Kodaikanal – A quick guide

Kodaikanal Brief History:

Developed by missionaries in the 19th century with the help of British government, Kodaikanal was the solution for American missionaries and British government employees to the heat of the plains esp. during the summers.

Kodaikanal is the only  hill station in India that was started by Americans.

Kodaikanal is located at an altitude of about 2133 m. which also meant it provided respite from the widespread threat of Malaria back then.
Kodaikanal lake (which was earlier a marshy area) is where the earliest houses were built. Old houses were built of local material like granite, mud, limestone, and sandstone. They were generally single storied and had gardens. Most of the heritage buildings are now owned by Kodaikanal International school and multiple churches.
Large number of private properties changed hands and only few managed to live on in their original glory.

Villages around Kodaikanal (Ideal Day Trips):

All the below villages are known to be older than Kodaikanal itself. The locals from these villages often come to Kodai on Sunday to either sell their produce or buy from the local market which happens every Sunday on PT Road.

Mannavanur – Distance: 35 km, Travel time: 2 hours in Bus

It’s one of my favourite villages around. The first time I went chasing the sheep farm. All I wanted was a picture with a herd of sheep. Which I did manage to get and the beautiful Mannavanur lake was a complete bonus. The second time around, I tried my hands at kayaking with a friend and it was brilliant (He would like to disagree though).

Mannavanur is slowly picking popularity but the distance from Kodaikanal discourages people from visiting.

Kodaikanal_Mannavanur-min
Mannavanur lake

 

Kookal – Distance: 40 km, Travel time: 2 hours in Bus

We can see the caves here where one of the first inhabitants of Palani hills – Paliyan tribe used to live. I didn’t get to see the caves as I barely had time to explore the village owing to public transport availability (rather non-availability). The village is beautiful with terraced farms, another lake around (without dedicated sitting area but serene nevertheless).

Kodaikanal_kookal-min
Kookal lake

Poombarai – Distance: 18 km, Travel time: 1 hour in Bus

This is the nearest village from Kodaikanal and is absolutely stunning. With terraced farms, red roof tiled old houses, and an ancient temple right at the beginning of the village. There are frequent buses to Poombarai from kodaikanal main bus stand.

Kodaikanal_poombarai-min
Poombarai village from a view point

 

Places to visit in Kodaikanal:

All the below mentioned places are very crowded over weekends and getting stuck in traffic jams is quite usual. Anytime during April to mid June is super busy as well (owing to school holidays).

Kodaikanal Lake:

The starfish shaped lake’s perimeter is about 5 km and once you cross the busy section that’s thronged by tourists, the lake is calm and beautiful. A walk or bike ride along the perimeter of the lake is recommended.

Kodaikanal lake-min
On a fairly misty day

Coaker’s walk:

1 km walk along the edge of a slope giving beautiful view of the hills. View is dependent on the weather though. Mist starts to set in by late afternoon.

Solar Observatory:

While most part of the observatory is not open to public, the museum is. The Solar observatory is perched on a hill top on observatory road with beautiful views of the town from within the premise itself.

On Jan 5th, 1909, John Evershed made the discovery of the phenomenon of radial motion in sunspots, that is now termed as ‘Evershed effect’.

kodaikanal_solar observatory-min
That dome slides down

Upper Lake view:

Gives a panoramic view of the lake that’s shaped like a starfish. Apparently the sunset from here is a good view but I never got around to seeing the sunset from there.

Vattakanal (Dolphin’s Nose and Echo Point):

Vattakanal is the name of the area and Dolphin nose, Echo point are view points on a small hike there. The beginning of this small hike can be reached with a taxi (I had gone all the way hiking though).

The local story is that the Mahabaratha’s game of dice was played at Dolphin’s nose. Echo point is just a little ahead of Dolphin’s nose.

Pillar Rocks

Kodaikanal_pillar rocks-min
That’s pretty much what I saw on a misty day

Yep, that’s all I saw, the mist.

Guna Caves
Pine Forest

Kodaikanal_pine forest-min
It’s quite touristy, honestly.

 

Religious Places:

Kurinji Andavar Murugan temple: Built in 1936 by a European lady who
later converted to a Hindu
Poombarai murugan temple (20.4 km from Bus stand)
La Saleth Church: One of the two churches dedicated to lady la Saleth.
• CSI Christ the king’s church
• Lutheran church: Built in 1932

Hiking Options:

  • Vellagavi Village: This is ahead of Echo point. The trek is a whole day activity. Vellagavi is a small village downhill. The locals grow their own coffee. Don’t miss out on the amazing Avocado shake in the cafe located at the entrance of the village.

    Kodaikanal_vellagavi village-min
    The tiny village of Vellagavi that surprises you with views wherever you look
  • Ganeshpuram waterfalls: A good section of the hike is through lemongrass shrubs which makes it look quite surreal. There’s a waterfall there where one can swim but our guide told us there’s a constant threat of bisons and elephants there.

*Hiking in Ganeshpuram and most other places require prior permission from Forest department. The most reknowned guide I found in Kodaikanal. Drop an email to me for his phone number.

Other Off-Beat Activities:

  • Pottery tour by Potter’s shed: 

Potter’s shed is a quaint little store located on PT road, displaying pottery by their very talented potter who’s been doing this since years. It is run by a trust and the proceeds go towards educating kids from underprivileged backgrounds.

Kodaikanal_pottery-min
He had been at it since years
Kodaikanal_potters shed-min
The end product is stunning

The workshop is located in a scenic area away from the hustle bustle of the town.

From 2 – 4:30 p.m. organised on request
• Tour with hands-on experience – 700 per person
• Tour without hands-on experience (one hour) – 300 per person

  • Spend time at the KMU historic library: Timings: Wednesday and Saturday – 1100 hours to 1300 hours

Located inside the Kodaikanal International School premise, KMU owned library is open to everyone. Not only is it a great place to read up on the history of Kodaikanal or get your hands on the precious books with a collection of Kodaikanal’s flora in sketch but also to meet interesting people from everywhere who have made Kodaikanal their home.

Possible next destinations to Visit:

• Thekkady
• Munnar

Places to eat:

  • Indian food:

• Hill Top Restaurant
• Astoria
• Hamuse

  • Multi-Cuisine (All of the below places are located on PT Road):

Aby’s
• Cloud Street
• Ten Degrees
• Muncheez
• Tibetan Restaurant

  • Cafes:

• Nia’s Cafe
• Cafe Kariappa
• Pastry Corner

  • Places to drink:

• Hotel Carlton
• Hotel Tamil Nadu
• Kodaikanal international hotel

* No other place has a bar but there are multiple TASMAC stores (one is a little ahead opposite bus stand, another one is on AnnaSalai Road, about 200m from bus stand)

Shopping:

Kodaikanal itself doesn’t have any handicraft industry. The handicraft being sold here is usually imported from the northern part of India. The local produce primarily consists of
• Soap
• Oil
• Cheese
• Chocolates
• Fruit preserve

Places to shop from:

The Eco Nut: Has oils, chocolates, organic fruit preserves, peanut butter, forest honey among other things
Kiki’s Book Store: Fruit preserves, cheese
Kodai Cheese: Local cheese produce

Moving Around in Kodaikanal:

There are no autos in Kodi or motor bike rentals which makes commuting quite difficult. Locals buses do have service to nearby villages but hardly anything to these tourist points.

I spent the seven months relying on my feet.

There are two taxi unions in Kodaikanal, the minimum fare is 150 for one and 200 for the other one.

Bus Schedule:

Madurai

Batlagundu

Dindigal

Palani

Bangalore

Trichy

Chennai

Coimbatore

Kanyakumari

Rameswaram

Kodai Road

0650

0735

0620

0600

1730 (setc)

1340

1830
(ud)

0830

0845

0830

1830
(ud)

0720

0850

0755

0750

1805
(ksrtc)

1540

1845
(srm)

1630

0800

0910

1010

0830

1905
(ksrtc)

1740

1845
(tat)

0830

1040

1050

1015

1800
(kpn)

1600

1910
(ybm)

0900

1105

1140

1215

1830
(kpn)

0950

1110

1220

1310

1830
(srs)

1040

1520

1340

1340

1900
(stc)

1200

1600

1440

1515

1930
(stc)

1300

1650

1540

1545

1915
(tat)

1330

1700

1640

1630

1400

1750

1700

1930

1450

1835

1800

1520

1900

1825

1640

2000

1915

1715

2100

Traveling from Bangalore to Kodaikanal or Chennai to Kodaikanal is quite easy with multiple overnight buses available.

The nearest Airport is Madurai. Cab would charge Rs. 3000 from Madurai airport to Kodaikanal.

Have you been to Kodaikanal yet?

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