HILLS IN THE MIST
As you leave behind the hot Tamil Nadu plains and approach the cool, pine-scented air of Kodaikanal, 2,133 metres up in the Palani hills, you’ll feel the same way as a bunch of early British and American missionaries. In the early 19th century, these foreigners who stumbled into Kodaikanal were so touched by its beauty and grateful for the escape from the heat that they set about building a town here. They built homes and churches, cut paths, paved roads, introduced new trees such as eucalyptus and pear, and, around 1863, built the Kodaikanal Lake, a defining motif of the town’s natural splendour today.
The Kodaikanal Lake is ensconced in the centre of a sublimely beautiful setting - wooded hill slopes, large rocks, winding roads, skipping waterfalls, and fruit orchards that constantly disappear and reappear in the mist. Beautiful churches are tucked in between British-style villas, and rare flowers like kurunji appear beside delectable plums and pears. Paths and soft-trodden trails appear out of nowhere in the hills.That explains why walking, hiking and trekking are major activities in ‘Kodai’. Day and half-day hikes are an excellent way of taking in the natural wonders of the place. Boating on the Kodaikanal Lake, cycling, and horse-riding are other ways to enjoy the beauty of this hill town.
Kodaikanal has one of the oldest observatories in the world - the Kodaikanal Observatory. As you look above the moonlit pines and watch the stars through a mighty telescope, the vast faraway skies seem fittingly close.
- Altitude: 2,133 metres
- Area: 2,068 sq km
- State: Tamil Nadu
- Distance from nearby towns/ cities: Madurai 120 Km, Coimbatore 170 km, Chennai 520 km, Bangalore 500 km
- Take away: Kodai cheese (cheddars, gruyere, and processed cheese), homemade chocolates, local embroidery work items, objects from Cottage Crafts Shop and Art Gallery where you can buy small art works and other souvenirs
#1. The Devil's Kitchen, also known as Guna Caves, is a natural rock formation between the Pillar Rocks in Kodaikanal. The Tamil movie 'Guna' was shot here and this led to a surge in its popularity as a tourist spot.
#2. The Brocken Spectre is an optical illusion that you can observe on Coaker's Walk in Kodaikanal, amongst other mountainous regions in the world. It occurs when a person is facing clouds or mist with the sun behind. The Brocken Spectre occurs when you see your shadow on the clouds with a beautiful rainbow halo.
#3. The Kodaikanal Observatory, located about 4 km from Kodaikanal town, is one of the oldest observatories of the world with continuous scientific data collected for decades. It is also the first observatory to detect the Evershed effect, an astronomical phenomenon, in 1909. Another attraction of this solar observatory is the library which has a vast collection of works on Astronomy, Solar Terrestrial Physics and Astrophysics. It is open to the public for tours and telescopic night sky viewing.
#4. The Shembaganur Museum of Natural History houses over 300 exotic species of live orchids. It also has a varied collection of animals and birds preserved for display using taxidermy. Children and adults alike can discover a lot about nature's bounty on visiting this museum.
#5. The Berijam Lake, about 25 km from Kodaikanal, in its current form was created artificially in 1867. However, this lake has a history that’s much older. According to studies, the location of Berijam Lake was previously a swamp of sediments and pollen collected over 20,000 years. These studies have revealed valuable information regarding evolution of plant life in this region. The lake is located in a forest area, and requires special permission from the District Forest Officer for visits.
#6. The Kurinji Andavar Murugan temple was built in 1936 by a European lady who converted to Hinduism after marrying Mr. Ponnambalam Ramanathan. She is popularly known as 'Lady Ramanathan', and the temple is known for the beautiful Kurinji flowers which blossom in intervals of 12 years.
#7. The Bear Shola Falls are named after the fact that they were once the regular watering hole of the wild bears in the forest. The ideal time to visit this waterfall is during the monsoon season. The rising mists above the water and the pristine green surroundings make this place worth a visit when in Kodaikanal.
#8. The Rat Tail Falls, popularly known as the Thalaiyar Falls, is one of the highest waterfalls in Asia with a total height of 975 ft. It earned its nickname due to its appearance as a thin silver line in the mountains while driving up to Kodaikanal. The falls also provide a panoramic view of the Manjalaar Dam below.
#9. Kodaikanal has an 18-hole golf course at the Kodaikanal Golf Club. Established in 1895 during British rule, it has a legacy of 116 years and uses organic methods for maintenance and upkeep.
#10. The La Salette Church is the first church of Kodaikanal, and was built in 1866 through a donation made by a Belgian woman who wanted to thank Our Lady of Salette for curing her daughter. This Catholic church has a beautiful blue and white facade and conducts a grand festival in August every year, which lasts for 9 days. The festival includes special services and a procession, and brings people of all faiths together in Kodaikanal to celebrate.
#11. The Karuna Organic Farm in Prakasapuram village, Kodaikanal, is the result of a concerted effort to turn a barren wasteland into a green orchard that uses organic practices in farming. The farm is open for visitors and produces milk, vegetables and about 20 varieties of fruits.
#12. The Cheese Shop (near the observatory road) is famous for its fabulous variety of cheese, pesto, tangy mustard and fondue. The shop allows customers to taste several varieties of cheese before making a purchase. It was started by Kodai Dairy Products Private Limited and has a tradition of distributing cheese all over the country for more than 38 years.
#13. Cafe Cariappa is a cosy destination for all coffee lovers where the interiors are adorned with tables on barrels and wooden walls. Their Belgian waffles with chocolate syrup & honey, carrot cakes and orange muffins have attracted several connoisseurs. What makes this joint unique is the fact that owner Kishore Cariappa gets the coffee beans roasted and grinded in-house, with his exclusive Italian machines.
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11°C – 20°C
8°C – 17°C
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Any time of the year is a good time for Kodaikanal. You may want to consider:
April-May – Peak tourist season; pleasant weather but crowded; May is a great time to catch the various horticultural shows held at Byrant Park.
September-October – Excellent weather and less crowded