Vivanta by Taj is tucked into the mountains of Madikeri. // © 2015 Meagan Drillinger
Feature image (above): Coorg is home to Namdroling Monastery. // © 2015 iStock
After elbowing my way through the streets of Mumbai, surrendering to sensory overload in the markets of Hyderabad and winding my way through the relics in Bangalore, I found myself completely alone, staring at the towering mountains and sipping local coffee in the rolling hills of Coorg.
A district in the southwestern state of Karnataka, Coorg is a break from the frenetic, hyperactive scenes that fill the pages of most India travel guides.
The journey to Coorg is less than simple, as it’s tucked into the Western Ghats mountain range, a six-hour drive from Bangalore. As I traveled along the backroads of inner Karnataka, I wound my way up into the coffee mountains, carefully blanketed with lush, green trees and an ever-present layer of mist. Even the nearest railway station, which is in Mysore, is 62 miles away. Still, the reward is worth the effort; Coorg is a serene jewel tucked into India’s heavy crown.
The first stop in Coorg should be to its capital, Madikeri, known as the Scotland of India. With a mild climate and endless hills surrounding the area, Madikeri is a top spot for tourists in the area. Here, travelers can visit Madikeri Fort, a historical landmark from the 17th century that stands in the center of town. Inside the fort are a Ganesha temple, a chapel, a district prison and a small museum.
Visitors will also want to see Raja’s Seat, a seasonal garden of flowers and artificial fountains where, legend has it, the kings of Coorg would spend their evenings to see the spectacular sunsets. Just outside Madikeri is Abbey Falls, a natural waterfall with a path that takes travelers through cardamom and coffee plantations.
About 20 miles from Madikeri is Bhagamandala, which lies on the banks of the confluence of three rivers: Cauvery, Kannike and Sujyoti. At this sacred spot, travelers will find Sri Bhagandeshwara Temple, a popular place for pilgrimages. Here, devotees swim in the river and perform traditional rituals for their ancestors.
Nearby is the temple at Padi, which is home to the deity Lord Igguthapp. The temple is considered by locals to be one of the most sacred shrines in India.
Another major religious site is Namdroling Monastery, the largest teaching center of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. More than 3,000 Tibetan monks and nuns live at this refugee site, which is open to the public. The monastery is a rainbow of bright reds, blues and golds, and monks in robes stroll the grounds in prayer. The best times to visit the monastery are during its ceremonies, such as Tibetan New Year.
Travelers to Coorg can check into Vivanta by Taj – Madikeri, a boutique resort nestled into the mountains. The design of the resort is taken from its environment, with elegant touches that put it in a luxury category. Sixty-two rooms and villas dot the winding paths along the hillside of the resort.
Visit Jiva Grande Spa for the signature treatment, or soak in a Gudda Bath in an outdoor pavilion. The property also offers cooking classes, sunrise hikes, evening forest walks and a candlelit dinner. Then, all that’s left to do is sit back and relax in the silence and solitude of the region.