Coorg, or the localized Kodagu, is located in south-western Karnataka on the slopes of Western Ghats. Given the sobriquet “Scotland of India” it is one of the most picturesque districts in South India and well-known for its coffee plantations, lush green forests, birthplace of the cavery river and the Kodava people. Be it trekking,sight-seeing or new cuisines, Coorg has it all.
The common route taken by most tourists to Coorg is from Bangalore to Madikeri, the headquarters of the district, through the Mysore highway. Maddur of the Maddur Vada fame is on the way and is an ideal place to breakfast on the way. Even before we reach the destination, there are two treats along the way in the form of Bylekuppe and Cauvery Nisargadhama.
The town of Bylekuppe, home to twin Tibetan refugee settlements, houses a beautiful Golden Temple. Neat,peaceful and calm the monastery is a welcome break from the frantic pace of our urban lifestyles. Outside the monastery is a lane of delightful Tibetan ware on sale and once the shopping is done authentic Tibetan cuisine awaits to recharge the body and mind.
The next destination Nisargadhama is a river island formed by Cauvery and developed by the state tourism board. The entry to the island is through a wooden bridge tied to the trees!!!! If that excites you, the icing on the cake are the beautiful cottages put up by the Forest department that allows you to experience the life of tarzan. Elephant rides, the deer parks, pedal boating and treks through the jungle make up the rest of the feast on offer here. The visits to the resort have to be co-ordinated with the Forest department and there is a long queue on wait during the monsoon and hence the trip has to planned well in advance.The elephant reserve along the Dubare forest is another attraction to be explored.
Once we reach Madikeri itself we face two choices the regular stay at hotels or the famous Coorg homestays. With homestays, one typically gets to stay in a coffee or spice estate helping one to experience the local culture at first hand. The pork curry and kadambuttu available here are just legendary. The sumptuous meals and the coffee served from the very same estates we stay
in combine to give a heady feeling that must be experienced to believe in.
There are many destinations in and around Madikeri that can then be hit upon. First up are the coffee estates themselves and if we visit the estate during the months of March or April the coffee flowers are in full bloom and provides a breathtaking sight.
The Abbi falls and the Talacauvery are the next most popular destinations. Talacauvery is about 48kms from Madikeri and is the origin of the river cauvery. The place is considered sacred by the Kodavas and is considered the home of the goddess cauvery. On the way to talacauvery is Bhagamandala the confluence of the three rivers – Cauvery, Kannike and the mythical Sujyothi. It is an important religious centre. The other attractions on offer are the sunset view-point at Raja Seat and the Omkareshwar temple.
The Kodavas themselves add to the exotic experience, they are believed to be the descendants of Greek warriors and some very famous Indian soldiers like Field Marshall KM Cariappa and General Thimayya come from this very place. Several other famous personalities Joshni Chinnapa, Rohan Bopanna, Robin Uthappa, Nikil Chinappa also hail from here.
Coorg is well-connected by roads and railways. The nearest railway stations are Mysore and Hassan, while the nearest airport is at Mangalore. However the best route to Coorg would be to reach Bangalore and go on a road trip alone the Mysore highway to Madikeri. The best time to visit Coorg is from November to March,by when the coffee plantations are in full bloom and there is plenty of water in the rivers. The scenic beauty of the area stays with us long after we return to the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/public/2364907255/]