Top things to do in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary with children

April 4, 2018

Bullock Cart Rides, Fire Ring Jumps and Boat Cruises – 2 Nights in Periyar

Don’t be fooled by the name – Periyar National Park, or Periyar Tiger Reserve – If you want to see a tiger during a tour of India, Periyar is not the place to go. Full stop. We can tell you that for sure. Periyar in the Western Ghats of Kerala is home to some tigers, but they are never seen during any of the things to see and do in Periyar. If you are serious about wildlife and want to go to where is the best place to see a tiger in India, we can recommend much better places to go for a wildlife or tiger safari during a private tour of India than Periyar. Periyar is usually included in a circuit of Kerala during a private tour in Kerala. The park attracts visitors who want to trek, do day walks or half-day walks in Periyar National Park and other activities such as bamboo rafting. But what can you see and do in Periyar with young children? We recently spent 2 nights in Periyar and these are some of our thoughts.

Most of the more active tours and programs are restricted to children over 12 as mandated by government rules. As a family that bushwalks with their young son, that was disappointing but in India – rules are rules. (Some can be bent, others cannot!) So we chose to test all the activities that are suitable for children under 12 in Periyar during a recent weeklong family tour of Kerala.

We spent a morning having a walk in the town itself and picked up a few things that were needed in the local market – sticky tape and glue (to keep going with our travel journal) and some snacks. Kerala chips – deep fried bananas – are sold everywhere in the local market here. And if you are coming to Kerala make sure to try them. They are delicious! (And very moorish! We are very fond of Kerala chips!) We had a very tasty lunch at a café in Periyar of some hummus, falafel, salad and fresh pita at a café run by an Egyptian man. It was a good break from Indian. Fresh and well done.


KeralachipsBanana chips Kerala


In the afternoon we headed to Periyar Lake for a boat cruise/ wildlife safari on the lake. A popular activity with domestic tourists, who accounted for about 95 percent of the people on the boats at the lake. The boats vary in size – some take about 60 people, some take 120. The best place to sit is up the top, on a smaller boat. That said – all the boats leave together in a convoy (2 or 3 at a time). All the boats have life jackets and the boat officials make sure you wear them. As far as an activity that would suit families travelling in India with children – the Periyar Lake boat cruise ticks the boxes. It goes for about 90 minutes, and while we didn’t see elephants we did see birds, bison, deer and enough animals to keep our 6-year-old pleased and interested. The boat moves gently up the lake and returns. It’s pleasant, cool and comfortable and quite a nice and easy way to pass the afternoon. (It’s certainly does not compare to the boat safaris in Gal Oya National Park in Sri Lanka – but it’s a good activity for families.) The only downside is waiting for the bus back to town – private transport isn’t allowed to go to the boat jetty you have to take the park bus there and back. Good in theory as it keeps the park tidy and traffic free – except when three boats return at the same time and 200 hundred people are waiting for a bus – oh and then a heavy afternoon Kerala thunderstorm comes and everyone gets drenched waiting for the bus. A slight flaw in the program Kerala Tourism! But nonetheless we enjoyed the boating experience.

Periyar Lake boat ride

One of the other activities we tried in Periyar was to see the one-hour Kalari performance in the evening at 6pm. This was the first time we had seen Kalari – a type of local, traditional martial arts. It’s got elements of wrestling, karate, Bollywood movies, ritual and drama. Set in a pit, with the audience seated above, the Kalari was quick moving and entertaining. There are swords, sticks, faux knife attacks, jumps and an impressive fire ring conclusion.



The final activity we tested in Periyar was a bullock cart ride. Setting off from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu we bumped, jigged and trotted along slowly in a bullock cart through farms and small villages. Starting around 8:30 am – the bullock cart ride goes for about 90 minutes and is a gentle way to see some of rural India, while also taking in the contrasts between the two neighbouring states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. (The bullock cart ride starts about a 20-minute drive away from Periyar.) A local guide accompanied us – pointing out the local crops and produce growing, spotting the local birds, pinching flowers, fruit for us to try and local plants for us to see up close, and generally providing a snapshot of farm life. There’s even the chance to drive the bullock cart for those keen to try. Again, another one of those gentle activities good for children but enjoyed by all.

bullockcart villagelaundry

If you want to visit Periyar during a family tour of Kerala we can create a customised itinerary that suits the ages of your children. For older, more active teenagers we can include hikes and rafting and for families with younger children travelling in India we can include some of the activities listed here which we recently tested first-hand.

This India travel blog was written in April 2018 during a one month tour in India with a focus on travelling in India with children and planning new itineraries for luxury travel in North India. You will find more travel blogs relating to travelling with children in Kerala here. 

Read our other tips on travelling in India and Sri Lanka with children.