Kemmangundi Hill Station can be reached by taking a left turn at the point of renting a jeep for Hebbe. A startlingly beautiful built mini hill station, Kemmangundi also serves as a resting retreat for the Governor of Karnataka. Lined with nurseries and quaint victorian style cottages, Kemmangundi Hill Station houses a sweet nursery with exotic flora on the top of the hill. The garden leads to the sunset viewpoint which provides a view of lush green grassy hills resembling nothing less than Scotland!
After our one day at the mystical Hampi, we continued our journey from Hospet to Chikkamagalur. Chikkamagalur is not a destination that appears frequently in searches on famous tourism destinations in India. South India has its fair share of beautiful hill stations, such that probably this offbeat but breathtaking destination was overshadowed by its fancier counterparts like Coorg for long. Anyway, our search led us to this hidden gem, and we were quite sceptical about what it had in store for us without much recommendations to guide us. Courtesy Karnataka's robust bus network, it wasn't difficult to find an overnight bus operated by KSRTC at Hospet, that would take us to Chikkamagalur City. It wasn't the fanciest bus or a very comfortable one, and if one could drive, it would be a preferred choice. We reached the city at 6AM and the city, a small quaint town that didn't look very busy but it did look prosperous and peaceful with a cleanliness that would stun most Indians! We had booked a homestay through Airbnb, which was at a convenient distance from the city and the hills which were the main tourist attractions. There are some very fancy home stays available in the coffee estates among the hills, but that would require you to shell a considerable amount and be restricted to food options in the homestay itself. For our 2 day exploration, we rented Scooters from Royal Brothers, about a half a km from our homestay. Scooters or Bikes are some of the cheapest modes of travel affording you a thrill and independence of exploring which would not be possible in closed vehicles ( also no motion sickness). The exploration routes in Chikkamagalur are pretty straightforward requiring you to choose a turn after the Kaimara Forest Checkpoint at the end of the residential area.
Starting our journey from the Kaimara Forest Checkpoint, we were driving through immensely well paved roads flanked by trees and coffee estates. What sets the place apart in the month of December is that it remains a very pleasant sunny place and is not biting cold.
The air is filled with a distinct smell of coffee,raw and mature. The sun makes the waxen leaves shine with a golden lustre. It was evident from the very beginning that the entire journey and not only the destinations, is going to be a great to the eyes and the senses. As we started ascending, the pasture green grassy hills were in sight on looking up and a look down held vast expanses of the district filled with lakes and soothing green jungles.
The first pit stop on the route was Jhari Waterfall. The waterfall was also named Milky Waterfall and the journey to reach it was far more exhilarating for an adventure seeker than the fall itself. The waterfall is now part of a private estate owned by a wealthy coffee estate manager, who operates Jeeps down till the fall from the paved road on the hill. The Jeep charges INR 700 for a round trip for 6 people. The 7 Km road is as rough as it can get, making you fear for your life and bones but still give you an adrenaline rush. The waterfall, despite not being majestic gives you a wonderful chance to unwind, soak in the milky water with the sun and double rainbows. It also has a small space to change for women.
After a relaxing bathe in the waterfall, the journey began upwards to the famed sunset point and Baba Budan Giri of Chikkamagalur. The balmy sunny weather made the drive a bliss after the chilling waters of Jhari had given our skins a cooling sensation.
What makes this place such a worthwhile destination is that entire journey gives you ample viewpoints which your senses would not get tired of marvelling at.
The sunset point is all the way to the top of the green grassy hills one which you can trek and walk with no fear absolutely. The air however becomes considerably chilly despite the sun being subtly golden. The clarity of the sky and the hue of the hills beyond, a mix of golden green and purple make this place an ideal location to adorn your Instagram grids.
This entire area on top of the peak called Baba Budan Giri can be spanned on foot while one waits for the landscape to turn into dramatic color palettes leading to the sunset.
Though it's absolutely enticing to watch the entire sunset, it would be advisable to watch the setting sun while descending down to the city as it gets pitch dark soon after sunset.
The second day was all about venturing a little farther for more adventures and even more surprises. A word of caution, food stalls on the routes are few or expensive and one must carry some snacks along. The first destination we were headed to is the highest peak of Karnataka - Mullyanagiri Peak.
What drives tourists towards is the light trek and the opportunity to feel the clouds enveloping them from all sides. A 20 km drive from Kaimara Check Point, it is a steep climb but not a strenuous one. The sky is cloudy and one can feel the clouds rush past on their bare skins as the sun comes in sight.
View from Mullayangiri Peak
Fortunately, this has become a recognised tourist destination with some hot snacks served around it.
For the next destination on our itinerary, we had to descend upto the Kaimara Checkpoint and ascend again. In an area majorly dotted with spectacular hills, the descent surprised us with vast stretches of farmland and flower fields, straight out of a movie. We were headed to Hebbe Falls, One of the major attractions of Chikkamagalur that appears on recommended lists. It costs just INR 70-100 while you visit in season, for a 13 km trip in the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary and Hebbe Falls. However, in the off season, the costs shoot up to INR 400 per person. The budget constraint did not let us decide upon visiting Hebbe, but little did we know that we were in a for a treat only if turned to take a road less traversed to the left!
It is the perfect destination to unwind and soak in the vibes of Chikkamagalur before you depart and that is exactly what we did. On the descent to the town, make sure you stop for a cup of authentic freshly brewed Chikkamagalur Coffee at Siri Coffee Resort.
Siri Coffee Resort
Chikkamagalur Filter Coffee
It would be a shame to not pick up packets of the orignal coffee from the land, and the town has ample options in the form for Coffeeworks. Chikkamagalur Coffee Works in the heart of the town market has ground coffee as well several varieties of local grown coffee beans to spoil you with choices.
The next morning, we set out for the most awaited leg of a quintessential college trip. Reaching the town of Hassan, we boarded a local train operated by Southwestern Railways to Mangalore. The reason this short train journey deserves a mention is that each one with love for valleys and hills should and can experience they joy of snaking in a train through the Nilgiris and Kudremukh at an absolutely meagre cost. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway experience counts as a destination in itself to be cherished.
While it's time to pen down the third and final leg of this 3 part journey (the fact that it didn't get cancelled is a hint big enough to guess the place), make sure you add Chikkamagalur to your bucket list.