Chikmagalur, a beautiful hill town located a short distance from Bengaluru, is the quintessential coffee country of South India. It attracts tourists not only for this but also for its favourable climate and scenic location. The convenient location makes it a popular weekend getaway.
It is the perfect for a short stay because of the scenic landscape, sightseeing spots and hiking & trekking trails, and the delicious local Malnad cuisine. These eight getaways from Chikmagalur that we will mention are not only for a trekker but for any person looking to connect with nature and their inner self.
Kudremukh in Chikkamagaluru could refer to a mountain range, the name of a peak, and a mining town. The name translates to ‘face of a horse’ from Kannada and refers to a particularly picturesque view of the peak from one side, which happens to bear resemblance to a horse’s face. Located around a 100 km away from the town of Chikmagalur, Kudremukh makes for the perfect trekking trail.
Nature lovers unite on the Kudremukh peak. All you need to do is get a guide, form a group, obtain a permit to trek from the forest department, pack a light meal and your camera and embark on this trail. From dense woods and across flowing streams, you will come upon the rolling landscape of grass and shrubs that cover the hilly region.
This is the most rewarding walk you could go through the Western Ghats, and the 11 km till the top is totally worth the effort. Start early in the morning, and you can finish before dusk falls. Homestays are available at a short distance away from the start. In short, Kudremukh has something for everybody – trekking trails, waterfalls, wildlife, tea and coffee plantations and temples. No doubt it is easily one of the top favourite getaways from Chikmagalur.
No list of getaways from Chikmagalur is complete without the best crowd puller of them all, the very range at the foothills of which stands Chikmagalur – the Mullayanagiri. Standing tall above the remainder of the Western Ghats, Mullayanagiri offers an unparalleled panorama of all the surrounding hills – you’re at the tallest peak in Karnataka, after all!
The starting point of the trek is a road called Sarpa Dari (translates to “Snake Road” in Kannada), which is around 15 km from Chikmagalur. The distance from here to the peak is about 4 km and requires about half a day. The ascent is of varying steepness, through cliffs and caves.
Soon, you’re at the top, where you see a small Shiva temple and the tomb of Saint Mulappa Swamy, from which the peak derives its name. While you could descend through the same path, there is also another alternative: the 250 steps that eventually lead up to a road.
Remember to pack everything that you’d need, and camping essentials if you’re planning to spend the night. There’s nothing en route but the trek is immensely rewarding – the view of the misty mountains and foggy morning weather. No wonder, this is one of the getaways from Chikmagalur that is highly recommended for a tired soul.
3. Hebbe Falls
One of the most picturesque getaways from Chikmagalur is the Hebbe Falls. It was closed for a long time because of tiger activity but re-opened to tourists recently. It is located about 10 km from the scenic Kemmanagundi Hill (KR Hills). This distance has to be covered on jeeps available at the cost of Rs. 400/- per head.
The bumpy, off-road drive lasts for approximately an hour. It takes you through the Bhadra forest reserve which covers coffee estates, paddy fields and other exquisite flora obscured with mist. You will be dropped off at a spot about a kilometre away from the actual falls, which is divided into two – the Big Falls (Dodda Hebbe) and the Small Falls (Chikka Hebbe) – and have to cover this small distance on foot.
This is the adventure part of it – you cross three pristine streams with cool water amidst lush greenery (and leeches, that you need to be aware of), and then there’s a narrow path that leads you to a vista that you’ll hold in your mind forever, a view that will make every ache worth it.
From afar, it’s like a silent white body cascading over the rocks, but as you step closer and hear its deafening roar and feel its cold drops as they splash onto you, you’ll know it’s not a dream, it’s heaven on earth. It’s in its best form right after the monsoon, when the road isn’t muddy and the fall seems to be overflowing. Go during the weekdays to avoid a crowd.
Alternatively, for the brave, there is also the offbeat track. Like most getaways from Chikmagalur, the road up to Hebbe Falls can also be covered on foot. This trekking trail comes with the bonus of spotting wildlife, as they are trekking through the tiger reserve.
The lake, Ayyanakere is one of the getaways from Chikmagalur that has to be on every traveller’s itinerary for its charm, beauty, and peaceful ambience, but is usually overlooked and not very popular because of the dearth of facilities for tourists. Ayyanakere lies around 20 km north of Chikmagalur and is a man-made lake from the 12th century built for farmers to maintain fertility and treat the constant problem of water scarcity.
Ever since it has provided water for agriculture to at least 20 villages that it extends to. One can just sit at the banks with their close ones and stare at the backdrop of mountains all day and not be tired. There is also a view of a pyramid-shaped peak. The lake is a blessing for nature lovers, and for those looking for some peace and alone time. There are no eateries around or any kind of water sports, but swimming is permitted. People are also seen fishing. The best time to visit is the post-monsoon season.
5. The Annapoorneshwari Temple
About 100 km southwest of Chikmagalur is the location of the Horanadu Annapoorneshwari Temple in the midst of the very picturesque Western Ghats. Horanadu is an enchanting place with the natural landscape, coffee plantations and good roads leading up to the restored Temple.
True to its name (‘Annapoorneshwari’ loosely translates to ‘food for all’), anybody who visits the temple receives free food, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, and neither the quality nor the taste is compromised. Even though there are cheap lodges and guest houses to stay nearby, they allow everybody to sleep in the temple premises. Well kept and basic, the temple is never too crowded, and also very serene.
The temple goddess Adi – Shaktyatmaka Shree Annapoorneshwari is seen standing on a peeta with her four hands, Sri Chakra Gayathri Devi, Shanka, and Chakra. Photography is not permitted inside the temple. This is the perfect getaway from Chikmagalur for both; the troubled souls, and for anybody looking for a little extra blessing.
6. Hanuman Gundi Falls
Even though it is a little more than a 100 km away from Chikmagalur, Hanuman Gundi Falls or Suthanabbe Falls is one of the main getaways from Chikmagalur. It is located in the region between Karkala and Lakya and surrounded by the Kudremukh National Park.
This gem in the wilderness is in its most majestic form just after the monsoon season. After paying a small fee of Rs. 30 at the entrance, you have to go down almost three hundred steps through the beautiful flora to reach the waterfalls. The steps are quite safe, with railings throughout. The place isn’t always very crowded, either.
Once you negotiate the steps, it is pure bliss. You can go directly under the cascades where the water falls very strongly from the height of 100 feet with thundering sounds and you can hardly hear each other over its sound. The water here is very rejuvenating and cleansing, and so Hanuman Gundi is the perfect place to shower in nature’s arms.
7. The Veeranarayana Hoysala Temple
In Belavadi, a village 29 km southeast of Chikmagalur is the Veeranarayana Temple, one of the largest temples built during the time of Hoysala Empire in 1200 C.E. Housing three deities; namely Narayana, Venugopal and Yog Narasimha Veera, it is now more or less a forgotten architectural gem. Even though Belur and Halebeedu are very close to Belavadi, they haven’t made their impressions on this small village, and so it maintains its own rural and agrarian feel. The priest is a multilingual humble man who will explain the history of the place.
The temple was made of soapstone and has three shrines, all of which have towers of various sculpted figures. They show God Vishnu in his various avatars. The feeling of being here is the combination of the divine energy present, the architecture, and its setting. This is truly a place that should gain more attention as one of the getaways from Chikmagalur.
8. Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary or Muthodi Wildlife Sanctuary
38 km northwest of Chikmagalur town, in the midst of the Western Ghats, is the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. It gets its name from the river Bhadra, the tributaries of which flow through the sanctuary, like the Thadabehalla, Odirayanahalla, and Somavahini.
It has two main areas – Lakkavalli and Muthodi – and is surrounded by hills like Hebbegiri, Gangegiri, Mullaianagiri, and Bababudangiri. Kallahathigi is the tallest peak in the sanctuary. Over 110 tree species can be spotted here, including the common Rosewood, Mathi, Teak, Honne, Tadasalu, Nandi, and Kindal. The smell of Citronella is everywhere.
However, the diversity in fauna cannot go unmentioned either – elephants, tigers, sambar, deer, sloth bears, wild boars, porcupines, mongooses, jackals and others are present. The easily spotted ones are spotted deer, peacocks, and bison. If you’re really lucky, you might see a tiger or a bear, too.
The sanctuary is rich in reptiles, birds, and exotic butterflies as well. A few worth mentioning are the hornbill species, bulbul, the paradise flycatcher, crocodiles, snakes, baronet, crimson rose butterfly, blue pansy, and great orange tip. The safari in an open jeep costs Rs. 400 per head for an hour and this is the only way to go in.
Safari during the rainy season or in the evening is not a good idea as it would not be very eventful. Other activities to spend your day here include trekking, bird watching, water-based adventures and rock climbing. Many cottages and dormitories are available for those who wish to stay the night. The safari is usually closed during the non-season durations.
Chikmagalur is truly the perfect place for a laid-back weekend. Amidst nature, one can forget their troubles and just concentrate on the countless little blessings in life. There is no shortage of places to go for any traveller, for any purpose. Be it religious sites, wildlife sanctuaries, adventure destinations or hill stations, this town has them all!