Agasthyakoodam is the second highest peak in Kerala with a height of 6129 feet and one of the most coveted trekking trails in the country. It is located within the Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thiruvananthapuram and is surrounded by forests, which are believed to be amongst the richest clusters of biodiversity in the Western Ghats. The forests are well known for their abundance of rare medicinal plants. People even believe that the air here has medicinal properties and can heal several diseases.
The beauty of the Agasthyakoodam trek lies in its rapidly changing terrain—you will pass through deciduous as well as evergreen forests, grasslands and finally rock formations, as you reach the peak.
The official trek begins from a village called Bonacaud, located at a distance of about 60km from Thiruvananthapuram city (Trivandrum), which is the closest place to have hotel and night-stay options. You can either drive from Trivandrum or take the bus, which is the more feasible option given the condition of the roads. It usually takes about 2 hours to reach the village from the city, but since only a limited number of tickets are issued for the trek each day, it is advised to reach by 7 in the morning. To do this, you need to take the first bus out of Trivandrum or start latest by 5 am, if you plan on driving.
When's the best time?
The trek is only open from January to March every year, usually for a period of about 60 days. The forest department allows a controlled pilgrimage/trek during these months. It starts on the day of the auspicious Makaravilakku festival in the Sabarimala temple and ends on Shivaratri. Only 100 entry passes are issued every day and they are given on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Difficulty level and duration
Agasthyakoodam is a moderately difficult trek that requires you to cover a one-way distance of about 28km from the starting point at Bonacaud to the peak. That makes it a total of 56km. It usually takes between two to three days to complete the trek depending on your stamina.
Women and children are not allowed on the trek.
DIY or not?
Agasthyakoodam peak and surrounding areas are protected and maintained by the state forest department of Kerala. While it is most-definitely a do-it-yourself trek, there are forest officers walking along the trail for random surveillance. Since only a limited number of passes are issued each day, you can expect almost the entire group (60-80) people starting and finishing the trek together.
The passes for the trek cost is Rs 500 per person. Since 2014, the Kerala Tourism Board has started issuing passes online, and like the ones available offline at Bonacaud, they're sold on a first-come-first-serve basis. For the past few years, all passes for the entire duration of the trekking season have been getting sold out within a few hours.
This two/three-day trek begins from the Bonacaud forest office, located about 60km from Thiruvananthapuram. The base camp at Athirumala is located about 15 km from here. Depending on how fast you trek, you can complete this leg of the journey within a few hours or take the whole day. The second leg of the journey from Athirumala to the peak is more difficult and requires you to scale about a 1000 metres.