The way to Kemmannagundi is planted with enough compelling road signs to waylay innocent tourists into some other, seemingly more tempting holiday. But if you stick firmly to your path, skirting the tangential charms of Halebid and Belur, the Chikmagalur coffee estates, and the distant road to Kudremukh, you’ll reach a hill that was once preferred by a monarch. Kemmannagundi is actually a single secluded hill that’s been successfully posing as a hill station ever since Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar IV made it his summer haven in It’s compact charms – views, waterfalls, gardens, all in a day’s work – make it one of the most fun-filled short holidays from Bengaluru.

Every Saturday, families and college students burst upon this getaway that still carries the grand title of Krishna Rajendra Hill Station.

A small monsoon pond near Yemmedoddi Village
A small monsoon pond near Yemmedoddi Village

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Things to see

The 61-km journey from Chikmagalur to Kemmannagundi is like watching a nature programme on a shaky TV screen. Sprawling coffee estates shaded with silver oaks line the route to the hill station. The Horticulture Department Guesthouse is thick with flowers that invite you to put your feet up and unwind in the garden over a cup of tea.

There’s the Rock Garden within the guesthouse premises maintained by the Horticulture Depart ment. The Kallahati Falls (10km), also known as Kalahasti Falls, descend from a height of 122m and are quite pretty. It’s a lovely place for a picnic lunch. You could take a short trek to the Hebbe Falls (8km), but don’t attempt swimming here. And then there’s Z Point, the perfect location from which to watch sunsets. The place is popular with trekkers.
◆ Garden timings 9.30am–5.00pm

Hebbe Falls
Hebbe Falls

Where to Stay & Eat

In Kemmannagundi, the hilltop Horticulture Department Guesthouse (Tel: 08261-237126; Tariff: 1,680–2,240) is the only option. Most rooms here are ordinary with the barest facilities. But Raj Bhawan (Tel: 237126; Tariff: 1,680), right on top, has fantastic views and large rooms. Located a few kilometres away from the town, Ozone Valley (Cell: 09448971207, 09448727717; Tariff: 2,000 per person with meals) is a beautiful hill resort set amidst dense coffee plantations. The food served at the Horticulture Department’s Guesthouse in Kemman nagundi is not all that great. If you are with kids, bring along snacks because there are no shops nearby. Try dilpasand from any roadside stall. This is bread filled with sweetmeats and coco nut, so heavy it lands with a thud in your belly.

Prashant Panjiar
One of many plantations between Chikmagalur and Kemmanagundi
One of many plantations between Chikmagalur and Kemmanagundi

Around

Shivgiri Trails (35km)
This 100-year-old estate is located in the Hoggare kangiri hill ranges of Chikmagalur district atop a remote hill in the middle of a tiger reserve. As you drive up the winding mud road, which offers you a spinetingling view of the valleys and the forested hills, you’ll notice that the place is so isolated that nobody except those connected with the estate ever move around here. Disappear into the greenery here and don’t return till evening. Perhaps you’ll never return at all, if you don’t take the expert guidance of localguides. The Yemmedoddi Forests were once the favoured hunting grounds of the British. From here, you can take a trip to Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (45km) in the Muthodi Range, at `12–14 per km per person. Shivgiri has its tigers even to this day. Panthers, too, show up from time to time. You will also see mouse deer, barking deer, Sloth bears, and wild boars. Many natural caves are to be found here. One such cave, up on a grassy flank in the deep valley ahead of the guesthouse, has always been a repository of bones left behind by one of the big cats. If you have the guts, a guide will lead you to it.

Where to Stay and Eat 
Shivgiri Trails (Tel: 080-42052667; Cell: 09036360633; Tariff: 2,750 per person, with meals) has four rooms and two double-bedded tents on offer, and also provides stay facilities for their guests’ drivers. The food here is home-cooked, and served at flexible timings. Dinner is a barbecued meal.