Are you a lover of the great outdoors? Just put on a pair of trekking shoes and set out

It’s that time of the year when the days are long and hot. Instead of flying off to the mountains in the North or vacationing abroad, what about backpacking to some beautifully cool spots that are not just off the normal tourist roadmap but also help beat the heat? It’s not only easy on the pocket and travel-friendly you also don’t leave a carbon footprint.

Two city-based players in the field of responsible travel are Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) and EcoLogin. CTC, which now has 21,000 members, conducts trekking, cycling, biking, photography, conservation and tree plantations, workshops, marathons, triathlons, treasure hunts and more. EcoLogin, on the other hand, is an experience-based alternate tourism service provider that looks at offbeat guided tours and treks in South India. The tours are designed to be eco-friendly and also look at benefiting the local communities of these remote areas. CTC and EcoLogin list five places that are trek-worthy, cooler and offer something different.

Nagalapuram Hills

Located just across the Andhra border, this hill range is around 30 km long and has several perennial streams. The hills are heavily forested with trekking trails, some of which go up to an altitude of 800 metres, offering splendid views of the surrounding plains. There are easy tracks for beginners and some steep climbs for experienced trekkers. Nagalapuram is about 85 km from Chennai via NH 5 and will take about two hours by car. Buses to Nagalapuram can be boarded at Koyambedu CMBT.

Nanmangalam Reserve Forest

Situated near Medavakkam, it is one of the few remaining green spots inside city limits. The forest is around five sq. km. and has numerous trails even for mountain biking. The central hill offers beautiful views and the forest itself is a birder’s paradise, home to more than 85 species of birds. Nanmangalam is about 18 km from the city and can be reached by bus or car.

Javadhu Hills

A little beyond Vellore and a three-hour drive from the city, this hill range in the Eastern Ghats averages an altitude of 800 to 1,100 metres. The hills are dotted with scenic paddy fields, tribal settlements and some parts have good forest cover too. It is an ideal destination for biking, cycling and trekking. There are several roads around this range that allow you to drive up these hills including from Polur and Amrithi. Javadu Hills is about 200 km from Chennai and can be reached by car. The nearest railway station is Katpadi Junction.

Marayoor

It is in the Idukki district of Kerala, 42 km north of Munnar in the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats. An important prehistoric site in Kerala it has unique dolmens, caves, rock edicts and engravings dating back to the Stone Age. The place can be visited any time except from June to August. Marayoor is about 550 km from Chennai, but well within 10 hours of travel. It is about two hours from Udumalpet by taxi or bus.

Kotagiri

This hill station 20 km from Ooty and is the third largest in the Nilgiri Hills. Kotagiri is surrounded by thick forests and is a hiker’s paradise, with endless trails. Rich in wildlife, you can spot gaur, leopards, spotted deer, and wild boar. Kotagiri is 530 km from Chennai and about two hours by car from Coimbatore. Trains and buses to Coimbatore are available from Chennai. The nearest airport is in Coimbatore.