The Complete Guide to the Athri Hill Trek
The Athri Hill Trek is a short yet beautiful trek located in the Pothigai mountain range of the Western Ghats near the village of Alwarkurichi. A hidden gem that is yet to be discovered by outdoor lovers, this trek is 25 kilometres from the Tenkasi district in Tamilnadu.
The Athri Hill trail lies inside the north-eastern section of the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve Forest.
The beautiful Kadana Nathi Dam (Nathi means River in Tamil), dense forest trails, an unusually shaped limestone cave and spectacular views of the Western Ghats are just some of the highlights of the Athri hill trek. The best part? The surprises don’t stop there. Read on for more information about the best sections and the standout parts of this trek.
History of the Trek
According to Hindu Purana, it is believed that the great sage Athri travelled through the Pothigai mountain region of the Western Ghats with his wife Anusya Devi and his disciples around 2,500 years ago. He considered the area to be a holy spot to perform penance for Lord Shiva. Moved by the unflinching devotion of his disciple, Lord Shiva appeared before the sage. As a result, the mountain range came to be known as the Athri Hills.
Today, the hills still hold religious significance for devotees who make the hard climb to pay their respects to the Shiva temple that was built in the middle of the forest a long time ago.
Athri Hill is blanketed in evergreen forests from its base to its highest peaks. This is in contrast to other mountains in the Southern regions, where thorny scrub forests are prevalent at lower elevations.
The Athri hill trek is a moderate level trek that can be completed in two hours by fit trekkers and three hours by beginners.
➤ Table of Contents
Just like you, we love trekking! And this is a trek we’ve documented in great detail to help you do it on your own. Drop in your comments at the end of the page if you need any help! You will get all the information required to do the Athri Hill Trek on your own.
To navigate through the documentation easily, use the Table of Contents section:
- Highlights of the Athri Hill Trek
- Trail Information
- GPX File for the Athri Hill Trek
- Best Season to do the Athri Hill Trek
- Difficult Sections on the Athri Hill Trek
- How to Reach the Base of the Athri Hill Trek
- Frequently Asked Questions about the Athri Hill Trek
- What to Pack on the Athri Hill Trek
- Nearby Places to Visit After the Athri Hill Trek
➤ Highlights of the Highlights of the Athri Hill Trek
1. The breathtaking view of the Kadana Nathi Dam
The Kadana Nathi Dam sits against the beautiful backdrop of the Western Ghats. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
The Athri Hill Trek offers a beautiful view of Kadana Nathi Dam with the Western Ghats opening up behind it.
Walking across the Kadana Nathi Dam with a large number of birds flying overhead and views of the Western Ghats giving you company is a great way to start the trek.
During monsoon and post-monsoon season, the dam fills up with water and you will have to walk an extra two kilometres around the dam. However, this extra effort is rewarded with views of the lush green surroundings and the calm waters of the dam.
2. Dense yet less trodden forest trail
Rich foliage and the towering trees make this trek an exciting one. Picture by Ajay Vignesh.
The Athri Hill Trek is a combination of an easy hike by the river, a deep forest trek and a steep, vertical climb.
Walking through the deep forest is an adventure in itself and the experience of walking amongst tall trees makes this trek a truly special one.
Hike along the mud route with visible mycorrhizal networks. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
Unlike many other Southern hill treks, Athri Hill provides a clear glimpse of the fascinating mycorrhizal network between trees. As you trek along, you will notice many roots cross the path and link to the trees on the opposite side.
3. Unique limestone caves
The green limestone cave in the middle of the forest. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
One of the best highlights of this trek is the old limestone rock caves that you will come across during your hike. It is widely believed that Sage Korakkar, one of the earliest proponents of Siddha medicine, frequented at least one of these caves for meditation and medicinal experimentation.
The green limestone cave has a fairly narrow entrance. If you do manage to squeeze in, you will find just enough sitting space for a single person.
Be mindful when touching and exploring the cave as many tiny bugs can be found inside the cave’s fissures.
4. Spectacular view of the Western Ghats
The trek through the grasslands with views of the Western Ghats is one to remember. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
The Athri Hill Trek greets you with refreshing views of the Western Ghats right from the get-go. While many treks provide spectacular summit views, this trek allows you to take in the expansiveness and beauty of the Western Ghats at the start itself.
Spot the tiny houses, part of Alwarkurichi village, from the summit. The village is located behind the Kadana Nathi Dam. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
Once you reach the end of the trek, you get to experience a bird’s eye view of the Alwarkurichi village dotting the plains and the picturesque Kadana Nathi Dam from the summit.
➤ Trail Information
Athri Hill can be reached in two ways.
During the dry season, when the Kadana Nathi Dam dries up and the catchment area only has stagnant water in some sections, you can access Athri Hill by walking across the dam. If you take this path, the trek will be 2 kilometres shorter.
Do note that the GPX file traces the path of the trek during the dry season which goes across the dam. If you are trekking during the monsoon season, your route will be different from that shown in the GPX file.
During the monsoon season, when the dam fills up, you’ll have to go around the Kadana Nathi Dam and through the dense forest to cross the Stone River to rejoin with the first route.
The Athri Hill Trek can be divided into four sections.
If you arrive by your own vehicle, you can skip the first stretch till you reach the Kadana Nathi Dam.
1. Auto/Bus travel from Alwarkurichi bus stop to Kadana Nathi Dam
2. Walk from Kadana Nathi Dam to Deep forest trail point
3. Trek from forest trail point to limestone cave
4. A short steep hike from Limestone cave to Athri Hill summit
Trek Distance: 10.1 km
Trek Duration: 30 minutes
GPS coordinates of Alwarkurichi bus stop: 8°46’57.0″N 77°23’54.2″E
GPS coordinates of Kadana Nathi Dam: 8°48’15.8″N 77°18’41.0″E
When you get off the bus at the Alwarkurichi bus stop, you will see a four-way junction in front of you. You will find a small sweet shop to the left. You can inquire about bus availability to the Kadana Nathi Dam over here.
The four-way junction at Alwarkurichi bus stop. Take a left for the Kadana Nathi Dam and a right for the Auto stand. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
There are usually only two buses that run to Kadana Nathi Dam. The first bus leaves about 7:15 a.m., and the second bus usually leaves around 11:30 a.m. The second bus operates only when there are enough passengers, so it is best to take the 7.15 am bus to Kadana Nathi Dam.
Protip: If you reach Alwarkurichi before 7:00 a.m., it is recommended that you take the first bus to Kadana Nathi Dam; otherwise, you can hire an auto from the Auto stand on the right side (opposite to the sweet shop). The auto fare from the Alwarkurichi bus stop to Kadana Nathi Dam costs around Rs. 250.
Om Sakthi Auto service is cheap and one of the reliable sources.
Contact Number: 9952139959 , 8760432951
The distance from Alwarkurichi to Kadana Nathi Dam is around ten kilometres and it takes 25-30 minutes to cover the distance. The road leading to the dam is a scenic one and is surrounded by lush agricultural land and the Western Ghats.
Take in the panoramic view of the Western Ghats surrounded by agricultural lands while heading towards Kadana Nathi Dam. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
If you go on this path early in the morning, you will undoubtedly see a variety of birds. The view of the Western Ghats during sunrise is a memorable one.
When you arrive at the Kadana Nathi Dam base point, there will be a forest check post office in front of you.
Check in to the forest check post office in front of the Kadana Nathi Dam before starting your trek. Picture by Ajay Vignesh.
You must share the required information in the forest department ledger and provide proof of a valid government identity card in order to get entry tickets.
Tip: The entrance fee is Rs.10 and can be paid directly here.
"It is my area, and I rule here," states the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve board. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
There is an electric fence at the start of the trail, so proceed with caution. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
After receiving your entry passes, the forest department officials will instruct you on the do’s and don’ts of the trek. It is recommended that you go on the trek as a group, especially if you are a first-time trekker in the region, as there is a threat of wild animals and the possibility of getting lost in the dense forest.
Trek Distance: 1.8 km
Trek Duration: 25 minutes
GPS coordinates of Kadana Nathi Dam: 8°48’15.8″N 77°18’41.0″E
GPS coordinates of Deep forest trail point: 8°48’01.4″N 77°18’08.3″E
The Athri Hill Trek begins with a grassland walk that is surrounded by dense green trees. If you’re lucky, you might see some peacocks on the grassland trial.
Start your trek with a grassland walk surrounded by lush green trees on either side. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
After trekking through the grasslands for about 100 metres, you will reach the Kadana Nathi Dam. From there you need to trek for 1.8 kilometres across the Kadana Nathi Dam to reach the dense forest trail.
Several birds, especially white egrets, eagles, & ducks, can be seen on the trek to Kadana Nathi Dam. Nearly 160 birds, representing 93 genera and 40 families, have been spotted and listed here. Of these, 77 are residents, 41 are winter visitors, 30 are altitudinal migrants and two are summer visitors.
Trek across the Kadana Nathi Dam to reach the forest trail. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
You must trek carefully across the Kadana Nathi Dam. Even though the dam water is stagnant and many parts are devoid of water, some of the spots are muddy and slippery.
While trekking across the Kadana Nathi Dam, keep on a lookout for a variety of birds. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
After a 1.5 kilometre trek, the trail leads to the source stream point of the Kadana Nathi Dam. You need to cross the Kadana Nathi to enter the deep forest trail.
The Kadana Nathi (River) landmark signals that the dense forest trail is about to begin. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
It’s also a good place to unwind for a few minutes and grab a quick snack, with the backdrop of the Kadana Nathi Dam and the front view of the Western Ghats.
Trek Distance: 2.45 km
Trek Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
GPS coordinates of Deep forest trail point: 8°48’01.4″N 77°18’08.3″E
GPS coordinates of Limestone cave: 8°48’08.50″N 77°17’31.55″E
The forest trail begins with you crossing the sandy river bank. You will notice a large tree in the foreground. Once you pass the tree, you will notice the landscape abruptly change to a vertical ascent on a reddish mud route.
The deep forest section begins with a giant tree at the beginning of the trail. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
A 10-minute hike along the mud route will lead you to a little flowing stream. The stream serves as a marker that the mud route has come to an end and that the narrow rugged path surrounded by high, dense vegetation is about to begin.
Make sure your shoelaces are tied well before hiking through the mud path. Picture by Ajay Vignesh.
If you run out of water, fill your bottles in the small flowing stream. The next water source will be found after the limestone cave. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
Once you enter the narrow rugged path with boulders, proceed with caution as insects and snakes have occasionally been spotted in this part of the trail.
Different varieties of spiders can be seen weaving webs that are more than five feet wide on the trek. Picture by Ajay Vignesh.
The narrow rugged path is the most difficult yet thrilling part of the trek. During this section of the trek, you will be amazed at the sounds of various birds, the rhythm of the river, and the density of the trees on the path.
The narrow rugged path is surrounded by rich flora and fauna. Picture by Ajay Vignesh.
Trekking among the tall trees is a fascinating experience. Tune your ears to bird sounds and you might get to spot some rare birds of the region. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
After a two-kilometre hike along a narrow, rugged path, you’ll arrive at an oddly shaped limestone cave, which is thought to have altered from its original form because of Sage Korakkar’s medicinal experiments.
The limestone cave is an intriguing highlight of this trek. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
The holes and cracks in the limestone cave are also home to a variety of microscopic pests, so be mindful of where you place your hands.
Trek Distance: 0.45 km
Trek Duration: 15 minutes
GPS coordinates of Limestone cave: 8°48’08.50″N 77°17’31.55″E
GPS coordinates of Athri Hill summit: 8°48’08.3″N 77°17’28.7″E
After crossing the limestone cave, you will have to walk for 100 metres on a trail before you start ascending a slightly steep section of the trek. Once you climb the short steep path, you will find a dargah and mosque on the left.
While ascending to the summit, you can spot a dargah and mosque on the left. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
The Athri hill summit is a five-minute hike from the dargah.
Roots of a tree cover a small cave en route to the summit. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
At the summit, you will see the Athri Maharishi Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The main entrance to the shrine of Lord Athri Maharishi temple is guarded by two trees. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
If you walk a short distance ahead from the Athri Maharishi Temple, you will be amazed at the breathtaking view of Alwarkurichi village, along with the scenic Kadana Nathi Dam in front.
A panoramic view of the Alwarkurichi village, with the Kadana Nathi Dam in the foreground. Picture by Ajay Vignesh
The trail behind the Athri Maharishi Temple leads to the Lord Karuppasamy temple, which is five kilometres away from the summit. This trail has been closed by the forest department as wild animals have been spotted on or near the path.
➤ Best Season to do the Athri Hill Trek
The best season to do Athri Hill Trek is from June to December. During this season, the Kadana Nathi Dam will be filled with water, and the trail will be lined with fragrant flowering flowers.
Protip: The Athri Hill trek is only allowed on Fridays, full moon days, and new moon days. Do note that permits may be denied by forest officials if wild animals are spotted in the vicinity during that particular period.
➤ Difficult Sections on the Athri Hill Trek
The Athri Hill Trek is a moderate hike. It is 4.7 kilometres one way, with steep sections. As a result, your up and down journey will be little more than 9 kilometres. If you trek from the Kadana Nathi Dam to the Summit of Athri Hill in one day, your endurance will be put to the test.
The most difficult section on Athri Hill is the trek in the narrow rugged path in the deep forest section.
Apart from this, a trekker must be carefully while trekking the following sections.
1. The slippery path through the Kadana Nathi Dam (monsoon-specific)
2. Trekking in the deep forest section can be tricky. Make sure you wear proper trekking shoes and carry a trekking pole so that you get a firm foothold.
➤ How to Reach Athri Hill
The Athri Hill trek begins from the small village called Alwarkurichi, which is 25 kilometres from the Tenkasi district in Tamilnadu.
The frequency of buses from Alwarkurichi to Kadana Nathi Dam is more on particular puja days, such as full moon days and New Moon days.
On regular days, it’s advisable to take the bus from Alwarkurichi to Kadana Nathi Dam at 7:15 a.m., or hire an auto to get to Kadana Nathi Dam.
Tip: The bus ride from Alwarkurichi to Kadana Nathi Dam costs around Rs 20. The auto trip from Alwarkurichi to Kadana Nathi Dam costs around Rs 250.
Reaching Athri Hill by your vehicle
If you are planning on driving to Athri Hill using your vehicle from Chennai, you can use this link to help set up navigation in Google maps.
Note: For ease of understanding, we have presumed Chennai to be the start point of the trek.
If you do not have access to Google maps, here is how to reach Athri Hill from Chennai.
Chennai – Villupuram – Tiruchirappalli – Madurai – Rajapalayam – Tenkasi – Athri Hill
1. Take NH32, NH132, NH38, Chennai – Villupuram – Trichy – Kanyakumari Rd/Maravapatty – Villur – Kallikkudi Rd and NH744 to Ambasamudram -Tenkasi Main Rd/Tenkasi – Tirunelveli Rd/Tirunelveli Rd in Melapuliyur, Tenkasi
2. Continue on Ambasamudram -Tenkasi Main Rd. Drive to Sambankulam Rd
3. Ride straight to reach the Kadana Nathi Dam.
Protip: If you are travelling from Chennai to Athri Hill, you do not need to go to Alwarkuruchi; instead you can take a right at Therku Kadayam and then go straight down the road to arrive at the Kadana Nathi Dam.
Reaching Athri Hill by Public Transport System
Athri Hill can be reached by public transport easily. There are frequent buses from Chennai.
Take a bus to Tenkasi from Chennai and take a local bus to Alwarkurichi from the Tenkasi bus stand.
You can use this TNSTC website to book the bus tickets if needed.
The cost of a bus ticket from Chennai to Tenkasi is Rs 650 for TNSTC Ultra Deluxe buses, Rs 820 for TNSTC AC semi-seater buses and Rs 1200 for TNSTC AC Sleeper. On weekends, the semi-seater TNSTC bus ticket fare will change.
Protip: The best way to reach Athri Hill is by taking a train from Chennai to Tenkasi and then from Tenkasi to Alwarkurichi by local passenger train.
List of Trains from Chennai to Tenkasi
MS QLN EXPRESS (16101)
POTHIGAI EXPRESS (12661)
SILAMBU EXPRESS (16181)
You can use this IRCTC website to book the train tickets if needed.
Nearest Railway Station
Alwarkurichi Railway Station – 3 Km
➤ Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do you need permission to go on the Athri Hill Trek? Is camping allowed there?
Yes, you need to take permission from the Athri forest check post office to trek. Camping is not allowed in Athri Hill.
2. What are the stay options near the Athri Hill Trek?
If you want to stay overnight you need to go to Tenkasi from the Kadana Nathi Dam for a secure and comfortable stay. You can find the detailed list of accommodation options in Tenkasi by using this link.
3. What are the timings for the Athri Hill trek?
You must begin your ascent of Athri Hill before 11:00 a.m. Getting permission from the forest department after 11:00 a.m. is not possible. It is strongly recommended that you arrive at Athri Hill as early as possible in the morning.
4. What are the food and water sources on the Athri Hill trek?
Alwarkurichi is the last reliable source of water and food, however, you can fill water from the stream on the Athri Hill Trek. If you are not comfortable having water from the stream, carry purification tablets or a life straw bottle to purify the water.
Protip: If you’re looking for tasty and good food, we recommend Alwarkurichi or Tenkasi. If you prefer to halt in Alwarkurichi, stop by a little called GP Mess. The food is good and reasonably priced. The must-try dish is “Appam with Coconut Milk.”
5. Emergency contacts for Athri Hill trek
Paramakalyani Hospital – 04634-283073
Government Hospital Tenkasi – 04633-281161
Government Hospital Tirunelveli – 0462-2572944
Alwarkurichi Police Station – 04634-283250
Ambasamudram Police Station – 04634-250346
Fire & Rescue Department:
Fire and Rescue Department Ambasamudram – 04634-250399, 9445086252
Fire Station Tenkasi – 04633-222166
ERSS: For any kind of emergency help, you can contact the Pan-India Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) number- 112
Protip: You can also use this link to get all of the Tenkasi district’s important contact information.
6. ATMs and Network on the trek:
ATMs: The nearest ATMs are located at Alwarkurichi village. However, it is better to withdraw cash either at Tenkasi or at a reliable town en route if you are driving to the base.
Mobile Networks: You get coverage of BSNL, JIO and Airtel at various points on the trek. The signal connections are intermittent and patchy.
➤ What To Pack for the Athri Hill Trek?
- Basic First Aid kit*
- Identity Card
- Cap/ Scarf/ Bandana & Sunglasses
- Water (Minimum two litres)
- Recyclable water bottle
- Lemon and salt OR Electrolyte Powder/Drink (Electoral/Gatorade/Glucon D, etc.)
- High-calorie snacks (Banana, Nuts & dry fruits, a home-baked cake, etc.)
- Safety Pins, Rubber bands & Whistle (Useful in emergencies.)
- Quick Dry T-shirts are preferable over cotton tees.
- A warm layer (Pullover, sweater or jacket)
- Poncho, only during post-monsoons
- Plastic sheet to wrap electronic devices, only during monsoons
- Sunscreen (SPF 50+)
First aid kit:
- Band-aids (Regular & Waterproof)
- Analgesic spray (Relispray, Volini, etc.)
- Antiseptic Liquid (Savlon, Dettol etc.)
- Antiseptic powder (Povidone-Iodine based powders like Cipladine, Savlon, etc.)
- Cotton roll & Bandage
- Crepe Bandage
- 1-inch-wide medical tape (paper or cloth.)
- Micropore tape
- Tablet for motion sickness (Avomine), Acidity (Gelusil, Digene, etc.).
- Mild pain relief tablet (Crocin)
| Note: Always consult a doctor before taking any medicine.
➤ Places to Visit After the Athri Hill Trek
1. Coutrallam – Coutrallam is a famous waterfall situated in the Western Ghats in Tenkasi District. The waterfalls of Coutrallam have medicinal value as they run through forests and herbs before their descent. Coutrallam is often referred to as the ‘Spa’ of South India.
The Coutrallam consists of seven different falls
- Main Falls
- Small Falls (Citharuvi)
- Five Falls (Iyentharuvi)
- Tiger Falls (Puliyaruvi)
- Old Coutrallam Falls (Palaiya Coutrallam)
- ShenbagaDevi Falls
- Honey Falls (Thaenaruvi)
2. Agasthiyar Falls – Papanasam – As per Hindu legend, during the divine wedding of Shiva and Parvathi, there were heavy crowds at Kailash, the abode of Shiva. Sage Agasthya could not view the event and prayed to Shiva to get him a view of the event. Pleased by his devotion, Shiva appeared to the sage and his wife Lopamundra along with Parvathi in their wedding attire. Shiva made the place his abode and came to be called Papansanathar (Destroying the sin) and the falls nearby the temple got the name of Agasthiyar as Agasthiyar Falls. The Tamiraparani River reaches its descent in flat land at this place.
As per another legend, Sage Urosamar floated a bunch of flowers in the river and the first flower reached the shore at this place. The sage established a temple for Papanasanathar and worshipped the deity there.
3. Manimuthar Dam & Falls – The Manimuthar Dam is situated at the foothills of the scenic Pothigai Hills. It is built on the Thamirabarani River. The dam is 20 km from Papanasam town. Ambasamudram and Kallidaikurichi are the nearest towns to the dam area. The dam falls en route to the drive from Ambasamudram to Pechiparai.
Manimuthar Waterfall is located a few kilometres from the dam. Tourists can enjoy a bath here and soak in the rich beauty of nature.
The Manimuthar River begins from the Eastern slopes of the Western Ghats located in the Tirunelveli district. The river is the chief tributary of the Thamirabarani River.
➤ Trek Contribution
Trek explored and written by Ajay Vignesh
Photos by Ajay Vignesh
Edited by Gayathri Ranganathan