Off the beaten track

With the long weekend holidays coming up, we pick out a handful of the best road trip destinations.

Initiate any talk about a weekend vacation around Coimbatore, and the usual names of Ooty, Anaikatti and Topslip are likely to crop up. This time, we urge you to go beyond the tried and tested and explore the unexplored. From rural routes and abandoned goldmines to biking through a Tibetan settlement, here’s our pick of out-of-the-ordinary road trip destinations to ease your planning.  


The most commonly-used descriptions the environ of the Pramabikulam reserve forest are the rain-laden clouds against the backdrop of the hills on either side of the roads. Currently under consideration for selection as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the sanctuary that spans about 644 sq km (core area of 391 sq km) is home to over 1,000 species of insects, 61 species of reptiles including mugger crocodiles and 124 species of butterflies (of which 34 are recorded as rare and endemic). Home to the Kannimara teak tree, supposedly the oldest and largest in the world, the region is also abode to seven tribal settlements. Also located within the forest is the Parambikulam reservoir which offers a great view point of the area’s rainforest. 

Time: Around four hours.

Route map: Though located in Palakkad, the reserve can only be accessed through Pollachi. A slight detour along the route could also take you to the Aanamalai Tiger reserve. 

Don’t miss: A trek along the Cochin State Forest Tramway built by the Maharajas in 1905 to transport teak to the Cochin Harbour.


Loved by off-roaders, Thengumarahada lies entrenched in the middle of the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve. Marked as a migratory path for animals between the Bandipur reserve forest, Mudumalai Tiger reserve, and Sathyamangalam, the Moyar river, which runs through the village of Thengumarahada makes for a great visit for wildlife enthusiasts and a thrilling offroading experience for travellers. “The river swells up to six feet and unless you are prepared for a rough ride, I suggest you take the traditional bamboo boats across the river,” shares Siddharth Praveen. Home to the erstwhile sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, the region is heavily guarded by the Forest Department and requires permission for entry.  The Moyar Valley is also home to a large number of vultures and the Dhole (Indian wild dog). ”Another sight to keep a look out for are crocodiles (muggers) since the river attracts a large number of elephant herds that come to quench their thirst in the river,” he adds. 

Time: Almost two-and-a-half hours

Route map: The quickest course to follow is to off-road once you reach the Talamalai Reserve Forest en-route to Hasanur. An alternate path would be to through the estates in Kodanad. 

Alert: Seek the Forest Department’s permission before planning your trip. 


A majestic hill station situated 60 km from Palakkad, Nelliyampathy is a nature lover’s heaven. Surrounded by private farms of coffee, cardamom and vast expanses of tea estates, the hills are also famous for its orange cultivation. Housing a charming bungalow from the British era, a visit to the Palagapandi estate is a must. 

Time: Around three hours.

Route map: Located at 104 km from Coimbatore, reach Nelliyampathy via Kanjikode- Nemmara.

Don’t miss: The vantage point with the stunning view of the valley and the waterfalls at Seetharkundu.


Perched a little ahead of the confluence of the Eastern and Western Ghats at Biligiriranga hills, Dhondenling has been a sanctuary to a Tibetan settlement since early 1974. The settlement which is located at a height of 3,345 ft above sea level offers a panoramic view of the landscape (mountain ranges, coffee plantations and an animal reserve) and a peek into the Tibetan culture. “Following the destruction of the Dzogchen Monastery in Sichuan, China, it was re-established in South India, with construction work beginning in 1985,” explains Ram Prasath, an avid biker and an RJ. Officially the seat of the seventh tulku of the Dzogchen Rinpoche (head lama of the monastery), the region is located within government-restricted areas and requires that all foreign nationals (non-Indian and non-Tibetan) possess a special permit before visiting. A wildlife enthusiast as well, Ram tells us that on his road trip he had come across a nest of Russell viper, scattered herds of elephants and a small sloth bear. 

Time: Close to three hours

Route Map: Located in Karnataka, Dhondenling borders the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The NH 209 which runs by Bylur is the quickest motorable way to the settlement. A quick stopover at the Germalam may prove fruitful if you are hoping to spot a tiger. 

Make space: For traditional Tibetan fare like the Thukpa and Tsampa (barley flour).


A community-based ecotourism initiative, Ecoscape, is set in a remote Adivasi owned estate called Madhuvana. Tucked away inside the New Amarambalam Wildlife Sanctuary, one of Kerala’s largest reserve forests, Ecoscape is brimming with wildlife and falls under a region classified as an Important Bird Area of the Western Ghats Endemic Area. “I sighted a panther outside my room at Ecoscape,” shares Viren Mohan who is a wildlife photographer and nature lover. “What makes the experience even more surreal is that the estates are part of the virgin shola forests of the region which is visited regularly by the Malabar giant squirrel, white-cheeked barbet and insects like the black-tipped forest glory, Nilgiri torrent dart.”  Also look out for local delicacies like organic wild forest honey and single origin coffee.

Time: Approximately five hours.

Route Map: Via NH 181 which runs through Ooty, and Gudalur

Pitstop: The village of Devala is a great place to brush up on your history about the famous gold rush of 1879 by British companies that almost destroyed the local coffee industry. 


Famous for its estates, coffee, pepper, cocoa and rubber plantations, Malakkapara is located at the border of Thrissur district in Kerala. Vast and unexplored, the place has destinations such as the Attakkatti forest, Valparai, Anakkayam and Sholayar dam around it. With the hill station being surrounded by Parambikulam and Anamalai tiger reserves, the most sought after activities around here include birding, jungle safari and wildlife watching.

Time: Around four hours.

Route map: Via SH 78 and Valparai- Athirapilli Road

Make time: To explore the far flung landscapes on foot if not troubled by rain and the slushy pathways. 


At an easy distance from the city, the way to Baralikadu, the tribal village at Pillur of Karamadai range is a hilly terrain enriched with lush greenery and not to mention, a  pleasant climate. Apart from the famous coracle ride along the Bhavani river, the highlight of the one-day program offered by the forest department is the tribal lunch. While trekking alongside the Athikadavu river, don’t forget to stop for a dip in the glistening waters.

Time: Around two hours.

Route map: Follow the Mannarkkad- Anaikkatii road to Kottathara and reach the Mullu-Pillur dam road.

Don’t forget: Entry only on weekends and public holidays. Book for entry (at Rs 300) a week ahead. Details: 904705101


Water falling from the check dam in a silvery cascade is the sight you go to  Kodiveri for. Also known as the mini Niagara falls of the south, the Kodiveri falls is an amazing picnic spot as anyone can easily go to the bottom of the falls for a swim. With the entrance to the Kodiveri falls open from both sides of the Bhavani River, one can hire a round boat to cruise around from one side to the other.

Time: Around two hours.

Route map: Situated along state highway 15, the dam is about 15 km from Gobichettipalayam towards Sathyamangalam.

Tuck into: Freshly caught and prepared fish dishes for the tourists.

Gear up

The AGV Sport Solare Jacket is an accessory made for travels in unpredictable weather conditions. It has a removable Certified European or CE-approved shoulder/elbow armour and an eight mm-thick foam back pad that’s upgradeable to CE-level. At Adventure Shoppe, Fun Republic Mall. Details: 9843222000

When every sip counts 

With the monsoons raging, we suggest you pack a thermos full of a hot beverage for your trip. Available options include stainless steel ones by Mira, which can hold up to 1.2 litres. From `1,300 onwards. Details:

Fix it quick

Besides keeping the clutch, brake and accelerator cables well lubricated, it’s always wise to pack spare wires. To add, seasoned riders also suggest keeping an extra spark plug at hand. Those heading to the mountains can opt for an extra fog lamp. For some first-hand experience, contact Kari Motor Speedway that conducts workshops and classes. Details: 9677716086

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