Wayanad is a relatively unknown region of lush riverside rice-paddy, semi-tropical savannah grasslands, wildlife sanctuaries and caves. Home to nearly half of Kerala's tribal population, it is undoubtedly among the more scenic but also less-explored regions of Kerala.
The first sign of welcome as we drive in is a large Ficus tree encircled with a metal chain. Our driver, who is well-versed in local folklore, explains that an adivasi youth named Karinthnandan was instrumental in guiding a British engineer through the difficult mountain terrain into Wayanad. Eager to take credit for his discovery, the engineer killed his guide, whose soul passed on and is said to haunt travellers.
Cavernous pursuitsThankfully for us all, says our guide with a twinkle in his eye, a priest chained the troublesome spirit to a tree. We next descend on the locally recommended Edakkal Caves. The caves, that barely find a mention in guidebooks, are nothing short of spectacular poetry in stone. It is quite a trek into the cavernous underbelly of the cave.
We climb through a sliver of stone, up a series of stairs cut into the mountain and then further down into a yawning black belly of rock, filled with stone-age pictorial writings. In Wayanad, it's prudent to pick where you stay with care. The place at which you awaken each morning and return to at dusk is as important as a visit to the wildlife sanctuaries of Tholpetty and Muthanga, a park split into two separate zones.
Stay in a resort with big glass windows through which to make eyes at the wild elephants. Stay in a plantation or on a tree-house, in the middle of a rainforest.
Guaranteed blissPartake of the local cuisine, which consists of kallupittu, a blend of rice flour and coconut, bamboo shoot pickle and mulayari payasam, a sweet dessert made of bamboo rice. Make a stop at the Wayanad heritage museum; enjoy the waterfalls. You're bound to come home with some awe-inspiring pictures and a fistful of bliss.