Reaching for the heights, at the height of summer

Reaching for the heights, at the height of summer

Submitted by alvin on Thu, 2016-05-12 08:53 When the blistering heat in the plains becomes unbearable, it is time to getaway to the hills. The bracing mountain air helps to soothe the nerves. In South India, there are several options: from Anantagiri in AP to Udhagamandalam in TN, from Madikeri in Karnataka to Munnar in Kerala. All of them are unique in their appeal and excitement.   The hilly terrains brim with adventure for the young and daring. Trekking and hand-gliding can also be of great fun. The gushing torrents offer a plethora of opportunities for boating and fishing. In the Eastern Ghats nestles the quaint abode of Anantagiri. Sheltered in lush surroundings are some of the most delighted sceneries: coffee plantations interspersed with orchards and captivating cascades. The journey to Anantagiri from Visakhapatnam is 60 km. The Eastern Ghats rail route on this stretch is one of the highest broad-gauge tracks in the world. The landscape is dotted with wooded slopes. Several state transport services also ply to this spot. A little further away from Anantagiri lies Arku. Located 110 km from Visakhapatnam and about 760 km from Hyderabad, Araku is a cluster of five valleys. The region is famed for its tribal heritage. A kaleidoscope image of 19 tribal settlements provides a colourful mixture of dance, music, traditional handicrafts, each from various tribes. Situated on the southwest border of Andhra Pradesh, Horsley hills is another attraction. In fact the spot is closer to Bangalore and is a 165km drive. The place, named after the collector of Chittoor district, is worthwhile seeing for its valleys teeming with a profusion of plantations like mango, teak, sandalwood and eucalyptus.   Karnataka has also fascinating hill resorts. The Nandi Hills titled after the bull of Lord Shiva is a pleasant resort 65 km from Bangalore. The locals refer to the hills as Nandigiri or Nandidurga. The hills are about 1478m high above the sea level and offer panoramic views of surroundings. This makes the spot a nature lovers’ picnic spot. Amritasarovar bounded by stone steps lies amidst the picturesque hillside. It is believed that the Shiva shrine here was built by queen of the Bana dynasty. Atop the hills lies the fortification built by the rulers of Chikkaballapura. In fact, Tippu Sultan cherished this spot and identified it as his hideout-cum-summer resort. Today, Tippu’s Lodge and the renowned Tippu’s drop are stark reminders of the Tiger of Mysore’s presence in the area. There are also traces of Chola kings presence here in the form of Yoganandiswara temple. During the British rule, Nandi Hills was military station and a resort for the heat-harried Englishmen, whose memories have been archived at the Cubbon House built by Sir Mark Cubbon. Several buses ply to this spot and accommodation is also comfortable. The Biligiriranga hills or BR hills is another enchanting resort. It is located in tribal heartland and is set picturesquely between two rivers. The hills are named after the shrine Biligiri Ranganatha Swamy, which is enshrined atop the highest point on the hills. In January and April, large crowds throng the temple to witness the annual Ratha festival. The dense trees in the BR hills make a natural home for the fauna. BR hills is around 102 km from Mysore and about 48 km from Chamarajanagar.Another notable spot that provides spellbinding views of the setting sun is Agumbe which is situated 65 km from Shimoga and 32 km from Thirthahalli. The twilight and the setting sun are their best during the months of November, December and January. In the enchanting Bababudan range nestles the fascinating hill resort of Kemmangundi. Situated 55 km from Chikmagalur, this place is also referred to as the KR hills or Krishna Rajendra Hills. The resorts are named after Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV of the Mysore royal family. It is said that during the warmer months of the year, the king headed to this place which was a favourite of his. Surrounded by thickly forested hills and situated at a height of 1434 m, Kemmangundi makes for an ideal health resort. Hebbal falls and Kathatti fall are ideal picnic spots located within 10 km of the resort. Kemmangundi is 257 km from Bengaluru. State transport and private taxis operate to this spot.  Gopalaswamy Betta is perched at a height of 1454m. This relatively unknown resort is a beautiful hill station and located near Mysore. Enveloped in a mist most of the time, the hills are literally an abode in the clouds. As the mist rises from the hillock, the surroundings become visible offering breathtaking glimpses. The region abounds in rare flora. This place was patronised by the Mysore maharajas. Far more wooded and quite than many other hill stations, Gopalaswamy Betta is an ideal picnic spot.   In the beautiful hilly district of Coorg lies Madikeri. Perched at a height of 1525m, it is famed for Omkareshwara and Bhagamandala temples and is also known for its coffee estates. The foaming torrents of the Abbey and Irupu waterfalls are great for excursions. The best time to visit Madikeri is between October and early April. The mountain air is then cool, clear, crisp and invigorating. It is situated 120 km from Mysore and 253 km from Bengaluru. Kerala, too, has its share of hill stations. Munnar snuggles in the green and scenic Kanan Devan Hills. It is at an altitude of 1524 m and located 136 km from Kochi. Panoramic views of low flying clouds and mist filled valleys make it a pretty haven. A little beyond Munnar lies Anaimudi - South India’s highest peak. In the vicinity is also Eravikulam national park, the home of the endangered species, Nilgiri Tahr. The cool hills of Ponmudi are just a 90-minute drive from Thiruvananthapuram. In local parlance “Ponmudi” means “Golden Park”. Cosy cottages set in sylvan surroundings are idyllic hideouts for restful weeks. Peermade lies near Periyar Wildlife Sanctury. The hilly terrain is flanked by pepper, tea, cardamom and rubber estates. The environ is like a canvas of myriad shades of green, smoking blue and musty violet. Peermade lies 75 km from Kottayam. Enroute to Munnar lies Idukki. Situated 121 km from Kottayam, the town is famed for its arched dam built across the river Periyar. Idukki literally means "narrow gorge". The main attraction is the scenic grandeur although the place is lure of the wild. Wayanad is a plantation resort near Kozhikode. A famous temple at Kalpetta justifies the fact that the hills were once a stronghold of the Jains. The natural caves at Edakkal are also of great interest. Wayanad is also famous for its tribals. Sultan Battery nearby is a massive fort that derived its name from Tippu Sultan  Though ravaged by war, a few remnants recall it as a garrison sheltering a part of the battery of artillery units. Lakadi and Pookote lake are spots of breath- taking beauty. Tamil Nadu has many famous hill stations and the incredible abode of Udhagamandalam, situated among the Nilgiri Hills, is one of them. It is known as the Queen of Hill Stations.Founded by John Sullivan in 1819, the former collector of Udhagamandalam, the place continues to retain the old world charm. The Botanical Gardens, Doddabetta Peak, Conservatory, Race Course are great excitements here. Other fascinating spots include the Mukurti Peak, Wellington, Avalanche, Elk Hills, Ketti Valley, Pykara Dam, Dolphin Nose and Frog Hill. To those who are keen on anthropology, a visit to tribal villages of Todas, Kotas, Kurambas, Irubas and Panias provide pastoral and cultural glimpses of their lifestyles. Kotagiri, which is an hour’s drive, from Udhagamandalam, is situated among lush tea estates. Trips to Kodanad View Point, St. Catherine Falls and Rangaswamy Pillar are worthwhile. Coonoor, another resort, lies 19 km from Udhagamandalam. A profusion of places like Lamba Rock and Lady Cannings seat are fascinating and enjoyable here. Thirty-two kilometres from Salem is situated the hill resort of Yercaud. Nestled amid the Shervaoyan Hills and surrounded by wooded slopes, Yercaud has several notable spots like Killiyur Falls, Cauvery Peak and Bears Lake, Pagoda Point. Kodaikanal is set among the gently sloping Palani Hills. The enchanting landscape here is a trekkers’ haven and it is essentially a walker and nature lovers’ paradise. A star-shaped lake is a heady attraction as it is set among greenery. The Boat Club offers several pleasure and racing trips. Every year in May flower shows are held at the Byrant Park. The resort also boasts of a solar physical laboratory founded in 1898. Some of the best views of the plains can be seen from Coaker’s Walk. Another spot is the Kurinji Andavar Temple dedicated to Lord Murugan. Among the enjoyable picnic spots here are the Green Valley view, Pillar Rocks and Bear Shola Falls. Teeming in flora and fauna, Kodai is known for its orchids at Shebaganur Museum. The resort is also credited with the rare bloom of elusive Kurinji that makes its appearance once in 12 years. Kodaikanal is the home of some unique winged wonders. The great attraction of these hill stations in the south is that outdoors can be also very exciting and relaxing. A host of options such as trekking, boating, and fishing are the greatest delights. For golf enthusiasts, the magnificent high range club at Munnar is a must.  Fringed with forests, most resorts are known for their wildlife sanctuaries too. One can also take a lazy amble down the plantations. The scenic spectacles seldom allow one to stay indoors.