Yelagiri, at a height of 920 metres above sea level, stands majestically amidst four mountains. This is a hill station with a salubrious climate prevailing throughout the year so that winters do not keep visitors away. The main inhabitants of the area are the tribals who live in the 14 small villages which comprise Yelagiri. These tribals are engaged in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, etc. - all the occupations of rural hill folk. Their customs and habits, and especially the structure of their houses is unique and attracts a number of tourists to this hill station.
There are no petrol stations in Yelagiri, thus you have to fill up the tank at the last available petrol station in the plains (however, try to avoid HP petrol bunk in Poneri because they don't give pure petrol). Except for a few tire changers there are no vehicle repair shops in the hills.
Also, take your first-aid kit along with your regular medicines, if any, with you. There is a government primary health centre, and a private clinic (in which the doctor is from CMC vellore). The nearest health centre is in Tirupattur.
Yelagiri is about 150 km from Bangalore and 250 km from Chennai (Madras), good for a four hour bike ride with breaks along the way. Take the NH7 out of Bangalore towards Hosur, turn towards Chennai (onto NH46) at Krishnagiri and continue until you get just before Vaniyambadi. You can see the Hills from quite a distance (on your right). From a break in the highway that comes approx 2 km after the toll gate, turn right into the underpass road that takes you to Tirupathur. Continue some 5 km and at Ponneri Junction take a left to Yelagiri Hills. The routes are all marked with signboards in English.
Yelagiri is about 258 km from Chennai-Tambaram. Take the Poonamalee High Road out of the city to Ponamalee Town. From Poonamalee, take the Bangalore highway towards Vellore. The distance to Vellore is about 140 km and the route passes through Sriperumbudur, Walajapet. Vellore would be a good place to plan a break, there are a lot of eating places right on the highway. From Vellore continue on to Ambur and then towards Vaniyambadi. On the highway about 45 km from the third(counting from Chennai) toll station, watch out for a signboard for "Elagiri - 22 km". Take a left at this exit. It's easy to miss this left and if you overshoot this you would reach the Vaniyambadi toll station in about 1km. Continue on this road (SH18) till you reach Ponneri junction which has Thirupathur straight and Yelagiri on the left. Watch out for this one as it is easy to miss. (On the left, you'll see a big sign board 'Tamilnadu Tourism Department Welcomes You'. Turn left at this junction, there's a sign board pointing towards Yelagiri.)
The roads are well punctuated with signboards in English, and the roads especially the Chennai-Vaniyambadi stretch are excellent (in 2007). It is fairly safe, watch out for the occasional truck that changes lanes abruptly. The last petrol pump is after you turn left at Ponneri, a little before you start on the ghat section. There are no petrol pumps on the hills.
There are 14 hairpin bends on the ghat road from Ponneri to Yelagiri and the road is pretty narrow so you can't actually park a car to enjoy the view except at some of the wider hairpin bends. Bikes won't have this problem though.
If you prefer to take public transport, buses come from Thirupattur and Jolarpet. You can take a taxi also from these places. You can negotiate for about ₹1200 (2011) to drop you in Yelagiri Hills from Jolarpettai Junction.
As for getting around you may have to make your own arrangements for commuting in the hills. There are auto-rickshaws and a few taxis for hire, but it is a great place for trekkers.
Each village has a Murugar Temple, small and big. At Nilavoor there is a Devi temple for Kadavu-Nachiyar, which opens for puja only on Fridays between 11AM and noon. The villagers around believe this Goddess is very powerful and throng the place in good numbers on fridays.
There are 14 hairpin bends named after Tamil poets (Pari Valivu, Ori Valivu, Kamban Valivu, etc.); they lead to Yellagiri Hills. There is a sort of an observatory, after 12th bend with a telescope pointing towards the plains. It is difficult to park a car here owing to the narrow roads. Bikes should be fine.
On the way to the hills, you can see lots of small animals like monkeys, ox, goats, etc. Do not feed these animals as they can be dangerous. Don't forget to carry binoculars with you.
- Don Bosco Centre. Yellagiri Hills. Fr. Guezou, who is the founder of this Don Bosco Center has come from France and has been helping the poor people for many years. This center helps the poor and illterate youth to identify their future by providing IT education. They have the IGNOU Study center, IT Training Center and Software Development Center.
- Swami Malai, (not to be confused with the town of Swamimalai, near Kumbakonam) the highest peak, soaring to 4,338 ft from Mangalam, a hamlet at its base, takes the cake. Its an easy climb of about an hour with infrequent breaks (about a 1000-foot climb). Smaller peaks like Javadu Hills, Palamathi Hills and others are an easier climb. Start early though and be back before 9AM, for once the sun climbs up it can get rather uncomfortable.
- Jalagamparai Waterfalls - a 5-km trek from Yelagiri downhill. It's a tough trek, but the view from the sides of the mountain, of the valley, is truly rewarding. Winter and April-May are probably not good times to visit the falls, as there may be no water this time of the year. The tourist taxi operator may give you false information that there has been rain in this area and there may be water in the falls. His objective is to get money for the number of kilometres he runs the vehicle and not tourists' interest and pleasure. Just check this with somebody before you make a trip to this place. Otherwise it is a wasted trip. Especially if you go in the hot sun between 10AM to 12:30PM you will get headache. At the same time if one is interested in seeing the villages and the green pastures it may be fine. Next to the falls there is a temple at the top.
- Uphill for 4 km can be fun when in groups. Don’t forget to carry water, you will not find a drop of water to drink once you reach the hilltop. You can see the clouds touching the lush green hills in early morning- an amazing sight. Make sure you wear sneakers as the trek can be a treacherous climb. You can hire locals from the village to help you as guide on your trek for around ₹300. It takes 2-3 hr to climb the top of the hill, depending on your speed and agility. It is suggested to take frequent pit stops and enjoy the greenery. You can follow a radio tower beyond the Samaritan School on the hill top as you ascend- you can also follow the pathway laid by locals to guide your way up. Once you reach the top, you will see a small temple near the radio tower. Legend claims that the god in the temple saves people from being attacked by bears and evil spirits. You can climb a huge rock near the tower with the help of an iron ladder to take a breathtaking view of the valley beneath, nestled between the lush green forest and mountains- a true nature lover's paradise. You can find a few shortcuts routes downhill-- true trekkers can try out these.
Boating on Punganur Lake
- This is an artificial lake, excavated in an area of 57 m². The Elagiri Hills Development and Tourism Promotion Society runs the Boat Club, with pedalling and rowing boats. There is a newly laid florid cultural garden with a pathway along the bund with a panoramic view of the lake on one side and the garden on the other. A connecting bridge leads the pathway around the lake. The pathway around the lake is particularly good for birding. There is also a small watch tower constructed next to a tree which can be climbed. Even though the water is not clear, the lake is pretty clean.
- Vainu Bappu Solar Observatory (Elagiri): One of the largest solar observatories, it is in Kavalur, 35 km from Thiruppathur, near Yelagiri. Prior permission is required to visit this observatory.
- Farm visits: Rose farms provide an interesting detour.
- A well laid out park on a 6-acre land adjacent to the lake, is established with varieties of children's play areas installed within the park. There is also a small zoo. But no animals could be seen there in January 2006.
- There is a "Kodao Vizha ground" which is a lovely ground with beautiful paths for walking. This is now be updated [May 08] to the Nature park . A lovely 10-acre campus with an artificial fall, an aquarium, musical fountain in the evenings and amazing landscaping. It has 2 shows in musical fountain 7PM and 8PM. Very nice with gallery like setup and playing some 4 songs each in Hindi & Tamil. The latest addition is the Nilavoor lake - more of a pond, with a few boats. Don't miss the ancient hero stines featured in the ancient temple - each of an archer pointing towards the 4 directions.
Home made honey and jack fruit (on season) are available in Yellagiri Hills. The Home made Honey can be bought from YMCA with good quality and taste. You can trust it to be original. Otherwise you have to check whether its original. There is a small house near YMCA, where you can get pure malai thein (mountain honey).
The weekly market (Sandhai) assembles in Athanavoor on Fridays. Again you will find the usual modern cheap plastic wares from the plains are sold, along with a few agricultural products from the hills.
There is an ATM near the State Bank of India branch in Athanavur village.
Food is not a problem in Yelagiri, except if you are trekking. Otherwise there are a number of eateries offering south/north Indian food at reasonable rates. Branded soft drinks and water bottles are available. Look out for jackfruit - this area has plenty of it available especially in the summer months, and the fruit here is considered very good. Also, there are lots of fruits available each season like guava, custard apple, etc. Try to bargain as much as possible as the locals are very keen. On the contrary, you will also get some fruits near Swamimalai trekking spot where the locals will surprise you by giving you more than what you expect.
A few food joints serve authentic Tandoori/Chinese/Indian food
- Tandoori Hut on Boat House Road (Next to Boat House Main Entrance)
- The Hotel Hills on the main Rd
There is a TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation) liquor outlet just opposite the entrance to the lake. So have no fears and you do not have to carry your liquor unless and until you are travelling from Bangalore where you have the option of more varieties and you would not want limit yourselves to the limited options available at the TASMAC Wine Shops in Tamil Nadu. Also, immediately after you take the right at Ponneri, you have another TASMAC Wine Shop on the right hand side.
Finding a place to stay without advance booking during weekends is difficult. It is advisable to enquire at a number of hotels beforehand and book in advance. The best time to visit is during weekdays when most hotels are practically empty and hence offer huge discounts. A number of hotels big and small are available on the hill.
There are also a few homestays though these are unlikely to be listed online. The rates for hotel accommodation range from ₹500 to ₹3000 per room. Make sure you carry enough money (in cash) for your expenses, as the hotels here do not accept credit cards.
- The Grama Yelagiri, Boat House road (Right next to the boat house), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. ₹600.
- Tent N Trek Yelagiri, ☏ . Camp at Yelagiri for 2 days with activities like ATV rides, bungee trampoline, human slingshot, parallel zip lines, minigolf, shooting, archery, wooden bridge, paintball etc.
- Silent Waters, Athanavur (3 km from the main market place, a few buses from Vellore and Tirupattur go here), ☏ , (mobile), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 24 hours, check-out: 24 hours. The property has around 16 rooms, each different from the other, a shuttle court, camp fire and music at night. A conference hall with indoor games facility is also under construction. And lots and lots of greenery. The hospitality more than makes up for the lack of even 2 star facilities. ₹1500 for a deluxe room.
- YMCA Dormitories (Camp Yelagiri), Thayalur (about 5km's from Athanavur, a few buses from Vellore and Tirupattur go here), ☏ , , , (mobile), (mobile), ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 24 hours, check-out: 24 hours. The hostel has about 36 fully furnished double-bed rooms. The YMCA also runs a Camp Center on about 40 acres of green land with a meeting hall and a mini meeting hall. ₹80/- per head (dormitory) and ₹600/₹650 for a deluxe room.
- Zeenath Taj, Athanavur (Near the bus stop), ☏ . Check-in: 24 hr. Nice resort over 11 acres full of mango, custard apple trees and very good food. It's the only place in town which accepts credit cards
- Sterling Holiday Resorts, opposite to Tourist Information Centre Yelagiri, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: noon, check-out: 10AM. A beautiful place to stay with excellent food. The staffs are well mannered with star class hospitality. The rooms are well maintained with a greenery view around. Foods are served to the rooms. Includes the Ayurvedic Therapy Centre with a blend of Indian and Chinese therapies, it is a well organized messages centre with authentic Kerala tradition and professionalism, very neat and hygienic.
- Nature's Nest Holidays. Nature's Nest Holidays in Yelagiri functions like a Home Stay. Its spacious and provides breath taking scenic views. Pick up from and to railway station is also provided.
- Chariot Valley Hotel, Yelagiri, ☏ .
- Kumara Raja Palace, Yelagiri, ☏ .
- Emerald Dove, Yelagiri, ☏ .
- Madhura Resort, yelagiri, ☏ .
- PWD Inspection Bungalow, Yelagiri, ☏ .
- Oh Nila Hotel, Yelagiri, ☏ .
- Taj Gardens, Yelagiri, ☏ .
BSNL, Vodafone and Airtel have connectivity in Yelagiri.
It is better to move out during the daytime. The hairpin bent road that takes you down (and up) is narrow and there are possibilities of traffic jams due to big buses.