[Travel series] Kodaikanal – She’s a beauty, I tell you!
“It is not possible to ever visit this place enough times and you can never stop talking about it.”
Kodaikanal is one of the most beautiful hill stations in South India. At an altitude of 2,133 m, the picturesque hill town is located in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. Honoured as the “Princess of Hill Stations”, the literal meaning of the name Kodaikanal has four different versions in Tamil. “The gift of the Forest” and "The Forest of the Creepers" is two of them.
Even though the commercialisation has reached its peak here, the place has still managed to retain its natural beauty. Kodaikanal is not only known for white clouds that play hide and seek with green hills but it is also popular for its unique variety of chocolates and other edibles. Kodaikanal’s popularity brings it and its neighbouring hill stations many visitors throughout the year.
When to visit?
Kodaikanal can be visited throughout the year. As a hill station, weather here remains pleasant during all the seasons.
Approimate expense (For a day): Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000
What to eat?
Since Kodaikanal has a diverse range of visitors, its food habits are diverse too. From authentic South Indian dishes to Parsi delights, there are plenty of options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The region has a high growth of mushrooms and garlic, try out the local mushroom soup or other dishes containing these ingredients when you’re here. Hot bread omelettes that are sold in many street side stalls and small hotels are also a speciality.
What to do?
Kodaikanal is called a trekker’s paradise for a reason. From amateurs to avid trekkers, this destination can challenge and delight everyone. There are a number of treks that can be covered from various routes in this region. Here’s one.
Kodaikanal to Palani Trek
Kodai to Palani Trek is one of the most popular trails. At approximately 18 Km, the trek can be completed in a day and the difficulty level is moderate. Fresh water streams that are found on the way add on to the experience. Many tour operators and trek organizers plan events and pick up those that are interested from Kodaikanal or other nearby cities. It is advisable to book with one such organization before reaching the hill station or plan your route wisely. Camping is allowed.
Kodaikanal is surrounded by many big and small waterfalls. Some disappear as rains do, such as Bear Shole. Silver Cascade falls that stand near the entrance and greet the travellers decorate the town. Fairy falls lead the way to Pambar River, and Pambar Falls attract and astonish all its visitors.
Vattakanal is an enchanting hill station and is just a few kilometres away from Kodaikanal. With its serene hills and secluded atmosphere, it is popular among the tourists. Consisting of a beautiful bridge and ample greenery, Vattakanal Falls is truly a gift of nature. One can either go on a captivated trek to reach the falls or can travel to the spot in a vehicle.
As the name suggests “The gift of the forest”, Kodaikanal is a land with thick forests, rich bio diversity and wild life. Forest areas are to be entered with forest department’s permission. If travelling with any tour operator, they will charge extra for this purpose while on the trip. Some of the vegetation in the forest region has medicinal and a few have hallucinogenic properties. One can also visit the Medicine Forest on the way to Berijam Lake.
Pine Tree Forest
Even though your tour operator may just stop at a popular spot where a Tamil movie was shot and say “Here is the pine forest, Go click selfies”, Pine forest is much more than that. Travelling around the forest will let one breathe amidst absolute greenery and be hypnotized by rich flora. Being a popular picnic spot, pine forest is also a good place for camping and trekking.
If you want to roam around Kodaikanal and observe its everyday life more closely, don’t miss the village tour. From admiring the beautiful Palani hills to enjoying the strong smell of garlic, a stroll through these villages can leave anyone spellbound. Local cuisine can be best enjoyed on the way too these villages.
Poombarai Village is one of the most popular tourist spots in Kodaikanal and it is so for good reason. A large piece of the hill has been brilliantly turned into an agricultural land which currently boasts of growing multiple high quality vegetables. Beans, garlic and other vegetables that are grown here are exported to different parts of the country. Poombari village view is undoubtedly one of the best stops in Kodaikanal.
Kodaikanal has four lakes in the area and three of them have drinking water. While some lakes such as Kodaikanal Lake provide opportunities to go boating on clear water, others such as Berijam Lake provide an opportunity to wander in the secluded forest regions. Upper Lake view is a popular tourist spot and is a good place to shop at.
Berijam Lake is found as one crosses silent valley and medicine forest, and goes deep inside the jungle. Berijam Lake is one among the secluded gems of Kodaikanal. With ample greenery, rich flora and clear water, it is one of the best places to visit in Kodaikanal. Forest department permission must be taken to enter the area.
There are a number of other places one can visit in Kodaikanal. Some of them are near to the city centre such as Coaker’s Walk, Kodaikanal observatory, Byrant Park and others. Others are a few kilometres away such as Pillar Rocks, silent valley, the devil’s kitchen and others. All in all, Kodaikanal is a complete package.
Where to stay?
Kodaikanal is one of the most popular hill stations in India and with popularity comes commercialization. Many hotels and resorts have opened up their businesses here and they provide a wide range of facilities for a wide range of prices. As per budget accommodation, there are many cottages and guest houses that provide decent accommodation for reasonable prices.
Hostels: Greenlands Youth Hostel is a good option to stay. (Click here for more information on the hostel)
Plan your commute
Train: Nearest railway station is on Kodaikanal Road - Kodaikanal railway station (KQN). It is almost 80 Km away from Kodaikanal. Buses and cabs can be found near the railway station to reach the hill station.
Bus: Kodaikanal has good bus connectivity from all major parts of the country.
Air: Nearest airport is situated in Madurai, a prominent temple town of Tamil Nadu. It is at 120 Km from Kodaikanal
Local Transport: Travelling inside Kodaikanal could get a little troublesome if you do not have an own vehicle. For purposes such as sightseeing, tourist buses, jeeps and cabs can be hired. Walking is undoubtedly the best way to explore Kodaikanal. If one wishes to commute to nearby hill stations such as Vattakanal, they can board buses from the Main bus stand.
A note to the backpacker
Backpacking and backpackers are both common to Kodaikanal. As the place is visited by tourists from all over the world, there is also a relaxed and cooperative mind-set towards travellers. If you are backpacking in Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal is a must visit destination. It is also apt to take a break from continuous wandering and relax amidst excellent scenic beauty. Backpackers-friendly hostel and guest houses provide accommodation for reasonable prices and a wide variety of food can be found in the region.
So, what are you waiting for?
This is an article from the Aao hostel travel fellowship series