Being located at the border Thirunelli can be accessed both from Kerala and Karnataka alike. The road from Kutta in Karnataka to Mananthavadi in Kerala merges with the road to Thirunelli. From Kutta the road first crosses Kerala border (in about 5 km) , a little later the road enters into the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary ( Tholpetty) .
After you've come out of the sanctury , the road make a few more turns in the forest and joins a fork. The straight road (i.e. the main road) goes towards Mananthavadi via a small town called Kattikulam. The right fork ( it's almost a U bend for you) goes towards Thirunelli. There is a signboard at this junction directing you to Thirunelli or Mananthavadi.
This is the same road you've to use when coming from Mananthavadi to Thirunelli. Thirunelli road goes through the forest almost its full length. The only exception are the huge paddy fields in the flat valley and the few villages on the way. A few kilometers before you've reached Thirunelli, the crosses a village called Appapapara. Again the village is on the fringes of a sprawling paddy field. On your right , almost on the edge of the rice field is a forest department office.
In all probability you've to approach this office for the trekking to Pakshipatahalam ( that's about 8 km walk through the forest) and other treks .
The road then makes a few more steep bends around the mountainous terrain. At one point you can see the signboard "Tamarind Hotel" by KTDC ( Kerala State Tourism Development Council ) . The hotel is no visible from the main road. A paved path next the signpost leads to the hotel and restaurant. The main road further climbs up the hill and you would reach Thirunelli junction. Turn right to the uphill road to reach the temple. As the road ends turn left for the parking lot. That's also the compound of the temple guest house.
Both private and Kerala state buses operate to Thirunelli from Mananthavadi town. The last bus to Mananthavadi leaves by 5 pm from Thirunelli. Other than bus services , you can hire jeep to reach Thirunelli ( from Kattikulam or Mananthavadi).
If you are driving from Mananthavadi , ask for Mysore road. About 10 kilometers from Mananthavadi you reach a small town called Kattikulam. Turn left as you cross the town. There is a signpost directing to Thirunelli temple. From this point the ghat road starts. after about 10 kilometers yo can spot the road that goes towards Kutta ( the fork mentioned above ). At this junction Thirunelli road turns left. The rest of the route is same explained above. Kattikulam to Thirunelli is 20 kilometers.
There are only limited accommodation available at Thirunelli. The most preferred among the visitors seems to be the temple owned guest house. That is located right in front of the temple with terrific views of the mountain ranges all around. This is a mid range no nonsense accommodation aimed at the pilgrims. It is generally booked full, though you can try your luck on arrival. The next is a the Tamarind brand "Easy Hotel" by KTDC. It's just a kilometer down before the temple.
Also there are a number of tiny lodges and even homes rent out rooms for the visitors. All are located around the visinity of the temple area.
If everything fails , stay at Mananthavadi. That's the nearest big town and Mananthavadi has a good range of value for money hotels. The only drawback is you are about 30 kilometers away from Thirunelli. But in all probability you need to cross Mananthavadi , if your plan for Wayanad is more than a visit at Thirunelli.
There are many restaurants too around the temple area. Most of them offer passable vegetarian food. There are a few in front and one behind the temple.
As you go around the temple , at its northwest corner ( where the steps to Papanashini begins) you hear this devotional song played in unusually loud pitch. Devotional songs it is , but what the sound announces is the presence of a restaurant and a Souvenir shop next to it.
Telephone connection ? Yes, Thirunelli has a cell phone tower. You may not get signal midway through the forest after Kattikulam. But once you are in Thirunelli , sure the cell phone would start troubling you. Just for your technical interest, Thirunelli has a BSNL telephone exchange right in front of the temple.
A toilet facility is located on the west of the parking area. Go to the edge of the parking area and steep downhill path leads to the toilets. There's also a cloakroom facility near Papanashini for the convenience of pilgrims to take bath in the sacred pond.
Your guess is right, anything and everything manmade in Thrirunelli are located around the temple premises.
A few words about the 'Elephant Corridors' that you come across as your road crosses it on the way to Thirunelli. Elephant herds are migratory. They travel vast distances along their well trodden migratory paths within the forest. This is a needed thing they've to do for their survival, both for food and better chances of mating. For example during summer , when the grass in the hills and water bodies vanishes, they migrate to the river banks like the grass lands of Kabini in Karnataka.
Now come the man made things like plantations and settlements obstructing their safe passage and fragmenting their habitat. The corridors are thus narrow forest tracts connects the now fragmented forest stretches to enable their migration.
As you drive from Kattikulam to Thirunelly , your road crosses these designated areas. There is nothing special to notice other than a wide section of open land that stretches either side into the forest. Of course there are the signboards installed by the Kerala forest department indicating the location. Yes elephants do cross the road!
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