Running parallel with the long coastline of the Indian peninsula, the hills and mountains of South India merge together to form the Nilgiris, a series of peaks and valleys with several lush, green, mist-clad hill stations tucked amongst them. Some of these hill stations you may already be familiar with it, like the evergreen and popular destinations of Ooty, Munnar, Coonoor, Wayanad and Coorg. But there are several other hill stations hidden away in the Nilgiris that let you experience nature in all its untouched glory. From meandering roads to rivulets and rocky hills, waterfalls and springs, these off-beat South India hill stations are where adventure abounds. ALSO READ: Best tourist places in south India during summer
The hill town of Vythiri lies around 700 metres above sea level, within the district of Wayanad that lies on the southern tip of the great Deccan plateau. Surrounded by dark, dense forests, Vythiri has several resorts that sprung up due to its popularity as a quick getaway for people living nearby. From here, you can either explore the natural beauty of the town, its forests and Pookode Lake, or go to Wayanad and tour its sights, like the Banasura Dam, Edakkal Caves and Soochipara Falls. Vythiri lies relatively far from the hustle of Wayanad proper, making it a great place to find some peace and tranquillity on the foothills of the mountains. Its proximity to forests also makes it a favourable destination for nature-lovers.
The hill station of Nelliyampathy in Palakkad, Kerala lies on a hill range that shares its name, with altitudes ranging from 467 to 1,572 meters. It lies 10 hairpin bends away from the town of Nenmara, from which the cloud-covered peaks of Nelliyampathy are a majestic sight. Along the way, you can find private bio-farms and tea estates that dot the landscape. Nelliyampathy itself is home to several orange plantations. From the hill station itself, you can visit the Pothundy Dam and boat along the water reservoir for a quiet picnic experience. The roads that lead to this hill station also give you a glimpse of the Palakkad Gap, the geographic feature that naturally splits Kerala and the neighboring Tamil Nadu.
Thenmala is notably the first planned ecotourism destination in the country, but its newness means that very few people know about it yet. Here, you can find several nature trails to trek and walk along and immerse yourself with nature. The forest that surrounds the Thenmala dam site is, in fact, what makes this hill station special. Adventurers can enjoy mountain climbing and rock climbing exercises organized here, along with using a Russian ladder to cross the Kallada River. There is also a canopy walk experience that takes you through the forest on elevated walk, essentially allowing you to walk through the trees. You can go on a boat safari through the water reservoir to explore the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary too.
Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu
Kotagiri is the third-highest hill station in the state after the more popular Ooty and Coonoor. It is situated at an altitude of 6,503 feet above sea level, and is actually the oldest of the three, and also the smallest hill station. Probably because of this, Kotagiri is not really frequented by travelers and tourists. There is also the fact that the town itself is largely just your usual hill town will little to see. But Kotagiri does present a strong case for itself; it is said to have the second-best climate in Tamil Nadu, and is mostly protected from the rough monsoons faced by Ooty by the Doddabetta range. The trekking opportunities are another big reason to visit this unassuming little hill station. And for the lazy traveler, Kotagiri is a harmless spot where you can relax and enjoy the towering Nilgiris with ease. ALSO READ: Best summer vacation destination in south India for you and your family
Yercaud, Tamil Nadu
Surrounded by breathtaking hills and valleys and with the aroma of coffee always in the air, Yercaud is a hill station that can easily charm you and make you wonder why it is does not get more visitors. But the peace of not having too many travelers is a blessing, allowing you to take in more of Yercaud’s sights, sounds and smell. The hill station lies in the Servaroyan Hills and is a hub for coffee plantations. Naturally, it is heaven for the coffee lover. But Yercaud also has some sights to offer, like the picturesque Yercaud Lake and the nearby Anna Park. You can also travel to the Lady’s Seat point for a view of the hills and the city of Salem below, which is especially beautiful at night.
Jog Falls at Shimoga
Lying on the banks of the Tunga River, almost square in the middle of the entire state, Shimoga is often called the gateway to Karnataka’s Malenadu region. The hill station is blessed with incredible flora, fauna and views to die for, the main one being Jog Falls, the tallest waterfall in India. The Jog Falls are a little far from the hill station itself, but this is a sight you must not miss. You can also trek up to the majestic Kodachari peak, from where you can catch the sun set on the Arabian Sea. The Sakrebailu Elephant Camp is another big draw nearby, as is the Tunga Anicut Dam, Tyavarekoppa lion and tiger safari and Mandagadde Bird Sanctuary.
Ananthagiri, Andhra Pradesh
Borra Caves, Ananthagiri
Ananthagiri is another coffee destination, with plantations dominating most of its terrain. The road to this hill station gives you incredible views of the hills and coffee plantations that dot the region. The hill station lies at an altitude of 1,168 metres above sea level, some 85 km from the port city of Vishakapatnam and within the larger Araku Valley. Its weather is pleasant for most of the year, which makes it a favorable destination in most seasons. Coffee lovers would be pampered here, but nature lovers would not leave disappointed either, with rolling hillocks and waterfalls waiting to be explored. Ananthagiri and its dense forests are relatively unexplored by tourists, and are a perfect getaway from the hot plains in the summer.
Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh
The expansive Araku Valley is one of the rare places in India untouched by the effects of industries. It is a favored destination for honeymooning couples because of its peace and quiet, and has been immortalized in several Indian films and songs. The valley produces some of the best coffee in the country, so don’t miss out on that. Another thing that you shouldn’t miss out on is the train ride to the main Araku town from Vishakapatnam. The 115 km journey takes you through lush green forests, waterfalls and deep gorges, and is arguably the most scenic train ride in the region.
Popular among trekkers, the Kudremukh hill town stands on a mountain range of the same name in Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka. The range itself gets its name from a peak whose face resembles that of a horse when seen from a certain side. The name literally translates to “Horse Face”, and the mountain range is home to a namesake national park that is incidentally the second-largest protected wet evergreen area in the Western Ghats. The Kudremukh National Park is, in fact, a major draw among tourists, as is the waterfall and the incredible views of the Shola forests and grasslands. For trekkers, Kudremukh has 13 trails to choose from.
The sleepy hill station of Ponmudi lies on what is the second-highest peak in the state, and is teeming with incredible birds and wildlife. It lies within reach of the beaches of Varkala and Kovalam, which makes it all the more appealing for the perpetual traveler. Here, you can enjoy the rustic scenes of life or take in the magnificent view of the hills around you. Ponmudi lies around 60 km from the capital city of Trivandrum, and is among the handful of hill stations in India where you can experience cloud-caressed mountains on one side and the endlessness of the Arabian Sea on the other side. Ponmudi is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, with several birds, flowers and butterflies of interest here. ALSO READ: Unexplored hill stations near Delhi: 10 beautiful getaways from Delhi that are not crowded
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