WoT's Hot

Summer Delights in the Southern Hills – Part 1

Sayanti Mukherji

During the hot season in India, the cool of the hills beckons as our favourite holiday destinations. Sayanti suggests the following hill-stations in Southern India.

Chikmagalur

Chikmagalur - "The town of the younger daughter" came into public eye when eons back the Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi came back to power winning her electorate from the laid-back vales of coffee plantation in South West Karnataka. But this little hamlet was already a part of Indian coffee-lore, with the first coffee seed planted here about 350 years ago by Saint Baba Budan who brought back seven beans from the seaport of Mocha, Yemen in 1670 AD. The hills now bear his name - Baba Budan Giri Hills. At an altitude of 3,400 feet in the Sahyadri Mountains of the Western Ghats, Chikmagalur has a pleasant climate through out the year.

Where to stay 

Though this hill station has a remote back of beyond feeling there are plenty of choices when it comes to stay from the Taj Garden Retreat, Planter's Court, to quaint home-stays in and around the town. For a stay within the opulence of the estates opt for The Serai - Chikmagalur of Coffee Day Hotels & Resort. To know more about home-stays check http://www.homestayiq.com/

What to see

This is a de-stressing destination. The town is surrounded by unending high hills, waterfalls and rivers like the Bhadra, Hemavathi, Tunga, Netravathi and Vedavathi and wild life. The hillsides are dotted with coffee estates mostly belonging to the Café Coffee Day chain. Surrounded by the deep forests of the Bhadra Wild Life Sanctuary and the Baba Budhan Ranges, these dew-filled misty estates intercepted by tall shady trees are perhaps the last remains of bygone eras. For the most leisurely holiday just amble through these plantation and soak in the serenity. If trivia is your forte, visit a plantation for a guided tour on ‘how coffee is made’.

However if you want to do more there is…..

Kemmangundi (1,434m) or K.R. Hills after the Wodeyar King - Krishnaraja Wodeyar, made it his favorite summer capital. This charming hideaway, 50 km from Chikmagalur is surrounded by thick forests and the cascading waterfalls of the Baba Budan Giri ranges. The hills are known for their spectacular sunset. For additional adventures you can scale the many peaks and explore the surrounding jungles.

A popular trekking spot, Mullayanagiri Peak is 16 km from Chikmagalur town.  Part of the Baba Budan Giri Hill Ranges, at 1930 meters it is the tallest peak in Karnataka and offers a spectacular sunset to those who are willing to trek to the top from the half way point. On a clear day you can see the Arabian Sea from the Peak Top.

The Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary covers 495 km² and is part of India’s ‘Project Tiger’. This region is an important watershed of the Tungabhadra River forming the main water source to the rain shadow area of south Karnataka. The forests here are rich in bamboo and birds species unique to both the Malabar and Sahyadri ranges.

Kudremukh National Park of 600 km sq is the largest declared Wildlife Protected Area of tropical wet evergreen forest in the Western Ghats. The Park comes under the Global Tiger Conservation Project.

Present Halebeedu is 40 kms south of Chikmagalur and was the capital of the Hoysala Dynasty, ‘Dwara Samudra’ (gateway to the sea). The intricate temples at Hoysaleswara and Kedareswara are one of the best examples of Hoysala architecture.  About 16km from Halebeedu the exquisite Hoysala architecture continues at Belur with the Chennakesava temple dedicated to Chennakeshava, (handsome Vishnu).

Sixty seven km north of Chikmagalur, the Amritheshwara temple was built at Amritapura in 1196 A.D by Amriteshwara Dandanayaka, a general of the Hoysala ruler Veera Ballala II. Unique architectural style with delicate carving has made this temple one of the notable structures of the Hoysala period.

Located 29 km southeast of Chikmagalur town on the Chikmagalur-Javagal road, Belavadi is famous for the ornate temple of Veeranarayana and the temple of 'Udbhava Ganapathi'.

Begun by the Hoysalas and ended during the Vijayanagar Empire the Sringeri temples lie 90 km west of Chikmagalur, on the banks of the river Tunga. Most famous of these is the Vidyashankara Temple with the set of 12 zodiac pillars, constructed in a way that the rays of the sun fall on the pillar corresponding to the month! Sringeri is also where Sri Adi Shankaracharya, exponent of the Advaita philosophy established the first of his Vedic dham in 9A.D.

What to drink

Coffee what else? Robusta and Arabica are the most popular variety grown here…. You must also take back some for friends, family and self of course.

Transport

Connected to Bangalore (270km) through NH 48 the nearest airport is Mangalore International Airport (160 -170 km) and the nearest railway station is Kadur (40 km) Hassan (60 km) away. Volvo Luxury buses of KSRTDC are available between Chikmagalur, Mangalore, Bangalore, and Hubli (239 km). The ordinary ‘deluxe buses’ are fine too as the weather is moderate through out the year. Taxis from Kadur to Chikmagalur cost around Rs.600.

Being a hill-station, roads are very steep and not always in best condition; so the best option for local travel are jeeps, available for about Rs.800 per day. Your hotels can help you hire them as well as cabs.

To know more about this quaint hillside check www.visitchikmagalur.com.