It’s not easy to pick the perfect time to visit Kodagu (Coorg is the anglicised version). There’s a chilly nip in the air during the winter, while the mild temperatures in summer provide relief from the scorching heat dominating India’s big cities. There’s a palpable romance in the air during the monsoon season. Everything turns emerald green—the rain adds to the magic. But I won’t recommend it unless it’s your second or third visit to the district. There’s probably no better time to visit than November to January. The coffee picking season is underway, the weather is perfect to explore the myriad sights that make this one of Karnataka’s most compelling destinations.
Spread over 4000 sq. kms, Kodagu or Coorg is India’s unofficial coffee capital. Once a landlocked region, safely cut off from outside influences, Coorg has a unique identity that is reflected in its language, cuisine, and lifestyle.
Here are seven quintessential experiences for your next holiday in Coorg:
1. Coffee trails
No region in India produces more coffee than Coorg. Most resorts can organise immersive coffee experiences for you that usually involve a drive through a coffee plantation, and a quick show and tell on the bean to cup process. Both the Arabica and the Robusta varietals thrive in Coorg’s hilly terrain and the silver oak trees provide the perfect canopy and protect the coffee trees from the harsh rays of the sun. First bloom the flowers (that look and almost smell like jasmine flowers), followed by coffee berries. These berries take about eight to 10 months to mature, after which they are ready to be manually harvested. A tedious process transforms coffee berries into a brown aromatic bean that is fit for roasting.
2. Tee off
Coorg has a wide array of golf courses—and the balmy weather allows you to tee off anytime during the day. The first time I wore my golf shoes in Coorg was at the compact Tata Coffee Course near Polibetta. The greens on this nine-hole course are verdant even in the summer. Golfing addicts swear by the Mercara Downs Club, an 18-hole course built with strong undulations along the fairway and greens as the layout uses the natural contours of the land. I’d also recommend the Coorg Golf Links in Ambatty for both beginners and pros.
3. Ornithologist’s delight
Coorg is a bird lover’s paradise and is home to a staggering 300 types of birds. Many resorts organise bird watching trails just after sunrise. I spotted over 20 exotic birds in just an hour including the spunky ‘racket-tailed Drongo' that can imitate other birds. It's one of those times when it is tough to choose between your binoculars and your favourite camera lens.
4. Bathe the elephants
The Dubare Elephant Camp on the banks of the River Cauvery is co-managed by Karnataka's Jungle Lodges and is the perfect setting to interact with these majestic creatures. Whether you want to admire them from afar, feed them, or take a swaying ride on one of the elephants—it’s a fun experience through and through. Nothing beats standing in knee-deep water from where you can actually bathe the elephants.
5. Coorg’s Tibetan connection
Just outside the town of Kushalnagara is one of India's largest Tibetan settlements. The NamdrolingMonastery is located there and so is the stunning Golden temple where a 60-feet tall, gold-plated Buddha takes centre stage. The imposing statue is one of three large statues and is located in a gigantic yet serene hall. The outer fringes of the temple have small gift shops with Tibetan and Feng Shui souvenirs.
6. Culinary adventures
Farm-to-fork and low carbon footprint might be buzz words in the 2020s—but local produce has always been the mainstay and a way of life in Coorg. The pandi (pork) curry is arguably the most popular dish from the region and many home-stays serve an authentic version. A lot of the vegetarian specialities are also put together with locally-grown tender bamboo, wild mushrooms and raw jackfruit— all forest produce. The Kodavas are big rice eaters and their Puttus (steam-cooked dishes) are legendary.
7. The great outdoors
One of my favourite outdoor spots is the imposing Malahalli falls which are in full flow towards the end of the year after the monsoon season. Most roads in Coorg lead to its largest town Madikeri (formerly Mercara) which is also the halfway point to Talacauvery where the river Cauvery originates and is close to Abbey Falls another scenic spot. Coorg offers a plethora of trekking options. There’s Tadiandmol, the highest peak in the region with stunning vistas and the Galibeedu-Subramanya trek, that begins in the Galibeedu village.