VELLIANGIRI Hills, Coimbatore is the Kailash of South India

  • By Anugrah Lakshmanan
  • December 5, 2022
  • 2081 views

A detailed and practical guide for those who wish to do the 1 day Velliangiri Hills Trek from Coimbatore. Like there is a Kashi Vishwanathat Temple in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu for those who cannot visit Kashi so also this yatra is for those who cannot visit Shivji abode in Tibet. 

Velliangiri Seven Hills Trek

Difficulty - Moderate to Difficult

Duration - Day trek

Suitability - Suitable for all. However, local officials at the trail entrance will only allow women over the age of 50 years and girls below 10 years. Women in their menstrual age are not permitted.

Base / Start point - Poondi Shiva Temple, Poondi, Coimbatore

Highlights

1. Great trek catering to nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, and spiritual seekers

2. Velliangiri range is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere in the Western Ghats

3. The 7th Hill is the highest peak of the area

4. Trek takes you through thick shola forests, a ridge walk and a summit climb

5. Often times you'll be passing through the clouds or see them below you

6. Trek can be done by anyone who's reasonably fit. This trek will test your endurance

Watch out for  Green shola forests and grass meadows, various shrines of siddhas and mystics 

Stunning views of the valley and Siruvani River from the 5th hill onwards.

 

Route

The trek can be divided into four major sections -

1. Poondi temple to Vellai Vinayakar temple on 1st hill.

2. Vellai Vinayakar temple to Kai Thatti Sonai.

3. Kai Thatti Sonai to Aandi Sonai.

4. Aandi Sonai to Velliangiri summit.

Section 1

Poondi temple to Vellai Vinayakar temple on 1st hill.

Time taken: 50 mins.

Trek starts at Poondi temple. Since the trail starts from a temple, you will be required to remove your footwear initially. You could carry them inside a bag. However, once you have started climbing for about 5 minutes and have left the temple fairly behind, you could put on your footwear. Nobody will object. Just remember to remove them again as you approach the temple on your return as well.

At the back of the temple, to your right when facing the sanctum, the trail begins. There is a stone archway to guide you. This initial climb is extremely steep, so take your time and don't hurry up, or you'll have trouble later when endurance runs out. You can take a break at the Ganesha shrine on 1st hill (in picture) before going on.

Trek starts here. Pic courtesy Google Maps. 

Outside Ganesha temple. 

Section 2

Vellai Vinayakar temple to Kai Thatti Sonai 

Time taken: 1 hr 10 mins

 Vazhukku Paarai or slippery rock.  

Once you've left the Ganesha temple behind, in about 20 mins of climbing, you will come to "Vazhukku Paarai" or slippery rock in Tamil. It's a large stretch of rock where you'll have a brief view of the sky after a long time in the thick forest. Steps have been cut in the rock for safety (in picture). Take a bit of care here anyway, especially if you're trekking in the monsoon. 

Shortly after crossing Vazhukku Paarai, you will see a small stream to your right where you can fill up your bottles. This spot is near the Paambatti Siddhar Guhai, a cave where this Yogi is said to have been in meditation for a long time. There will be a small bamboo shaft stuck into the stream to make it easier to fill water.

Filling water. 

The climb will continue at moderate steepness till you reach Kai Thatti Sonai where there is another water source hidden in a little cave. Make sure to hydrate yourself and fill up your bottles as there will be no more water sources till the 6th hill. That's another hour and a half away.

Section 3

Kai Thatti Sonai to Aandi Sonai

Time taken: 1 hr 30 mins

This is by far the most beautiful part of the whole trek, apart from the views from the summit of course.  Around 15 minutes after you leave Kai Thatti Sonai, you will come back out into the open, but at a significant altitude. From here, it’s a scenic walk till the end. You'll have the Siruvani valley sprawling out to your left and you'll be walking at the edge of the tree line to your right, at the ridge of the hills. 

View of hills and lakes. 

After around 20 mins after hitting the open, you will cross a small roadside shrine with tridents and rocks piled up on one side of the road. You will also notice that the regular stone steps will end here. It is said that a devotee took on the task of laying out a proper path with stone to make it more accessible to future pilgrims. He hauled every stone by hand for many years up to this point where he passed away.

The Samadhi is dedicated to this unnamed person. Beyond this point will be a mud trail. All roads lead to Velliangiri, so don't worry about getting lost, unless you decide to go off the trail.

Boulder. Bheeman Kali Urundai. 

Further, on the 5th hill, you cannot miss a large round stone ball sitting precariously at the edge of the hill. This is the Bheeman Kali Urundai (in picture), or Bheemas ball of food, as called by the locals. It is also from here that you will get your first view of the 7th hill summit...if clouds have not covered it. From the Kali Urundai, another half an hour or so and you should be descending to the Aandi Sonai.

Section 4

Aandi Sonai to Velliangiri summit

Time taken: 1 hr

Aandi Sonai to summit. 

Aandi Sonai is part of a stream where it has formed a small pool of water. Feel free to take a dip. Preferably fill your bottles a little upstream and not at the pool. From here it is the summit climb of the 7th hill. This is the steepest part of the trek, so take your time.

Climb to the 7th hill.  

At the summit is a Swayambhu Linga. There is a legend that Lord Shiva spent some time on this hill, and hence it is also called "Then Kailayam" or Kailash of the South. Another name is "Tiruneer Malai" in Tamil and Rajatagiri in Samskritam, literally meaning White Mountain or Vibhuti (sacred ash) mountain, because of the unique composition of the rocks that are white in colour when broken.

Vibhuti like rocks. 

It is said that many Yogis and Siddhas have attained Samadhi on this sacred hill. Most famous among them is Sadhguru Sri Brahma, whose samadhi spot is also on the hill, slightly off the summit (in picture). A path trails to the left at the summit (turning right takes you to the Shivalinga shrine, and the way down). It is a short 5-minute walk if you follow the trail.

Location is Samadhi spot of a yogi, Sadhguru Sri Brahma. 

Best season to do the trek

Personally, I've done all the trek year round, but there are some things to look out for. 

The traditional pilgrimage season starts around mid-January and lasts till May. This time of the year, the trail will be full of devotees going up and there will also be plenty of shacks and stalls set up on the way with all sorts of refreshments from glucose biscuits to soft drinks. It is a rather crowded time to do the trek, especially on Full moon and New moon days. So, if you're the kind of person who likes to have people around you, and the comfort of ready food and bottled water supplies along the way, then February-May is a good time.

I personally like it when it's quieter, so I like to go up between September-December. There will not be any stalls and pilgrims, so you'll be on your own when it comes to food. Make sure to plan that well. Water is available at the streams along the way as I have mentioned. 

The forest department generally puts up a barricade at the trail entrance arch in the Poondi temple in May to mark the end of the official pilgrimage season. They again remove it in January when the pilgrims start coming. However, if you're going up during June-Dec, you just need to bypass this initial entrance by getting into the forest and then once again join the stone trail. 

Another important factor to keep in mind is the daily weather. In case it is raining heavily, or it is extremely windy at the base when you start the trek, DO NOT attempt the final summit. Wind speeds and rain make the 7th hill climb very risky and I have known of many cases of people getting literally blown off the mountain to their deaths on such occasions. A slight drizzle is ok, as long as you're fine getting a little wet. So, climbing in the monsoon months of June-August is generally not recommended. But however, if there isn't any rain and the weather is fairly clear, you could go up without much trouble.

Difficult sections

This is a moderate-difficult trek mainly because of the steepness of ascent. You start at Poondi 1558 feet (475 mts) and go to the summit at 5883 feet (1778 mts) in a matter of 4-5 hours. It is an endurance test. If you hurry up just to get there quickly, you will have trouble when descending and your knees and legs will really hurt.

Trekking down is always tough. 

There is no specific difficult section as such, but you do need to take a little care when trekking in the monsoon as the trail will be wet, and rocky portions can get slippery. Especially the Vazhukku Paarai on 2nd hill, and the final 7th hill.

How to reach Poondi

Poondi is a small village around 30 kms from Coimbatore city. There is a proper motorable road and a regular bus service. A private vehicle costs about 800-900 one way from the Coimbatore railway station.

You could also take a bus from the Central Bus stand at Gandhipuram. Take the 14D bus to Poondi that leaves every hour. There is also a bus that goes to the Isha Yoga Center running with the same number. The Yoga Center is around a kilometre away from Poondi. In case you get into that bus by mistake, you could get off at the Thaneer Pandal stop just before Isha where the Poondi road takes a diversion. The Poondi temple is a 15 minutes walk from there.  

In case you are driving yourself, click on the Google maps link to get to Poondi temple (in picture)

Nearest domestic and international airport is Coimbatore. Nearest railway station is also Coimbatore.

You may like to check out this video to get a real-life view of the trek

Velliangiri Hills Trekking Guide (English) | Kailash of South India Velliangiri Trek

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjxFxHkzBWM

IMPORTANT

Trekking by Women

Though there is no written announcement anywhere, there is a general discomfort among the local community with women who are in their menstrual age going on the trek. There are various groups who are trying to work with the locals to change this mindset, but currently, the local officials at the trail entrance will not allow ladies in the specified age to go up.

Permission and Camping

There is no permission required as such to go up. As it is a day trek, you will not need to camp anywhere. However, if you're feeling like taking a snooze somewhere, the meadows that start at the 4th hill onwards are a good place to chill out. 

No Medical Support

There are no medical facilities or support whatsoever available anywhere along the trek.  Remember to keep this in mind when you plan your trek.

Stay options near Poondi

You can just find a regular hotel in Coimbatore city, and travel to Poondi from there. If you want to reduce travel time, look for accommodation in the Vadavalli area. There are plenty. Poondi is a 45 minute drive from there. There are no proper stay facilities anywhere along the trek route

Timings on the trek

There is no timing as such. Its open 24 hrs. There is a charm in trekking at night too, and if you start from Poondi at around 1 AM, you'll witness a spectacular sunrise from the summit. Make sure to carry torches if you need them. Also, if you're going to be trekking at night, you might want to carry some warm clothing as it gets pretty cold on the summit.

Food and Water on the trail

It's best you pack a full meal and carry it with you. If you're trekking during the pilgrim season, there's nothing to worry about even in case you run out of stock. There will be plenty of stalls selling basic necessities like biscuits and glucose. Only if you're going Off-season, then you might want to carry some extra snacks in case you get hungry on the way, which is very probable. 

Water sources are:

Trek start point in Poondi

2nd hill near Paambatti Siddhar Guhai

3rd hill Kai thatti Sonai

6th hill Aandi Sonai

If you are not comfortable with having water from the stream, carry purification tablets or a life straw bottle to purify the water. The other option is to fill all you might need from Poondi.

ATM's and network on the trail

You need to do all the cash withdrawals you need in Coimbatore city itself. Poondi does not have an ATM as of now. Network is decent till the Pambatti Siddhar Guhai for all service providers. After that you're not likely to get any cellphone tower for calls or internet. So plan accordingly. 

Emergency contact numbers

Remember, you will not have any signal once you cross the 2nd hill, about an hour into the trek.

Thondamuthur Police Station, Phone 0422 -2619258 and Mowthi Nursing Home 0422 - 242 2404. Both these are about 20 kms from Poondi.

Places to visit after trek

1. Dhanalinga Temple, Ish Yoga Centre

2.  Adi Yogi Murti, Isha Yoga Centre

3.  Kovai courtraam Waterfalls - A small waterfalls close by. 

Author Anurgrah is a Carnatic musician, Origami craftsman and trekking enthusiast all merged into one. Apart from music, he can live on a staple diet of dosas provided there is molaga podi to go with it. He loves going places with friends, but if he decides that he's had enough of socialising, he's likely to run either into a jungle, or up a mountain. He is also the founder of Minna Minni, an initiative that seeks to present carnatic music compositions in a creative way. His Instagram profile is  Here

 Editor – According to local tradition Velliangiri Hills is the Kailash of South India although it there is no scriptural evidence to back this tradition.  

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