Eager to savor a slice of heaven on earth? Want to escape the suffocating heat of the famous South Indian summers? Looking for an unspoilt and secret gem kind of tourist destination?
The best kept secret of South India – Kodaikanal
Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu, fondly called the Princess of Hill Stations by locals, is your answer for this season.
This spot in India is not known to many tourists and can be quoted as the best kept secret of South India!
Many of my traveler friends from the West do not know of this gem of a place and often end up visiting only the already over-crowded tourist spots like Goa, Agra, Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai and sometimes Kerala.
Think out the way, unspoilt destinations and Kodai is at the top spot and a favorite place of mine. Next is Matheran in Maharastra.
I visited this amazing place in the February before last, and have not yet forgotten even a single moment I spent there. It was as exhilarating as it was soothing, a unique and not to be missed experience all together.
Standing gracefully at 7,200 feet above sea level, this hill station remains a popular summer getaway in South India.
Best time to visit: September to June
(October, November and January months are very cold, so prepare accordingly. July & August should be avoided because the roads can get dangerously slippery and tend to landslide due to heavy rainfall.)
How to get there:
Buses ply from all major cities in South India. Kodai Road is the closest railway station (80 Kms from Kodaikanal). Madurai is the nearest international airport.
Things to do:
Coaker’s Walk, Bryant’s Park, Lake, Pillar Rocks, Guna Caves, Silent Valley View, Dolphin’s Nose, Berijam Lake, Berijam forest guest house, Silver Cascade Falls, Madi Kettan Solai.
Kodaikanal has a lot of spectacular view points and refreshing things to do.
Beautiful stone churches, colorful hotels, parks, forests, a lake and the wonderful green ambiance make this place a heaven on earth.
Added attractions are plenty of freshly plucked juicy carrots on local road-side stalls, colorful flowers that do not wither for one whole YEAR (true, I bought some of those too), restaurants serving hearty South Indian delicacies, and other tempting fare along the way.
The mesmerizing beauty all around you definitely makes you forget yourself.
Things to do
Suggesting a general itinerary if you do not have enough time to research for yourself.
You can start your day with a pleasant walk on the famous ‘Coaker’s Walk’ trail.
This is just a short 10-minute walk. but to soak in the beauty of the valley below, you will automatically pace yourself.
So, it would take you at least an hour to cross the small stretch.:)
We stayed in a great hotel within 200 meters of this spot. And I found myself magnetically drawn to this walk everyday we stayed at this hill station. I kept returning to the Walk, anytime I could squeeze in.
Staying around Coaker’s Walk gives you the advantage of visiting most of the main tourist spots in Kodai by walk. It not only saves time, but also leaves you totally refreshed by just breathing in the fresh mountain air.
Next stop should be at the Bryant’s Park, and then the nearby Lake. Boating on the lake, cycling around the lake or simply walking also can be done. Horse riding is another popular attraction near the lake.
The streets around the lake open up into colorful shopping bazaars. You can pick up woolen clothes, souvenirs, chocolates and other such items at a very decent price.
No dearth of view-points
Then you can book a taxi and travel up to the Pillar Rocks viewpoint, Silent Valley viewpoint and other wonderful viewpoints along the way.
The misty hill hides the view sometimes, but it makes your wait all the more worthwhile with its amazing scenery. A trek down to the Dolphin’s Nose is a must for adventure-lovers.
You can stop at the enlivening pine forests on the way and have a quick peek at the deep and dangerous Guna Caves, made famous by the eponymous Tamil movie Guna. On the way out of the town, you can stop at the beautiful Silver Cascade Falls.
We stayed an extra day so that we can start early to visit the Berijam Lake. The entry is restricted by the Forest Department to the hours between 9: 30 AM and 3 PM for visitors so that wildlife is not disturbed in the nights.
Also, the number of vehicles allowed per day is highly restricted. So, be sure to get the permission early in the day.
The lake itself is very remarkable, and the views around are superb. You could even spot Munnar hills from here.
A refreshing stop along the way to Berijam Lake is the Madi Kettan Solai (Meditation garden), trees with colorful leaves peek at you cheerfully.
The leaves of the trees look like bunches of colorful broccoli put together closely. The views around made us feel as if we were floating on the snowy white cotton clouds!
Berijam forest guest house
The Berijam forest guest house is located near the lake a little up into the forest. It is beautiful to look at and you can even stay there if you get special permission from the Forest Office.
We missed doing this as we did not have much time. Imagine staying in a beautiful house surrounded with sparkling waters and peaceful woods all round. I am sure it would be awesome!
Read more about the Berijam forest guest house stay permission details in my post Berijam forest guest house in Kodaikanal.
Another such amazing spot along the Berijam Road is the Cap Valley, where it is said that if you throw any light object like a cap, the wind returns it to you.
I have not tested this, but the view is utterly captivating. The mist slowly rising out of the valley and touching you tenderly would leave you mesmerized on the spot.
Kodaikanal is also famous for its Kurinji flower, which blossoms only once every 12 years. The next blossom would open up in 2018 according to a news article.
With its refreshingly chill weather throughout the year and its many refreshing locales, Kodai sure remains the most attractive destination to honeymooners and tourists alike.
I recommend that you carry a light jacket with you even in summer when you visit Kodaikanal. My favorite is this Whitetails Jacket.
Do not forget to visit this place on your Indian trip and let me know your favorite spots too!
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