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A classic hill station, Kodaikanal is a much sought after getaway in South India. Located in Tamil Nadu, it has one of the coolest climes among the Western Ghats, making it ideal for a summer spot. Offering some of the most spectacular viewpoints, this mist-laden hilly land is a picturesque vacation option for every kind of traveller, including backpackers, families, and honeymooners. Here is a comprehensive guide on exploring this hill city in the most enjoyable ways.
Kodaikanal Lake aka Kodai Lake, a man-made water body situated in the heart of the city, is the most popular geographic landmark and tourist attraction of Kodaikanal. Rowing boats, paddle boats, and motor boats are offered on hire to tourists at Kodaikanal Boat House to enjoy the serene beauty and catch the wonderful sights of the surrounding Palani Hills. Options for horse rides, cycling, balloon shooting, and skating are available around the lake boundary. The smells and sights emanating from food stalls selling fried corn are ubiquitous. Summer is welcomed by Boat Pageant and flower shows around the lake.
Coaker’s Walk, another man-made wonder, is a kilometre long pathway built on the edge of a steep slope on the southern side of Kodaikanal. Situated about 2,133m (6,998 ft.) above mean sea level, it is the perfect place for an evening walk to enjoy bird’s eye view of the mesmerising city of Kodaikanal. The walk begins near Van Allen hospital and joins the main road above St Peter’s Church. On a clear day, sights as far as the city of Madurai can be spied from here. The path is fenced to ensure the safety of the visitors.
Shenbaganur Museum, situated at 5km (3.1 mi.) from the city centre, has a rich variety of exhibits and displays that can be divided into Anthropological, Flora &, and Handicrafts sections. The anthropological sections exhibit many archaeological remains discovered from Kodaikanal and the surrounding regions. The Flora & Fauna Section houses a herbarium with almost 2500 varieties of plants and one of the best orchidariums in the country displaying more than 300 species of orchids. The museum also displays two Papier-Mache maps.
Devil’s Kitchen aka Guna Caves is one of the most eerie attractions in Kodaikanal. The unusual rock formations and natural erosion have formed narrow valleys and deep chambers in the rocks. The dense pine forest en-route the caves is almost always shrouded in thick mist bestowing an aura of mystery to the place. The ancient tree roots crisscrossing over one another evoke images of beds of snakes knotting on one another. The other-worldly environment will summon the adventurer in you.
Kodaikanal is a haven for trekking and hiking enthusiasts, offering some of the best trek routes in South India with spectacular sights of natural vistas. Some of the must-do trek routes to explore are Dolphin Nose trek in Vattakanal, Perumal Peak ascent from Perumal Malai village at the foothills, trek to Thalaiyar Falls which is the highest waterfalls in Tamil Nadu, and Kodaikanal to Palani trek. The best one is the 3-4 day long 80-Mile Round trek passing through quaint villages and dense forests.
Kodaikanal is an extension of the Western Ghats into the east and is famously known as ‘The Gift of the Forest’ which eloquently speaks of the blend of nature that can be found here. Kukkal Caves with captivating views of Manjampath Valley is one of the most favourite camping areas among adventure enthusiasts in Kodaikanal. Perumal Peak is another favourite spot for overnight camping and night photography experiments and is an enthralling experience.
Kodaikanal is dotted with shops selling a wide variety of souvenirs and authentic natural products including natural oils, tea, coffee, homemade chocolates and spices at very reasonable prices. The vendors also provide options for door delivery of your chosen products to anywhere in India, for a small additional charge. The variety of chocolates displayed is sure to boggle your mind; however, they allow you to taste a slice of each to help you decide which one to buy. Make sure you gift your friends and family the famed chocolates of Kodaikanal.
Just walking distance from Kodai Lake is the well maintained garden called Bryant Park. Sprawling across an area of 20.5 acres, the park was built in 1908 by a forest officer, H D Bryant, after whom it is named. The park has 325 species of trees, shrubs, cacti, and stunning 740 varieties of roses which wash the place in a rainbow of colours during the blooming season. The park also organises annual horticulture shows of ornamental plants every summer to coincide with the peak tourist season.
The mountainous terrain and altitude has bestowed Kodaikanal with great cascading waterfalls and viewpoints offering mesmerising views of valleys and peaks. Some of the best natural wonders to visit when in Kodaikanal are Green Valley Viewpoint, infamously known as the Suicide Point, Dolphin’s Nose, Silent Valley Viewpoint, Moir Point, Lake Viewpoint, Fairy Falls, Pambar Falls, Bear Shola Falls believed to host bears for drinks and dips, Silver Cascade Falls, and Vattakanal Falls.
Kodaikanal has had a permanent settlement history since the British arrived here prior to which the thick forests were walked by tribes of the Western Ghats from the prehistoric era. The pleasant climate and natural vista enticed people to explore and settle here in large numbers resulting in construction of monuments of history, religion, and science. Some of the must-visit among these are Dolmen Circle near Pannikadu village, Kurinji Andavar Murugan Temple, Kodaikanal Solar Observatory, Christ the King Church, Kuzhanthai Velappar Temple, and Lutheran Church.