The Best Things to do in Thekkady: Kerala’s beautiful nature

This post is about the best things to do in Thekkady. Thekkady is a town located in the Indian state of Kerala, in the district of Idukki. It is situated in the Western Ghats mountain range and is known for its wildlife sanctuary, Periyar National Park

Why visit Thekkady

Thekkady is a booming tourist hub where you can arrange all kinds of activities. First of all, you can arrange your visit to Periyar National Park. Periyar National Park is only 5 kilometers from the center of town.

Periyar is famous for its elephant and tiger populations as well as other wildlife such as sambar deer, wild boar, and various species of birds. It’s the best place in Kerala to visit the jungle and go on a wildlife safari.

You can not visit the park on your own, but you need to arrange your tours in Thekkady. Therefore it is a great place to base yourself for a few days. There are plenty of things to do in Thekkady and not all are related to Periyar National Park. 

There are also cultural things to do in Thekkady. Kerala’s culture has a rich history in music and dance and Thekkady offers the opportunity to see a performance of these ancient art performances. 

Periyar National Park is also home to indigenous tribes and if you like you can learn more about the culture of the tribal communities. 

Things to do in Thekkady: monkeys in the jungle of Periyar National Park
The jungle around Thekkady

The best things to do in Thekkady

Periyar National Park

Periyar National Park is most famous for its tiger and elephant populations, but you need a lot of luck to see any. They are elusive animals that roam over a wide area. 

However, the park offers a variety of activities such as jungle patrols, bamboo rafting, and trekking. This can increase the chances of seeing a tiger or elephant. These activities are led by trained naturalists and park rangers who have a good knowledge of the park and the movements of the animals.

Periyar is still one of the best places in Kerala to see wildlife. You actually have a very good chance to see samar deer, gaur, wild boar, malabar squirrels and monkeys. It is also a great place for birdwatching

The park is situated in the Western Ghats mountain range and is characterized by its lush green forests, rolling hills, and picturesque lakes.

Things to do in Thekkady: Periyar National Park
Periyar National Park is among the top things to do in Thekkady

Periyar lake Boat trips

One of the most prominent features of the park is Periyar Lake, which is a large, man-made lake. The lake is surrounded by thick forests and is a popular spot for boat rides to view the wildlife.

The boat trips can be very crowded with noisy tourists. Therefore I did not expect to see a lot of wildlife. In the end I did see a lot of animals including gaur, wild boars and deers. 

Things to do in Thekkady: Periyar Lake
Periyar Lake


In my opinion it is best to explore Periyar National Park on foot. Luckily there are a number of options including half day walks, night treks, challenging border patrols and the tiger trail that includes an overnight stay in the park.

The tiger trail is an interesting project in which former poachers are now guides that protect the forests and animals.  

Things to do in Thekkady: Trekking
Trekking in Periyar National Park

Bamboo Rafting

Another great activity that I really liked is the bamboo rafting. Bamboo rafting is a popular activity in Periyar National Park, which allows visitors to explore the park’s lake and its wildlife by floating on a bamboo raft. The rafts are made of bamboo and are powered by a boatman using a long pole.

Bamboo rafting is a unique and eco-friendly way to explore the park, and it allows visitors to get close to the wildlife without disturbing them. It’s a peaceful and serene activity, providing visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty and to enjoy a close-up view of the park’s wildlife.

Things to do in Thekkady: bamboo rafting
Bamboo rafting

Gavi Jeep safari

You can also explore the park by jeep. Jeep safaris offer a chance to explore the park’s remote areas which are not accessible by foot. They can navigate a much larger area and therefore increase the chance of seeing animals. 

The jeep safaris start early in the morning or in the late afternoon when the animals are most active. They are usually guided by trained naturalists and park rangers who have a good knowledge of the park and the movements of the animals. 

The jeep safaris travel to a region of the park called Gavi that is on the outskirts of the park. You get a good sense of the varied landscape and in my case spotted deers, wild dogs, gaurs and lots of squirrels and monkeys. 

Jeep safari in Gavi Kerala
Jeep safari in Gavi

Tribal Heritage museum

The Periyar National Park area is home to several indigenous tribes, including the Malayarayar, Mannan, and Urali tribes.

These tribes have lived in the Western Ghats for thousands of years. They have a deep understanding of the forest and its resources, and have traditionally relied on hunting, gathering, and shifting cultivation for their livelihoods.

Visiting indigenous tribes in Periyar National Park or any other place raises ethical questions about the impact of tourism on their way of life and culture. The tribal Heritage museum is a good way to learn about the tribal cultures without disrupting their privacy when visiting a settlement. 

If you do decide to visit a tribal settlement in the park make sure you have the permission of the tribe and book it through an ethical and responsible tour operator.

Periyar National Park

Spice Plantation tour

Thekkady is in the state of Kerala, which is known for its spice production and trade, particularly for cardamom, pepper, and coffee.

It is possible to visit one of the local spice farms, where you can learn about the different spice plants and their cultivation. 

Tea factory tour

Kerala is also famous for its tea cultivation, particularly in the high ranges of Idukki district, where the area’s cool climate, and ample rainfall provide ideal conditions for tea cultivation.

Tea plantation tours take visitors to the local tea estates, where they can learn about the different stages of tea cultivation and have the opportunity to taste and purchase fresh tea.

Tour guides provide detailed information about the different types of tea, their medicinal and culinary uses.

Periyar National Park
Lush greenery around Thekkady

Kadathanadan Kalari Centre

Kadathanadan Kalari Centre is a traditional martial arts training center located in Thekkady, Kerala, India. The aim of the center is to preserve the ancient Indian martial art of Kalaripayattu.

Kalaripayattu is one of the oldest martial arts in the world. It’s history can be traced back to the 3rd century BCE. It is famous for its fluid movements, acrobatics, and the use of weapons such as swords, shields, and spears.

The Kadathanadan Kalari Centre is a unique attraction in Thekkady and is a must-visit for those interested in learning about the traditional martial arts and culture of Kerala.

Things not to do in Thekkady

Elephant rides in Thekkady

The ethics of elephant riding in Thekkady or any other place is a complex and controversial issue.

Elephant riding is a popular tourist activity that can provide economic benefits for the local communities and help to preserve the elephant population. However, the training and treatment of elephants used for riding can be cruel and inhumane. 

Elephants used for riding are often captured from the wild, separated from their families, and subjected to harsh training methods to make them compliant. Additionally, their living conditions can be poor and may not meet their physical and social needs.

Furthermore, elephants are wild animals and they are not used to carry people on their back. The physical weight of the riders can cause them harm and discomfort.

It’s advisable to avoid elephant riding and instead, opt for activities that do not involve physical contact with the elephants and respect their natural behavior.

Trekking in Periyar National Park
Trekking in Periyar National Park

Thekkady Travel Tips

Where to sleep in Thekkady

Budget: Spice cottage homestay is a good budget option if you are looking for a friendly place with a central location in Thekkady

Midrange: Green view has super friendly owners that will do their best to make you feel at home.

Upmarket: Chrissie’s hotel is the place to really relax and unwind with spacious and clean rooms and a swimming pool.

How to get to Thekkady

Thekkady has good connections with other cities in Kerala as well as Tamil Nadu. There are regular bus services to Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, and Madurai.

The nearest railway station is Kottayam which is 114 km from Thekkady. From there you can also travel by public ferry on Kerala’s backwaters. A scenic and unique way to travel to Thekkady. 

When to visit Thekkady

Thekkady experiences a tropical climate and is a year round destination. Autumn and winter are the best months to visit Thekkady as the weather is pleasant. Winter is also the best time to see the migratory birds in the area.

It’s worth noting that, during the peak tourist season (October to May) the prices for accommodation and transportation might be higher than usual, and it can be busy in the park.

Most people avoid the monsoon in summer. Thekkady receives heavy rainfall during these months. However, if you like lush green landscapes, this could be a good time to visit.

Sustainable Travel in Thekkady

Periyar is a beautiful national park that gets increasingly more visitors. It is important to be aware of the possible negative impacts mass tourism can have. Traveling sustainably to Thekkady, involves conscious choices that minimize your environmental impact and support the local community.

Support the local community: You can support the community by purchasing goods and services from local vendors. It is better to try South Indian cuisine that uses local ingredients rather than imported foreign foods. South Indian food is very vegetarian friendly and it is easy to follow a vegan diet.

Stay in small scale sustainable hotels: It is also better to stay in locally-owned guesthouses or homestays to support the local economy directly. These accommodations often have a more positive impact on the environment compared to large hotels.

You can also try to look for guesthouses or homestays that prioritizes sustainable practices. That said, environmental awareness is still low. It’s up to you to use water sparsely, turn off lights, air conditioning, and heating when leaving your accommodation.

Use public transport: Kerala has a well-developed public transportation system. It is easy to reach Thekkady by bus. Opt for public transport, whenever possible, instead of private cars to reduce carbon emissions.

Leave no trace principle: I encourage you to take all your trash back with you when you go on a safari in Thekkady or hike in the forests of Periyar National Park. In other words, leave no trace of your visit. Even better is when you bring something to pick up any of the trash that other people left behind.

To avoid single-use plastics, invest in reusable items. For example, you can bring your own water bottle with a filter. At last, use biodegradable and eco-friendly personal care products to minimize pollution of water sources.

Respect the culture: Besides environmental concerns it is also important to respect the culture. Therefore, learn about the local customs and traditions beforehand and be mindful of your behavior.

People will appreciate it, if you dress modestly, especially at religious sites. Learning a few basic phrases in Malayalam, can go a long way in building meaningful connections and to learn more about the local culture. Not everybody is happy to have their picture taken. When in doubt, ask permission.

Disclaimer: This post with a travel guide about the best things to do in Thekkady and Periyar National Park contains affiliate links. If you buy any service through any of my links, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These earnings help me to keep Backpack Adventures alive! Thanks for your support

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