Finding a economic weekend getaway from Hyderabad is quite a challenge. A trip to Coorg, when planned right, just about qualifies – this hill station is not overtly touristy and offers a certain tranquility that will definitely leave you rested :).
Staying in Coorg:
Stay options come in choices of resorts, hotels and home stays. Choose according to requirement of facilities and budget. We stayed at ‘Depot Estate’ home stay and our choice of stay was a major factor in making the trip to Coorg memorable.
All major tourist pit stops can be covered in two days. Hiring a four wheeler is the best transport to get around the area – these can be hired on a full day basis or based on locations that you want to visit. I suggest you speak to the hotel staff of homestay owners for guidance once you reach Coorg.
As most of the travel involves driving down the meandering roads along coffee and pepper plantations, it is a good idea to pick a non A/C car, pull down the windows and let the coffee and vanilla scented breeze in.
Eating out in Coorg was a huge letdown – the two highly recommended restaurants Raj Darshan (opposite Raja’s seat) and Top In Town (On the way to Golden temple monastery) were extremely disappointing.
The restaurants offer a generic mix of ‘multi-cuisine’ items, the ambiance is uninspired and intermittent power cuts during dinner are to be expected. Don’t get fooled by the long wait to get a table at ‘Top in town’ it certainly isn’t because of the food. I tried the specialty ‘veg meal’ which looked exactly like the budget veg meal that you can find in budget haunts in your city.
The best food we had during our entire stay was at the ‘Depot Estate’ home stay, where the cook served us delicious local specialties.
Tip: In case you are a non-vegetarian and eat pork, you must ask the cook from your homestay for their local Coorgi preparation.
We could manage only a day of sightseeing, which included a visit to the Elephant camp. Every morning the elephants are lined up for a bath along the banks of Cauvery. Incidentally this is also a place where you can go white water rafting during the months of October -November. (Tip: If you visit during the summers, there is a section of the river that flows real low so you can walk across to reach the elephant camp – much more fun than the ferry. Plan with your driver for the time of the day you can visit the Elephant camp- reach a little late and you miss all the elephant trunk stunts 🙂 )
Next stop was Nisargadhama park, where you get to feed deer, ride an elephant, climb up bamboo-tree huts (essentially tree houses perched on Bamboo shrubs) and relax along the river side or take a boat ride. This is a ideal place for a relaxed walk amidst beautiful bamboo shrubs, a section of the river bank is open for visitors – once inside you are inside this glorious mini forest complete with a gurgling river and enough tree cover to mistake day for night.
We then headed to Tibetan Golden temple. For first time visitors – the fact that a Tibetian monastery exists on the outskirts of Mangalore in itself is a tad surprising. There is a feeling of slight disorientation, when the temple doorway opens to the magnificent statues and Buddhist prayer rows – not at all what you would expected just off the road from the land of Idli, dosa and akki roti. The Buddhist monks in orange robes and devotees who are mostly dressed in traditional Tibetan attire are one with the throngs of visitors. I found the visit to the monastry to be calming and would recommend it, if you do not mind the long detour from the other destinations.
Just off the monastry is a little shopping arcade, where you can pick up some bags, save Tibet T-shirts and maybe try some momo’s.
Our next destination was Abbey Falls for which we retracted back to Madikeri (on the way we stopped at Triveni sangam – nothing exciting here, except a glimpse of a really large water snake). Abbey Falls was a disappointment simply because of the timing of our visit, it is during monsoons that it can be seen in all its splendour, this time around we saw not much of a fall and no more of river than a soft slow trickle 10 meters below the bridge.
The final stop was Tala Cauvery – the origin of river Cauvery. As evening sets in, the hill that houses tala Cauvery gets engulfed in fog and mist. This is the only place in Madikeri that transforms into a misty hill station every evening even during peak summers. The view from top is quite breathtaking, and the sudden cloud of white fog/mist as night sets in is quite magical. The temple and the gates leading highest peak of this hill close at 6, so plan accordingly. There is a tiny tea stall just outside the temple parking, which serves piping hot ginger tea, and provides for a perfect end to the road trip.
Places that we missed – Iruppu Falls, Nagarahole game sanctuary, Harangi dam, sunset at Rajas seat, Gandhi Mandap, Omkarteshwara Temple, Gaddige.
Once done with sightseeing, it is a must to visit the local wholesale spice market/shops, where you can pick up spices, homemade chocolates, coffee etc.
A few suggestions:
1. Plan your time of visit – December to March may be good time to visit for relaxation, but white water rafting and sights of falls in all their glory can be experienced only during monsoons.
2. Book tickets in advance: the only way from Banglore to Madikeri is by road, and if not in your own vehicle your best bet is to catch the 7 am or 11 am KSRTC Volvo. Believe me taking any other bus would be a bad choice, so reach Bangalore in time to make it to these Volvo’s. Also a word of caution to the folks traveling from Hyderabad to Bangalore- take the flight, train or APSRTC Volvo’s in that order of preference. No matter what you hear about Sharma, Khurana or any other bus service stick to non-private road transport.
3. Although after my trip a home stay comes highly recommended, do ensure that you are comfortable with the idea, and remember it is not a hotel but rather your home away from home. Also check on rules for smoking, drinking etc to make sure that both you and the hosts are comfortable during your stay.
You can check some pictures from my trip below:
If you know any other great places to stay, or sights I may have missed do leave a comment. Happy weekend :).
A video of the ‘Depot Estate’ home stay can be found here: