Yondering through Yercaud

It may not be as popular as its cousins on the Western Ghats like Ooty and Kodiakanal, but Yercaud certainly carries a subtle charm around it, writes Sudha Balachandran
Last Updated 22 March 2019, 19:30 IST

If you are looking for a peaceful and relaxed holiday with plenty of walks and treks, just enjoying the natural beauty of the place at a slow, unhurried pace without the commercial and cantankerous sounds of a typical hill station, then Yercaud is ‘the’ place to visit.

The sweeping hills and dales offer great view points — the views of Salem town lit up in the evening, the sun setting over the hills and casting its own magical glow across the horizon, the abundance of plants and trees, the soothing green, the fragrant air filled with the fresh scent of pine and eucalyptus, the pepper vines hugging the tall trees, the short but beautifully manicured coffee plants — these are some of the major highlights that need to be experienced and enjoyed.

Nestled in the Shevaroy Hills of the Eastern Ghats is this quaint little hill station called Yercaud. It may not be as popular as its cousins on the Western Ghats like Ooty and Kodiakanal, but Yercaud certainly carries a subtle charm around it.

Situated at just a 30 km distance from Tamil Nadu’s town of Salem, Yercaud, at a height of 1,515 m above sea level, enjoys pleasant weather throughout the year. Yercaud is filled with plantations that grow coffee, oranges, and spices like pepper and cinnamon. Owing to its pleasant climate, it was first formed and developed by the British. Yercaud literally means ‘Lake Forest’ in Tamil, yeri means lake while kaadu refers to the forest. The Anglicised version of the two Tamil words became Yercaud.

We enjoyed the drive up from the foothills of Salem and covered 20 hairpin bends during the scenic route. We saw a small group of monkeys sitting atop the wall on the road, grooming themselves, enjoying the sun and each other’s company.

Sacred Heart Church.
Sacred Heart Church.

Enveloped in green

Yercaud, like most hill stations developed by the British, boasts of a huge man-made lake, located at its centre. The Emerald Lake, as it is popularly called, is placid and picturesque with tall green trees dotting its periphery.

The Botanical Gardens and the Orchidarium are well-maintained and offer beautiful sights of some very rare and native plants. We were completely spell bound by the large collection of orchids on display — especially rare ones like the Ladies Slipper, a type of orchid that eats insects!

The various view points like Lady’s Seat, Gent’s Seat and Children’s Seat on the western side of Yercaud offer breathtaking views of Salem town and the Ghats. We climbed up the view tower at Lady’s Seat for a better view of the huge rock-side cliff and the 200 ft sheer drop.

During our three-day trip, we trekked to Kiliyur Falls. We walked along the road from the lake — it was mostly downhill and a very scenic route with coffee plantations dotting both sides of the road. We then climbed down nearly 200-odd steps. We first heard the sound of the waterfall before actually laying eyes on it. The six-km walk from our hotel was well worth the effort — the Falls was breathtaking, falling from a height like a large, white veil spread against the grey-coated rocks. We clambered up the rocks to feel the spray of milky-white waters, and of course for those Instagram-worthy pictures. The climb back was tough but we huffed and puffed and enjoyed the pain after the gain!

During our leisurely strolls, we walked past the Montfort School, a premier institution that was set up in 1917. We visited the Sacred Heart Church, a beautiful construction in stone.

The church stood majestically atop a hill, surrounded by sprawling and well-maintained grounds. We also took a tour of a coffee plantation, walked down the muddy paths, brushed our exposed arms against dry branches and twigs, relished some fresh oranges and guavas plucked off the trees. We had a thoroughly relaxed time, taking in the beautiful views. In the evenings, we could see the twinkling lights of Salem town spread below us, and the twinkling of the stars right above us.

The short vacation at Yercaud filled our senses and calmed us — preparing us to face and cope with the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

(Published 22 March 2019, 19:30 IST)

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