Yercaud is a charming, mist-clad hill station in Tamil Nadu. It is the jewel of the magnificent Shevaroy range of hills that encircle the town of Salem. We had to pass through Salem on our way to Yercaud. At Salem, our taxi driver informed us that we would be there in another 90 minutes. But the map I was consulting depicted Yercaud to be just 33kms away from Salem. As I was pondering over the discrepancy, I got a jerk. Oops! We had just crossed a hair-pin bend. A road-side banner indicated that there were 19 more such bends to go. On some bends, you can clearly see the twists above as well as below—the feeling that you just made these turns some time back, humbles you. And it’s amazing to witness the sun and the mist play hide-and-seek.
As you move up, the stunning views enthral you. Wild forests blur into well-cultivated coffee estates. The soaring silver oaks seem to be reaching for the skies while the coffee plantations delightfully carpet the entire hilly region. Pepper creepers embrace the silver oaks as if to complete a beautiful painting. It feels like bliss to simply be present amidst this bountiful beauty.
Yercaud has a scintillating lake bounded by woody dense forests—the source of its name [In Tamil, yeri is lake and cadu is forests]. It was the British who discovered Yercaud and the credit goes to them for bringing coffee plantation and orange groves to this area. After our tumultuous roller-coaster ride in which we crossed 20 hair-pin bends, we were greeted at Yercaud by the lovely placid lake, the Big Lake, also called as the Emerald Lake. The lake is at the centre of the town and is a completely natural lake [no other hill-station in South India can boast of this status].
From there, we headed for our resort, which was situated in the midst of a live coffee estate. The resort dates back to the 1800s, and was once a British bungalow [it still retains its heritage look].
As far as accommodation is concerned, there is no dearth for places to stay in this town. You get to choose from a wide variety of pocket-friendly lodges to luxurious resorts to hospitable home-stays. Make an advanced reservation if you are planning to visit Yercaud during May/June; it’s season time here. Also, take heed of the weekends because Yercaud is the favourite getaway for most locals of Salem to unwind themselves. Although popular among locals, this place is not as crowded as other hill stations and you get to relax in peace and rejuvenate in a resort of your taste.
The climate is always pleasant and every season is a welcoming one with only slight variations. The rains captivate admirers between July and September; months from March to June are nippy, and October to February are chilly—fit for honeymoon couples.
You’ll enjoy the food in Yercaud as much as the weather. Don’t miss the appam with coconut milk, puttu with chana or banana, steaming dosa and upma.
After boarding comfortably in our eco-friendly resort and appeasing our taste buds, we ventured out to explore the spice gardens accompanied by a guide, arranged by the resort. At a local estate, the guide introduced us to the various varieties of spices grown in the region and explained their benefits.
The entire region was filled with the fragrance of exotic flora, orange groves, black pepper, eucalyptus, silver-oak and coffee plantation.
The guide informed us that the valley is home to the bulbul, bison, hare, mongoose, deer, fox, patridge and rabbit.
In addition to exploring the coffee and spice plantations, a must-do activity in Yercaud is trekking. A newbie to trekking and to Yercaud can avail the help of agents who provide trekking packages and ensure safe trekking for you. If you have time, take the trek to the breathtaking Kiliyur falls. Since we visited during the rainy season, the path was slippery and we had to omit the trek from our plans.
But there are many picturesque points in Yercaud. The top most point is the ‘Pagoda point’, which is at 5326ft above the sea level. When we went there, the mountain was entirely enveloped with clouds and we could see nothing but mist. With the mist hugging you at this high an altitude, a plate of piping hot mirchi bhajias with freshly-brewed coffee enhance the experience; it’s divine.
By Rail Salem junction: 35km
By Air Trichy: 163km
By Road Bengaluru: 230km
You can also visit the Shevaroyan temple on the hill, which is home to Shevaroyappan deity, after whom the hills have been named. There is also an idol of goddess Cauvery here. The temple is cave-like and narrow with space just enough for one person to enter and pray at a time. The priest mentioned that a tunnel runs from the temple all the way to Talacauvery temple in Coorg.
At a slightly lower elevation, is another temple where the deity Raja Rajeshwari resides. It is believed that devotees of this deity attain higher levels of spirituality.
If you love to visit temples, you shouldn’t miss the world’s biggest Sri Chakra temple, which is about 43ft high and take the blessings of Goddess Tripura Sundari Devi. This temple beats the record set by the Sri Chakra temple in Sreesailam in Andhra Pradesh, which is 21ft high.
There are two more interesting places to visit in Yercaud—Lady’s Seat and Gent’s Seat. The Lady’s Seat bestows a spectacular view of Salem. During British rule, this spot was frequently visited by an English lady and hence the name.
The Gent’s Seat overlooks the magnificent mountain ranges and is at a higher elevation than the Lady’s Seat. I wasn’t surprised to find out that there is a seat named after children too! [Basically, these points are at various altitudes and present different panoramic views.]
Adjacent to the Children’s Seat, is a beautiful rose garden, which hosts a wide variety of roses. The mere variety of shades is worth admiring; and make for awesome photos.
Yercaud has something for everyone—while it has temples and the incredible views from various altitudes to amuse the adults, it has a lot more for children.
There’s row and pedal boating at the Big Lake; there are swings, slides and see-saws and a small Japanese-style garden in Anna Park, which is right across the serene lake. The Anna Park management arranges a flower show during the month of May, every year. There is also a deer park adjoining the park, where children can spend an evening spotting spotted deer.
Yercaud boasts of the National Orchidarium with a botanical garden attached to it maintained by the Southern Circle of Botanical Survey of India. It houses numerous plant species including endangered, foreign and ornamental plants. It also has a fernery, where a variety of ferns are cultivated and displayed. The main attraction here is an insectivorous plant called, the pitcher plant. It is a carnivorous plant, which captures its prey into its deep cavity filled with a liquid. Because of its cool climate, the place is home to several convent schools.
There’s so much to see and experience in Yercaud. Even if you just laze around and do or see nothing, the place will revitalise you. Here, all your tensions and worries, take a back seat. All you need to do is close your eyes and inhale the fresh mountain air; you can feel your soul dancing to the melodies of this enchanting valley.
Reluctantly, we left the valley but not without our share of coffee, black pepper, pulpy oranges and a whole lot of sweet memories.
This was first published in the January 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.