Situated amidst the dense jungles of the Western Ghats in Karnataka, Chikmagalur is one of the relaxing getaways located approximately 250 km from Bengaluru. The town, founded by King Rukmangada, derives its name from the Kannada language Chikka magala ooru which translates to ‘younger daughter’s town.’
Chikmagalur, apart from the pleasant hill-station-like climate and vast coffee estates, has several scenic attractions for tourists. From heritage spots to the wildlife, outdoor activities and quiet homestays, it makes for a great location for a weekend getaway. Chikamagalur guarantees rejuvenation of everyone’s senses and lets one relax and unwind away from the crowd of the city.
Some of the well-known highlight attractions of Chikmagalur are briefed below:
The main tourist highlight is the three top peaks of Chikamagalur which include Sheethalagiri, Baba Budangiri, and of course, the highest in Karnataka, Mullayanagiri. The Sheethalagiri peak is located at the Kaimara junction and has an ancient temple built over 1000 years ago, dedicated to Mallikarjuna Swamy.
The next stop on the same route is Baba Budangiri, alternatively known as Dattagiri Hill, Inam Dattatreya Peetha or Chandra Drona Parvatha. The name is derived from the known Muslim saint – Baba Budan who brought coffee to India from Yemen. This is said to have been his home approximately 150 years ago. This shrine is situated about 1895 m above sea level and is often visited by people of all religions.
Mullayanagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka stands 1930 meters tall and defines scenic beauty in the truest sense. It is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and the Nilgiris and is located approx. 12 km from the Chikmagalur town. The peak is quite popular among trekkers, with a moderate level of difficulty, often even touted as a trekker’s backyard. Atop the peak is a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The three peaks together are known as the “Chandradrona Parvatha Shreni.”
Undoubtedly, these three peaks offer one of the best trekking experiences with mountains and exotic flora spread across the trails. Several points that provide breathtaking views are also available aplenty. The most suitable time to visit the mountains is during spring when the weather is just right.
Kemmanagudi is surrounded by the Baba Budangiri range and is encompassed with beautiful gardens, lush flora and valleys. The peak located in the Tarikere Taluk located at a distance of 55 km from Chikmagalur and is easily accessible, offering attractions for all ages includes a rock, garden, and a government-run children’s park. It is also known as the Sri Krishnarajendra Hill Station for being a summer retreat
It is also known as the Sri Krishnarajendra Hill Station for being a summer retreat centre for erstwhile royalty, Kemmanagundi was frequented by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV of Mysore, who donated this to the Government of Karnataka. The peak has an elevation of about 1350 m. While about 500 m lower in elevation when compared to Mullayanagiri, the scenery from here is equally mesmerizing.
One of the popular viewpoints at the hilltops named as Raj Bhavan which gives a panoramic view of the patches of shola forests amidst rolling grasslands of the Western Ghats. Watching the spectacular sunset from this location is a pleasure to the eyes.
One of the best outings for adventure lovers is the Hebbe Falls, located about 13 km from Kemmanagundi is the Hebbe Falls. Local jeeps are available at the base of Kemmanagundi to transport you on sharing basis to the falls at a charge of approx. Rs 300-500 for a return trip. The falls are surrounded by scenic greenery in the form of dense forests, varied flora, and hills. Coffee plantations are also spread across the falls.
The waterfalls have two stages namely – Dodda Hebbe (“big falls”) and Chikka Hebbe (“small falls”) The waterfalls are most voluminous after or during monsoons. It is an ideal spot for a calm getaway with the backdrop of picturesque nature making it a popular tourist location for unwinding and de-stressing.
Kudremukh National Park
Located approx. 96 km from the Chikmagalur town and approximately 1800 m above sea level, the Kudremukh National Park offers an experience unlike any other. It derives its name from a hill which is in the shape of a horse’s head. Kudre mukha in Kannada translates to Horse’s face.
Known for its rich variety of flora and fauna, the Park is abundant with the best species of flowers, plants and wildlife. It is home to a varied wildlife including tigers, leopards, bears, gaurs and deer. The trek is about 9.5 km long and passes through thick Shola forests and wide yellow grasslands where deer’s, wild boars, sambars, and bison are often spotted.
The national park comes under the purview of the Global Tiger Conservation Priority-I under the format developed jointly by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and World Wide Fund – the USA; from which 3 rivers originate namely -, Tunga, Bhadra and Nethravati. There is also an ancient cave which is frequented by devotees of Goddess Bhagavati. The Kudremukh trek available here is one of the most popular ones in Chikmagalur.
Coffee Yatra Museum
The Coffee Museum, an initiative of the Coffee Board of India captures the status of Chikmagalur as a haven for coffee lovers. The museum set amidst natural greenery is lined with coffee pots and detailed coffee production procedures. It is a thematic display of the entire coffee making process accompanied by short video presentations for better understanding.
The museum is an evaluation center which displays the history of coffee production processes such as picking, drying and grinding that evaluates the quality of the coffee. There is also a dedicated gallery that exhibits pictures with detailed descriptions and a laboratory where the processes are demonstrated by an in-house expert. The museum is, however, closed on weekends.
The Sharadamba Temple, located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in Sringeri Taluk in Chikmagalur district was set up in the 8th century. The known saint Adi Shankaracharya, a famous Hindu practitioner had also set his practice place here. The temple was originally built of wood; but post-fire outbreaks, the same was converted into a typical South Indian temple with a gold version of the Goddess.
The temple is one of the well-known holiest places in the state often frequented by students attempting important examinations because they believe that the Goddess’s blessings will help the students fare well. The temple, visited by numerous pilgrims, is dedicated to the Goddess of Wisdom and is believed to improve one’s learning capacity.
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
This sanctuary is a protected and Project Tiger area home to a large number of exotic wild animals, birds, and plants. It is located between the Chikmagalur and Shimoga districts, approx. 35 km from the Chikmagalur town.
The place is also known as the Muthodi Wildlife Sanctuary due to its popular wildlife safaris. Wild animals including a large number of tigers are seen in their natural habitat on private jeep expeditions led by professional guides. Other animals which can be sighted include gaur, elephants, tiger, leopard, sambar, chital spotted deer, porcupine, boar, etc. The sanctuary has over 250 species of birds including peacock, pigeon, partridge, parrot, munia and bee-eaters which can be spotted on specialized bird watching expeditions accompanied by ornithologists. The sanctuary also houses reptiles such as king cobras,Indian rock pythons, pit vipers and marsh crocodiles.
From the sanctuary, one can visit the Kallahathigiri mountain, the peak of which is at an elevation of 1800 meters above sea level. Other hills include the Kemmannugundi and Bababudangiri. The Bhadra river flows through the sanctuary thus, giving the place its name. the varied trees found here include teak, mathi, rosewood, and the likes.
Located near Kemmanagundi, the Kalhatti Falls are the epitome of nature’s beauty at its best. The waterfalls provide a revitalizing magnetism to all that witness it at close views. The surrounding areas of the falls make for an ideal spot for nature walks and treks.
Trekking is very popular in this region due to a large number of sightseeing attractions and numerous spots for camping. There is a trail around the waterfall that is ideal for trekkers to walk all the way up to the top of the falls. This is the perch point from where one can witness the waters cascading with full force. The place is the perfect spot for relaxation and fun enveloped with dense greenery. The falls also house a small temple in its vicinity which has various idols and stone structures.
The temple is visited by devotees throughout the year. A shrine of Lord Veerabhadra dedicated to Lord Shiva is also located at its base, at a drop of 122 meters, built in a gap between the rocks and can be approached after crossing the waterfall. Other attractions around the Kalhatti Falls are the Z Point and the Rock Garden. Hebbe Falls are also easily accessible from this location, situated at a distance of 10 km.
The dam built on the Bhadra River is used for irrigation storage and filled to its maximum capacity between the months of June and November. The dam is not only a source of power for the adjoining villages in this region and is frequented by a large number of tourists due to the scenic forest and wildlife backdrops. Crocodiles, deer, and exotic birds are also spotted on the banks of the river.
Rafting is also popular in the outskirts of the River Bhadra between the months of June and October, when the water level is good. Trained instructors and well-maintained equipment are easily available.
Sringeri Sharada Peetha
Also known as the Dakshinamnaya Sharada Peetham, the temple is located on the banks of the Tungabhadra River at a distance of 90 Km from the Chikmagalur district. This is one of the four Hindu Advaita Mutts which were established by Adi Shankaracharya.
The head of the Mutt has attested the title of “Shankaracharya” and is believed to be empowered with immense knowledge and wisdom. Also, called the “Jagadguru,” the head is the sole person with the rights to make decisions on the activities conducted at the Mutt. Several scriptures are recited here and qualified speakers often explain the same to the audience.
The sculpture of Goddess Sharada, Goddess of knowledge and wisdom is present here. The Sringeri Sharada Peetha is located in one of the breath-taking surroundings with the Sahayadri mountains. The Sringeri Sharada Peetha was also frequented by the Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan. The swami here are the disciples of Adi Shankaracharya and follow his teachings. This Mutt has been a place of patronage often visited by famous people over the years.
It is located about 100 Km southwest of Chikmagalur. It is a place of scenic beauty as well as rich heritage. There is an ancient Annapoorneshwari Temple which has been renovated and renamed recently as “Adi-Shaktyatmaka Shree Annapoorneshwari” due to the installation of the new image of Adi Shakti where the Goddess Annapoorneshwari is standing on a peeta with Shanku, Chakra, Sri Chakra Gayathri Devi and her four hands.
The name “Annapooreshwari” means “feeding one and all,” adding to the unique feature of this temple which is providing free boarding, lodging, and food to the pilgrims visiting the temple.
This waterfall is the perfect spot for a family picnic located in the shola forests. The vast stretches of natural beauty and greenery with the cascading silver waterfalls leave a lasting impression.
The Falls are believed to be holy by many people due to the legend accompanying it off the Sufi saint – Hazrat Dada Hayath Khalandar who prayed for water when in a dearth. The water fabled to have appeared miraculously as a result of his prayers.
Locals believe that taking a dip in the waters of Manikyadhara provides instant relaxation as it is said to have therapeutic effects which remain cold throughout the year, even during the hot summers. Several Muslim devotees frequent the place and often leave behind a piece of their garment after taking a shower believing that offering clothing will fulfill their wishes. The Manikyadhara waterfall is thus, one of the best places to visit in Chikmagalur due to not only its mesmerizing views but also the historical importance associated with it.
From sprawling grasslands, sloping mountains, emerald green coffee plnatations, beautiful cascades of the many waterfalls here and a host of religious heritage temples – Chikmagalur offers a plethora of options for anyone looking for a getaway with an enriching experience of the outdoors, with a generous helping of the local culture.