Periyar National Park: The Complete Guide

Boating in Periyar National Park

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Periyar National Park

Address
Kerala, India
Phone +91 4869 224 571

Near the southern tip of India in the state of Kerala, Periyar National Park is a place where you can go on your very own jungle cruise. One of the most popular national parks in southern India, Periyar is located in dense hilly forests and extends around the banks of a huge artificial lake, stretching on for nearly 500 square miles. Apart from the tranquil river cruise and lush scenery, the park is also particularly known for its resident elephants.

Things to Do

If you've ever dreamed of going on your very own jungle cruise, Periyar is the place to do it. Boats depart throughout the day and travelers can ride on a motorized ferry or choose something more rustic like a bamboo raft. There are also organized hikes you can join to experience a trekking adventure throughout the park, which can be a one-day excursion or longer. However, visitors can't enter the park and hike around on their own; you must enter the national park with a guide or on some tour.

While Periyar can guarantee visitors a tranquil getaway from the hustle of the big cities, what it can't promise is the chance to see some big animals. While the park is considered a sanctuary for elephants and tigers, a common complaint is that wildlife sightings can feel few and far between. Elephants are seen relatively often depending on the season, but anyone who wants to see a tiger should try other national parks like Bandhavgarh or Ranthambore.

Unlike most national parks in India, Periyar doesn't close during the monsoon season, although activities are weather-dependent. The most popular time to visit the park is during the cooler, drier months from October to February. Herds of wild elephants can best be seen during the hotter months of March and April, when they spend the most time in the water.

River Cruises

Most visitors to Periyar National Park take to the water and explore the park from the Periyar River itself. Cruises depart throughout the day and you can choose between a large ferry boat or a bamboo raft to get closer to the water. It's possible to buy tickets when you get to the park, but you'll need to show your travel documents and there's often a long line of people. You'll save time and energy by making a reservation online ahead of time for the type of cruise that you want to take. Remember that animals are most active in the early morning or in the evening, so book for those times if your goal is to see some wildlife.

Cruises can either be half-day or full-day excursions, with full-day rides usually including some trekking through the forest. While you may see wildlife like langur monkeys, giant squirrels, tropical birds, and maybe even some elephants, remember that Periyar is a national park and not a zoo. Animal sightings aren't guaranteed, so start your ride with the right expectations and don't forget to enjoy the park for its abundant scenery.

Trekking

In addition to a river cruise, hop off the boat and spend some time hiking around the forest floor in Periyar National Park. Not only will you have a better chance of spotting wildlife if you're on foot, but you can also join a nighttime trek to see a side of the forest that most visitors never experience. You can't walk around the park on your own, so all of the hikes are accompanied by a local guide who can point out the various species of flora and fauna that you'll come across in this richly diverse habitat.

Trekking options range from short and easy trails that last a couple of hours to longer excursions that require spending the night in the park. Whichever type of hike you want to do, you can reserve a spot online through a local eco-tourism organization.

Where to Camp

Camping is possible in the park, but only when it's booked as part of an overnight trekking excursion, such as the Tiger Trail. Hikers will spend the day exploring with a local guide–some of whom are reformed poachers now dedicated to protecting the park—and then camp out in tents for either one or two nights deep in the jungle. Seeing a tiger in the park is always a rare occurrence, but spending a couple of days in the most remote parts of the park is definitely your best chance. For adventurous travelers, camping out is an unbeatable experience.

Where to Stay Nearby

The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) runs three popular hotels within the boundaries of the park, which are the high-end Lake Palace and Aranya Nivas properties along with the budget-friendly Periyar House. Staying at a KTDC property is advantageous as their position inside the park enables them to offer a range of exclusive activities from their premises, such as boat trips and nature walks. You're also assured of getting a ticket for the boat safari if you stay in one of the KTDC hotels.

Apart from these, there are a number of hotels and guesthouses within a short distance of the park's entrance, mainly in and around the town of Kumily. There are shuttles that leave Kumily and enter the park if you don't have a vehicle.

  • Niraamaya Retreat Cardamom Club: If you want a purifying experience, this four-star hotel is the place for you. Apart from daily yoga sessions and rejuvenating Ayurveda therapies, the property is also located in the lush and healing rainforest just 6 miles away from the park entrance.
  • The Elephant Court: Located within walking distance from the national park entrance, this comfortable hotel has all of the facilities you could need, such as a swimming pool, restaurant, spa, and fitness center.

How to Get There

Periyar National Park is located in the tourist town of Thekkady, right along the border between the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the extensive Western Ghat mountains. The closest airports are at Madurai in Tamil Nadu, which is 80 miles away, and Kochi in Kerala, which is 118 miles away. Even though the distances aren't huge, the mountain terrain and road conditions mean that the journey takes about four hours or longer from either airport. The nearest railway station is at Kottayam, which is 70 miles away or about three hours by car.

From the bus station in Kochi, which is one of the biggest cities in Kerala, there are numerous daily buses that go to Thekkady. It's the cheapest way to get to the park and relatively easy, although the long ride takes about six hours.

Accessibility

In general, the Periyar National Park is not accessible to visitors with mobility impairments. However, there are tour groups like Responsible Travel that plan trips throughout India geared toward travelers with special needs, including one through Kerala that stops at Periyar. Each trip is tailored to the travelers' needs so you can enjoy the trip without worrying about accessible accommodations or where to visit.

Tips for Your Visit

  • The monsoon season begins in May and lasts through August, with June and July being the wettest months. While the aroma of the moist vegetation in the monsoon season gives Periyar special appeal, don’t expect to see a lot of wildlife during the monsoon season because there’s no need for them to come out in search of water.
  • If you do visit Periyar during monsoon time and go trekking, keep in mind that leeches also come with the rain. Make sure you wear the leech-proof socks that are available for purchase at the park.
  • For the most peaceful experience, avoid weekends (particularly Sundays) due to crowds of day-trippers.
  • Even if you reserve a river cruise or hiking trip, you'll need to pay an additional park entrance fee when you arrive at Periyar.
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Periyar National Park: The Complete Guide