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Yelagiri, at a height of 920 meters 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.
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 135 km and the route passes through Sriperumbudur, Walajapet and Katpadi. 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 kms". Take a left at this exit. Its 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 350 INR (2005) to drop you in Yelagiri Hills from Jolarpettai Junction.
Things to remember
Please note there are no petrol stations in Yelagiri, thus you have to fillup 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, please 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.
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 12PM in the morning. The villagers around believe this Goddess is very powerful and throng the place in good numbers on fridays.
There are 14 hair pin bends named with Tamil Poets(Pari Valivu, Ori Valivu, Kamban Valivu etc...) those leads 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.
Boating on Punganur Lake
Science / Educational
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.
A SBI ATM has been newly constructed near State Bank of India branch in Athanavur village as of August 2009.
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 treking 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
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 Rs.500/- to Rs.3000/- per room. Make sure you carry enough money (in cash) for your expenses, as the hotels here do not accept credit cards.
BSNL, Vodafone, Aircel and Airtel have excellent 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.