Calling all nature lovers...

Calling all nature lovers...

With stunning waterfalls, lush hills and an endearing rural vibe, the little-known town of Yellapur is a must-visit, writes M Gautham Machaiah

Kavadi Kere

Little-known Yellapur may not be on top of a tourist’s itinerary, but this small areca- and paddy-growing town in the Western Ghats with its mesmerising waterfalls, lush green hills and sheer valleys is a nature lover’s delight. Yellapur is located in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district and is a little over an hour’s drive from Hubballi and Dandeli.

A hidden gem

This is essentially a day-trip with barely about four destinations of interest. Unlike other tourist spots, Yellapur is not over-crowded or commercialised and retains its old-world charm. However, options of good accommodation may be limited if one desires to stay back and unwind in the lap of nature.

About 30 km from the town is Sathodi Falls, located in the midst of a thick forest. Flanked by two huge rock formations, the falls is formed by several small streams which finally join the backwaters of Kodasalli Dam, built across River Kali. With uneven rocks on the surface, it is difficult and unsafe to go within a touching distance of the falls, so it’s best enjoyed from a short distance away. Though the waters are pristine during summer, in monsoons, it turns muddy brown. The drive to the falls is scenic with the Kali backwaters forming a picture-perfect setting along the route. If you are the adventurous type, you could park your vehicle at a distance and walk all the way to the falls, as we did. But make sure you return well before darkness sets in as there are absolutely no streetlights, and in the absence of barricades, there is a risk of slipping down into the backwaters. This is also a tiger reserve and you might not want to end up as dinner to a big cat.

From Sathodi, one will have to return to the highway to explore other hotspots like Magod Falls, which is about 15 km from the town. The beauty of the falls is that it is located in a valley and can be viewed from the opposite hilltop. A short walk on a well-laid path through the forest takes you to a vantage point. For a while, you only hear the sound of water cascading down the rocks and as you wait for the mist to clear an awe-inspiring sight awaits you. Deep below, you will find River Bedthi taking a leap from a height of 650 feet, forming a two-tier waterfall.

Magod Falls
Magod Falls

You can spend the rest of the time walking around the forest or even meditating if you are spiritually inclined. The unhurried atmosphere, greenery and silence give you an opportunity to relax and discover yourself. A little away is Jenu Kallu Gudda, which offers a breathtaking view of the undulating hills and valleys. The best time to be here is during sunset. If you are travelling during monsoon, be sure to carry an umbrella so that you are not caught unawares by the sudden downpours.

Legendary lake

On the way to Magod, you will come across a large lake spread over 60 acres which has an interesting history. It is said when the Pandavas were passing through the area during their exile, Draupadi who was very thirsty asked Bheema to fetch some water. When he could not find any water nearby, he prayed to Goddess Durga who directed him to bring water from the Ganges. Bheema brought the water in a large kavadi or pot and emptied it at Yellapur, which is why the lake is called Kavadi Kere. A small, beautiful temple dedicated to Goddess Durga is on the bank.

Yellapur is also known for the Siddi tribe, who have a stark resemblance to Africans. Said to be the descendants of the Bantu people of Southeast Africa, most of them were brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by the Portuguese. There are in all about 50,000 people belonging to the Siddi community in India and Pakistan. Yellapur is a hidden gem waiting to be explored, but basic infrastructure is woefully inadequate. The roads are narrow and dangerous at many points, while getting good food at tourist spots can be challenging. The town definitely deserves to be showcased to the world, but the government should ensure that it does not go the way of other eco-sensitive destinations like Coorg and Chikkamagaluru which are crumbling under the weight of tourists. What is needed is a healthy balance between tourism and sustainability.