Yelagiri Hills is a hill station which is 220 kms from Chennai on the Chennai-Bangalore Highway. I was there three weeks ago just after the new year. I had couple of weeks of vacation during the year end and we thought of going to very many places but finally went no where. So day after the new year we instantly decided that we would venture out to see how Yelagiri looks like as we have been hearing about it for a long time. It is easily reachable from Chennai and it hardly takes 3 hours of driving on the beautiful Bangalore highway. I was in two minds whether to drive all the way or to hire a cab and go as I have never driven for 200 kms continuously. It is good that I drove because it was just pleasure driving on the Highway.
We gathered some inputs from our neighbour who has been there many times and we started our journey early in the morning at 7 AM. We drove on the NH 5 for 170 odd kms in less than 2 and half hours before we stopped for breakfast. There are not many motels on this stretch of the highway and we missed couple of them being undecided whether to stop or not. I think the best place to have breakfast is close to Vellore town which is around 150 kms from Chennai. We continued our journey for another 50 odd kms before we took the turn to go to Yelagiri after Vaniyambadi. From the Vaniyambadi Junction to Yelagiri, the road was not good though it is a state highway. World of difference.
Actually if you see, Yelagiri is a collection of 14 villages and there is no town or something called as Yelagiri. The hill is called collectively as the Yelagiri Hills. From the foothills there are 14 hair-pin bends and each of the hair-pin bend is named after Tamil poets like Bharathiyar, Bharathidasan, Elango Adigal etc., It is very novel way of remembering our Tamil poets. The hair-pin bends are easily negotiable and a person like me driving for the first time on the ghat roads, didnt find any difficulty at all.
Once we landed there, we found out that there are couple of good parks in the main village called Athanavoor. One of the parks also has a boating facility and as an eager tourist we finished seeing both the parks on day 1. The new park, called as Nature park is really well maintained and they also conduct a musical fountain program everyday at 7.00 PM. Just like what you have in Mysore Brindhavan gardens. Besides these two parks you dont have much to see except for a view point and telescopic tower.
The next day in the afternoon we went to Nilavoor where you can go for trekking on the hills. We reached there pretty late in the afternoon and we were told that it would take couple of hours to go up and come down. With a kid in tow, it was out of question of completing the entire trekking stuff. We did go for trekking for some 500 metres on the hills and returned back. There is a group of people who claim that they are local guides try to milk you when you go for trekking. So it is advisable to get rid of these local guides if you want to go for trekking. They ask for Rs300 or so to take you all the way up. They just walk with you alongside and no further. For the 500 odd metres I walked on the hills, I paid Rs100 to the guide!!
One of the problems we did encounter is with food. There is hardly any good restaurant and you have to rely on the lodge or resort where you stay for the food. In the lodge we stayed there was no good food and once we went out to eat at the Sterling Resorts. The prices are affordable as far as the food but the quality is very suspect.
There are number of lodges and few resorts which have come up recently I was told. Sterling Resorts, O'Nila resorts, Rhythm resorts are some of the prominent ones. I liked the Rhythm resort as it was bang opposite the lake and it has a terrific view, though I didnt get to stay there. You also have a YMCA dormitory facility which is atleast 5 kms away from the main village, Athanavoor. There are few good lodges where you get a decent room like where I stayed for 750-1000 bucks a day.
Overall, I think it is a good place for the weekend where you can just go and relax. Not many places to see but the climate is very good and air is clean. Crass commercialisation has not crept in so far and it has not still become a concrete jungle. Worth a visit once in a while to break away from the maddening Chennai.