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Coorg – Not a Destination, But a Region
I had spent 6 years in Bangalore. Unfortunately, during my years over there, I never visited Coorg. There were many compulsions that led to its omission, but let me not bore you with those. Suffice it to say that I corrected this anomaly and finally landed in Coorg last year!
Since I was primarily visiting Coorg for a wedding reception, I did not do my usual research. In a way, that proved to be a blessing in disguise. I say this since Coorg is not a one-town destination, but an entire region. You are likely to get confused if you were to mount your own research and create a Coorg destination itinerary.
Once there, a coffee planter friend, who also runs a Coorg homestay, drew up a practical itinerary for me. He excluded the places, which are likely to be a disappointment during the winter months. These included the various famous waterfalls like Abbey and Iruppu.
Places to see in Coorg
I was staying at The Tamara. Since my friend is also a photography enthusiast, I knew he had drawn the itinerary, keeping in mind the distances and the light during the time of the day. With that confidence, I decided to strictly follow the itinerary.
My Day-1 itinerary was:
The Tamara – Dubare Elephant Camp – Namdroling Monastery – Nisargadhama – Madikeri Fort – Omkareshwara Temple – Raja’s Tomb (Gaddige) – Valley View – Raja’s Seat for sunset – The Tamara.
It was a 153 km trip and allowed me time for photography at each of the places of interest, snacks and lunch breaks, and relaxation during the drive. I had left at around 8 am and managed to return just after sunset. A perfect day!
On to Day-2:
The Tamara – Nalknad Palace (King’s Summer Palace) – Igguthappa Temple – Tala Kaveri – Madikeri – Ain Mane – The Tamara
Again, the day involved travelling for almost 132 km; it allowed time for photography, a climb atop Brahmagiri hill (a great view point for Tala Kaveri and the surrounding area), snacks and lunch breaks, and time to unwind. Shall we say, another perfect day?
The itineraries above were the places of interest. Let us see what each listed item offered.
Dubare Elephant Camp:
You cross Kaveri River on a ferry to interact with elephants. You can get an elephant ride or even bathe them. The place also offers a tiny-weeny adrenaline fix in the form of minor rafting experience. Just remember that technically, when you go across Kaveri, you would have crossed over to Tamil Nadu.
While many regions in North India are dotted with Tibetan Monasteries, not many monasteries exist in the South. Amongst those few, Namdroling happens to be one of the most important. It is a school of monkhood. Its architecture will leave you awestruck.
Created as a visitor attraction in reserve forest area, Nisargadhama offers varied activities like elephant rides, zipline (flying fox), boat rides, etc. Here, you may also hire a riverside cottage for an overnight stay.
Do not get your hopes high. It is an apology of a fort if you have visited any of the six hill forts of Rajasthan, which have been inscribed in UNESCO Heritage Sites List. But then, the charm is to see how these minor forts also held sway during their heydays.
An almost 200-year old Shiva temple, built in Islamic and Gothic style has a dome in the middle and four minarets in the corners, almost a la Taj Mahal.
Raja’s Tombs (Gaddige):
Though these tombs are built in Islamic style, but the kings were Hindu, Lord Shiva is worshipped inside these tombs. The location is scenic.
Valley View and Raja’s Seat:
Not too far from Madikeri City Centre, Valley View and Raja’s Seat are next to each other. They offer a breath-taking view of the scenic valleys on both sides of the ridge on which Madikeri is situated. Sunsets are exceptional if viewed from here.
Nalknad Palace (King’s Summer Palace):
While it may be called a palace, this tiny abode acted almost as an exile home of the last Koduga Chief before the British deposed him. Serene surroundings and intricate painting on walls & ceiling make the place worth a visit, especially since it is just a small detour en route Tala Kaveri.
One of the two prime deities of Kodugas is worshipped here. This hilltop temple accords great view of the valleys around. Its architecture is perfectly suited to heavy monsoons faced by the region.
Believed to be the origin of Kaveri River (considered holy by Kodugas), the level of water in the holy pond remains constant. A climb atop Brahmagiri Hill accords spectacular panoramic view of the hills and valleys surrounding it.
Ain Mane (Ancestral Home):
Each of the prominent families in Coorg has an Ain Mane and these are located all over the Coorg region. These centuries-old private homes offer a glimpse into the traditional lifestyle of Kodugas. The access is only available if you work out a tour itinerary with a local operator who is connected or if you know a Koduga family who has an Ain Mane.
As you would notice, these places offer a heady mix of nature and the man-made!
Coorg is well connected by road from Mangalore, Mysore, Bengaluru and Kozhikode. Suit your convenience.
Most convenient way of packing a lot on any given day here is to hire a local taxi. The taxi drivers are helpful and most of them may double up as a guide.
Where to stay:
While you may choose to stay at a five-star resort or a budget hotel in Madikeri, remember that Coorg is one region of India that has a huge number of tourist-friendly and budget-friendly homestays.
Best time to visit:
While the weather is mostly pleasant through the year, October to April is cooler and more suited if you are planning a busy itinerary. The waterfalls are likely to be gushing in October, while you may witness a Koduga hockey tournament in April. This hockey tournament is unique as each Koduga family fields a team and these team members may vary in age from 7 to 70 years.