In Bengaluru, it’s easy to escape from your cubicle and into a different world altogether.
Wander among coffee plantations in Madikeri or soak in picturesque views in Coonoor, a garden-fresh cup of tea in hand. If you’re looking for more action, head to Coorg for whitewater rafting or buckle your hiking boots to navigate the Nilgiris at Kotagiri. If ease of travel is a priority, Nandi Hills – the former summer retreat of Tipu Sultan – is less than two hours away.
People visit (and come back to) quaint Kotagiri (295km) for three reasons – its largely undiscovered biodiversity; its nostaligic colonial ambience; and its charming weather year-round. Add some fantastic trekking options to that list, and a distinctly untouristy air, and you have the perfect mountain getaway.
Best time to go: January-March; October-December
Car (6hr 30min; SH17, NH209): Stick to the Mysore Rd all the way till Mysore city. After this, take the road leading to Nanjangud, Gundlupet, Bandipur and Masinagudi till you hit Ooty. From here, head towards Wood Cock Rd on your left, then turn left onto the Coimbatore-Ooty Highway (NH181). Go straight and take a left onto SH15, just before the 5km mark. From here Kotagiri is about 25km; it will fall on your right (after an HP Petrol Bunk on your left).
Bus (8hr): Multiple KSRTC buses, starting from Kempegowda bus stand, go to Ooty. To reach Kotagiri, you will have to change to a TNSTC (Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation) bus, which are frequent and ply regularly.
Immortalised by Bollywood, Ooty’s (Udhagamandalam; 265km) reputation as ‘Queen of the Hills’ is hard to beat, despite the tourists milling around. With many ‘tick off the list’ things to do, it’s an engaging destination with the toy train, Botanical Gardens, Boat House, and more. Stay on the outer fringes to get a taste of old-world charm, still lingering in refurbished colonial bungalows.
Best time to go: January-June; October-December
Car (6hr; SH17, NH181): Keep to the Mysore Highway (SH17) all the way till Mysore city. After this, take the NH181 on to Nanjangud, Gundlupet, Bandipur and Masinagudi till you hit Ooty.
Bus (7hr 30min): Multiple KSRTC buses start from Kempegowda bus stand in Bengaluru. The forest part of the highway (Bandipur) is closed between 9pm and 5am. However, you can opt for the 10.15pm or 10.45pm bus (deluxe and luxury) if you want a non-stop, overnight ride. These buses have special permission to travel at night.
Discover the remnants of Tipu’s empire and monuments of earlier eras at Nandi Hills (56km), once home to the Tiger of Mysore’s impregnable fort. Nandi Hills is a great option for a day trip or even an overnight stay. Sprawling gardens stretch across the hill and offer unparalleled views of the surrounding countryside; there is a restaurant and picnic grounds for day visitors.
Best time to go: January-March; September-December
Car (1hr 20min NH7): Drive past Devanahalli (NH7) till you reach Rani Cross (or Nandi Cross). Take a left onto Nandi Hills Rd. Turn left again at Karahalli Cross. Approximately 4km ahead, turn right onto the road leading up to Nandi Hills.
Bus (1hr 45min): There are regular buses from the Majestic bus terminus to Chikballapur, via Bellary Rd. From Chikballapur, buses and autos are available to Nandi Hills, though not so frequent on the return journey.
Train (2hr 30min; Chikballapur): Direct passenger and local trains to Chikballapur from Bangalore City station. The 8.40am train is the most convenient on the way out, while for returning, opt for the 3.55pm or 7.55am trains.
Tranquil Coonoor (285km), off the beaten tourist track, offers memorable experiences. This tea country is an olfactory paradise for lovers of the cup that cheers. For views of the Coimbatore plains, tea terraces and nearby mountains, choose from a number of superb vantage points around. The locomotive buff will surely enjoy a ride in the heritage Nilgiri Toy Train.
Best time to go: April-September
Car (6hr 30min; SH17, NH181): Stick to the Mysore Rd all the way till Mysore city. Then take the road leading to Nanjangud, Gundlupet, Bandipur and Masinagudi till you hit Ooty. From here, avoid the main town and get onto the Lovedale- Coimbatore-Ooty NH181 for about 25km till you reach Coonoor.
Bus (8hr): Multiple KSRTC buses, starting from Kempegowda bus stand, go to Ooty. From here, you will have to change to a TNSTC (Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation) bus, which are a dime a dozen, and ply regularly.
MADIKERI & AROUND
Busy Madikeri (Mercara; 250km), the chief town and transport hub of Coorg (Kodagu), is spread out along a series of ridges. An imposing fort, Omkareshwara Temple, the royal tombs, lush coff ee and spice estates, and stunning panoramas of verdant valleys from Raja’s Seat, are ample reason to visit this old-world hill station surrounded by dense rainforests.
Best time to go: January-June; October-December
Car (5hr; SH17): Use the excellent Bengaluru–Mysore Expressway (SH17) till you reach the Mysore Ring Rd. Turn right here, and then again at the Atal Behari Vajpayee Circle, for Hunsur and onward to Madikeri.
Bus (6hr): Volvos, plying three times every day, depart from the Mysore Rd Satellite bus stand near the Gopalan Mall. The buses leave Bengaluru at 7am, 10am and 2pm, arriving in Madikeri at 1pm, 4pm and 8pm respectively.