Kodaikanal is one of those fortunate hill stations which retain the old-world charm despite the growing popularity and commercialisation. Here you can still see beautiful flowers blooming on roadsides and feast your eyes on lush greenery. Add to these delights, numerous gardens, walks and sights, and you have all the trappings of an ideal getaway, either for a short break or for a longer, more leisurely holiday.
In this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s India’s Best Escapes South India we recommend the top sights and experiences for visitors.
Located on the eastern side of the lake is the 20 acre Bryant Park, a lovely botanical garden with a mindboggling variety (740) of roses. There’s also a greenhouse for orchids, ferns and other plants. The park is popular with fitness enthusiasts who frequent it for their morning or evening walks, lovers who get cosy in the shade of one of the many ancient trees and also families with children. There’s a separate play area with swings.
Kurinji Andavar Temple
The Kurinji Andavar Temple commands a great view of the hill station, the Vaigai Dam and the Palani hills. Built in 1936 by a European lady who converted to Hinduism, the presiding deity of the temple is Murugan celebrated here as the Lord of the kurinji flower, that blossoms once in 12 years. There are several kurinji shrubs in the compound too. On the way to the Kurinji Andavar Temple is Chettiar Park. It is small but full of flowers, paved paths and swings – a perfect hang-out place for the whole family.
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Right in the heart of the hill station is the 45 hectare Kodaikanal Lake designed almost like a star. Built in 1863, today it’s a popular spot where boating is the favourite activity though you can also hire a bike and cycle around it. There is also a good walking path encircling it and horse riding is available too.
Silent Valley View
True to its name the valley is silent, but unfortunately the people visiting the viewpoint are not. If they were, the experience would be better. Expect a large number of people chattering and marvelling at the view. Though there is an iron mesh at the edge, parents should be alert. Also make sure you go on a clear day or else the mist blankets it out. Early mornings or late afternoons are better. Permission is required from the forest department office near the bus stand (8–10am) and only a limited number of vehicles are allowed from 10am–4.30pm.
A 7km hike from Kodaikanal Lake brings you to a set of three rocks that are 122m high, shoulder to shoulder and are referred to as Pillar Rock. The cave on the far side of the pillars was earlier aptly named Devil’s Kitchen because of the mist which mysteriously appeared to emanate from it. Now it goes under the rather prosaic name of Guna Cave after the shooting of an eponymous Tamil film there.
Built by Lt Coaker in 1872, Coaker’s Walk is a one-kilometre paved pedestrian path running along the edge of steep slopes. Take a stroll and admire the breathtaking views of the valley below. Benches are placed strategically along the way for those who simply want to sit and soak in the scene. There’s also a telescope house for closer views of the valley. Coaker’s Walk should ideally be visited before 3pm as the mist starts to settle in by late afternoon.
Green Valley View Point
Located around 5km from Kodaikanal Lake, next to the golf club, is the Green Valley view point, from where on a clear day you can see views of the Vaigai Dam. The valley is almost 5000ft deep and was earlier known as Suicide Point. There are barbed wires now; however monkeys continue to be a hazard.
An hour’s drive from Kodaikanal is the 15km long Berijam Lake, surrounded by forests. Boating is prohibited on this calm and serene freshwater lake as it is a source of water for the neighbouring villages. To visit the lake, you need to take permission from the forest department office near the bus stand from 8–10am. Only a limited number of vehicles are allowed between 10am and 4.30pm.
Walk to Vattakanal
The trek to Vattakanal village, about 4.5km from the town centre, is a great experience. On the way, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot gaur (bison) or giant squirrels, go past La Saleth Church, a lovely blue and white structure, making your way through an unpaved track passing through Pambar Shola forest, a bridge above some falls and snack stalls selling tea, coffee, omelettes and corn.
Silver Cascade Falls
These falls lie 8km before Kodai on the Madurai- Kodai route (Laws Ghat Road). The excess water in the Kodai Lake falls 180ft through piles of rocks to form the waterfall. Since it’s on the way to Kodai, it also serves as a pit stop for vehicles. There are several shops selling fruit and forest products around it. Beware of monkeys.
Bear Shola Falls
An ideal picnic spot just 3km from the bus stand. Earlier, bears would come here to drink water – hence this name. Cars need to be parked around half a kilometre away, from where it’s a 10-minute walk. The best time to visit the falls is during the monsoon season.
Important: April to June, when the clouds don’t eclipse the sun, is the best time to visit. However, the rest of the year has its own charm, minus the crowds; the hotels are cheaper, and the mist, which creeps up without warning, adds to the mystique.