At a distance of 44 km from Ponmudi and 62 km from Trivandrum, Agasthyakoodam is a mountain peak situated near Ponmudi. It is one of the highest peaks in the Western Ghats and among the popular places of trekking in Kerala.
Perched at an altitude of 6201 feet, Agasthyarkoodam is the second highest peak in Kerala after Anamudi near Munnar (8842 feet), and among the best Ponmudi places to visit. The mountain is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus, as it is believed to be the abode of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara as well as of the sage Agastya, a disciple of Lord Shiva. There is a small shrine on the mountain top with an idol of Agasthya rishi and during the Agasthyarkoodam trekking season, people perform pujas here. The hill range is now declared as Agasthya Vanam Biological Park covering an area of 23 sq. km. Also, it is the source of River Kallar.
Apart from being a popular pilgrimage site, Agasthyakoodam is a paradise for ardent trekkers. It is a 20 km long trek which can be completed in 2-3 days. The trekking expedition starts from Bonocaud, a place situated around 30 km away from Ponumudi. The forest area of this trek is known for its remarkable flora and fauna, especially certain rare medicinal herbs which have been discovered here. Over 2000 species including lichens, orchids, mosses, and ferns have been recorded in the area. It is one of the famous trekking places near Trivandrum.
Between your starting point at Bonacaud and Agasthyakoodam peak, there is only one small camp located at a place called Athirumala. It is located on the western valley of Agasthyakoodam peak and offers majestic views of the peak. A night stay here is safe since it is protected by trenches around it. The distance from Bonacaud starting point to Athirumala is around 15 km and the distance from Athirumala to the mountain peak is around 5 km. But note that during the 5 km stretch you would be climbing almost 1000 meters.
Agasthyakoodam and surrounding area is a protected reserved forest under the control of the Kerala Forest Department and the entry is restricted. The Forest department allows a controlled pilgrimage/trek from January to March of every year. This pilgrimage starts on the day of the Makaravilakku festival in Sabarimala temple and ends on Sivarathri day. This means that the trek will be available for about 60 days. Only 100 entry passes are issued each day of the trek and the entry passes are given on a first come first serve basis. Usually, entry passes run out on the first day of the booking. Alternatively, one can also trek to Agasthyakoodam during the offseason, but need to pay more (Rs.4000+ for a team of 5).
Prior forest pass from the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary is required to enter the forest (Ph: 0471-2272182). Guided treks are arranged with an overnight stay at a camp inside the forest.
Ponmudi, Kerala, India
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