Weather :

Time Required : 2 Days (4 - 6 hours each day)

Agasthyakoodam, Trivandrum Overview

Agastyakoodam, also known as Agastya Mala Peak is the second highest peak in Kerala with an extensive height of 1868 metre. Located within the premises of Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Agastyakoodam is part of the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve and boasts of surreal natural beauty. Nestled in Sahyadris of Western Ghats, the slopes of the peak are carpeted in purple hues of orchids. Home to diverse species of fauna and rare species of medicinal herbs, the region is a hotspot for avifauna and exotic birds. The spot is considered a haven for birdwatchers. Besides, since it is a protected zone, you can spot nature at its best, without any commercial interference. The colossal peak is also a major Hindu pilgrimage spot for the devotees of the Hindu sage Agastya, on whose name the peak has been named. There is also a statue of him at the top where the Hindus can offer puja and prayers.

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Flora and Fauna

Agastyakoodam is a biosphere reserve and a protected zone, and has a rich wildlife with an ever changing terrain. The mountains boasts of deciduous and evergreen forests, emerald grasslands and rock formations at the top. The foothills are abound in rare medicinal herbs and plants; more than 2000 varieties of valuable medicinal plants have been found here. The lower elevations also have lush green tea gardens which were known to have planted by the Europeans when they first came here. In addition to that, the place is considered a haven for birdwatchers owing to its diverse variety of exotic birds and avifauna species.

The forests around the trails also boast of 43 species of mammals that include  tiger, sambar, barking deer, leopard, sloth bear, Nilgiri langur and Nilgiri tahr etc., 45 species of reptiles and 40 species of fish. Elephants can be found in abundance, they might even cross your path while you are trekking near the Athirumala Base Camp.

Trekking Routes

Agastya Mala Peak can only be reached through trekking and trekking routes are only open from January to mid-March. The 28 km (one way) long trek is considered especially strenuous and is recommended only to people with a fit and healthy body. There are two trekking routes to reach the peak- one from Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary is not open to the public. The other one starts at the village of Bonacaud. Bonacaud is the base station and it is at a distance of 50 kms from Trivandrum.

The trek lasts two days and takes place in two parts. In the first leg, volunteers start at Bonacaud and reach the Athirumala camp in the midst of the forest. After resting the night at the camps, the second leg of the trek takes place on the second day from the camps to the peak.

Permits, Cost and Pass Limits

The trek to the peak is based on strict guidelines and requires a permit from the Kerala Forest Department located at the district office in Trivandrum. The cost for the passes is INR 500 per person and only 100 passes are issued every day and these passes are given out on first cum first serve basis. The trek is usually open for 40 days starting from the day of the auspicious Makaravilakku festival in the Sabarimala temple and ends on Shivaratri.

Former Status that Prohibited Women to Climb Agastyakoodam

Initially women and kids were forbidden to undertake the trek. This was partly due to the difficult terrain and also because of the resistance from the Kani tribe that inhabited the region. The people of the tribe argues that sage Agastya is enshrined at the peak and as per tradition, women are not allowed to go anywhere near the idol of the sage. As per them, Agastya was a celibate i.e. ‘brahmachari’ and letting women up the mountain would interfere with their customs of worship. However, this ban was lifted by the Kerala High Court in November 2018. Since then several women climb up the peak. The first woman to scale the colossal mountain was Dhanya Sanal in January 2019. Lately, several women are registering to climb up the Agastya Mala Peak.

Itinerary

Day 1: Bonacaud to Athirumala Base Camp

1. Reach Bonacaud Base Station by 7:00 AM. Get the verification done, collect food coupons from the forest office and get your passes checked by the officials.
2. Start the first leg of the trek by 8:00 AM. This leg usually takes 6 hours and you will most probably reach the Athirumala Base Camp by 2:00 PM.
3. Rest at the Base Camp. Encash your food coupons and have lunch. Athirumala Base Camp has a canteen that runs between 6:30 AM to 8:30 PM.
4. Explore the rich wildlife and take a walk around the place.
5. Use your food coupons to get dinner and camp at Athirumala for the night. The deal is twin sharing mattresses within a single camp.

Day 2: Athirumala to Agastya Peak and Back

1. Start your trek early in the morning at around 6:00 AM and head to the peak. This leg usually takes 5 hours. You will most probably reach the top by noon.
2. Soak in the serenity of the place, watch the view and enjoy the natural beauty at the top. Take pictures if you are carrying a camera.
3. Make sure you carry packed lunch to energize yourself as this place does not have any fooding options.
4. Retreat and climb down to Athirumala. Try and be back before the sun sets as the woods gets dangerous after dark.
5. Reach the Base Camp, have dinner and rest for the night here.

Day 3: Athirumala Base Camp to Bonacaud

1. Have breakfast at the base camp and start your journey back to Bonacaud by 8:00 AM. This leg usually takes 5-6 hours.
2. Be back at Bonacaud by 1:00 PM and take a bus back to Trivandrum.

Tips

1. Pack a raincoat, your trekking shoes, some extra clothes and important IDs.
2. Carry enough drinking water and dry food for the trek.
3. Do not forget to carry first aid like dettol, bandaids, ointments, cotton, and basic medicines.
4. Also carry a torch light and some batteries.
5. Keep your eyes and ears wide open as the forest is infested with wild animals.
6. It is recommended that you do not take the trek alone for safety purposes. Trek with a group.
7. It is advisable to take the trek during the day in abundance light. As the light drops, rest at the base camp for the night.
8. Do not make loud noises as that might disturb the animals.
9. Carry and extra pair of shoes as well.
10. Although, Kerala has a tropical climate but camping at Athirumala at night might get cold. The winds are usually strong at higher altitudes and the temperature drops. Hence, it is advisable to carry some warm clothes like jackets, shawls etc.
11. At Athirumala Camp, book your dinner at lunch and book your breakfast at dinner. Without prior booking, the food might finish and you might have to stay hungry.

Best Time to Visit

The trek is only open for 40 days from January to March. Since it is a prohibited zone, only 100 passes are allowed per day starting from the day of the auspicious Makaravilakku festival in the Sabarimala temple and ends on Shivaratri. Usually, the bookings are made in advance so the trek takes place in groups with people starting and finishing off at the same time.

How to Reach

The nearest city to the base camp is Trivandrum which is at a distance of 50 kms. Bonacaud is the base station and last motorable road. You can either drive on your own or take a local bus from Trivandrum to Bonacaud which run to and fro everyday. Bonacaud is also the last stop where you can find accommodation. The trek starts from Bonacaud and usually lasts 2 or 3 days.

How to reach Agasthyakoodam

  • Rail: Thampanur Railway Station in Thiruvananthapuram .

  • Road: The road leading to Agastyarkoodam is well connected by the regular bus services from Thiruvananthapuram city. Bonacaud is the last village up to which the vehicles can reach

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About Agasthyakoodam

Approx trek time : 4-6 hours (for one day)

Base Camp : Athirmala

Days required for the trek : 2 days

Difficulty level : Medium to Difficult

Height above sea level : 1868 metres

Nearest Airport : Thiruvananthapuram International Airport

Nearest Railhead : Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)

Region : Western Ghats

Starting point of trek : To start the trek, a forest pass needs to be obtained from the Wildlife Warden Forest department, P.T.P Nagar,Thiruvananthapuram.

Type : Hill fort

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