Southern India can become pretty hot and sweltering during the summer months. Given the proximity to the equator, it is not uncommon for the common folks and tourists to seek out cooler haunts and hill stations for a getaway. While Ooty may possibly be Tamil Nadu’s best known hill station, Yelagiri offers its own brand of rustic charm and natural beauty.
Where is Yelagiri?
Yelagiri (or Elagiri) is located at a comfortable altitude of about 3,643 feet above sea level on the eastern ghats of Vellore district. Apart from natural splendour and serenity, its greatest attraction is that it does not experience extreme temperatures and remains comfortably cool round the year. Another difference that sets Yelagiri apart from other southern hill stations is the abundance of fruit plantations and orchards, woods and forests rather than tea and coffee plantations. The very air of Yelagiri carries the sweet smells of mangoes, oranges, jack-fruits, roses and spices.
Yelagiri comprises 14 villages over an area of about 30 sq. km. These villages are inhabited by culturally rich tribes who live in harmony with nature. As you drive or trek through Yelagiri, each spot, each turn will bring you one breathtaking view after another.
How to Reach Yelagiri?
By Road – Like most hill stations, Yelagiri is best reached by road. Regular buses ply between Yelagiri and Bengaluru, Mysore, Chennai, Vellore, Tirupattur, Ponneri Junction, Ambur, and Vaniyambadi. If your intention is to beat the heat, board an AC bus/coach or rent a car as the bus journey in summer can be terribly exhausting.
By Train – The railway station nearest to Yelagiri is at Jolarpettai at a distance of about 21 kilometres. This station has trains arriving from several major cities in south India. From Jolarpettai, you may take either a bus or hire a taxi to take you to Yelagiri.
Nearest Airport – The Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru is at a distance of about 145 kilometres from Yelagiri and has excellent domestic and international connectivity. The Chennai International Airport, at a distance of 218.5 kilometres, is the nearest in the state.
Places to See in Yelagiri
Lake Punganoor – The Punganoor Lake is perhaps the greatest of all Yelagiri attractions. Families spend hours picnicking on the banks of these serene waters while couples and honeymooners are seen boating. Many pleasant hours can be spent reading a book on the banks of the lake.
Velavan Temple – The Velavan Temple of Yelagiri is a shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan (Kartick). Located on a nearby hill, the temple is known for its Adi and Thaipusam festivities that attract devotees from afar.
Telescope – There might be nothing special about the telescope in Ghat Road but expect a constant crowd curious to get a closer look at the distant hills and valleys. It is a great hit with school children.
Jalagamparai Waterfalls – If you plan to visit Yelagiri during the winter months (rainy months in Tamil Nadu) between November and February, do take an hour to trek down to the Jalagamparai Falls where the Attaru River plunges gracefully down 30 feet. The beauty of the falls and the nearby temple attract many visitors.
Vainu Poppu Solar Observatory – Located some 25 kilometres from Yelagiri, this solar observatory was set up in the 1970s. A visit is a great educational experience.
Swamimalai Hill and Thiruvannamalai – Both these hills are at a distance of about 100 kilometres and are popular Hindu pilgrimage centres. Swamimalai is also famous for its rock climbing opportunity but attempting to climb the Thiruvannamalai may offend local sentiments as mystics are believed to dwell at the summit.
Do try to visit one of the many orchards and herb gardens that dot Yelagiri but get necessary permits before you visit.
Things to do in Yelagiri
Yelagiri is not quite as popular a destination as Ooty or Kodaikanal. But this fact is not without its own advantages. Yelagiri is far more pristine and untouched than other commercialised tourist destinations. This also means that it offers ample scope for activities like trekking, camping, rock climbing, and paragliding.
In fact, Yelagiri is the preferred paragliding destination for adventure enthusiasts in south India. South of the Vindhyas, its popularity is considered second only to Panchgani in Maharashtra.
If following mountain trails, outdoor camping, study of herbs and plants, and ornithology fascinate you, Yelagiri is the place to be. Established in 207, the Yelagiri Adventure Sports Association (YASA) has been organising adventure events and supporting visitors in Yelagiri. It is also ideal for those who would like to spend time doing nothing more than idle contemplation of nature.
Things to Remember
Despite being at an elevation of over 3000 feet, Yelagiri never experiences extreme heat or biting cold and remains rather equitable throughout the year. This is because the hill station is located in the tropical region.
The extended summer months between May and September see huge influx of tourists. May-June attracts visitors to the summer festival and September invites travellers to the international paragliding festival hosted by the Yelagiri Paragliding Club. You may expect sudden showers during winter and some sleet, but no snow.
On your visit to Yelagiri, do remember to pick up some of the jack-fruit preserves and products that this area is famous for. You may also want to buy honey, jams and marmalades and spices in the local markets (called Sandhai). The Friday Sandhai of Athanavoor attracts a number of local producers and farmers.
The Yelagiri Summer Festival
The Yelagiri summer festival is an annual event hosted by the government to highlight the region and its rich offerings. Held over 2-3 days in the month of May or June, the festival hosts song and dance performances, flower shows, leather and clothing exhibitions, boat and cycle races, and even dog shows. Not only does the festival highlight the region’s tourism potential but also offers an attractive reason to get away from the exhausting heat of the plains. Each year, special buses services are organised by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation to help visitors attend the summer festival.
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