Known as the coffee land of Karnataka, Chikmagalur is the birthplace of coffee in India. It is said that Baba Budan, a 16th century Sufi Saint, smuggled coffee beans from Arabia and planted them in his garden here. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It is therefore not uncommon to see many homestays and resorts in Chikmagalur nestled in between the vast coffee plantations. The late V.G. Siddhartha, founder of the popular Cafe Coffee Day chain, was also a native of Chikmagalur.
By now you must be wondering, ‘Is Chikmagalur all about coffee?’ Not quite!
Chikamagalur is a paradise for nature lovers. Tall mountains, cascading waterfalls and nature hikes are just some of the many attractions you will find at this scenic hill station.
In this guide, I give you a rundown on some of the best places to visit in Chikmagalur so that you have the best possible experience.
9 best places to visit in Chikmagalur
Mullayanagiri is the highest peak in Karnataka standing at an altitude of 1,930 metres. You will find a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva here.
The valley views from the top are amazing. The peak is mostly covered with clouds and mist. The sunrises and sunsets from the top are the icing on the cake.
It is a 20km drive from Chikmagalur. You need to trek approximately 300 steps to climb the peak. The trek is 2-3km long and can easily be done by beginners. As the weather is generally cool, you won’t feel tired easily.
As a pro tip, try to reach the peak by sunrise to avoid the crowds and enjoy the sun rising through the valleys.
There are quite a few destinations that are away from Chikmagalur town and most of them are located in and around Kemmanagundi.
Kemmanagundi is a small hill station which is 53 kms from Chikmagalur by road. The road trip from Chikmagalur to Kemmanagundi is one that every nature lover should not miss.
Once you reach Kemmanagundi, Hebbe falls is one place you must visit there. Located 10 kms from the Kemmanagundi hill station, Hebbe falls are located deep inside a thick forest on a hill. It is blessed with rich flora and coffee plantations.
You have to hire a four-wheeler jeep to reach the starting point of this waterfall. From there on, you would need to trek 1 km or so till you reach the falls. Since you are passing through a thick forest, it will be an adventurous trek as the terrains are not uniform. You will also be passing a few water streams along the way so be prepared to get wet.
The effort required to reach the falls might be strenuous for some but once you reach there, you will forget everything and soak in the beauty of nature. The water falls from a great height and as you inch closer towards it, you start hearing louder roars of the falls splashing on the ground. The water here is considered to be medicinal and one is bound to feel relaxed after taking a dip.
Baba Budangiri (Datta Peeta)
Baba Budangiri, also known as Datta Peeta, is the second highest peak in Karnataka standing at an elevation of 1,895 metres. This mountain is named after the Muslim saint Baba Budan.
It is said that Baba Budan smuggled coffee to these hills from Persia in the 16th century courtesy of which the first coffee plantations were grown in Chikmagalur.
At the top, you will find a temple inside a cave. It is a famous pilgrim site for both Hindus and Muslims.
There is no trekking path as such to reach the top of Baba Budangiri as it can be accessed by road.
From the summit, you can get a bird’s eye view of the hills and valleys covered in greenery. For adventure lovers, there is a 12km trekking trail between Mullayanagiri and Baba Budangiri.
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
Also known as Muthodi Wildlife sanctuary, this is a protected area and is home to a variety of flora and fauna. It has a large tiger population as well.
The sanctuary gets its name from the Bhadra river which passes through this sanctuary. There is also a Bhadra dam in the vicinity.
It is located 35 kms from Chikmagalur and is on the way to Shimoga.
Private vehicles are not allowed in the sanctuary. However, you can hire a jeep safari which will take you deep inside the jungle for a few hours.
If you are lucky, you can spot animals like bisons, wild boars, elephants, deers, etc in the forest. During the safari, the forest officials provide you insights about the lives of animals that live here.
For all the coffee lovers out there, this is a place you must visit. This museum is an encyclopedia for coffee lovers.
The coffee museum is an initiative run by the Coffee Board of India. The museum explains everything from the origins of coffee to the processes used in making coffee including picking, grinding and drying.
There is an entire floor which has a gallery that shows photos dedicated to coffee with short videos in between to make the entire experience informative. You will also find different kinds of equipments used for coffee inside this museum.
The staffs at the museum are more than happy to provide you with information related to coffee.
Another attraction at Kemmanagundi is the Z Point. It is a trekking spot which has its peak appearing in Z shape.
What makes Z point stand out are its distinctive slopes. The trekking trail appears to be narrower as you go towards the peak. You feel as if you can roll down this hill on either side due to the way it’s shaped.
The trek itself is pretty amazing especially towards the end as you get to see lush green valleys and mountains surrounding Z Point. As Z Point is primarily an open grassland, you can feel the cold winds here and there is a good possibility that you might be covered in mists or clouds.
The entrance to this trek is near Raj Bhavan. You would need to hire a jeep or take your personal vehicle that takes you through a forest until you reach Shanti falls. If you take your car, make sure it is an SUV as the terrains will be uneven.
Once you reach Shanti falls, you can only reach the peak by trekking for 1km. The trek is easy and can be undertaken by anyone.
Adventure lovers can also trek from Raj Bhavan till Shanti falls without any vehicle but you should be physically and mentally prepared as it requires some effort.
This place literally gives you picnic vibes.
Hirekolale lake is a man-made lake surrounded by hills and coffee plantations. This lake is of significant importance as it provides water to the town of Chikmagalur.
It is located at a distance of 10 kms from Chikmagalur.
You can view the famous Mullayanagiri hills from here. As the lake is not commercialized yet, you will find fewer tourists here and have your own peaceful time.
The best time to visit this lake is during sunset as you watch the sun splashing its orange hues onto the lake.
Make sure to carry some eatables with you as you won’t find any restaurants nearby. There is also no boating facility here.
Kudremukh National Park
The Kudremukh trek is one of the most famous treks of Karnataka.
The distance from Chikmagalur to Kudremukh is 96 kms and the park is at an altitude of 1800 metres. Kudremukh literally means horse-face in Kannada which is derived from one of the peaks here that resembles a horse’s face.
During the first half of the trek, you will be crossing through thick forests and water streams. After a certain point, you would be entering the meadows which is the second part of the trek.
You get to witness ranges of rolling mountains and blue skies once you reach the meadows.
This trek can be done even if you are a beginner. You need to start trekking early in the morning to be able to finish the trek by sunset.
You would need to get an entry ticket for the park from the forest checkpost and deposit all the plastics that you are carrying as Kudremukh is a plastic-free zone. They can be collected when you are back from the trek. From the checkpost, the peak is around 9 kms.
To reach the forest checkpost, you have to hire a jeep or take your own vehicle. Make sure that you carry packed lunch as well as you won’t find any shops in between the trek.
It is advisable to stay at one of the homestays near Kudremukh the previous night to be well rested for the next day. Some homestays also pick/drop you to/from the forest check post, provide breakfast and packaged food and get tickets for you from the forest department. You can enquire about these services with your homestay.
One such homestay is Bella Homestay, Kudremukh that sorts out everything for you. You can enquire with them for the rates.
Jhari falls are known as buttermilk falls due to its appearance. It is at a distance of 12kms from Baba Budangiri and 23 km from Chikmagalur.
The falls are surrounded by dense forest cover and coffee plantations that give it a different vibe. You can get drenched at the base of this waterfall as well.
You need to hire a jeep from the parking lot which is about 4 kms from the waterfalls. The jeep takes you through a rugged road inside private coffee plantations.
Best places to visit in Chikmagalur in 2 days
Sometimes, it’s not possible to take long vacations due to work commitments. In such cases, weekend getaways are the best bet.
Having said that, you can still plan a great trip to Chikmagaluru for a weekend, especially if you are visiting from nearby cities like Bangalore and Mangalore.
Here is how you can do the same:
- Take an overnight KSRTC bus from Mangalore/Bangalore to Chikmagalur.
- On day 1, you can visit Mullayanigiri and Baba Budangiri during daytime and in the evening, you can relax at Hirekolale lake.
- On day 2, take a road trip from Chikmagalur to Kemmanagundi. Enjoy the road trip because it is a long journey and you get to see landscapes that you might not have seen before. Visit Hebbe falls and Z point once you reach Kemmanagundi.
Please note: You can exchange the day 1 with day 2 and vice-versa as per your convenience.
On the second day, come back to Chikmagalur by evening and head straight to the bus stand. You will find buses to Bangalore/Mangalore frequently.
How to travel in Chikmagalur
While you will find public buses in Chikmagalur, it is best advised to book a taxi/jeep to get around Chikmagalur conveniently. If you come with your own vehicle, make sure they are well-equipped to be driven on ghat roads and hilly areas as the terrains can get a bit tricky in Chikmagalur.
With regards to the jeeps/ taxis, you can find them at the KSRTC bus stand. Be sure to negotiate with them as they will also ask for a higher price.
How to reach Chikmagalur
One of the best geographical advantages of Chikmagalur is that is near to all the major cities in Karnataka.
For example, the distance from Mysore to Chikmagalur is just 170 kms which can be covered in 4 hours by road. Similarly, the time required to reach Chikmagalur from both Mangalore and Bangalore by road takes around 4-5 hours.
There is no railway station at Chikmagalur. Kadur (40 km) and Hassan (60 km) are the two nearest railway stations. However, Hubli is the major railhead near Chikmagalur, situated at a distance of about 291 km. You will therefore find more options for trains that arrive at Hubli.
If you are coming from Bangalore, the cheapest way to travel to Chikmagalur would be by booking a KSRTC bus online. You can use their app/website to make a booking in advance. Similarly, you can book buses from places like Mysore, Mangalore and Hubli to Chikmagalur online.
The nearest airport is at Mangalore. The distance from Mangalore to Chikmagalur is around 150 kms. If you are coming from a distant state, the most practical thing to do would be to take a flight to Bangalore and then catch an overnight bus.
Places to stay in Chikmagalur
Best homestays in Chikmagalur
Although a bit away from Chikmagalur, this property is the perfect place to unwind and relax in nature. The food is delicious, the rooms are clean and the overall ambience is peaceful as they are located inside a coffee estate.
For pet lovers, they have friendly dogs.
They have outdoor sports like volleyball and badminton and indoor games like chess and carrom.
You can arrange a bonfire at an extra nominal cost.
Don’t forget to hike inside their coffee estate.
You will get amazing hospitality at this place. The staff goes out of their way to help people.
You also get beautiful views of the hills from here.
The rooms are modern and tidy. It has a nice garden and a well-lit dining area.
This homestay is in the midst of coffee plantations surrounded by pepper and arecanut farm. It is an old traditional house turned into a cottage. You get nice views of the hills from here.
You will enjoy the hospitality here. In terms of food, you get to try their delicious Malnad cuisine.
They have fun activities like football, volleyball, trekking and campfire.
Try the coffee from here before you leave.
Best hostels in Chikmagalur
Trippr has female dorms and mixed dorms apart from private rooms. You also have the option of camping in the outdoors.
Food is provided at the hostel at reasonable rates. They also provide you with bike rentals so that you can explore Chikmagalur on your own.
In terms of amenities, they have a campfire and a swimming pool. If you want, you can learn horse riding here from trained experts.
Best restaurants in Chikmagalur
It is one of the oldest joints in the town established around 1960s. It is renowned for its benne masala dosa with butter and gulab jamun. They serve filter coffee as well. Have breakfast/dinner from here.
The Estate Cafe
It is near Bhadra wildlife sanctuary. Known for its ambience and its setting, you can take a sip of their coffee while enjoying the beautiful scenery around you. They produce their own coffee from the coffee plantations that they have in their property.
They are known for their Chikmagalur local filter coffee. They also serve snacks. You can stop by here when driving towards or coming back from Mullayanagiri or Kemmanagundi.
Best time to visit Chikmagalur
Although the temperature is cool throughout the year, the best time to visit Chikmagalur would be from September onwards right after the monsoon. The weather is pleasant till March.
July and August can be avoided as the weather in Chikmagaluru is unpredictable. It rains heavily during this time.
Travel tips for Chikmagalur
- As the weather is generally cool and moist, there is a good chance that you will be bitten by leeches while trekking through forests or visiting waterfalls. So, carry a small packet of salt to be on the safer side.
- Carry at least one warm outer layer like a sweater or a jacket to protect yourself from the cold.
- If you have plans to get drenched, carry a swimwear and a towel with you.
- If you are planning to come with your own vehicle, it is preferable to have an SUV due to the rough conditions of the roads in Chikmagalur.
Which place is similar to Chikmagalur?
You are bound to feel nostalgic once you depart from Chikmagalur. The kind of experiences you have at Chikmagalur can leave a lasting impression on you.
If you would like to have a similar experience again but at a different place, you should definitely check out Coorg.
Coorg is a popular hill station in Karnataka and is similar to Chikmagalur in terms of what it offers. It has its own temples, waterfalls, treks and of course, coffee plantations.
If you have time in your hands, you can also go to Coorg directly after you are done with Chikmagalur. The distance from Chikmagalur to Coorg is close to 150 kms so you can travel comfortably by your own vehicle as well. The easiest and cheapest way to go to Coorg would be by taking a KSRTC bus.
And that’s a wrap! I hope you found this extensive guide on the best places to visit in Chikmagalur useful.
If you have any questions or suggestions, do let me know in the comments! And if you want more of such travel guides for Karnataka, you can read my guide on the best places to visit in Hampi.