Kodaikanal is an adorable hill station located in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu, also referred to as the “Princess of hill stations” and rightly so! Kodaikanal is an open secret and not as commercialized as other hill stations nearby as Munnar for example, despite bringing in huge crowds every year. It is one of the prettiest and most alluring hill stations in India.
Getting to Kodaikanal
Being an offbeat location, Kodaikanal is not the easiest place to reach, but it is absolutely worth the effort! It is located close to hill stations in Kerala like Munnar, but also accessible from cities like Coimbatore or Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Pre-Covid, public transportation was ample and frequent, but since Covid, while public transport to Kodaikanal still exists, the timings are erratic and I would not suggest it unless you are really on a budget and are willing to compromise on time. If you do choose public transport, please do enquire well in advance.
However, it is possible to drive down from either location in your own car or a hired taxi in four to five hours. Or if you feel adventurous, you can even hire a 2 wheeler from Kodai Road Railway Station(the only place where you can rent a two-wheeler here) for 350-400 rupees a day.
Accommodations in Kodaikanal
The economy here thrives mainly on tourism and the hospitality business and hence there are plenty of options to choose from. We chose to stay at Fab Hotels Town Country Guest House as it was close to the city center and Zostel Kodaikanal after experiencing both hotel and hostel accommodation in this location.
Regardless of where you stay here, it gets occupied during weekends and one may not get their preferred choice of accommodation and hence it is advisable to book on a Monday or a Tuesday if you intend to go over the weekend. With this property of Fab Hotels, they only had the premium accommodation with free breakfast, which came around to 1400 per night.
We visited recently at the beginning of 2021, and at Zostel we found a majority of long-timers staying there for over a month who work from there too. If you choose a backpacker hostel, it is again preferable to book in advance as most hostels are sold out during the weekends. Prices at Zostel remain standard throughout the year, at around 600-650 per bed.
Getting around Kodaikanal
Unless you have your own car or bike, you will have to hire local cabs to go around the place if you do not want to walk. The minimum charge for a taxi is 150-200 Rs one way after bargaining. If you opt for a day tour package, expect it to cost around Rs 1500-2000 for the entire day in the peak season.
Where do I eat?
There are plenty of restaurants available to eat at, but Hotel Tamil Nadu is one of the main restaurants in the locality. Alternatively, many restaurants are serving Tibetan, North Indian, and Italian cuisines in the city center. I would highly recommend sticking to vegetarian food here as meat-based dishes here are dicey.
While you are here, do explore the amazing range of tea and coffee, whether it be at proper dine-in restaurants or the local tea stalls. They are crafted to perfection by everyone! I would highly recommend the Black Lemon Tea apart from the classic Ginger Lemon Tea. A unique try would be the Lemongrass Tea with raw Honey.
If you love fruits, you will be happy to find organic and exotic fruits here grown locally, which you probably will not find anywhere else or if you do they will be expensive. For example, a variety of bonsai apples, mandarins, custard apples, etc.
Places to visit in Kodaikanal
Below is a list of all the places I visited during my time in Kodaikanal. Most of these places have a nominal entry fee of 10 Rupees per person, except for Pillar Rocks where it is 5 rupees per person.
- Pillar Rocks
Pillar rocks are one of my favourite places to visit in all of Kodaikanal mainly because of how the entire area bears a direct resemblance to the science fiction movie Avatar. It basically is two giant rock pillars together. As it is located on high ground, when the weather conditions are good, it is astonishing to watch the clouds roll in and out of the area while the sunlight adds to the drama making it a perfect spot for landscape photography. While it was possible to hike there and walk around back in the day, they have permanently sealed off the area with iron railings and forest guards as a lot of people have lost their lives there.
2. Guna Caves
Guna caves are named after the Tamil Movie Gunaa shot in that locality. These caves are a very unique setting exclusive only to Kodaikanal in India. It is primarily visited for this reason. Although it was possible to trek to the caves back in the day, the authorities have permanently sealed it off. Hence, when the weather is favorable, one can view the caves from a distance. Beware of the monkeys, there are plenty of them, and although they are not aggressive, it is still best to not feed them and keep a distance.
3. Kodai Lake
This lake is a beautifully crafted manmade lake situated in the heart of Kodaikanal. It is spread over 60 acres and has around 5km of a walkable path which is very refreshing on a good weather day. If you prefer, you can also rent a bicycle at nominal charges or ride on a pony/horse for a considerable distance. If you feel lazy and prefer to not do either of these, there is also an option for boating in a 2 pedal or a 4 pedal boat, where you can gaze at the beautiful scenery and click amazing pictures too. If you get hungry, there are many establishments around the lake that sell all kinds of snacks, food, and even hot beverages.
4. Dolphin’s Nose in Vattakanal
Situated 8km from Kodaikanal and at an altitude of 6600 feet, Dolphin’s Nose in Vattakanal is a must-visit spot. A complete offbeat location, it offers rugged terrains, deep valleys, clear skies above the clouds, lush green surroundings, and amazing views of the city. If you are not visiting by your own vehicle, you can hire a cab to drop you at the Pambar bridge from which you begin the 3km trek to Dolphin’s Nose. I would suggest this option as public transport is at a minimum because of Covid.
Apart from monsoons, it is worth visiting any time. It can be visited by groups of friends for a one day picnic and also by serious trekkers who go further up the path to Echo Point. The view from here is absolutely stunning. The entire town of Vattakanal is a must-visit especially if you are into spirituality or curious about it, as it is a place straight out of fairy tales. This place has the most intense energies and the environment changes drastically every few seconds. I would highly suggest visiting before it gets commercialized within the next decade.
5. Pine forest
The Pine Forests in Kodaikanal are free to visit and are a popular tourist spot with crowds of couples and families thronging the location throughout the week. It is a great spot spread over a few acres and while you are there, you can even collect pinecones, they are available in plenty! It is easy to spend over an hour over here and maybe even more if you are finding the perfect pinecones for you. It is also possible to spot beautifully coloured mushrooms though I would not recommend touching them. If you get hungry, there are many options for snacks and tea available around the locality.
6. Coaker’s walk
Coaker’s walk is a beautifully paved pedestrian path of around 1km located close to Kodai Lake. It is one of the most scenic spots of Kodaikanal offering views of the valleys and on a clear day, one can even view Dolphin’s Nose and at times even Madurai. Open from morning to evening, it is best to visit in the evenings for a walk as well as photography.
7. Bryant park
This park is situated close to Kodai Lake and is among the most visited tourist destinations in Kodaikanal. The wonderfully maintained park, occupies over 20 hectares and houses over 300 species of trees, shrubs, cactuses, and other plants. It has a play area for children plus a lake with water plants. It attracts a huge crowd in the evenings. The Entry Fee is around Rs 30 for adults and 15 for children below 10.
Overall, Kodaikanal is a great place to visit, and if time permits, then even do visit Vattakanal which is like a sister location to Kodaikanal.
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