Nestled in the brilliant green hills of the Western ghats, Coorg is perhaps Karnataka’s best kept secret. Misty hills, emerald green valleys, never ending coffee plantation, terraced tea plantations and bright orange groves dotting the landscape make Coorg an unforgettable and hauntingly beautiful destination.
Coorg or Kodagu, as the people of this stunningly beautiful district in Karnataka call their land is picturesque and green with dense forested valleys, babbling mountain brooks and waterfalls, fragrant coffee bushes resplendent with red berries, endless cardamom fields covered with wild and colorful blossoms, silver oak trees pregnant with abundant hives lace the way as you explore the countryside. Its Incomparable scenic beauty makes it a perfect picture of fairy- tale enchantment.
Also known as 'the Scotland of India' (probably by people who lived in Scotland previously), this quaint city sits 4,000 feet above sea level and is easily accessible by road & railways. Madikeri, sometimes written as Mercara is the district headquarters.
Carelessly scattered hamlets and villages have a sense of magical realism to them. Picture perfect with their red-tiled cottages and bright flowering shrubs, the Kodagu towns have a quaint country charm about them. The picturesque town is interspersed with the colonial-era buildings, low-roofed cottages overlooking the hills and dales, blanketed as it were with coffee and cardamom plants growing under the shade of imposingly tall trees.
Home to the sturdy brave martial race of Coorgs, these handsome, people called the Coorgis are known for their hospitality and cuisine, their intriguing customs and tradition, has a distinct culture.They have distinctive dresses, the men wearing wraparound robes called the Kupya, only seen at ceremonial occasions, and the women with a distinctive style of wearing the saree. The Kodava woman wears a saree with the pleats at the back. Their rich customs include distinctive practices such as carrying ceremonial knives and martial war dances. The koorgis are fun loving and friendly,their jest for life can be seen at communal gatherings where drink, dance and special meat dishes seasoned with Garcinia are central attractions.A good bet would be to opt for a home stay and experience the tranquil Coorg Planter lifestyle of an almost bygone era.
Although there is plenty of sight seeing to do one can also choose to do absolutely nothing at all. This is the kind of place you go to when you want to leave stressful city life behind. You will find people who have lots of time and hardly rush through anything. There is almost nothing to do. That is if you don’t count gazing out at the rain drenched valleys, curling up on the wicker chaise and reading a good book, exploring the countryside, even walking through the coffee estates or curling up in bed to let the mumbling of incessant rain calm you to sleep.
For the more adventurous or shall I say active visitors the city offers history, recreation and culture, the Madikeri fort and the Omkareshwara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu are stunning. The old fort built by one of the Rajas of Coorg and the Rajas seat together tell the tale of an era long gone by but lend the city a sense of timelessness. The raja’s seat used to be location where erstwhile rajah's sat and watched the sun set over the scenic beauty of the misty hills.
If history is not your cup of tea then head to the waterfalls.
Other recreational spots include Dubare elephant camp, Harangi dam, the Tibetan monastery and settlement in Bylakuppe near Kushalanagar. Coorg being the major producer of coffee and oranges in India, it also houses the Horticulture Research Centre. Harangi, situated 36 km from Madikeri, is a popular picnic spot famous for its tree houses. It would take quite some time to explore the entire Coorg area as it proliferates with places of interest but Coorgs charm remains in its natural beauty. The luxuriant plantations of coffee, tea and cardamom stretching over the hills, as far as the eye can see, the aroma of Coffee, Cardamom and Oranges that sensuously caress the senses, the pristine waterfalls, lush greenery soothing the eyes is nature at its best. Coorg is like a fairytale fantasy.
How to Get There
Madikeri is 235 kms from Bangalore. Nearest airport is Bangalore (235 kms). Nearest railhead is Mysore. Best option is to drive down from Bangalore or from Mysore. You can hire a cab and enjoy the ride. The drive from Mangalore is beautiful, comforting and elating, every bit of the earth is green and the distant hills covered with clouds are bewitchingly beautiful.
Where to Eat
Arguably the best food comes out of kitchens of the residents of a region. A great way to sample this food is to have a meal at one of the many ‘home stays’ in the Kodagu area. Dining with your hosts can be enlightening for a visitor culturally as well since they get to experience local eating habits and cuisine.Kodava food is spicy and delicious.Especially worth mentioning is Traditional Kodava food like Pandhhi Curry, Kadambuttus, "Mange Pajji, Thambuttu.
When you drive to Madikeri from Bangalore a good place for your lunch is Kaveri resorts soon after the rails way crossing once you take the right turn from Mysore road to Srirangapatna. They have an open air tile roofed area where you can sit and lunch enjoying the breeze and the scenic beauty around you. You also have the option of stopping at one of the various road side eateries that serve reasonably priced hot, delicious food.
Where to Stay
There are a plenty of places to stay in Coorg, depending on your budget. Orange county is the only luxury resort spread over 300 acres coffee and spice plantations but plenty of smaller mid range and budget hotels can be found in Coorg.
Home stays are very popular in and around Madikeri, there’s the Serenity Home Stay, Hillyside Estate, Alath Cad Estate. These estates are also famous for their mouth watering cuisine.
Other places are Honey Valley Estate, Palace Estate and Ananda Estate The owner of the High Falls Holiday Home also at Irpu, once ran a highly regarded Coorgi restaurant in Mysore; so expect excellent food at his hotel.
What to Buy
Every Friday the Sandy market is held in Madikeri where you can sample an assortment of spices, like pepper, cardamom, coffee and fresh fruits and vegetables plucked right out of the trees. A good idea is to carry some home. Also available are fresh chutneys and home made jams. Coorg is also famous for a special type of honey - bitter honey. The locals explain that the bees had made their hive on a neem tree. There are also shops selling silver jewelry, trinkets, Coorgi costumes and weapons.The perfect souvenir to recall the captivating beauty of the Coorg.