Kodaikanal (‘Kodi’ for short) is a well-known and popular hill resort, situated at a height of 7000 ft. (2133 m) in the Palani Hills of Tamil Nadu. In a slight twist from the usual ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ moniker, the town is known as the ‘Princess of Hill Stations!’ However, in many ways, it is more appealing than some of its ‘royal’ counterparts; being somewhat less crowded, cluttered and commercialised.
Like many hill resorts in India, ‘Kodi’ was established by Christian missionaries and British bureaucrats in 1845, as a refuge from high temperatures and tropical diseases of the plains. Legend has it that Lieutenant Ward, an Englishman, had climbed up from Kunnavan village, in 1821, for a survey of the mountain ranges. The first two houses were named Sunnyside and Shelton, on the South Lake Road.
Interestingly, the name Kodaikanal can have several meanings in the local tongue, Tamil, depending on how exactly it’s pronounced. These range from “a place to see in summer” to “the end of the forest” to “forest of creepers/ vines;” although the most commonly accepted meaning is probably “gift of the forest.”
The misty hill resort is more relaxed and intimate than its elder sister Ooty, and not very cold either; the days being more like deep spring. Centred on a beautiful star-shaped lake, Kodai rambles up and down hillsides with patches of Shola forest, unique to south India’s Western Ghats; with evergreen broadleaf trees like magnolia, mahogany, myrtle and rhododendron. Another plant specialty is the kurinji shrub, whose lilac-blue blossoms appear every 12 years (next due 2018).
Meadows and grasslands cover the hillsides, besides specimens of huge eucalyptus. Mighty rocks and cascading streams lie above the valleys; as do several waterfalls, ubiquitous gardens and flower beds in bloom. In addition, long stretches of forests, wooded slopes, bowers and creeks charm the tourists. Coaker’s Walk (ideal for glimpsing the sunrise and sunset), Green Valley View and Dolphin’s Nose are among the well-known viewpoints. Kodaikanal is also a hub for several beautiful treks – including the picturesque march to Dolphin’s Nose, the challenging trudge to Periyakulam Adukkam, or the walk to Vattakanal that offers virgin beauty amid biodiversity.
Unknown to many, Kodaikanal is also a hotspot for hippies, whom one often comes across outside the conventional tourist locales, ensconced in little hamlets that offer a tinge of psychedelic culture. The renowned ‘Kodi’ International School provides some cosmopolitan flair. Abundant in natural beauty. Kodaikanal is an ideal spot for families, honeymooners, adventure freaks and those who love to explore untouched places. Visit midweek for peace and quiet.
How to Reach
The airport nearest and main city is Madurai, about 120 km away. Regular bus services are available from Madras /Chennai, Coimbatore, Pondicherry, Madurai etc. One can also drive up.
Places to visit
Berijam Lake, Pillar Rocks, Kurunki Andavar temple, pine forest, Mannavanur Lake, Poombarai village, Bryant Park, Lake View Point, Shembaganur Museum of Natural History, Silent Valley View Point, Christ the King Church, Astrophysical Observatory, Bear Shoal Falls, Dolmen Circle, Perumal Peak, Lutheran Church, Moir Point, Kukkal Cave.