Update 2022: Coorg is now open to travelers. Follow the necessary precautions.
Table of Content
- What brings us travelers to Coorg, a district nestled in the western ghats of South Karnataka?
- Bangalore to Coorg by Road
- Our Homestay in Coorg and Coorgy Culture
- Nature of Coorg and Coffee Estates
- Eating and Going Around in Coorg and Madikeri Town
- What is the best time to visit Coorg?
- How much time do you need for a Bangalore to Coorg trip?
- What is the difference between Coorg and Madikeri?
- How far is Coorg from Bangalore?
- How to reach Coorg from Bangalore?
- Where to stay in Madikeri, Coorg?
- What are some of the best things to do in Coorg?
- How is the food in Coorg?
- Books on Coorg
From Bangalore to Coorg by Car – Rendezvous Through Wild Karnataka
I won’t tell you that Coorg is the Scotland of India, as every other Bangalore to Coorg travel guide must have already said this to you. I have not been to Scotland and don’t know its landscape. But I can say that Coorg, also known as Kodagu, is straight out of that movie in which fat cows graze on a grassy carpet while spinach-green hills pose in the background.
I’m not sure if I can call Coorg a quaint town. Everybody traveling in Karnataka go on a road trip from Bangalore to Coorg, at least once. I’ve been to Coorg so many times I now have a list of 15 stunning and secluded coffee estates, home stays, and hotels in Coorg.
A humble request: We overcrowd Venice, Paris, Coorg, Florence, Bangkok as if there is nowhere else to go. Meanwhile, the ecologies of these places suffer due to overcrowding and lack of care, obvious when tourists throng the destination. Let’s try to distribute ourselves through the lesser visited places which all hold, if not more, the similar richness of people, food, landscape, and history.
May I suggest Stuart hill in Coorg instead of Madikeri town, Mandi district instead of Manali, Kalga instead of Kasol, and Chile instead of London and Paris? But let us promise to respect these new places and not turn them into just hangouts to chill. Let’s chill in our backyards. But when we visit, let’s visit to see, know, and understand something unknown to us.
What makes us travel to Coorg, a district nestled in the western ghats of South Karnataka?
Rolling emerald hills, an opportunity to see elephants, leopards, gaurs, giant Malabar squirrels, peppy birds of Karnataka, aromatic coffee and tea estates, huge avocados, rich Kodava cuisine, silky waterfalls melting into the revered Kaveri, old temples, and ancient monasteries could be some of the reasons.
Millennials who work a 9-5 or rather a 9-9 like to run away from the maddening rush of Bangalore city to a natural setting in wild Karnataka. Sometimes their parents visit giving the youngsters another reason to drive to the many green and historical places to visit near Bangalore. Old Bangaloreans head out of the cosmopolitan state to find something more authentic.
And what could be more authentic than Coorg, a place which had been home to the Kodavas, the ethnic warriors, for centuries? Just a five-six hours drive from Bangalore, Coorg offers the much-needed natural respite, too. (If you are looking for places to visit near Bangalore, travel to Hampi. And when in Hampi, do visit the Daroji bear sanctuary. )
I can testify the relief part for during my corporate days I also rushed from Bengaluru to Coorg on one soul-finding weekend. A kind homestay, rich Coorgi food, monsoon pouring over the balcony, perfumed coconut trees standing like a wallpaper, Rabindra Nath’s Gora in hand, and a cup of steaming Coorgi coffee rejuvenated me.
Now years later, when I returned to Bangalore from a long South-America trip, nostalgia took over. I imagined myself sitting in the same balcony while clouds dripped and coffee and Tagore became my best friends again.
In those weak moments, I thought of revisiting the disconnected green hamlet of Coorg. Don’t worry when I say disconnected, for Coorg still receives phone signals and internet. But in Coorg nature is closer to you than anything else.
From Bangalore to Coorg by Road
Though I mostly travel alone, I do have some occasional adventures with my friends, some of who love road trips. We decided to visit Coorg by road from Bangalore. We booked a Drivezy Swift.
The night before the Coorg trip, I had found that homestay on Booking. I couldn’t resist the tall coconuts, fat palm trees, and dense betel nuts of the homestay and booked immediately.
Update 2022 – About the road condition from Bangalore to Coorg: We took the Mysore route. So NH 275. Distance from Bangalore to Coorg via Mysore road is 248 km.
The route goes from Bangalore -> Bidadi -> Ramanagara (Ramdevara Betta Vulture Sanctuary, Kanva Reservoir, and Janapada Loka open-air museum) -> Channapatna (wooden toys) -> Mandya -> Srirangapatna (Tipu Sultan’s palace and burial ground) -> Mysore (bypassed, Rangnathittu Bird Sanctuary) -> Hunsur -> Bylakuppe (Namdroling monastery) -> Kushal Nagar (Dubare Elephant Camp) -> Madikeri.
The highway is pretty well-maintained. While leaving Bangalore the state highway is four-lane. After Mysore the highway becomes two-lane. This later part of the highway is undivided and needs more attention. But the roads overall were good. The journey was smooth until a little outside Madikeri where the roads get more curvy and mountainous. You enter the Ghats after all.
The journey from Bengaluru to Coorg via NH75 is 275 km. We haven’t taken that route many times. But it is said to be a simpler one.
I’ve noted the important places in and around every stop above in the route. At the time of the Coorg trip, I didn’t know about the Ramdevara Betta Vulture Sanctuary otherwise I would have gone there. We had been to the Rangnathittu Bird Sanctuary before. While driving from Coorg to Bengaluru, we stopped at the Dubare elephant camp but the camp was closed due to heavy rain the previous day.
So on Bangalore to Coorg road the next day, we only stopped at the Namdroling monastery in the Bylakuppe village. Namdroling is said to be the biggest Tibetan settlement in South India. We freely walked in the monastery. It houses about three thousand monks and has a gorgeous Golden temple.
A Hindu religious procession was going outside the monastery, but life was peaceful inside Namdroling. The gompa is huge and we got lost a few times. The kind monks always showed us the way. Two monks, huddled under an umbrella, warned us to walk carefully. The floor was left slippery by the unabashed rains that had been soaking us since we left Bangalore. After all, we were in June, a month that witnesses much mercy of the rain magicians in Karnataka.
A Buddhist tried to pray in the temple while loud tourists posed and clicked countless selfies in the temple. But their chatter didn’t discourage me from deciding to return to the monastery to stay there for a night. (Monastery allows visitors to stay. Make a booking beforehand.)
Suggested read: A collection of travel stories from India
By the time we got to the highway, the sun had started to set. We had set on our road trip to Coorg around lunch and had made many stops. Soon we were driving on a dark and silent road.
Cars passed by infrequently. Roads were fringed by tall white-skinned Eucalyptus. Gulmohar trees and their creepers stared at us. Tiny thatched huts dotted the agricultural fields that spread from the road to the villages.
On that quiet forest road, I could only hear the stir of the crickets.
We thought we were lost. The dying phone signals in the rain-soaked Coorgi forest made our stomachs churn. We somehow connected to our homestay and requested them to guide us. When the host arrived in his SUV, one of my friends asked him to follow us. Everyone laughed.
The jungle was pitch dark. The road narrowed further as we drove behind the SUV.
After an adventurous drive, we were finally on the guest house’s rooftop digging into mango curry with soft rice and sour rasam. Our drive from Bangalore to Madikeri took us about seven hours, including a stop for lunch and Namdroling monastery.
If you love going on road trips: head to BR Hills in Karnataka and go for a wildlife safari there.
Trip to Coorg – Our Homestay in Coorg and Coorgy Culture
When I went on a second trip to Coorg from Bangalore by road, much hadn’t changed.
I stayed with a family of Kodavas who ran a homestay within a giant coffee estate. But unlike the previous family, this one gave away far more glimpses of being Kshatriyas (a Hindu class for warriors).
One night our host served us fresh Coorgi curries and basmati rice. But I saw that while descending downstairs from our terrace homestay, he latched us from the outside. The homestay was on the first floor, and the family lived on the ground floor.
The next morning I asked the host about locking us. He said just for safety. I don’t know why but I recalled the story he had told earlier about the villagers getting together to hunt a wild pig.
Would the pigs climb up to our room? I wished not for I always slept with the windows and doors open to soak in the last silver light of the moon and the first golden rays of the sun.
I would have definitely ended up in the audacious pig’s stomach.
The tall, mustached guy walked away without providing me a satisfactory answer. But I got a good hint that the man belonged to the generations of an ancient native tribe of Kodavas, meaning indigenous people, who now do agriculture but were known as warriors.
Less than two lacks in number, Kodavas, who have inhabited Coorg for a long time, have stories of being Alexander the Great’s descendants. Another legend says the Coorg district got inhabited by a broad-headed race in the Mohanjodaro period.
Warriors or not, Kodavas live differently than the rest of the Karnataka communities. Due to their unique lifestyle and culture, the Kodava community has been exempted from getting a license to purchase firearms. Though this exemption is under review now, I wonder if the need for a license will stop the Coorgi people from hunting wild animals. (Update 2022: High Court has recently upheld the constitutional validity of exemption to Kodavas until 2029.)
I don’t want to be the judge of an ethical situation here. But who is right? The stout pig who walks into people’s estate by mistake or the locals who have been thinking of the pig as food since medieval times? Also, hunting is as much part of some cultures as is wearing a sari. We want to protect ourselves from wild animals, but how do we justify getting into the wild to hunt them when they didn’t so much so look in our direction? (a little more on this in the comment section.)
Kodavas are a mystery to most outsiders. And not many people research or read about them when they plan a Coorg trip. At least, I didn’t. (Kodava history and its people have been described well by Travel Earth in this article. I also list books at the end of the blog for those who want to know this ancient culture more deeply.)
Nature of Coorg and Coffee Estates
With windows wide open, we fell asleep to the sound of the rain rattling against the thatched roof. Only in a few hours, slightly before dawn, we were woken up by chattery green-blue Malabar parrots.
The flying foxes shrieked. Insects buzzed. Cicadas bustled like wheels of a train rattle against the tracks. A loud stream gushing somewhere close led the chorus.
The sky was like a game of chess with black and white clouds making their moves. The monsoon foliage hung like a painting. Betel nuts stood tall. Plants glistened with dew. A hungry orange squirrel scurried around.
The house dog had already been fed. When the grandmother of the house came outside, he squealed, barked, and made a patronizing sound.
Waking up in a home surrounded by a forest was an amazing experience.
We couldn’t see the coffee estate in the night as it had already sunk into darkness. So soon we walked into the estate.
The walk was full of surprises.
Coconuts, betel nuts, and palm were supplemented by papaya, guava, mango, and banana plants. Yellow, pink, and red roses, dahlia, germaniums, and jasmine smiled brightly. Passion fruits hung like perfect balls. Red and ripe coffee beans adorned coffee plants. The green peppercorns hung on the pepper creepers, like a bunch of grapes.
We got lost and ended up on another farm. The owner softened after hearing our pleas and showed us an old tree on his farm. The tree with its sinuous branches was not less than a celebrity, and I could feed the tree’s grandeur in the air.
(We could have also easily got lost in the Sharavathi Valley in Karnataka, if not for the guide who was taking us to the remote Silver Water falls there.)
Eating and Going Around in Coorg and Madikeri Town
Leaving the grand tree alone, we went for lunch to a Coorgi home-run restaurant in Madikeri. I was a non-vegetarian then, and we devoured our pork and chicken curries with our fingers.
If you go to this restaurant, do try their leechi custard. It could be your rainbow on a dark day.
After the heavy meal, we had the frothy Coorgi coffee. The coffee must have awoken us because drinking it we went to Raja’s seat — a popular place to visit in Coorg. But the top of that hill was just an excuse to go further into the jungle that lay beyond the tourist spot.
What happens in the jungle stays in the jungle.
After our forest adventure, we drove to Abbey falls. The traffic, the honking, unaware people standing in the middle of the road like zen cows, Indian men who stared — the scenery changed. I shrieked when a lady honked hard and that was the most exciting part of the waterfall trip.
Abbey falls is beautiful but make sure you go on a weekday or early in the day to avoid the crowd.
Eating Maggie and drinking chai with the velvety mountains in front did make up for some of the heart-wrenching honks. And remnants of that anxiety I get from visiting a crowded place flew away with the clouds swimming above the mountains.
We sped up on the silent road back to our Coorg homestay. This time we knew the way.
The next morning we drove from Coorg to Bangalore. But I knew I would travel to Coorg again to see the rest of the mysterious district.
Until next time.
If you are a wildlife fan, read this: A Travel Guide to Kinabatangan river, Borneo, Malaysia
What is the best time to visit Coorg?
October to March is the best time to plan a trip to Coorg. From June to September, Coorg receives heavy rainfall making it difficult to walk or hike around.
Though I visited Coorg both times during the monsoon, I don’t regret traveling to Coorg in the rain. Coorg is gorgeous during rainfall. But I couldn’t hike to many places near Coorg due to the rain.
How much time do you need for a Bangalore to Coorg road trip?
Depends on you. You can spend a weekend or a month in Coorg.
To give you an idea, a one-day Coorg trip from Bangalore by car or otherwise would be too hectic. Even a 2 days Bangalore to Coorg trip sounds rushed.
At least half a day is required to reach Coorg from Bangalore by car. Vice-versa, too. So only on a three-day trip to Coorg, some of the nice places in Coorg can be visited.
If you can, stay in Coorg for a longer time. Then you can not only relax and explore Coorg at your pace, you can understand the culture of Kodavas too.
Is Coorg and Madikeri same?
Madikeri is a town within the district of Coorg. Coorg is also known as Kodagu.
How far is Coorg from Bangalore?
Distance to Coorg from Bangalore is 250 km via NH275 or Mysore Road. Via NH75 Bengaluru-Coorg is 275 km.
Over the years we have taken both the routes to Coorg, NH275 and NH75, and have enjoyed the journey.
How to go from Bengaluru to Coorg?
The best way to travel from Bangalore to Coorg is by road — either by self-driving, getting a taxi, or bus.
Self-Drive to Coorg
Bangalore to Coorg roads are well-maintained. The drive takes about five-six hours ( depending on your speed and stops).
The distance between Bangalore and Coorg doesn’t feel much especially if you stop at the Namdroling monastery on your way to Coorg and at Dubare camp on the way back (and maybe other places).
Start your journey early. Bangalore to Coorg drive is fringed by forest on both sides. So carry an aux cable, as sometimes the car bluetooth doesn’t work, and tune into some good music.
Bus to Coorg
You can take a private or a Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus from Bangalore to Kodagu. It takes around six hours to reach Coorg by bus. Check the bus schedule here on Redbus.
Taxi to Coorg
When I had just arrived in Bangalore we used to book taxis with private car operators. But now an outstation Ola or Uber can be easily booked as well.
For people who love to drive, the best way to reach Coorg by far is by driving on the smooth Karnataka roads.
Where to stay in Madikeri, Coorg?
Choose one of the stay options on Booking, my favorite platform for searching guest houses in India. I have also searched through many Booking.com properties and have prepared a list of home stays and hotels in Coorg that are secluded and nestled in nature. They all have good hosts and good reviews. The article also has some beautiful coffee estates. Go through the list and see if you like something.
I suggest you stay in a homestay to get the best experience of the native Kodava life. The natives would also help you explore Coorg the local way.
Tip to commute within Coorg: If you are going to Coorg by car, you can drive around to explore Coorg. But if you are going by bus, ask your guesthouse about the commute options. Maybe you can rent a car there or they can arrange one for you.
You can also bike or get dropped at a place and hike in the area.
What are some of the best things to do in Coorg?
Buy Robusta or Arabica coffee from your homestay owner as Coorg is one of the highest producers of coffee in India. Now that we have got the coffee covered, let us move on to other activities.
Here are some of the best places to visit in Coorg.
Brahmagiri peak — A great place for hiking.
Tadiandamol — The highest peak in Coorg. The trek is long, so please prepare accordingly. You can also camp at the top of the peak.
Barapole River — For river rafting.
Abbey Falls — Gorgeous falls but comes with large crowds.
Harangi Dam — This dam is about 36 km away from Madikeri. It was the first dam to be built on Cauvery.
Nagarhole National Park — Best chances to see wildlife in Coorg.
Talakaveri wildlife sanctuary near Coorg — Talakaveri means the origin of the Cauvery river. Beautiful sanctuary for seeing wildlife and walking around in nature.
Dubare Reserve Forest & Elephant Camp —Stop over Dubare while coming back from Coorg to Banglore. When I went there, the camp was closed because of the high flow of the river (in which the elephants bath). Hope you have better luck.
Cauvery Nisargadhama — An island on the river Kaveri. Walk to this island by crossing a hanging rope bridge.
Chettalli — A small village near Madikeri. This is where the popular Cherala Bhagavathy Temple is located.
Madikeri Fort — Built in the 17th century. Along exists a Tipu Sultan museum.
Omkareshwara Temple — In Madikeri. Ask the locals for the story of this temple.
Padi Igguthappa temple — A revered temple close to the Tadiandamol peak.
Another culturally intriguing place in India is Spiti Valley near Manali. If you are a culturally curious traveler, you would like Spiti.
How is the food in Coorg?
Kodava or Coorgi cuisine is made with a lot of local spices, coconuts, curry leaves, and kokum. Most of the Coorgi people make their food with local ingredients and organic farm-grown products.
Kodavas eat a lot of meat, mainly pork and chicken. But as I’m a vegetarian, I won’t write about those dishes. Some of the famous vegetarian Coorg dishes are Baimbale fry or stir fry bamboo shoots, Kaad Mange— a sweet and tangy mango curry, Thaliya Puttu — a steamed rice coconut cake, Koovale Puttu – steamed jackfruit cake, Atti Payasa — a sweet made with coconut.
I was so confused by the various rice preparations Coorgi cuisine offers I thought to write them here.
Kadambuttu or kadubu are rice dumplings made with broken rice. Nooputtu is a smooth lump of compact rice noodles. Paaputtu is rice, coconut milk, and grated coconut steamed together to make rice cakes. Akki rotti is flat rice bread.
The best way to enjoy Kodagu cuisine is to try it at your homestay.
One of the amazing restaurants to try Coorg cuisine is Tiger tiger restaurant in Madikeri town.
If you want to learn the Kodagu cuisine, I recommend reading The Reluctant Cookbook: A Unique Selection Of Sumptuous Indian Recipes And Authentic Tastes Of Coorg by Hansa Ashok. This blog called Coorg Recipes is also authentic and delicious.
And of course, the ubiquitous South Indian dosa was everywhere, too.
Books on Coorg,
- The Early Coorgs by Mookonda Kushalappa – This book speaks of the origins of the Coorgs, their mythology, and early history through folklore and inscriptions. The tales of sages, gods and heroes are narrated. The megaliths built by the ancients of Kodagu are studied. The origins of the Coorgs are discussed.
- Nuggets from Coorg history by C.P.Belliappa – Nuggets from Coorg History encapsulates the history of Kodagu from 1600 to 1956 in twenty engaging stories. This book is a treasure trove.
- Long Ago in Coorg by Mookonda Kushalappa – This book is for those who want to know about the British invasion in Coorg in 1834 and the years after.
- Victoria Gowramma: The Lost Princess of Coorg by C.P.Belliappa – In this book, C.P. Belliappa has reconstructed the extraordinary saga of the earliest Indian royalty to live in Victorian England.
- On a Shoestring to Coorg: An experience of southern India by Dervla Murphy – For a fun-filled read of traveling through Southern India.
- Tale of A Tiger’s Tail & other Yarns from Coorg by C.P.Belliappa – Enjoyable stories taking through the culture of Coorg.
Are you planning a road trip to Coorg from Bengaluru? If you have any questions about the drive or want to know more about Coorg, please leave a comment.
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