The Scotland of the South: Coorg, Karnataka
Often called the Scotland of the South, Coorg is an idyllic destination for families, trekkers and nature enthusiasts in Karnataka. It’s the ideal place to get one with nature, or spend a relaxing time in a quiet town over some good food. To reach Coorg, you have to arrive at Mangalore, Bangalore or Mysore (the closest of the three). Once at these spots, you can board a KSRTC bus at regular intervals to journey to Coorg.
Coorg, or Kodagu as it is locally known, comprises of four main districts – Madikeri, Virajpet, Kushalnagar and Somwarpet. Madikeri is the city centre but is also the most crowded. It can be considered in jest as the Lonavala for Bangaloreans with its tourist friendly commercial atmosphere and low on nature’s marvels.
Madikeri is well connected to all Coorg spots and major cities like Mangalore, Bangalore and Mysore. One can also find cheap accommodation in its hotels. Here lie the advantages of lodging in Madikeri. The adventurous and lovers of nature should find home stays in lesser known locations rather than living in Madikeri.
Home stays abound with lush rice paddies and verdant landscapes; the ones that excite you in Google search results. They are expensive but come packed with meals and activities (like planting rice paddies and cycling outdoors) so you get a wholesome experience. You should book these online in advance.
The easiest way to get around Coorg is by a private vehicle or rickshaws. Private cabs need to be paid per day and can be booked from hotels or the market centre. Private cars come at four digit figures depending on the distance or location of your interest.
Rickshaws rates off economical if your traveling near by or the driver’s quote rates at random if you’re heading to tourist spots. Rickshaws will only go a certain distance and not take you to far off places like Iruppu, Cauvery Nisargadhama, etc. There are no government buses so private buses work as local transport within Coorg. They are significantly cheaper, but require patience and foresight to reach desired spots.
Coorg was a village of warriors in the days of the past. Legend has it that the soldiers would not take along an army cook in their ranks. These men believed to fight like a warrior; you have to eat like one. Wives of soldiers would carry food for their champions often at great risk to their own lives. These warriors would turn around in their graves if they were to see today’s cuisine. The food is full of the generic Indian fare lacking the Coorgi touch.
A few restaurants serve local cuisine and popular Indian dishes. Non-vegetarians should ditch the standard meats and hog on the pork (the pun deliciously intended). You can come across three restaurants in Madikeri that serve delightful pork – Coorg Cuisine, Church Side and Hotel Capitol (the latter two being shady joints).
One can enjoy local favourites like Pandhi Curry, a tangy pork curry dripping with oil, and Bamboo Shoot Curry, which comes in veg and pork variety. Pork dishes will surely delight appreciators of pork sorpotel, vindaloo, et al. These go well with rice rotis, Kadumbuttu (rice balls compressed to perfection) and plain rice. Pork dishes are around Rs 150-200, but the experience is worth having.
Vegetarian cuisine includes South Indian staples like dosa (in all of its glory), Poori Bhaaji and more. You can get all the popular sabzis at restaurants along with breads and rotis. Veggies can enjoy a value for money thali at Athithi restaurant near Madikeri Fort. Lots of food options are spread across Madikeri, but get scarce as you move further on.
Coorg offers chocolate lovers a chance to indulge to their heart’s delight. Delicious homemade chocolate is available at most places and serve as a neat snack while on the road or as a gift to friends. Spices and coffee can also be bought and taken back home as mementos or for daily use. These are aromatic and fresh, and retail at an economical price. Oranges and Bananas are popular and easily available at all street stalls for the delight of visitors.
Abbey falls is 8 km away from the market sector of Madikeri and can be reached by rickshaws (priced around Rs 200 for pick up and drop) or private cabs. Abbey is a beautiful waterfall, but is very crowded on most days due to its proximity to Madikeri. You can skip Abbey altogether if you’re planning to visit Iruppu, which is breathtaking in comparison. If you’re pressed for time and in no mood to travel 80 km to visit Iruppu then Abbey is your waterfall.
Raja’s Seat is quite literal in its name as it was the spot where the Raja and his army sat to witness nature in all of its glory. Situated at the heart of Madikeri, Raja’s Seat is a must see because of its scenic vistas and convenient location. It also has a mildly entertaining water fountain, but the true hero is the surrounding natural beauty. It is packed on most days as it lies in Madikeri and gives ample opportunities for awesome selfies.
Iruppu falls is a majestic water front near the Srimangla region of Coorg. It’s quite a distance from Madikeri and you need a private vehicle to get there, the cost of which is over Rs 2000. These reasons tend to curtail the crowd at Iruppu as compared to Abbey. An economical way to reach Iruppu is to take a local bus from Madikeri and drop off at Srimangla (one way ticket is around Rs 66). The falls are another 8 km from this spot.
From Srimangla, a rickshaw can be taken for around Rs 250 (to and fro) to Iruppu. Another way to get there by bus is to take a connecting one from Madikeri to Gonikoppal and journey on to Srimangla. Unlike Abbey, you can take a dip at Iruppu and bathe in its pristine water. Iruppu is located in a wildlife sanctuary, the animals of which can neither be seen nor heard.
Dubare Elephant Sanctuary
Dubare Elephant Sanctuary is over 40 km from Madikeri and is en route from Mysore to Madikeri. You can either visit it on your first or last day of travel so you can save time and money. To reach this spot, a KSRTC bus can drop you at Guddehosur, which is 12 km from Dubare. From here on, you’ll have to rely on a rickshaw that takes around Rs 350 to reach the boating location. A boat ride ferries masses from the shore to Dubare for Rs 30 (to and fro).
An entry fee of Rs 50 is charged just to enter Dubare while you need to pay separately for individual activities like elephant rides, elephant bathing, etc. It’s a fun experience for kids and adults alike that can connect with these adorable beasts. The sanctuary starts at 9 am and ends quite early so it’s advisable to reach soon as elephant activities get done in the first half of the day.
This is a compact garden not far from Dubare. You can do both, Dubare and Cauvery Nisargadhama in one go (maybe add Golden Temple as well if time permits). Cauvery Nisargadhama has a park within its centre and a jungle-like atmosphere at its periphery.
A herd of deer can be spotted in the dedicated park area or running about in the jungle location. Cauvery Nisargadhama is flanked by River Cauvery on all sides and you are blessed with the opportunity to swim in its pleasant waters.
Madikeri Fort and Museum
These structures are great for their architectural design, but you might be disappointed with the limited relics on display at the museum (the museum itself being a rundown church) or the Fort being less of a historic monument and more of a government building. The boundary has a walkway that offers some good avenues for sightseeing.
This is one of the avoidable locations of Coorg and has nothing unique or interesting to offer to visitors.
Talakaveri, Omkareshwara temple and Golden Temple are a few other spots that one can visit during their stay in Coorg.
So if you are in the mood for some adventure, experience free flowing waterfalls, witness nature in its splendour and taste a deliciously unique Indian cuisine, you should make your way to Coorg.
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