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In spite of being the most renowned national park of Kerala, we could hardly find a coherent travelogue or necessary travel tips to help us plan our trip to Periyar National Park. Result? Tad bit of slip-ups on our part. That is why, we decided to extend our help to you, our readers and assemble all the information and helpful tips that our blunders taught us in this blog-post. So, here it goes!

Periyar Forest
Hint of fall colors inside Periyar.

Where is Periyar National Park located:

Periyar National Park is located near Thekkady, spreading across the districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta of Kerala.

What is special about Periyar:

The Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve is one of the most important tiger and elephant reserves of India. It serves as a haven for a wide variety of endemic and endangered flora and fauna and forms the major watershed of two of the significant rivers of Kerala, Periyar and Pamba. It is comprised of tropical evergreen and moist deciduous forest and grasslands. Periyar is home to 35 species of mammals such as Asian Elephant, Gaur, Indian Giant Squirrel, Sambar etc., 266 of birds like Malabar Grey Hornbill, Brahminy, Oriental Darter, Blue-winged Parakeet etc., 45 of reptiles namely Malabar Pit Viper, Striped Coral Snake etc., 160 of butterflies such as Southern Birdwing and 40 of fishes like Periyar Trout, Latia, Barb etc. In addition, a total of 35 Bengal tigers have been recorded across the entire area of the forest. Also, Periyar has many rich tribal settlements.

African Tulip
Vibrant African Tulips

How to reach Periyar National Park:

By air: The two nearest airports are Madurai (146 kms) and Kochi (190 kms). Madurai and Kochi are well connected with all major Indian cities.

By train: Kottayam (114 kms) is the closest rail station. All Trivandrum bound trains halt here.

By road: Regular bus service to Thekkady from Kottayam, Kochi and Madurai are available.

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A White-bellied Woodpecker.

What is the best time to visit Periyar National Park:

The summer months of March, April and May are perfect for spotting various animals, including elephants. October to February is also a preferred option owing to the pleasant weather.

Where to stay in Thekkady:

The initial blooper on our part was opting for Periyar House for staying at Thekkady. It is located inside the perimeters of Periyar Tiger Reserve. Armed with our past experiences of staying inside a National Park, we thought that, staying inside the park will help us to easily participate in various activities inside the jungle, such as the famed night trek of Periyar. How wrong we were! The entrance gate of the park is closed at 5-30 in the evening and in no way can you venture out afterwards. Forget about the excitement of exploring the jungle in the night. You will be literally jailed inside with nothing much to do other than stroll around the Periyar House. In fact, most of the eco-tourism activities start from the Bamboo Grove area of Thekkady.

To make things worse, the accommodation was shoddy with shabby furniture and threadbare bedding and curtains. There was damp in the room too. The dinner buffet was overpriced and food bland. Even the simplest of the dishes such as Aloo Gobhi or Soyabean were tasteless. Also, forget about enjoying peace of nature inside the forest, as the staffs themselves play music inside the dining hall. They also make zero effort in requesting boisterous visitors to keep it down. And here we thought silence was the norm inside the forest! Lastly, there are monkeys, and hundreds of them. And they are quite mischievous. We lost a newly bought packet of Murukkus to one of them. Sigh!

Conclusion: DO NOT STAY AT PERIYAR HOUSE.  There are lots of nice hotels, home-stays and BnBs all around Thekkady. We suggest staying near the Bamboo Grove, as it will enormously help you with your eco-tourism activities.

Periyar House
Entrance to Periyar House
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Periyar House in the evening.

How to book Eco-Tourism Activities in Periyar National Park.

You will find lots of Tourist Information Centre around Thekkady. They will help you in gathering information about Periyar. But bookings are not done from here. Head straight to The Ecotourism Centre at Ambadi Junction. The centre there does all the bookings. The staffs are extremely helpful here and share tid-bits with you.

What are the eco-tourism Activities in Periyar National Park.

The authorities of Periyar National Park and Periyar Tiger Reserve organise an array of eco-tourism activities for giving visitors an excellent chance to have a closer insight into the flora and fauna of Periyar. Do remember, unlike other national parks or wildlife sanctuary, Periyar does not offer jeep or elephant safari.

  • Nature Walk: An interpretative program that takes you on a guided 3-4 kms trek inside the forest alongside the Periyar river. This is a great opportunity to see the forest up, close and personal and watch a wide variety of birds, butterflies and animals. It starts from the Boat Landing venue.

Timings: 7 am, 7-30 am, 11 am, 11-30 am, 2 pm and 2-30 pm.

Cost: INR 350 per person or INR 1400 for a group of 6 persons.

Fire Ants
Nest of Fire Ants.
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A Flame Headed Parakeet munching on fruits.
  • Green Walk: An informative trekking program aided by a tribal guide that takes you to the depths of forest for a better understanding of the various trees, animals and birds found in Periyar. It starts from near the Tiger Bungalow in Anavachal.

Timings: 7 am, 7-30 am, 11 am, 11-30 am, 2 pm and 2-30 pm.

Cost: INR 350 per person or INR 1400 for a group of 6 persons.

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A Malabar Giant Wood Spider.
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The forest is filled with colorful wild flowers.
  • Border Hiking: A conservation oriented all day long hard trek along the hill ridges and aided by one guide and one armed forest guard. It takes you through undulating terrain, giving a scope to look at the vast plains below. Reporting venue is Bamboo Grove.

Timings: 8 am.

Cost: INR 3600 per trip/INR 1800 per person

Hiking in Periyar
Onto the Nature Walk.
  • Bamboo Rafting: An exciting all day rafting cum trekking program that lets you travel through the nooks and crannies of Periyar river. It is a wonderful possibility to spot elephants, sambars, Indian gaurs and other animals from close quarter. 3 rafts ply daily taking a maximum of 5 visitors each. This program starts from Boat Landing.

Timings: 8 am.

Cost: INR 2400 per person for full day/INR 1800 per person for half day.

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A Malayan Black Giant Squirrel busy with its breakfast.
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Local tribals crossing the river on a bamboo raft.
  • Jungle Scout: This is perhaps the most exciting of all the activities. It is a 3-hour long trek inside the forest during the night, putting up a rare chance to observe wildlife after the sun is down. Forest watchers and trained guides accompany during this trek.

Timings: 7 pm – 10 pm, 10 pm – 1 am, 1 am – 4 am.

Cost: INR 1400 per person or INR 2900 per trek.

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Camouflage of this frog though!
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Flame Lily.
  • Periyar Tiger Trail: An interesting program conducted by a team of experienced guides who were poachers previously. It takes you to some of the most interior parts of the forest, providing a golden opportunity to spot the elusive Periyar tigers.

Timings: 9 am.

Cost: Two packages are available: a) 1 night/2 days at INR 6500 per person or INR 10,000 per camp and b) 2 nights/3 days at INR 9500 per person or INR 13000 per camp.

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Sambars, Wild Hogs, Indian Bisons grazing together.
  • Jungle Inn: Eco-friendly accommodations located in serene locations inside Periyar forest designed for visitors who want to get far from the maddening crowd. The package also includes trekking, birding and complimentary boating on the Periyar lake.
  • Bamboo Groves: 15 eco-friendly huts developed by the Forest Department for providing the visitors with a unique experience of the forest life. The package includes an orientation programme, a visit to tribal colony, wildlife film shows, birding, trekking and a complimentary boat ride on the Periyar Lake. Lunch and dinner on the first day and breakfast on the second day are complimentary. Check-in time is 12-30 pm and check-out 11 am.

Cost: INR 2000 per room.

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An early morning walk through the forest is apt for birding!
  • Jungle Camp: An exciting program envisaged for giving the visitors a chance to camp outdoors in tents surrounded by the forest. It is located on the Periyar river bank at Valakkadavu in Periyar Tiger Reserve. It includes an orientation program, a safari to Gavi, wildlife film shows, trekking and boating on Periyar lake. 15 tents are there. Check-in time is 3-20 pm and check-out 2 pm.

Cost: INR 2800 per person.

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A Hill Mynah.
  • Tribal Dance: A one hour tribal dance performance by Pulayan and Mannan tribes along with a brief introduction to the tribal communities, musical instruments and costumes used for the dance performance as well as a photo session with the representatives of these tribal communities. The venue is Vanasree Auditorium, Anavachal.

Timings: 6 pm – 7 pm.

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Dance of Spider!
  • Boat Ride: By far, the most popular program which majority of the tourists opt to experience Periyar is boating on the beautiful Periyar lake. It’s perfect for a family with kids, elders and differently-abled members. However, if that’s not the case with you, we strongly suggest you to avoid boating as it get too crowded and chances of enjoying the serenity of forest or spotting wildlife is next to nil.

Timings: There are multiple slots starting from 7-30 am.

Cost: INR 150 per person.

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Boating on Periyar Lake.

Where to eat at Thekkady:

Many unique cafes and eateries have popped up in Thekkady. Due to time crunch, we were able to visit only two.

  1. Coffee Garden: A little, rooftop cafe located in a peaceful locality and surrounded by greenery. Order one of their yummy pancakes and watch out for a woodpecker or parrot sitting on the tree nearby. This is a perfect place to go for a hearty breakfast after a 3-hour long trek inside the forest. Their food is prepared with utmost care and juices freshly pressed. Also, the food here is quite cheap.

Must try: Lemon Honey Pancake and Coconut Banana Pancake.

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Lemon Honey Pancake at Coffee Garden.
Coconut Banana pancake
Banana Coconut Pancake at Coffee Garden.
  • Ebonys Cafe: Another rooftop cape located in a nondescript lane. The decor is pretty with lots of potted plants and ambiance laidback a la Goa. What we loved most is the superfast service. We were running late for our afternoon hike and requested to serve the food quickly. Within 15 minutes, we had food on our table. Needless to say, the food was delightful.

Must try: Penne pasta with Chicken and Mushroom.

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Waiting for the lunch at Ebonys Cafe.

In addition, Grandma’s Cafe and Chrissie’s Hotel and Cafe have rave reviews, however we couldn’t visit them due to our tight itinerary.

What are the other interesting things to do in Thekkady:

  1. A taste of the cultural heritage of Kerala: A visit to Kerala remains incomplete without experiencing the rich cultural offerings of Kerala, such as Kalaripayattu, arguably world’s oldest form of martial arts and Kathakali, one of the prime classical dance of India. Visit the Kadathanadan Kalari and Navarasa Kathakali Centre, which has exciting shows of Kalaripayattu and Kathakali. There are one show of Kalaripayattu, from 6 pm – 7 pm, and two of Kathakali, one from 5 pm – 6 pm and another 7 pm – 8 pm.
  2. Explore local markets for spices, homemade chocolates and coffee: Rows after rows of shops in Thekkady sell exotic and aromatic spices, homemade chocolates in every possible flavours and freshly grinded coffee. The Responsible Tourism Spice Super Market is located just opposite of Kadathanadan Kalari Centre and sells fresh, organic spices at reasonable rates. Also there are several shops for purchasing spices and chocolate near the gigantic Mary and Christ Statue.
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One of the hundreds of spice shops in Thekkady.

Important tips for visiting Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve:

  1. For trekking inside the forest, wear full sleeved shirts and trousers and proper shoes.
  2. Bring sufficient drinking water and basic medicines while venturing inside the forest.
  3. Carry umbrella, as it often rains in the afternoon.
  4. Don’t forget to bring binocular with you for watching the birds.
  5. Beware of the leeches. The forest is filled with countless leeches. The forest authorities will provide leech socks for protection during jungle treks.
  6. Follow the lead of the guide. Listen to his/her advices. The guides are quite friendly.
  7. For more adventure, opt for the Jeep Safari in Gavi. Gavi is a picturesque part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve. Check out the details in https://gavi.kfdcecotourism.com/Home/DayTrip/4 . You can also stay overnight at Gavi. For the details of accommodation, visit https://gavi.kfdcecotourism.com/Home/RoomDetails .
  8. While inside the forest, please respect the nature by maintaining silence and not littering here and there.
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A Mexican Sunflower.

For further information about Kerala, visit our blogpost at https://thefloatingpebbles.com/a-getaway-in-kerala-itinerary-tips-more/

The Floating Pebbles