I am a marketing professional holding a postgraduate degree in management. I live in Chennai and have traveled extensively in Tamil Nadu.
Ooty and Kodaikanal are the two most popular hill stations in Tamil Nadu, but both are far from Chennai. If one drives, it could take over twelve hours to reach either of these places. So these two hill stations are not very attractive from a distance perspective for a person traveling from Chennai.
3 Offbeat Hill Stations Near Chennai
- Kolli Hills
These three hill stations are closer to Chennai. Yelagiri is the closest of all, and it can be reached within five hours. Yercaud and Kolli Hills are the other two options, and it takes about seven hours of drive time to reach either of these places.
These three hill stations are at lower altitudes compared to Ooty or Kodaikanal, so one can experience mild and pleasant weather throughout the year.
Distance From Chennai
Yercaud is closer to the town of Salem in Tamil Nadu. This is a mild hill station as compared to Ooty or Kodaikanal. At an altitude of 1500 meters, we get pleasant relief from the sweltering heat in the plains, but it never gets unbearably cold.
The road from the foothill to Yercaud is one of the best mountain roads in Tamil Nadu, and the drive is very enjoyable. Blessed with a mild weather, Yercaud can be visited any time of the year. In the months of December and January, misty weather provides a visual treat for visitors.
The lake is the main attraction in Yercaud, with its boating facilities. The Yercaud Lake has a spectacular view surrounded by hills. One can go for a bicycle ride around the lake.
Things to Do
The botanical garden is a nice place to visit, but ironically open only on weekdays. The rose garden is another must-visit attraction and is open on all days. There are a couple of temples around the main town. For the adventurous, there is a strenuous trek route leading to a waterfall in a valley.
Yercaud is known for home-made chocolates (I am following a sugar-free diet now, so I am loath to recommend chocolate to anyone). Other than chocolates, one can find natural oils being sold in the Yercaud market. The market area is closer to the Yercaud bus stand.
There are many good stay options in Yercaud, such as the Sterling resort, Shevaroy and TTDC (Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation) hotel. TTDC and Shevaroy are in the main town close to the lake and are ideal for families with kids and elderly. Sterling resort offers breath-taking views of the valley though it is far from the main town.
Note: One should be prepared to walk up and down the stairs if they take valley view rooms in Sterling resort. There are no lifts for the rooms facing the valley.
There are other good resorts I have not tried personally. Yercaud is a perfect getaway to relax for a couple of days away from the hustle bustle of city life.
For more details on Yercaud, please read The 10 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Yercaud.
Yelagiri is the closest hill station from Chennai, and it can be reached within five hours from Chennai. Yelagiri is at an altitude of less than 1,000 meters, which explains why Yelagiri is warmer than Yercaud. Still, it is a welcome relief for Chennai residents accustomed to hotter climates.
Places to Visit
Typical of most hill stations, Yelagiri has a lake with boating facilities. Closer to the lake, there is a nature park where they conduct musical fountains during the weekends. The nature park itself is a nice place to hang around in the evening time.
There are a couple of temples in Yelagiri, and one can visit these temples for their sheer rustic charm. Yelagiri is also one the few places in Tamil Nadu with least light pollution, so amateur astronomers throng this place during February or March in search of darker skies.
Trekking is another important attraction in Yelagiri. There is a trekking route near Mangalam village, a couple of miles from Yelagiri lake. This is not a strenuous trek, and people of all ages can take part.
Stay and Food
One should not skip the roadside vendors selling fruits near the lake. Black mulberry (Naaval Pazham in Tamil), jackfruit, star fruit and fig are the specialties being sold here.
It has plenty of good stay options, such as Sterling resorts and Hotel Landmark. Astronomy lovers also throng Yelagiri and usually choose YMCA camp. Though the stay arrangements are basic, YMCA camp offers spectacular views of the night sky since it is far from the main town.
3. Kolli Hills
Kolli Hills is close to Namakkal town in Tamil Nadu. I would not place Kolli Hills on the same level as Yercaud or Yelagiri. There is not much sightseeing to do in Kolli Hills. Yet it offers enough incentives for a first-time traveler.
Agaya Gangai Falls
The main attraction is a waterfall known as Agaya Gangai. One needs to reach Arappaleeshvarar temple by car or public transport. The waterfall is in the valley next to the temple. One needs to walk down the distance to reach the waterfalls. There are over one thousand steps, and it takes about an hour to trek down. The upward journey can take longer and can be physically challenging. The trek offers beautiful views of the valley and the mountain range.
There are a few nice viewpoints worth visiting. There is also a lake with boating facilities. But one can skip boating, as neither the lake nor the boats were in good shape during our visit. Kolli Hills is still an enjoyable destination because of its natural charm. Since it is less commercialized, the greenery is still intact. The beautiful pepper plantations are a common sight in the hills. One can go for long walks to enjoy the weather and scenery. The weather is pleasant and never gets very chill.
Where to Stay?
There are two good stay options here: Nallathambi Resorts and Silverline Retreat Hotel. We could not find other attractive options besides these two. So it is better not to experiment beyond these two hotels for food and stay. One can visit the local market to buy fresh fruits.
© 2018 Mohan Babu
Please share your valuable comments and feedback.
Mohan Babu (author) from Chennai, India on May 20, 2020:
You can try Yercaud since you have already visited Yelagiri. Though not as close as Yelagiri from Chennai or from Bangalore, Yercaud is my top pick among the offbeat hill stations in Tamil Nadu.
Prem Swaroop Paul on May 16, 2020:
Apt suggestions with choice of hill station close to Chennai. I'm from Bengaluru, visited Yelagiri which is cute location as any able bodied person can cover most areas by walk. Best wishes.
Mohan Babu (author) from Chennai, India on November 07, 2018:
Thanks Eurofile for your valuable comment.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 07, 2018:
You give an interesting overview of tge area.