The first and last departures are often the most prospective rides for wildlife spotting.

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Spice Plantation and Tea Gardens

Spice and Tea gardens border this much visited wildlife sanctuary. Kumily, the entry point of the sanctuary is itself a plantation town. Murikkady, 5 kms away is a profusion of cardamom, coffee and pepper plantations. Vandiperiyar, 18 kms away, with the river Periyar flowing through its middle, is abundant in tea, coffee and pepper. It also has a number of tea factories which one can visit. Vandanmedu, 25 kms away, is one of the world?s largest cardamom auction centres. Walking through its sprawling cardamom plantations is an experience that will be hard to forget.

Spice tours are organized by almost every spice shop in Kumily. Provided one gets a good guide, even a half-day tour on an auto-rickshaw or a car can be a great experience. All-day tours are also available and cover cardamom, sandalwood, pepper and tea gardens in the valleys around Periyar.

The other alternative, however, is to walk to nearby spice gardens like the Greenland Spice Garden and Abraham?s Spice Garden.

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