Agasthyarkoodam alias Agasthyakoodam or Agasthyamalai Trekking route
Agasthyarkoodam alias Agasthyamalai is considered as a sacred hill. In spite of the remoteness of these hills, determined devotees comes here. Trekking to Agasthyamalai and back takes two or three days (depending on your health condition) and the entry permits are issued every year in January.
Statue of Saint Agastya alias Agasthya Muni on top of Agasthyarkoodam or Agasthyamalai. Photo courtesy – Laser Shine.
Entry passes to Agasthyarkoodam Trekking or Agasthyamalai
Entry permits are normally issued during the first week of January for a few days. 100 passes are issued in advance, for each day.
Another option to trek Agastyamala is to form a group of 10 people and apply for the entry passes at the Thiruvanathapuram district forest department office. This group permits are issued except during Monsoon season. During Monsoon season, it is is highly risky to trek to Agasthyamalai as the rivers gets flooded (at times Flash floods too).
2019 Update on Agasthyarkoodam Trekking and Ladies Trekking to Agasthyarkoodam
From 2019, ladies are also allowed trekking to Agastyamala. Dhanya Sanal became the first lady to trek to Agasthyamalai, officially. Dhanya trekked to Agasthyamalai in the middle of January 2019. There were reports of female devotees and tribal ladies, who used to go to Agastyamala earlier.
Charges for Agasthyamalai or Agasthyakoodam Trekking 2019
Entry pass charges are rupees 1000 per person. Food is charged separately. It costs around 40 for the breakfast if its idly and 90 for puttu and Kadala as breakfast. Lunch costs rupees 70 and rupees 90 for dinner (Kanji in local language or porridge in English). Tea is charged at rupees 10. Camera is charged at INR 100. These rates or charges are as of January 2019 and is subject change. Please verify the rates by yourself.
You are not allowed to carry plastic items, except for water bottles and lunch boxes. Such items are checked at the Bonacaud picket station (entry point to the trekking area) and rupees 100 or so is collected, as caution deposit. When you return to the Bonacaud picket station, you will get this money refunded, provided you bring back those items which were taken with you. You are not allowed to carry biscuits or other similarly packed food items. You need to open such packs and wrap it in a paper or put it inside your bag, to take them inside.
How Do I Go to Agasthyamalai alias Agasthyarkoodam or Agasthyakoodam Trekking Base Camp?
There are buses from KSRTC bus station at Thampanoor, Thiruvanthapuaram. First bus to the trekking entry gate at Bonakad, starts at 5 am. It reaches Bonakad picket station, where the forest office is situated in around two and a half hours time. The distance is around 55 kilometers. Next bus from Thampanoor is at 5.30 am.
Those coming by bus has to get down at the old tea factory bus top at Bonacaud. Then walk for around three kilometers or so, to reach the Bonacaud Picket Station.
You may also take your vehicle (two or four wheeler). Private vehicles can go to forest department office, i.e. Bonacaud Picket Station. Parking charges of rupees 40 and 100 are applicable for two wheeler and four wheeler, respectively.
Bonacaud Picket Station (Bonakad forest office) is the starting point for trekking to Agasthyarkoodam or Agasthya malai.
Day One – The base camp is at Athirumala, at a distance of around 15 kilometers from Bonacaud Picket Station. It is relatively easy to trek this distance. Around 10 kilometers out of the 15 kilometers or so, is plain country roads through forests. There are five camps (small sheds with one or two guides to give local information) in between Bonacaud Picket Station and Athirumala base camp, at around two kilometers apart.
You need to stay at the base camp here, on the day one. There are two halls where you can put your mattress and sleep overnight. There is a separate area for ladies.
On the second day, you need to start early in the morning. Trekking route passes through steep mountains and streams covering a distance of around six kilometers (one way). You must return to the base camp on the same day. i.e. on second day.
If you start early and return early, and is in good spirits to trek back to the Bonacaud Picket Station, you can do so. In that case, trekking is completed on day two.
Otherwise, you can stay at the base camp on the second day night. You can trek back to the Bonacaud Picket Station on the third day.
Last bus from Bonakad towards the city is at 5.45 pm. This bus goes to Vithura. Vithura is at a distance of around 22 kilometers from Bonakad picket station. From Vithura, you need to change the bus to go to Thiruvanthapuaram, which is at around 34 kilometers distance from Vithura.