A village of about 300 people, perched on a hilltop, with no connection to road is Vellagavi village in brief.
Trek to Vellagavi village, also known as Old Kodaikanal, is no easy task. One has to descend 3.5 km on a path laden with rocks, the descend is not the challenge here, it’s the return.
Difficulty level: Difficult
Distance: 3.5 km (One way)
Duration: 1.5 hours (descend) + 3.5 hours (Ascend)
History of Vellagavi Village
It is said that the villagers from the plains who were being exploited by the Kings in the 17th and 18th century (Most of South India was part of VIjayanagar Empire then), sought refuge in the hills. The Nilgiris, half way up to Kodaikanal and that is how Vellagavi/Vellakavi was settled.
However the population kept increasing until a cholera outbreak happened which forced these early-dwellers to find an alternate location. This new location is what is today known as Shenbaganur.
How to trek to Vellagavi Village
The trek starts from Vattakanal and one can either take a cab to reach Vattakanal from Kodaikanal or walk to Vattakanal.
Next to the famous Altaf cafe is a track that goes down towards Dolphin nose viewpoint. Past this vie point, a little more Echo point is a path going down on the left, this path leads to Vellagavi village.
There is little possibility of getting lost on the track as the only route is towards Vellagavi village. Oftentimes one would come across the village residents walking up and down the path. This is their only route to Vattakanal, where they get their supplies from or come to sell their produce.
Upon reaching Vellagavi, one has the choice to either walk back up the same route (no easy task by any means) or trek further down to Periyakulam. The latter goes through forest so one would need a local guide with them to walk through the area. From periyakulam one can take a bus back to Kodaikanal.
Cost of trekking to Vellagavi Village
The trek is free of cost if you go by yourself (which you should easily be able to as it’s a straight forward route with barely any diversion). In recent years some of the hostels and guest houses have started offering guided treks to Vellagavi village.
Some may suggest that it’s a forest area and therefore you need special permission but that’s not true. You need special permission to trek beyond Vellagavi village along with a local guide.
What to Bring for Vellagavi trek
There is no natural source of drinking water along the way and on a hot day, the trek can be very exhausting. Keep hydrated.
At the beginning of the hike, there are quite a few stores selling packaged snacks and freshly made local ones but after the viewpoints, there is nothing along the way until you reach the village.
Vellagavi village has a few small stores selling biscuits and other snacks. There used to be a really nice cafe selling juices and snacks at the village entrance but it had closed down during Covid. I’m not aware if it ever reopened.
It’s a remote village with a steep dirt path as the only route to reach, please don’t expect cash machines. I suspect google pay might have reached there too but please have alternatives.
It can get really hot during summers.
While a lot of the hike entails walking under the trees, there is a fair amount of uncovered distance to cover. Hill stations get some harsh sun, it would be a good idea to apply sunscreen before the hike and at the while before the ascend.
Is it worth the hassle?
It’s a village that retains its authenticity to a large extent. The houses are painted in bright colors outside of which, women sit around while doing chores like cleaning coffee beans. Kids are running around bare-feet. The village is surrounded by avocado and coffee plantation.
It is not just the destination that is beautiful, the trek itself offers majestic views of the hills. Along the way, one can see the village perched on a hill-top in distance. It looks so far away like a magic land and to be a able to reach there in only a matter of 1.5 hours, feels almost like a super-power. The super-power turns into a a struggle during the return though.
Tip: Stay in Vattakanal village for the night so you can see the stunning sunrise and hike to the village fairly early.