Kodaikanal or Kodai (as it is popularly known) is a bewitching beauty by all standards. It is often referred to as "The Princess of Hills". True to its name, it has always managed to capture the hearts of travellers world over.
Situated on the Palani Hills, which is located approximately 120 km from Madurai, Tamil Nadu, it is also known to be the only hill station to be set up by the Americans. American Missionaries gave Kodaikanal its first ever International School which goes by the name of Kodaikanal International School. It is one of the most prestigious private schools of the country.
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Another breathtakingly beautiful feature of Kodaikanal is the fact that the shrub Neela Kurunji (which is a specialty shrub of the Western Ghats) is found here. This shrub grows every 12 years and makes the entire Western Ghats look resplendent with its light bluish-purple flowers. Come, do a visual tour with us to know more about Kodai and the places of interest.
Route Options :
Route 1 - Bangalore - Electronic City - Attibelle - Hosur - Krishnagiri - Dharmapuri - Salem - Namakkal - Karur - Dindigul - Batlagundu- Koidakanal (464 km, 7 h 38 min, via NH 44).
Route 2 - Bangalore - Hosur - Krishnagiri - Dharmapuri - Salem - Erode - Perundurai - Chennimalai - Kangayam - Dharapuram - Thoppampatti - Palani - Perumal Malai - Silver Cascade Falls - Kodai (447 km, 8 h 11 min, via NH 44 & NH 544).
I chose Route no. 1 for ease. I encountered as less as 7 toll roads on this route, which wasn't the case with Route 2. Moreover, the former was faster and easier as compared to the latter. I was also told by a friend of mine that the road leading to Dharapuram (Route 2), wasn't motorable and didn't provide a good tarmac and that it was sensible to take the Batlagundu-Kodia road, than the Palani road. There were plenty of amenities like petrol pumps, hotels and rest houses all along Route 1. Places that can be covered enroute Kodai are (i.e., if you take Route 1) Salem, Namakkal, Karur and Dindigul.
I left from Bangalore around 6:00 am and planned to make a quick stop at my favourite Sree Saravana Bhavan Restaurant in Krishnagiri. Whenever I cross Krishnagiri, I make it a point to have their lip-smacking fare ranging from ghee dosas, kesari, upma and idlis and nothing adds more zing to it than a small glass of filter kaapi/coffee.
Places to take a pit stop for food :
Apart from the above-mentioned Sri Saravana Bhavan, other places you can stop at in Krishnagiri are A2B, Gokul Veg, Krishnagiri Sree Saravana Hotel and Sri Raja Ganapathi Non-Veg Hotel.
After having a sumptuous breakfast, I headed off to my destination. On my way to Dindigul, in a village called Thadikombu I saw this beautiful looking temple by the name 'Arulmigu Sri Sownthara Raja Perumal Temple" and I decided to pay it a visit (one of the wisest decisions of my life). Do give this temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu a visit if you not only happen to be spiritual but an ardent lover of architectural marvels too.
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On reaching Dindigul, the whiff of biriyanis hit my nose and my stomach refused to cooperate without being fed. I stopped at Dindigul Venu Biriyani Restaurant, and I must admit that I haven't tasted anything better than what they had to offer, till date. You can also stop at Hotel Chennai Bhawan (enroute Dindigul) or Thalappakatti (Dindigul) for lunch.
The drive from Dindigul to Bathalgundu was safe and smooth, the roads were very well maintained and it was a breeze driving on them. Even the hilly region leading to Kodai was well maintained; it is always advisable to be a bit careful on the ghat sections. Overall, it was a pretty good driving experience and the signboards being in both Tamil as well as in English were a major blessing. I reached Kodai by 2:30 pm and quickly got myself a hotel room.
Kodaikanal when translated into Tamil also means "a place to view in Summer", away from the horrid weather of the cities. Best months to visit are April-June or September-October, though, this hill station remains pleasant all throughout the year. The temperatures range from 11 degrees to 19.8 degrees in summer and 8 degrees to 17 degrees in winter. Rain can visit you unannounced.
The places I visited on Day 1 of my trip were the following -
Coakers Walk - A must visit place in Kodaikanal, it is a 1 km long mountain trail; the views around this place are alluring to say the least and it is surrounded by scenic views in abundance. Somewhere, midway there's an observatory with a telescope. You can start your walk from either ends, be it the Taj Villa or the Greenlands Youth Hostel.
Kodai Lake - Shaped like a star, it is a beautiful and delightfully landscaped manmade lake. Boating, horse riding and cycling are a few of the activities that you can indulge in while you are here. You can even hire peddle boats or rowing boats here. It was Sir Vere Levinge's idea to construct this Lake. It is also dubbed as a popular sunset point and is one of the major attractions of Kodaikanal and rightfully so.
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Kurinji Andavar Temple - This temple is dedicated to Kurunji Easwaran or Lord Murugan and is located at a distance of 3 km from the lake. The temple gets its name from the Kurunji flowers that blossom once in 12 years and the word 'Andavar' means God. You can catch a good glimpse of Palani and Vaigi dam from this temple.
Bryant's Park - This park was thought of and landscaped by General Bryant and is well known for its fine varieties of hybrid as well as grafted flowers. Best time to visit this place is during the horticulture show that takes place in May every year.
Bear Shola Falls - These falls get their name from the bears who used to visit this spot to drink water.
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Green Valley View - It has a beautiful view of the plains and a drop of 1,500 m overlooking the Vaigai Dam. It is situated at a distance of 5 km from the bus stand and was once known as the suicide point.
Pillar Rocks - It is situated approximately 8 km from the lake and serves as a great picnic spot. There is a stunning mini garden just adjacent to these rocks. The place gets its name from the 3 pillars which stand at a height of 122 m or 400 ft.
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Berijam Lake - I had kept this spot exclusively for Day 2 of my visit. It is a serene picnic spot located 25 km from Kodaikanal and this quaint lake is situated in the midst of forests. It also acts as a source of drinking water to villages nearby and also houses a myriad variety of species. Entry is allowed to only a few vehicles and that too before 9:30 am. Special permit of the forest department is needed to enter the place. Though, situated away from where all the action is, don't go back without visiting this place.
Shopping - The next half of my day was spent shopping. You can shop for eucalyptus oil, homemade chocolates, plums, Kodai cheese, etc. from the Tibetan refugee bazaar. You can buy handicraft items, souvenirs, gifts, etc. from cottage crafts shops in Anna Salai. On PT Road, you will find many Kashmiri shops to shop from.
Day 3 (Morning)
Thus came the end of my much cherished tour. How I wish I'd given all the expensive holidays abroad a miss and paid Kodai aka "Gift of the Forest" an early visit.