Karnataka’s second highest hill station, Coonoor is a lush jewel sitting 1,840m above sea level, in the Nilgiris. Dotted with tea estates and green woodland, Coonoor is definitely a relaxing getaway. And thanks to its naturally hilly terrain, it makes for a great trekking/bicycling holiday.
Where to Stay
We checked into Kurumba Village nature resort, named after one of the five ancient tribes of the Nilgiris. The property stretches around the Western Ghats and is carefully built to accommodation nature, offering some fantastic view of region. It definitely has the best infinity pool, a tree-top dining room and a tea garden that overlooks the beautiful blue mountains. The cottages are modern, with jute furniture and fittings.
Take a Hike
Exploring the great outdoors is easy here. Especially when you consider that Kurumba is the only property in the region to offer treks in and around the Nilgiri biosphere reserved forest area. You are required to be accompanied by a local guide as per the law, and Kalyan Chakraborty and I decided to go on all four treks on offer, over a span of two days. We were tired, sure, but also came away feeling refreshed.
The Nature Trail
This is the best trail for beginners and families; start early in the morning if you enjoy birding. Most of the trek is on flat land, with occasional rocky patches. While there are some stretches where a slip could land you 600ft down the hill, these are also points that make a great picture pit stop. We spotted Malabar squirrels and a wide variety of butterflies on our trek; and wild Tulsi and Aloe Vera grow in abundance, so do not worry about small nicks and cuts.
A challenging trek, it starts with a ride to a quaint British-era estate, and from there, we walked through tea plantations and forested hills that offered panoramic views of the valley. The forest is full of trees laden with star fruit and Bablimas (local grape fruit; also an endearing term for someone who is chubby), while flycatchers, babblers, robins, jungle fowl and porcupine hop across the path. We also spotted the Nilgiri Toy Train chug into the Hill Grove station for a refill.
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Distance: 300 ft uphill climb
Another toughie, this one begins with a ride to the foot of the Pakasuran Hill. At one point, we passed through the hilariously-named, but well-manicured, ‘Nonsuch’ tea estate and spotted several Indian Gaur grazing peacefully. The adventure begins before you reach the hill, as part of the drive is across a 7.5km off-roading stretch. As we trekked up, we saw the wall of a fort used by Tippu Sultan as he marched from Mysore to Palakkad, and at the top, we were offered some of the finest views of the Nilgiris.
Distance: 6km to 30km
Our favorite trek, this route challenged us to the limit while showing off the raw beauty of the Nilgiris. It begins inside the reserve and covers nine waterfalls, falling from a height range of 20ft to 250ft. We had to jump over a number of rocks and navigate through untamed vegetation to get to them, so good shoes, long pants and long sleeved cotton clothing are an absolute must on this trek. We also walked on the stony base of a river, as the rains were yet to arrive then, and spotted more Gaurs and playful Langoors frolicking in the morning sun.
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Cover Image Courtesy: Shutterstock.com; Images courtesy: Kalyan Chakraborty