Sometimes, the road less traveled can be painful – and quite literally so! At Vellagavi, a small village near Kodaikanal, wearing any kind of footwear is prohibited. It doesn’t matter if you’re a resident, or a tourist, or simply passing by to get to the other side… leave your footwear behind! Here’s why. By Bayar Jain

Located twenty minutes away from Kodaikanal, Vellagavi is a quaint town with a perennially pleasant weather. The rugged mountains surrounding the area juxtapose the gentle nature of the people residing, while the large hearts of the families compensate for the small population. The Western Ghats’ forests here further add to the mysticism of the village.

On entering the village, a sign that requests all footwear to be removed before entering greets you. The people of this 300-year old village believe that the entire land is a temple, and one must give it the respect it deserves. They believe that devotion to God precedes comfort, and purity is of utmost importance on a sacred land such as theirs. Moreover, the people here also like to believe that local Gods co-habit the area along with devotees. The presence of over 25 temples within the village further escalates these holy vibes.

Ironically, Vellagavi is a trekker’s paradise. The narrow winding road speckled with lemon and gooseberry trees can prove to be a challenge even for seasoned trekkers. In fact, the six-km-long trek, starting from Kodaikanal’s Dolphin Nose can take up to six hours to complete. The steep mountains lack proper roads, and a wrong turn could leave you plunging into dark gorges. However, the smells of coffee and cardamom plantations as you move along eases the trek. Orange farms and avocado plantations also make guest appearances.

While the village by itself lacks amenities, a lone tea shop doubling as an agent for camping arrangements can help you on your trek to this rustic gem. And for once, you wouldn’t need to shop for trekking shoes either!

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