I know how much each of us is craving to travel at the moment; given the ongoing lockdown. I was just going through my travel photos and thought of sharing my Kodai trip with you guys. I don’t know when the world will be again safe heaven for all the travellers out there but in the mean time we can all cherish and reminisce the sweet moments we spent with the mother nature.
Last year, in mid-July we suddenly planned for a short weekend trip to Kodaikanal. Kodaikanal is a cozy city in the hills of the Dindigul district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Its name in the Tamil language means “The Gift of the Forest”. Kodaikanal is referred to as the “Princess of Hill stations” and has a long history as a retreat and popular tourist destination*.I heard so much about Kodai’s lush greenery and waterfalls from my family and friends but the craving to go there became strongest when one of my friends visited the place and could not stop talking about it.That was the point when I thought let’s explore it!
How to reach Kodaikanal: We started from Bangalore on an overnight bus journey.We booked our buses just one week before the journey from Redbus. Bangalore to Kodai distance is almost 466 km. So we started at around 8 pm on Friday and reached there before 7am on Saturday. The bus journey was not super comfortable and I would prefer going there by car but we were on a tight budget. So can’t complain! If you are coming from any other part of India or abroad then Madurai National airport is the closest from Kodai (around 120kms). You can get a taxi from there.
Where we stayed in Kodai: We made the booking quite last minute and I will advise you to plan your travel atleast a month back to get good deals. We stayed at Altius Nest. The place is quite close to the Kodaikanal Lake (Tip: Try to find accommodation near the Kodai lake because then you will be able to check out a few tourist spots and eateries just by walking). Anyway our hotel interior was quite minimalist and neat. The rooms were quite large with a serene view. They had a small collection of books, magazines and local products. The most amazing part was that the hotel is kind of in the midst of a residential area and hence, quite soundproof. I loved to take a stroll on the sloping streets around the hotel and click the pictures of the amazing flowers there.
Now coming to the places you can cover in 2 days or we covered in just one and a half days. Also I will share some tips from the mistakes I made. Read on.
Transport: This is the most important thing if you did not bring your own bike or car and will have to depend on local travel agencies. Once we got down from our bus atleast 15 travel agents suddenly appeared with their small leaflets describing travel itineraries. There were 3 types of itineraries on their list -Trekking tour, Forest tour and the lake and pine forest plus pillar rocks tour. We skipped the forest tour as we would have to take passes the day before. Sleepy eyed and hungry; we just wanted to go to our hotel and freshen up.They offered us a free drop to a hotel and promised to come back after 2 hours for local sight seeing.We agreed.The rate seemed little on the higher side but as we did not have any idea of the map; we were just clueless. So we took their car along with a driver but soon we realized that they started charging us for a lot of stuff without any receipt. We were in a trap but just wanted to enjoy our trip rather than brooding. Anyway for the next day we booked another travel agent from our hotel desk and that was really good. So my small tip will be do not book any random car or driver when you arrive at the airport or bus-stop. Always take help from your hotel desk even before coming to Kodai.
Coaker’s Walk: Now first thing first. Coaker’s walk, Kodai Lake and Bryant park are all very close to each other and you can easily cover them by walking. Coaker’s walk is around one km long well paved pathway for you to take a stroll and enjoy the amazing view of the mountains surrounded by dense clouds.
There are plenty of places to sit and sip a cup of tea or munch on corn or buy small knick knacks. There is an entry fee of around 30 Rupees per person. Oh by the way this place was created in 1872 by Lieutenant Coaker and that is where the name comes from.
Kodaikanal Lake: After you are out of Coaker’s walk there is a quiet street connecting the Bryant park and Kodaikanal lake; straight from there. Kodaikanal lake is the most crowded place in the entire Kodaikanal for obvious reasons. There are plenty of home made chocolate and spice shops surrounding the lake. I remember the white chocolates to be really good :p. You can rent a cycle from there or ride a horse as well. There were some double seater cycles as well and those were really a joy to ride! Of course there are boats for you to pedal or row through the lake.
Bryant Park: Just beside the lake you will find a botanical garden named Bryant Park (named after an army officer).The park has a splendid collection of rare species of cactus, amazing flowers,shrubs and trees. There are plenty of places to just sit and click some photos or just take a stroll and inhale the fresh air. There is an entry fee around 50-60 Rupees per person.
Pine Tree Forest: Next stop on our itinerary was the dense pine forest.I got to know from our driver that this place is used to be quite popular for shooting. I enjoyed the calmness even when there were quite a number of people around.There is no entry fee and you can take a quick ride on horses.I preferred to take a quiet walk away from the hustle bustle and collected a few pine cones for my DIY projects 🙂
Pillar Rocks: When we were deciding on exploring Kodaikanal, Pillar rocks was on top of our list because of its intriguing misty view.There are three mammoth granite rock pillars stand shoulder-to-shoulder, around 400-ft-high. The chambers between the pillars are referred to as the devil’s kitchen (quite scary huh!) I think the fog makes it look more mysterious.The shady woods beneath the rocks serve as perfect picnic spot for locals as well as tourists. Close to Pillar Rocks, there is a beautifully manicured garden where you can find a wide variety of flowers blooming.
Guna Caves: So basically, these caves are actually caverns formed between the three boulders of the Pillar rocks; the ‘Devil’s Kitchen’ as I mentioned earlier. Apparently the name ‘Guna’ came from a South Indian movie shot here. Also according to Hindu Mythology; Mahabharatha; the Pandavas used to cook meals inside these caves and the word Kitchen came from that reference.There is a mysterious and enthralling appeal of this place; can’t deny that.However, most of the area was locked because some accident happened there. So we could not explore the inside of the caves.
There were some enormous tree roots (As you can see from the picture).
Well, after covering all the places the driver dropped us at Hilltop inn for having lunch. They have two outlets side by side; one for vegetarians and another for non- vegetarians. We could not enter the non-veg one as there was no seat available.However the veg one was quite empty and the taste was not that great.I was expecting to discover some great South Indian delicacies but there were not many to offer. Anyway after lunch we spent some time around the lake and did some shopping for souvenirs, oils and spices and then went back hotel. There was a local liquor shop,however, there were very few options. So let me give you an idea of how much time we spent to cover all the places mentioned so far.We started around 11 am and by 3 we were done with sight seeing for the day.We chilled and ate dinner at our hotel for the rest of the day.In the evening it started raining. So don’t forget to carry a rain jacket if you are travelling during monsoon.
The next day we had complimentary breakfast at our hotel and checked out at around 10.30 am. Our new driver cum guide came on time to receive us and he took us for the trekking tour.
Dolphin’s Nose and Echo point: If you are an experienced trekker this trekking will be nothing for you. Please carry proper shoe and clothes suitable for trekking. No need to carry food or water.There are a number of fruit juice and snack stalls at every juncture. The Dolphin’s Nose viewpoint is where you can experience Kodaikanal at its best – green valleys, rugged terrain and mysterious sudden fogs embellishing the scene. As the name suggests, this viewpoint is shaped like a dolphin’s nose at the height of 6,600 feet.
This destination will add an adventurous touch to your otherwise laid back trip. Just as you walk past the Dolphin’s Nose you will reach the tree which directs you to Echo Point(I guess I found one Echo Point at every hill station In India :p). The path here too changed with a narrower one with more trees surrounding you. I will not recommend to bring older people with breathing difficulties here. I exactly don’t remember how long the trail was but even if your are not experienced in trekking this one is much easier and you will find plenty of places to take rest.
Vattakanal falls: There is another small trek to Vattakanal falls.This was the only one where we found water. A lot of other falls dried up.You can just park your car outside and then take a few steps downhill.The trekking trail is pretty narrow and you may have to jump here and there but it will be fun.This one as well is not at all a difficult trek.
The waterfall was not huge but beautiful; surrounded with greenery.We even saw a few people taking bath in the crystal clear water.The breezy cool weather was adding a level of charm into our trek.There was no entry fee.This waterfall is also connected to Guna caves but I think the road was blocked.
These two treks took almost half of our day and we stopped at ‘Ten Degrees’ for an amazing lunch and also explored the local vegetable and fruit market and sipped in coffee at Aby’s Cafe.
At 6pm on Sunday our bus picked us up and we came back to Bangalore by 5am on Monday.
We missed the Berijam lake which was inside the Kodaikanal life sactuary as we had to take a pass standing in a queue early in the morning and we could not get up 😦 Anyway there is always a next time.
Hope you liked the blog! Thanks for reading 🙂