Kodaikanal is the most popular tourist attraction in the Indian southern state of Tamil Nadu. Its increasing popularity has been too fast-paced for the hospitality industry to keep up with and this is reflected in the shortage of stays during the peak tourist season time – May – June.
Kodaikanal has a variety of places to stay. While many prefer to stay around the lake (the main attraction in Kodaikanal), the area can get busy during the season time. This is the reason many tourists now opt to stay further away in the hills. Not only are these places quieter but they offer majestic views as well.
Let’s jump into the list divided into various categories so you can choose on the basis of your preference. Please note, most of these places I have stayed in, some I have visited but all I have vetted from my local friends, and none have been sponsored.
While camping sounds adventurous and fun, in Kodaikanal, it can be dangerously adventurous owing to the large Bison population that grazes during the night. Kodaikanal also experiences erratic weather that can go from sunny to pouring within hours, which is why wild camping is not recommended. In fact, camping in the forest area can draw a fine of up to Rs. 20,000.
Below are some organized camping places that will allow you to experience camping in a safe and beautiful environment.
1. Poondi Camping
- Location: Poondi
- Price: Rs. 1200 per person per night (including all meals)
- Contact for Booking: 9585865979 (Bhaskar)
45 km from Kodaikanal is Poondi, a small village with terraced farms and terracotta roofs. A short hike from the village is a stunning lake. It’s quiet, in fact, a little too quiet for a solo traveler.
At the entrance of the lake is a small camping place being run by a local family. It’s very basic but I can imagine how beautiful it would be. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay there owing to the place closing for a month for a local festival.
But I did visit the lake a few times and love going there with a book.
Pros: Serene location, uninterrupted access to Poondi lake, Great for bird watching
Cons: Not ideal for a solo woman traveler
2. Spice Valley Camping
- Location: Perumalmalai (~20 km from Kodaikanal)
- Price: Rs. 1000 per person (including breakfast, tent, and common facilities)
About 9 km from Perumalmalai is this camping place. This includes about a 300 m hike to reach the camping from the parking spot.
It’s set amidst a 100-acre farm that has dolmens, a passion fruit farm, waterfall all within walking distance of the camping place. Along with tents, they do have stone cottages and treehouses that one upgrade to at the same cost if available.
The owners are really friendly and make the guests feel at home while giving them their space.
It’s close to Anju Veedu falls (2 km hike), which is known to be serene and untouched by the mounting tourism.
Pros: Great for hiking, Waterfall nearby, Quiet
Cons: Not disable friendly, difficult to reach using public transport
Note: They do have provisions to accommodate people traveling with their own tent. It costs Rs. 750 per person in that case.
3. Vellagavi Camping
- Location: Vellagavi (it’s a medium difficulty level hike from Vattakanal)
- Price: Rs. 500 per person per night (without food)
Vellagavi is a small village, perched on top of a hill that’s a 1.5-2 hours hike downhill from Vattakanal. However, coming back up is at least a 4-hour task and offers no respite from the uphill elevation. The views along the way are stunning on a clear day.
At the beginning of this village is a cafe that offers camping as well and they can arrange for official guides in case you wish to continue hiking in forest reserve areas (a local guide is mandatory in that case). Unfortunately, they had closed in 2020 owing to Covid.
The cafe offers fresh fruit juices, meals as per request, and availability. My favorite there was the Avocado shake.
Pros: Smaller community, organic local food, Old Kodaikanal experience
Cons: Accessible only through a long and difficult hike
BACKPACKERS HOSTELS (DORMITORIES)
Kodaikanal for the longest time for Israeli backpackers secret paradise, who would directly go to Vattakanal. So there wasn’t a hostel other than Greenland’s youth hostel but in the recent past more hostels have come up catering to the increasing backpacker’s crowd.
1. Greenlands Youth Hostel
- Location: 1 km from the Kodaikanal bus stand
- Price: Rs. 600 for a bed in dormitory (including breakfast)
Greenland’s youth hostel is blessed with a view like no other. They are very strategically located between Kodaikanal and Vattakanal which means beautiful sunrise view including cloud bed and sparkling distant city lights in the evening.
The problem with the place is a bit of a disconnect between staff and guests. I have met people with not the best experience of staying there owing to poor hygiene.
Back in 2018, they had a female dorm and I loved staying there primarily for the peace it offers but the internet was not the best and my phone didn’t get any networks so I had to leave soon.
Pros: Views throughout the day, proximity to the town (only hostel within a km radius of the town)
Cons: Not the cleanest, hot water access is erratic
- Location: ~5 km from Kodaikanal bus stand
- Price: Rs. 590 per person in 8 bed dorm
Trippr is located on a hill about 5 km from the lake, this means it could be quite a walk with the backpack. But the destination is rewarding, it’s peaceful, clean, and being a small property allows you to get to know people better. The staff was kind and friendly too.
Back in 2018, the nearest place to eat was a local food stall 10-15 minute walk from the hostel but I hear there’s a cafe there now. And if the owner Aditya is there then you’re in luck. He is super helpful and often goes to town or Vattakanal so you can hitch a ride with him.
Pros: Quiet neighborhood, beautiful sunset spot nearby
Cons: not accessible through public transport (cabs are ~Rs. 400)
Note: They have a clean, functional kitchen with a fridge that guests are allowed to use.
- Location: Vattakanal (~5 km from Kodaikanal)
- Price: Rs. 400 per bed in 10-bed dorm
This is the only backpacker’s hostel in Vattakanal. Located right opposite Altaf cafe this is a perfect location to get hiking (Dolphin nose or Vellagvi village). The sunrise from the hostel itself is nice but if you just walked down to Altaf cafe, the views were majestic.
I highly recommend stopping there for at least a day to see the sunrise.
The hostel is very basic, not the cleanest but has a TT table that I enjoyed using quite a lot.
P.S: I was going to stay there only for a night which is why I didn’t care too much for things like a shower, kitchen, etc. I would look for a different place if I was staying for a longer period.
Pros: Location, Stunning sunrise views from within and around the hostel
Cons: Not the cleanest
Note: There’s a Zostel in Kodaikanal as well but I had a really bad experience there and the staff who had misbehaved with me continued working with the franchisee which is why I do not recommend it to anyone esp. solo women travelers.
HOMESTAYS / AIRBNB
Kodaikanal’s history goes back to American missionaries looking for a summer destination to seek refuge from the Malaria spread in the plains. Some of the early bungalows still exist and quite a few of the bungalows built in the early days are open for guests now.
Two of my favorite homestays in Kodaikanal are:
1. Sri Satya Surabhi AirBnB
- Location: Atuvampatty
- Price: Rs. 3300
- Capacity: 4
The reason I love this Bungalow is not just for its peaceful location but the cause it relates to. The money from the AirBnB supports a school for underprivileged kids in the same compound. The school provides free education to these kids.
The bungalow is surrounded by beautiful local flowering plants, has a large garden, and surrounding areas are quiet too for a walk any time during the day.
Pros: Quiet, huge garden area, for a good cause
Cons: Limited food options nearby, away from most tourist attractions
2. Stoole Durai Bungalow
- Location: Shenbeganur
- Price: Rs. 9000 (for the whole Bungalow)
- Capacity: 8 beds (can easily accommodate more people)
Stoole Durai bungalow originally belonged to WW II war veteran Col. Alexander Stoole. The way he has added rooms to the original building adds so much character to the place, it’s walking into a storybook. With no partner or children, he left the bungalow to his gardener who many years later, sold it to Meenakshi Sai (the current owner).
Meenakshi is a very well-traveled person herself and that shows in the way she has done the place up. It’s tasteful and centers around the need of the travelers. I had loved the place and would go back in a heartbeat.
Pros: Rich history, ideal for large groups, night view, beautiful walks around
Cons: Sundays are not as quiet as weekdays owing to the religious buildings around
If you can afford to or have a partner to share costs with then it really opens up for your options in terms of stay and allows you to experience some nicer places.
1. Villa Retreat
- Location: 500 m from Bus stand (right under viewpoint Coakers walk)
- Price: Rs. 3300 (for Travelers room including breakfast)
Villa Retreat is located right under Coaker’s walk, a pedestrian path with beautiful valley views. This location gives the guests stunning views of the valley.
2. CSI Retreat Center
- Location: Opposite Kodai Lake
- Price: Rs. 1000 per room
- Contact: +91 98427 78548
This property is right opposite the lake. It’s a huge property and bison spotting is common. There are a few more church properties around Kodaikanal. It would be worth checking if there’s space in any because most of them are spacious with a garden area.
The elevation and weather of Kodaikanal make it ideal for farming some special fruits like avocados, tree tomatoes, pear, peach, etc. And the long history of diverse communities in Kodaikanal manifests itself in the experiential stays it offers among many other things.
Some that are open to accepting guests are:
1. Karuna Farms
- Location: Prakashapuram (~12 km from Kodaikanal bus stand)
- Price: Rs. 600 for a bed in dormitory (including breakfast and other stay options available)
Reaching Karuna farms can be quite an experience. If you have a vehicle, do call them for parking assistance or if you don’t enjoy hiking, call them for a vehicle too (not all vehicles can reach the farms).
They have an array of Earthships (varying in price), many fruiting trees, and herb gardens.
The farms’ isolation can also be a hindrance in long-term stay as one is dependent on the cafe at karuna farms (lunch and dinner are priced at Rs. 200 each), which takes up the cost of stay there by a big margin.
2. Elephant Valley Eco farm
- Location: Ganeshpuram
- Price: Rs. 5000
Located around 20 km before Kodaikanal, Elephant valley eco-farm has its own coffee farm. They also grow their own fruits and vegetables. It’s close to Ganeshpuram waterfalls.
Hikes can be arranged on request.
Those are almost all of my favorite places to stay in Kodaikanal. My most favorite places are, of course, my friends’ homes 🙂