The idea of a vacation in the southern part of the country is almost always synonymous with a quintessential coastal holiday – lounging on the beaches, soaking up the ocean breeze and splashing your way through the waves. In between, destinations like Munnar, Thekkady, Ooty are the mainstream choices for those who wants to stir the flavour of the hills to their southern escapades. But South India has a lot more to offer to those willing to seek out the lesser known. One such destination is Kodaikanal – popularly known as just Kodai – situated in the Dindigul hills of Tamil Nadu. This beautiful getaway with lush green hills, thick forests and a misty atmosphere has earned itself the title of ‘Princess of Hill Stations’.
Kodaikanal, which means ‘the gift of forest’ in the native language, has an allure of a picturesque, laid-back hill town that has everything you need for a rejuvenating, refreshing break. If you are looking for a destination where you can unwind by crystal water streams traversing through lush greens, go trekking and hiking or simply cycle your way to nature’s lap, Kodaikanal is the place to be. It is also home to the rare Kurunji flower that blossoms once in 12 years. If you are in luck, you may get experience this unique phenomenon up close.
Over the last few years, Kodaikanal has steadily emerged from the folds of oblivion to become one of the most preferred tourist getaways in Tamil Nadu, especially for those living in the metro cities in the southern part of the country. Here are the seven top reasons why tourists are falling in love with Kodaikanal, and you will too:
The Kodai Lake is a man-made lake situated right in the heart of this hill town and is one of the biggest draw cards for tourists. The most striking feature of this lake is its unique star-like shape, flanked by the verdant Palani Hills range. An inexplicable sense of calm and serenity surrounds this beautiful water body – the kinds that you have to experience to believe. There are several operators running rowing and pedal boating on the lake. You can also take cycling tours and pony rides around the lake’s periphery or simply stroll through the quiet environs. Special permission can be obtained for carrying out fishing at the lake too. All in all, Kodai Lake is the highlight of Kodaikanal.
Enhancing the beauty of the misty hills and emerald greens of Kodaikanal are the myriad cascading waterfalls dotting its landscape. These gushing streams of water not only hold a special place for the natives but are also a big tourist attraction. Some of the most popular waterfalls in the area are the Silver Cascading Waterfalls, Pambar Falls, Bear Shola Falls and Thalaiyar Falls. The beauty of the Silver Cascading Waterfalls is best summed up in its name – the waterfall creates the illusion of liquid silver softly flowing down the rocks, and is a sight to behold. The Pambar Falls, also known as the Liril Falls are small, stepped falls characterised by a grand cascade. Since the water flows softly over the stepped falls, you can even step for a quick dip at its pools. Located inside reserve forests around Kodaikanal, the Bear Shola Falls owe their peculiar name to local legend that bears used to drink from its pools. The Thalaiyar Falls is the most fascinating of them all, standing tall as the sixth highest waterfall in the country and the highest in all of Tamil Nadu. Besides its imposing size, this waterfall warrants a visit for its picturesque location and serene setting.
Kurunji Andavar Temple
No trip to South India is complete with an exploration of its grand, larger-than-life temples. Kodaikanal checks that box on your to-do list too, as it is home to the much-revered Kurunji Andavar Temple dedicated to Kartikeya, known as Lord Murugan colloquially. Located on the outskirts of Kodaikanal, the Kurunji Andavar Temple is the ideal place for some introspection and soul-searching. The beautiful temple structure is dotted with intricate ancient carvings that are a sight to behold. It is here that you can see the rare Kurunji flower in full bloom, if your visit coincides with the rare blooming spell.
If your idea of a getaway is to escape from the chaotic humdrum of urban world and into the bliss of serenity, the Vattakanal Valley situated nearly 6 km from Kodaikanal is the destination to look out for. The place has an unhurried vibe that serves as the perfect setting for a low-key escapade. Silence, serenity, unadulterated natural beauty will be your companions here, making for just the right anti-dote to rushed urban lifestyle. It is good idea to hire a private taxi from Kodaikanal to Vattakanal, as public transport connectivity is irregular and unreliable.
Chocolates and Spices
What coffee is to Coorg and strawberries to Mahabaleshwar, chocolate and spices are to Kodaikanal. One of the many gems that lend an exotic essence to this hill town is its variety of white and dark chocolates. If you are a dark chocolate fan, the Brazilian Coffee chocolates with a filling of crisp roasted coffee beans are a must have. And, you can buy your chocolates by the kilo and not in packets at Kodaikanal! The place is also popular for its exotic variety of spices, including cinnamon, white pepper, clove and nutmeg, sold at the Spices Corner near the Nellai Nadir Bazaar.
No hill vacation is complete without a hiking experience and Kodaikanal has its fair share of avenues that let you flex some muscles on an uphill climb. Of these, the most popular is the Dolphin’s Nose – a hill summit that gets its name from its unmistakable resemblance to a dolphin’s nose. The point offers a panoramic view of the luxuriant hills and valleys of Kodaikanal, with clouds hanging so low that you feel you can reach out and touch them. Weather plays tricks that enhance the experience – one moment you are greeted by a clear expansive view and the next an unexpected descend of mist fogs your vision. Frequent, light drizzle, especially during the monsoon, brings just the right nip in the air to make the trek to and back from Dolphin’s Nose pleasant. It takes only about 20 minutes to get there and it is every bit worth the effort.
The real flavour of a destination is packed in its local cuisine and Kodaikanal has a rich experience to offer on that count. There is an abundance of restaurants and eateries serving some lip-smacking local vegetarian cuisine. Your options, however, are not just limited to south Indian food. From pastas and wood fires pizzas at Cloud Street to momos, thupka and roast chicken at Tibetan restaurants like Royal Tibet, and rich collection pastries, cakes and other sweet indulgences at Pastry corner, this small hill town definitely boasts of a bustling food scene.
Getting There: The nearest airport is in Madurai. Koadaikanal can also be accessed from Coimbatore, Tirchy and Chennai airports. From any of these locations, you can either book a taxi or take a bus to reach your destination. If you are travelling by train, you can directly reach the Kodai railway station.
Best Time to Visit: June to September is the best time to visit this hill town. However, if you are planning your visit during the monsoon months of July and August, you have to factor in the frequent rainfalls in your travel plans. The weather in September is most conducive for sight-seeing and exploring this quaint hill station, when the rains have abated but the temperature are still on the cooler side.
Where to Stay: The close-to-nature character of Kodaikanal is best experienced at Onondaga and Vue – two farmstays run by Ecorganicstays. Onondaga is a three-bedroom colonial bungalow, whereas Vue is a more expansive 5BHK property. These farmstays are designed to help you break away from the chaos of urban life. Even though the properties are situated in close proximity to the town, you almost forget about the existence of habitation during your time here. Planning to go?