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Destination Guide – Coorg


Brief History:

Coorg (or Kodagu) is a district located in the south western part of the state of Karnataka. The terrain is hilly as it is part of theWestern Ghats, and its myriad scenic locales have made it a touristic hotspot.  The Coorgis (or Kodavas) are a unique ethnic community who are known for their valour and physical prowess. Two army generals (including Field Marshal Cariappa) and host of national level sportspersons have come from Coorg.

The Changalva clan which ruled the region had to be feudatories to many old Kingdoms of the past: The Gangas in the 9th century AD, the Cholas from the 11th to 14th centuries AD, the Hoysalas from 14th to 16th centuries AD, and finally the Nayakas till the middle of the nineteenth century, after which it became a British protectorate. AfterIndia’Independencein 1947 it was declared a province and by 1950 it became a State. However, in 1956, when state boundaries were reorganized around linguistic lines, it became a district of the erstwhileMysoreState.

Geography and Weather:

The district occupies an area of 4102 square kilometres and has a population in excess of half a million. The hot and humid climate makes it one of the richest coffee growing regions inIndia.

Coorg being part of eastern slopes of the Western Ghatshas spectacular hills, waterfalls, and rivers, and its elevation at the lowest point is about 3000 ft above MSL. The source of revered CauveryRiveris located here in Talacauvery, and two of its tallest peaks are: Tadiandamol - 1750 metres (5740 ft) and Pushpagiri - 1715 metres (5627 ft) are excellent for trekking and climbing. The region gets torrential rainfall and in some areas it exceeds 4000 mm (160 inches) on an annual basis. The average temperature is around  15 °C (59 °F) though it ranges from 11 to 28 °C (52 to 82 °F) - the highest temperatures are in the months April and May. The district is divided into three subdivisions (or Talukas): Madikeri, Virajpet and Somwarpet. Madikeri (better known as Mercara) is the headquarters, and also the tourism hub of the district.

Air/Rail/Road Connectivity:

Madikeri is well connected by road: from Mangalore, Hassan, Mysore, and Bangalore from Karnataka; and from Kannur, Thalassery, and Wayanad in neighbouring  Kerala. The road fromMysore has now been re-laid and one can reach Mercara in less than three hours.

There are three Ghat (hill) roads reaching Kodagu from the coastal regions of Kerala and Karnataka:

SampajeMadikeri Ghat road from Mangalore

Panathur – Bhagamandala Ghat road from Kanhangad and Kasaragod

Makutta – Perumbadi/ Virajpet Ghat road from Kannur and Thalassery.

The nearest railway stations are Thalassery and Kannur in Kerala; and Mangalore,Mysoreand Hassan are the nearest in Karnataka.

The nearest airports are at Mysore and Mangalore.Mysore is about 115 km from Madikeri, and Mangalore is about 140 kilometres.

Local Transport

While there are buses plying between all important towns and transportation within the towns are a bit of a challenge. Auto rickshaws are the only options. For slightly remote tourist destinations jeeps are available on hire. It is best to visit Coorg by Car/Taxi and find one’s own way around.

Customs and Etiquette:

The Kodavas are essentially ‘ancestor worshippers’ and have a martial tradition. There are many other smaller ethnic minorities in the region each practising their variations of religion and speaking in their own dialects. Among these theGoudasare the largest. However, most of the people speak in Kodava Takk, the lingua franca of the region. Agriculture having been the centre of their existence, the main festival is the Kailpodhu which celebrates the completion of ‘nati’, or the transplantation of the rice crop.

Modern day Coorg is an integrated state and Hindus, Muslims and Christians live in relative harmony. It is not advisable to move around at night in the bigger towns.

Outdoor Hotspots and Activities:

Coorg is rich in wildlife and has three wildlife sanctuaries and a national park: the Brahmagiri, Talakaveri, and Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuaries, and the Nagarhole National Park – also known as the Rajiv Gandhi National Park. There is also an elephant camp in Dubare. It is primarily an elephant-capturing and training camp of the Forest Department but tourists can take elephant rides for a fee here. There are spectacular waterfalls in the region. The famous ones are:

The Abbey falls are only 5 km from Mercara town. It is great area for walking and trekking, and it takes you through private coffee gardens.

The Iruppu Falls in the Brahmagiri Hills (south Coorg)

The Mallalli Falls are in the Pushpagiri Hills, at a distance of about 25 km from Somwarpet.

There is also a man-made island at Nisargadhama on the river Kaveri. This is a crowded tourist spot during day time but one can rent cabins for overnight stays.

There is lot to do in Coorg – the rugged terrain offers quite a few outdoor and adventure activities:

Trekking: Trekking during the non-rainy season in Pushpagiri, Kotebetta, Tadiandamol and Brahmagiri is very popular.

River Rafting: Organizations such as Acepaddlers and Barapoleriverrafting offer white-water river-rafting on theBarapoleRiver. There are some stretches with splendid rapids which can be exhilarating for most adventure seekers.

Quad Biking: The latest fad in Coorg is Quad Biking. There is a centre at Kedkal (near Mercara) which offers rides inside private coffee plantations. It is definitely an adrenaline rush for the stout hearted.

Angling: The Valanoor Fishing Camp in the backwaters of the River Kaveri (near Kushalnagar) is popular.  Angling for the Mahaseer and Catfish (among others), and even crab hunting (crabbing) can be fun, especially during the October- May season.

 Must Sees:

The Bylakuppe Tibetan Settlement:   In 1960 the Indian Government granted a large tract to resettle refugees who came toIndiato escape the Chinese invasion ofTibet. Bylakuppe is located near Kushalnagar, halfway betweenMysoreand Mercara. The Tibetans set up a fine agricultural community which is home to about 16000 refugees. They also set up spectacular monasteries of which the Namdroling (Nyingma tradition) and Sera (Gelugpa lineage) are the largest. TheGoldenTemplewith gold-plated gigantic Buddha statues and extensive prayers halls is place for solace and peace. Outside the monasteries the industrious Tibetans have set up Handicrafts Emporia which sell a wide variety of curios and collectibles: Carpets, Ceramics, Incense, Woodcrafts, Beads, Bells, Tibetan confections, and a host of other goodies.

The Nagarhole National Park: The Nagarhole National Park is a 247 square-mile park is a stretch which has gentle slopes and is home to spectacular range of animals - Tiger, Leopard, Wild Elephant, Dhole (Indian wild dog), Gaur (Indian Bison), Chital (Spotted Deer), Muntja (Barking Deer), Four-Horned Antelope, Wild Boar and many more. The forest has deciduous trees, grassy swamps, bamboo forests stretching for miles, and thickets which abound in wild animals. It is certainly one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in southernIndia.

TheAbbeyFalls: Trekking or walking around in The Abbey Falls area is a serene experience. It is located inside private coffee plantations and many tourists spend a day picnicking in the area. It is only 5 Km from Mercara and can be walked to quite easily.

Dubare Elephant Camp: Spending a day at Dubare taking elephant rides can be great fun, especially if you have children accompanying you. It is run by the forest department and can be accessed easily from theMysore-Mercara Road.

Talakaveri: The source of the river Cauvery (Kaveri) is in Talakaveri. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma on the riverbanks – it is one of only two temples dedicated to Brahma in India and Southeast Asia.

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