Sravasti Datta takes you to Kemmanagundi, whose hills and waterfalls and plantations are waiting to be explored

With its red soil, diverse landscapes and air of tranquility, Kemmanagundi or KR Hills serves as an ideal getaway from the chaos of city life. Sitting at an altitude of 1,434m, Kemmanagundi is part of the Baba Budangiri range and is located in Chikkamagaluru district of Karnataka. Nestled deep within rocky terrain, waterfalls, springs, hills and sprawling coffee estates, Kemmanagundi is the place for you if you are enthusiastic about adventure but not a seasoned trekker.

The treacherous roads are difficult to navigate, so the jeep that you hire can only be driven to a certain point, beyond which you will have to walk. I do not complain as it is a deeply satisfying experience to cross streams and hilly pathways. Kemmanagundi is dotted by charming home stays: Joe's (Hill View Cottage), Denton, Ranger's Camp, to name a few. The Horticultural Government Guest House is the most sought-after accommodation, but you need to book way in advance.

Kallahatti Falls — the first site I visit — is small yet wondrous, winding its way through rocks and lush vegetation. Built close to the falls is a small temple. The stillness calms me and I spend some pensive moments by it, taking in the sound of the comforting gurgling stream.

The thirty-minute ride from the Kallahatti Falls to Mullayanagiri is rather hard on the stomach and nerves as the jeep almost tilts while negotiating rocks and big stones on the road. It dips and rises on the body of hills and you hear yourself gasping with delight or fright — depending on the strength of the daredevil within you — when you look down the road. But once you reach Mullayanagiri you instantly forget the travails of the ride to soak in the scenery around. Quiet hills standing in all their splendour and the wind gently caressing your hair, with distant noises of the chirping of birds is an experience that cannot be described enough by words.

We next head to the most well-known site in Kemmanagundi: the Hebbe Falls. The walk to the Hebbe Falls is an experience in itself. You'll encounter coffee and pepper plantations and a couple of streams during the fifteen-minute walk. It comprises two falls, the Dodda Hebbe (big falls) and the Chikka Hebbe (small falls), at the heights of 250ft and 200ft respectively. The Hebbe Falls has a timeless beauty to it. The famous Z-point that almost all tourists visit provides a panoramic view of Kemmanagundi. The view —undulating hills that roll into one another — looks like a painting. Time stands still.

It's heartening to see that the beauty of Kemmanagundi has remained untouched, barring a few areas where deforestation is evident. Mining activity is not to be seen; a local informs that it was stopped because of protests against its environmental hazards. The beauty of the place is further enhanced by the simplicity of its inhabitants.

Kemmanagundi once belonged to Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, the Maharaja of Mysore, who built a summer palace here. He later donated it to the Government of Karnataka. Legend has it that Kemmanagundi was called “Chandra Drona Parvatha” in the Puranas.

Getting there - Kemmanagundi

Mangalore is the nearest airport, which is 190 km away. Bangalore is 295 km away.

The nearest railway station is Tarekere, about 15 km from Kemmanagundi. A taxi ride will cost about Rs 300 from the railway station to Kemmanagundi. A/C deluxe and luxury buses are available from Bangalore and Mangalore to Kemmanagundi, which cost about Rs. 4 per km.

Places to stay

Horticulture Guest House, Dattatri Bhavan, Vana Darshinki, Narayana Kuteera, Budan Giri lodge, Virupaksha lodge, Dhoopada Giri lodge, Kallahatti lodge, Joe’s Homestay, Ranger’s Camp.