Wayanad is one of those holiday destinations that promise a little bit of everything – peace and tranquillity, stunning landscapes, nature and wildlife, cycling, trekking and camping adventures, lip-smacking food and a whole lot of wonderful experiences.
Wayanad is among the most scenic locales in Kerala, making it an ideal holiday destination. It lies in the Northern region of Kerala, nestled midst the gorgeous Western Ghats. The landscape here is strikingly beautiful, and the best resorts in Wayanad are located right in the middle of it all.
Imagine living in the lap of nature – the best cottages in Wayanad are surrounded by nature’s bounty. Rolling hills shrouded in mist, a carpet of green as far as the eyes can see, coffee plantations, tea estates and paddy fields. Imagine being welcomed by the shrill calls of birds. It is nothing short of bliss.
Wayanad and neighbouring southern states
Wayanad shares its borders with the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Wayanad eastern border brushes with the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu and its northern border romances with Coorg, Mysore and Chamarajanagar in Karnataka. These borders have check posts, on the highways, but apart from that, the regions blend into each other seamlessly.
Origin of name
The favourable climatic conditions coupled with perennial streams and rivers ensure that Wayanad remains fertile, all year around. The conditions make the land perfect for the cultivation of crops, and rice remains the staple crop that is cultivated here.
That brings us to the interesting history of how the region got christened as Wayanad. The term ‘Vayal Nadu’ literally translates to rice plantation. And since the region is known for its paddy fields, it was referred to as Vayal Nadu, which over the years changed to Wayanad.
The glass temple of Koottamunda, in Wayanad, is one of its kind. It is a Jain temple dedicated to Parswanatha Swamy, the third Thirthankara of the Jains. The uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the only mirror temple. Strange, but true, the inner walls of the temple are adorned with hundreds of mirrors and create quite a kaleidoscope as they reflect the idols of the Swamy and Padmavathi Devi present in the sanctum of the temple.
No Coastal Area or Railways
Though the southern state of Kerala has a long coastline, Wayanad lies away from it. The coastline stretches along Kerala’s western boundary, while Wayanad is on its eastern edge.
Another intriguing fact about Wayanad is that it is not connected by rail. Fascinating, is it not? Considering that Indian Railways has one of the largest rail networks in the world, and yet Wayanad has no rail network. The probable reason for this is that the terrain is a forest reserve area, meant for wildlife. The closest railway station is in Kozhikode, at a distance of 110 km.
Wildlife sanctuaries galore
Wayanad is hedged in, by wildlife sanctuaries, from three directions. The Nagarhole National Park and Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala, surround Wayanad.
The wildlife sanctuaries share borders and stretch over thousands of kilometres of verdant dense forests. These forests are home to tigers and other big cats, elephants and different species of deer. It is easy to spot wildlife including Indian bison, wild boars and other smaller animals. And there is, of course, a plethora of flora and fauna to be enjoyed.
The forest departments conduct regular safaris through the reserved forests areas, in their jurisdiction. Private operators also take visitors into the forest, in jeeps, though these are unauthorised trips. Selfies with wildlife are prohibited in these areas, and there is a ban on vehicular traffic after nightfall.
It is easy to find accommodation in areas bordering the sanctuaries.
Tribes in Wayanad
The tribal population in Kerala reside in the hilly regions of the Western Ghats. These indigenous people live off the forest and have done so, since time immemorable. Wayanad has the largest tribal population, in Kerala, mainly because it is part of the Western Ghats. According to some estimates, approximately half the tribal population of Kerala lives in Wayanad district.
The tribes belong to different sects and there are eight native tribes residing in Wayanad. They are – Adiyar, Kanaladi, Kanduvadiyar, Kattunaikkar, Kurichyar, Mullukurumar, Paniyar and Thachanadar.
Each tribe has its own culture and tradition. They can be identified by their form of music and dance, and ornaments and art. The Kurichyar tribe, for instance, is skilled in martial arts and archery.
A beautiful hill station
Wayanad is often described as the Ooty of Kerala, and though the comparison is supposed to be a compliment, it actually downgrades it. Wayanad is better than Ooty, for many reasons.
Wayanad is still unspoilt and has not been commercialised the way Ooty has been. In Wayanad, it is still possible to be away from the ‘touristy’ crowds. The best resorts in Wayanad are set in the midst of nature and built keeping in mind the natural surroundings. It is possible to find gushing streams within resort properties. The best cottages in Wayanad make use of locally procured materials. It is very eco-friendly.