In recent years one adventure sport has become very popular among the youth of India and that is Trekking. After the movie, Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani released in 2013 the travel companies have accepted that they have seen a significant increase in the demand for trekking trips. The famous trekking destinations are considered to be Manali, Munar and Darjeeling. However, you would always hear a common complaint from this destination that it is overcrowded and there are certain times of the year when you don’t even get bookings due to overexposure. In this article, I would be telling you about a tourist destination which not many people know about. The name of the place is Agasthyakoodam situated in the state of Kerala. Not only this place is famous for trekking it is also home to many medicinal plants. Since this place is still yet to be commercialized properly so you can expect to see this place in the way God had intended. It is said that the air here is so pure that it could cure you of many diseases.
Looking to Trek? Forget Manali! Agasthyakoodam Is The Perfect Destination
1. About The Trek
If you have ever been to Manali for trekking you would have noticed that the landscape remains the same throughout. However, if you choose Agasthyakoodam then you can expect a little adventure in the landscape itself. As you move towards the trek you would notice the change in the landscape due to the presence of grasslands, evergreen forests, semi-evergreen and deciduous forests. The local tribe here is known as “Kanis” and nearly 500 families stay near this place. It is possible that the people from this tribe become your guide for the trek because they work with the forest department for eco-development.
2. Legends About this place
Not only is Agasthyakoodam a popular tourist spot but is famous among the Hindu religion as a holy expedition. Agasthaya is considered to one of the seven maharishis and the top of the mountain there is a shrine which is dedicated to him. Ayurveda system of medicine, Tamil literature and Siddha medicine are all considered to be developed by Agasthaya. The peak has also been named after him. If one observes his statues, they would notice a bowl of medicine and a stone crusher in his hands. One more legend regarding this place is that during the wedding of Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati everyone had gone to the Himalayas (including the maharishis) which had resulted in Earth tilting on one side so Lord Shiva asked Agasthaya to move to South so that earth becomes balanced again.
3. Biosphere Reserve
There are many areas in Kerala which falls under the Biosphere Reserve. A Biosphere Reserve is a site which is recognized by UNESCO which promotes sustainable development to ensure the protection of the cultural and biological diversity of a certain region. Similarly, Agasthyakoodam also falls under a biosphere reserve. It was established in the year 2001 under the name of Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve. There are many other areas in Kerala which fall under the biosphere reserve like Shendurney wildlife sanctuary, Neyyar wildlife sanctuary, peppara wildlife sanctuary, Konni, Achencoil and Thenmala.
4. What are the things one needs to keep in mind?
In order to reach this place, you would need to make a lot of pre-arrangements. If you want to trek in this area you just cannot come at any time of the year. It is a protected forest and the entry is restricted. Kerala forest department allows a limited number of trekking during the month from January to March. There is a festival called Makaravilakku festival which lasts for 60 days; it is during this time that the trek is allowed. Only a limited, 100 passes are issued and generally, the passes are sold out on the very first day itself. However, if it not possible for you to visit this place during the mentioned months then the forest department allows trekking but you would need to pay approximately Rs. 5000 for a group of 5 people. It is said that there are 3 different reasons why people visit Agasthyakoodam. First is that people have the zeal of trekking, second is that they want to go for the religious expedition and the third is that they want to see the rich biodiversity in the region.
5. How to book passes?
Like I said that getting passes is the real deal here. 5 years ago, all the procedures went online which has made the process a lot faster and better. You need to open the official website of Kerala forest department and you would see a link for booking the trek tickets. Suppose the trek starts on 15th March, the ticket booking opens on 12th March and the details published a week before this date. Around 10 people can be booked on a single ticket and you would need to pay just Rs, 500 per person.
If you think this is a tedious process then let me share you my friend’s experience. He had to go a few days early before the beginning of the reek to Agasthyarkoodam; the tickets were only issued in the forest office of Trivandrum. He had stood in the queue for the entire night. The harassment didn’t end there; first, he had to find a date which was available then an application form was issued to him which had to be filled up with all the identification documentation. This form had to be submitted along with the fees and then you will be issued a pass. It was really a nightmare. Thank God that they started the online process and made life easy.
In order to enjoy a place like Agasthayakoodam, you will need a passion for travelling. Certain places are meant for only those who have the zeal of climbing mountains. Whenever you come here carry a hat, torch, snacks, bathing towels, ID proof and trekking shoes. These are the basic amenities which you would be needing if you want to make a climb to the peak of the mountain. So, you think you are up for a trek? Pack your bags and leave for Agasthayakoodam right now!