From atop Horsley Hills, the terrain seems beautiful yet bleak. Dry, rugged hills and stony plains stretch as far as the eyes can see, burning under the relentless summer sun. But when you&rsquore at the very top of Horsley Hills, the heat and parched land are a distant apparition. For this is a destination that is mournfully rare in Andhra Pradesh &mdash a hill station. The hilly outcrop rises steeply to altitudes of 4,000ft, which ensures cool climes throughout the year and misty vistas in the monsoons.
Horsley Hills was initially known as Yenugu Mallama Konda after a young girl who, it is said, was reared by elephants and cured the ailments of the area&rsquos residents. One day she disappeared and ever since then, the people began worshipping her as a goddess. A temple stands in her honour atop the hill.
In 1863, WH Horsley, the British Collector of Kadapa built a forest resthouse here to escape the heat of the plains. Subsequently, various other bungalows were added, which are still extant. In the southern dry deciduous forests here, the British planted exotic species such as mahogany, coffee, eucalyptus and silver oak. The area hosts a variety of wildlife such as wild boars, bears, monkeys, jungle fowls and snakes.
Thing to See & Do
Horsley Hills is rather small &mdash you can walk from one end to another in 15 minutes. There is not much to &lsquodo&rsquo here apart from enjoying the delightful weather and taking in the views &mdash ideal for a lazy vacation.
Built around Horsley&rsquos forest resthouse, the Environmental Centre is basically a park. At its entrance is a zoo with a modest assortment of animals such as deer, peacocks, rabbits and crocodiles. Further ahead, lies the resthouse built by Horsley. To its south is a viewpoint from where you can see the urban sprawl of Madanapalle in the distance. A mammoth 150-year-old eucalyptus tree known as Kalyani stands proudly next to the resthouse. A trail behind the resthouse takes you to a small pavilion with a statue of Krishna. This is the highest point on the hill. To the north is the Nature Study Centre, which is usually closed. Manasa Sarovar, the only freshwater source atop the hills, is next to it.
Horsley Hills Viewpoint
On the western side of the hills is a large rocky slope which descends gently. This is known as the Horsley Hills Viewpoint. There are a few benches here for visitors to enjoy the vistas and the strong breeze.
Where to Stay & Eat
The best place to stay is APTDC&rsquos Haritha Hill Resort. It has a restaurant, gym and swimming pool. They also arrange treks. Holiday Home which also has a restaurant is another option.
A few eateries spring up during high season and weekends, but for the rest of the year, the only option is the Haritha restaurant.
Around Horsley Hills
From a distance, Gurramkonda looks massive. The mammoth hill, consisting of a monolithic chunk of rock, is quite extraordinary. The present entrance of the fort is near the Rangini Mahal, which is in a remarkable state of preservation. A path begins from near the palace to the top of the slope. After a minute&rsquos walk, a diversion in the trail takes you to an ancient temple, whose mandapa has pillars embellished with sculptures. As you head uphill, you will come across various gates and layers of fortifications. Closer to the summit, you will find a few reservoirs and dilapidated bastions, granaries, barracks and armouries. You might also stumble across wild hares and snakes. While the structures atop the fort are not particularly remarkable, the views are magnificent.