Emerald green till where the eye can see, Kodagu in Kannada or Coorg as it is more famously known, is a must-visit destination in Karnataka. Located in the western ghats in the southwest part of Karnataka, Coorg’s gorgeous landscape is synonymous with rolling hills and acres of coffee plantations intermittently dotted with lush teakwood and sandalwood forests. The villages and hamlets here exude an ambiance, timeless in its beauty.
Known the world over for its vast sprawling coffee plantations, it is no surprise coffee and spice production are major economic activities here. But the vestiges of modern city life are found mainly in Madikeri—Coorg’s district headquarters, the region’s chief town, and also its transport hub. Here, and in its plantations, anecdotes of the British Raj mix with Coorg’s older, vibrant history.
Coorg was a state until 1956 when it merged with Karnataka. Its primary inhabitants are the Kodavas, who are believed to have descended from migrating Persians and Kurds. Another theory is that they are Greeks left behind by Alexander the Great's armies. Beginning from these origins, steeped in legend, the history of Kodagu is replete with the stories of its brave warriors and is worth exploring in its many historical monuments. With an old-world charm of its own, Coorg is known for festivals like Keil Poldu or the worship of weapons, Cauvery Shankaramana or the return of the river goddess, and the Huttari harvest festival.
WHAT TO SEE Tadiandamol, Brahmagiri and Pushpagiri Peaks: These peaks are a great option for treks as they are at once challenging for trekkers and yet surrounded by absolutely breathtakingly beautiful views.
Madikeri Fort: It has a history going back to the 16th century when it fell under the rule of Tipu Sultan. It was taken over by Raja Lingarajendra II in 1812 and is today the municipal headquarters. Within the fort's walls are the hexagonal palace, which has been converted to the district commissioner's office, and a colonial church housing a museum.
Raja's Tombs: Also known as Gaddige, these have been built in an Indo-Sarcenic style. The domed tombs are the resting place for Kodava royalty and dignitaries. These are located 7 kms from Madikeri town.
Omkareshwar Temple: This temple in Madikeri was built by Lingarajendra II in 1820. Its architecture is a mix of Gothic and Islamic styles, it has a dome in the center and four turrets at the four corners. As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Nalakunad Palace: The palace is at the bottom of the Coorg’s highest peak, Tadiyendamol. It is the restored hunting lodge of a Kodagu king dating from 1794. There are many camping places within walking distance of the palace.
Abbey Falls: These 21.3m-high falls are a sight to behold, especially so during the rainy season. You can club this visit with a visit to Raja's Tombs on your return journey.
Raja's Seat: It is an observation point from where you can watch the sunset over beautiful rolling hills and valleys just as the raja himself did.
Kaveri Nisargadhama: Located about 30 kms from Madikeri, this is an island spread over 64 acres surrounded by the Cauvery river. It is also an ecological Park and a paradise for nature lovers.
WHAT TO DO
The climate and the landscape make Kodagu perfect for long walks, treks and its rich fauna make it a paradise for birdwatchers. Angling and white-water rafting are other activities one can indulge in when in Coorg. Its gracious plantations are a major go-to relaxation destination for anyone looking to soak in the beauty of nature in peaceful environs.
What to eat: Cuisine is an integral part of the Coorgi culture, and what is served on tables here varies by season. But any visit to Coorg is incomplete without sampling Coorg’s famous kadambuttu steamed rice dumplings, pandi curry pork curry, paputtu steamed rice and coconut cakes, noolputtu steamed rice noodles and akki otti unleavened rice flatbread.
What to buy: Coffee, spices, and honey are what travellers mostly take away from Coorg. But if you had to choose one of the three, I would recommend the coffee.
Getting around: While close locations can be visited on foot, the best way to explore Coorg completely is to hire your own cab.
Where to stay: As a much-loved destination, Coorg offers travellers the best of luxury hotels and traditional homestays. You can find something to suit different tastes and every budget.
The best time to visit: Coorg has a very moderate climate all year round, with temperatures ranging from 19 to 34 C in summers to 14 to 29 C in winters. Its altitude is in the range of 3500 ft above sea level. All of this makes Coorg a perfect holiday destination all through the year.
How to get there: Coorg is connected to the rest of India by road. The nearest airport and railway station is in Mangalore.