Chikmagalur VS Coorg - Which is better!

Chikmagalur VS Coorg - Which is better!

Which wins in Chikmagalur VS Coorg?


Having visited both places, I can safely vouch in the Chikmagalur VS Coorg discussion, the latter wins, anyday. The caveat - if lush green hills, coffee plantations and offbeat stays is what you're looking for, then Chikmagalur is the place for you. On the other hand, Coorg is certainly more commercial. By extension it offers a wider choice of accommodation and things to do.

December 2016 saw us heading to Singapore for New Years eve, where we spent a memorable holiday on the cruise liner, 'Mariner of the seas'. We were at Changi airport, waiting for our return flight to board when the kids proclaimed 'we want to go by car on our next holiday. A Plane is very boring!'

I just stared back, pleasantly surprised. Flabbergasted even. What more could one ask for! It was a dream come true. In an age where 'image' is everything, and the boasting rights of where you last vacationed trumps all other considerations, here were 2 kids that wanted a domestic holiday, traveling by road, eating at nondescript joints and generally roughing it out, rather than flying to some exotic or not so exotic 'foreign' destination! I guess one may as well enjoy it while it lasts.

So as decided, next December we resumed our annual road trips across India. This time we headed towards the salubrious climes of Chikmagalur. Now, we naturally faced with the Chikmagalur VS Coorg conundrum. Coorg is the preferred destination of most people visiting 'coffee - country', but nothing comes close to the beauty of Chikmagalur. On the one hand, it's still largely 'undiscovered'. On the other, as a consequence of the first point, there aren't too many resorts to choose from either.

Secondly, at 3000 to 4000 feet, it is at a higher altitude than Coorg, making for better weather. Consequently, the vegetation seems denser. Of course it also houses the Chandra Drona forests, adding to the foliage and natural beauty of the place. Having visited both places, I would choose the former over the latter anyday, in the battle of Chikmagalur VS Coorg!

Mumbai to Chikmagalur Roadtrip


Heading along NH 47 from Mumbai, we followed Google maps and drove 670 kms to get to the town of Haveri. Compared to our visit on these same roads 4 years back, there was a world of difference. The roads were way better. The national highway is one long, 4 - laned ribbon all the way from Pune to Davanagere. We bypassed pretty much every small town and village using the network of flyovers. We made an average speed of 84KMPH. This was a massive improvement over the 67KMPH we'd managed a couple of years back. Compound that with the mileage a truck does, and the savings on time & fuel are staggering!

With a night's halt at Hubli, we resumed our journey next morning at 0500Hrs, and got off the NH 47 at Haveri, taking SH 169 for a further 233 Kms to get to our destination, Villa Urvinkhan. The state highway is a 2 - laned road for the most part. It's quite well - paved and easily navigable. Other than a stray tractor, 2 - wheeler or bullock - cart, there isn't much traffic you encounter en route, and it is a joy to drive on.

After a 100Kms or so the fields gave way to the Chandra Drona forests on either side. By now, we couldn't even see a stray vehicle. The road had reduced to a single track. The road was mud in most places and the car was in her elements. We'd upgraded from the Yeti to a Pajero Sport AT and driving it on these mud tracks was great fun!

a TRACK GOING INTO THE cHANDRA drona forests, Chikmagalur
Found this track going into the Chandra Drona forest. No idea where it heads to, but a peaceful path like this can be taken everyday!


After a brief halt of 45 minutes, where we strolled away on a path into the jungles, we resumed our journey. We soon reached Niduvale, the village from where you turn into the Urvinkhan estate. We went around a couple of times before realising the way to the estate is a nondescript turn - off at the Karnataka Bank branch.

From there it was a 3 - 4 Km drive up a steep winding road to get to the villa. By now we were famished. It was nearly 1200Hrs. We hadn't encountered a single decent restaurant or dhaba en route and had driven straight through. If you make this trip, ensure that you're well - stocked on sandwiches and snacks!

The kids pose for a picture in the chandra drona forests
Can we just stay here and not go back. Ever?


The Villa Urvinkhan


Villa Urvinkhan is a beautiful coffee plantation. It features a main building and 4 cottages nestled in 400 odd acres of coffee plantations and forests. At an elevation of around 4000 feet, the main home takes you back to the 1800's with its beautiful stone facade, sweeping views of the valley beyond an infinity pool and wide open vistas. We had booked one of the cottages adjacent to the main bungalow. The room was a dream!

A massive 500+ sq.ft. structure, the room sported a huge 4 poster bed, with an open air shower area. Besides, it had an enclosed, well - appointed bathroom. There was also a delightful sitout overlooking the pool and valley beyond. Other than the teak furniture in the room, what really gets your attention is the 20 feet high ceiling. Sturdy wooden beams elegantly criss - cross the roof. Takes you back to an era where life was more relaxed and one could take the time out to contemplate, rejuvenate or simply vegetate!

entrance to the Villa Urvinkhan
At the entrance to the main bungalow. Checkout the hand - dressed stone blocks on the wall, contrasting with the white of the inter - locking granite slabs on the floor


After a quick lunch, we headed out to explore the estate. Unlike a tea estate, walking through a coffee plantation is a different experience altogether. The bushes are around 6 to 8 feet tall and you feel like you're walking through a jungle path! As we walked in silent bliss through the path, with a gentle sunbeam occasionally peeping through the bush, we suddenly came across a deer. It looked up at us, startled - before we could react, it gracefully bound away into the bushes. I guess it was inured to human contact. Evidently, chancing upon us was no particular cause for alarm.

By late evening the temperature had plummeted to below 10 degrees and we bundled up in our woollens for dinner. The meal was simple. Home - cooked fare, with a chicken cooked in local spices along with delicious poppadums! Clearly, the former seemed to be winning in the Chikmagalur VS Coorg argument!

hiking through the forests abounding Villa Urvinkhan in chikmagalur
Intrepid adventurers en route a trek through the Urvinkhan hills


Exploring Villa Urvinkhan


We spent the next few days trekking around the estate, walking nearly 10 Kms everyday exploring every nook and cranny. One of the mornings the resort staff escorted us to a lake on the property. We spent a lazy couple of hours fishing with gear that they kindly lent us . No, we caught nothing!

With the children now slightly older, they could walk with us and accompanied us on all the treks. A typical day would see us wandering off in a random direction post breakfast. We'd spend time climbing up and down the hill - sides for 2 to 3 hours, before returning for lunch. Post lunch we'd take a short nap, and after some filter kaapi (from the Urvinkhan estates!), we'd head out again for a couple of hours, wandering in a different direction.

Aditya fishing at the lake in Villa Urvinkhan, chikmagalur
The consummate angler, fishing for.....compliments?


By the first day the trekking bug had firmly bitten our son Aditya. From then on each afternoon he'd wake us up excitedly with the proclamation 'hurry up I've discovered a new trekking path!' Of course these were all existing walking paths used by the estate staff, but for an 8 year old it was a new discovery!

Posing before a 'new' hiking path he's just discovered
The look of glee when you've just 'discovered' a hitherto unknown trekking path :)


For us, the best gift was that here were a pair of 7 and 8 year old's and all that they wanted was to either jump in the pool or head out trekking. I was most amazed with their ability to keep up with us. They were filled with unbound enthusiasm for the next trek. Each turn of the path would get them excited. To top it all, they'd want to go for a swim once we returned! Mind you, we were trekking an average of 10Kms everyday according to my wife's fitbit.

Not having a television may be a blessing, but not having any network on your cellphones is a benediction - when we weren't trekking, we'd either read or play board games or just hang out together. Not being connected is the best way to stay connected! This alone was enough to decide the debate of Chikmagalur VS Coorg in favour of the former.

Observing a snail as it crawls across the grounds of Villa Urvinkhan, Chikmagalur
When was the last time you spent an hour observing the stately progress of a snail across?


After 5 blissful days, it was time to move on to our next destination. As we headed for our cottage after dinner on the last night, I remember looking up amazed at the sheer number of stars twinkling in the sky. Move your gaze back down and the starlight merges with the twinkling lanterns hung out in the porch adjoining the dinner area. Urvinkhan has never looked prettier. We went to bed wistful to be leaving this place behind, yet, excited at what was to come next!

view from outside our room at VILLA URVINKHAN, Chikmagalur
Steps cut into the hillside lead away from our room into the mountains


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