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Tours and treks around Kumily

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As well as the attraction of the wildlife sanctuary, tea factory and spice plantation tours are offered by almost every hotel and tourist agency in Kumily. Unfortunately, many places have become heavily commercialized, so it’s worth shopping around; often the best way to organize a tour is to ask at your hotel. The only certified organic spice garden in the area, and a particularly enjoyable one to visit, is the Aroma at Chelimada, a short walk west of Kumily on the Kottayam road; contact the owner, Mr Sebastian (“Baby”), on his cell phone t 9495 367837. Most of the plantations charge around Rs300–500 per person for a three-hour tour with guide and vehicle.

The windy, grassy ridgetops and forests around Periyar afford many fine treks, with superb views over the High Range guaranteed. One especially rewarding half-day trip is the hike up Kurusamalai (3hr), the peak towering to the northwest of Kumily, whose summit is crowned with a Holy Cross. As the summit falls within the national park boundaries, you’re only permitted to hike to it under the auspices of the eco-tourism centre (see Arrival and information), who market it as their “Cloud Walk” (Rs300). Although hilly, this area is also good cycling territory; you can rent bikes from stalls in the market, and Touromark (t 04869/224332, w http://www.touromark.com), midway between Kumily and Thekkady, have imported 21-speed mountain bikes for rent. They also offer guided trips, ranging from four-hour/fifteen-kilometre hacks through local spice gardens, coffee plantations and woodlands to a three-night/four-day ride across the Cardamom Hills to Munnar.

The Forest Department runs village tours (6am–2.30pm; Rs750) from the eco-tourism centre to a remote tribal settlement on the Tamil Nadu side of the mountains bordering Periyar. You’re transported 10km by taxi to the start of the route, which is covered by bullock cart and coracle through a variety of different habitats and farmland. Profits go to the development of the local community.

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