Kodaikanal – take a Cool Swing to Visit the Princess of Hills

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Kodaikanal or Kodai is the ultimate summer destination of South Tamil Nadu. As described, the princess of hills, Kodaikanal’s scenic beauty of the rolling hills and the misty dense forest of Kodaikanal and its surroundings will mesmerize any visitor throughout the year. Walk through the wooded forests, row in the lake, get splashed in sparkling waterfalls, go for horse riding or bi-cycling around the lake or simply admire the views. It is also a good place for hiking, photography and movie making.

Kodaikanal has an endangered animal called the grizzled giant squirrel. To us, that alone is reason to book a trip (“grizzled giant squirrel” might be the best animal name ever). Perched on the woodsy southern crest of the Palani Hills, nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, this popular lakeside resort town is a magnet for nature lovers. Wander the peaceful slopes, keeping an eye out for birds, exotic flowers and, of course, grizzled giant squirrels. Kodaikanal is one of the ultimate of many honey moon destinations in southern parts of the country.

THE HISTORY OF KODAIKANAL

The oldest people lived in Kodaikanal were the Palaiyar tribal people. The are references to Kodaikanal and the Palani Hills found in Tamil Sangam literature of the early Sangam era as early as 4th BC. Modern Kodaikanal was established by American Christian missionaries and British bureaucrats in 1845, as a great escape from the high temperatures and humidity and tropical discomforts of the plains during summer. The early visitors to Kodaikanal, had to travel by horse, bullock cart or palanquin. The forest were infested by robbers and wild animals, and yet it became very popular with the elite families, because of the wonderful climate and clean air.

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In later period, Christian missionaries established church properties. Many of the ruling princes built summer holiday-homes. Clubs, International school and hotels came up. Civic amenities were introduced.

PERFECT LOCATION FOR HONEY MOON

The town of Kodaikanal sits on a plateau at about 7,000 feet above the sea level, between the Parappar and Gundar Valleys. These hills form the eastward spur of the Western Ghats on the Western side of South India. There is man made lake in the centre of the town. The Lake is 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) in circumference. As mentioned in Sangam Tamil, the land type “Kurunchi”, Kodaikanal is a mountain is the scene of the lovers’ union at midnight. It is the cold, dewy season. The forest is rich with lakes, waterfalls, colourful flowers, teak, bamboo and sandalwood. In this region millet grows and wild bees are a source of honey.

kurunji hills

Stretches of meadows and grasslands cover the slopes of the hillsides. Gigantic Eucalyptus trees and shola forests flourish in the valleys. Mighty rocks and cascading streams. rise up from the valleys. There are many high waterfalls and ubiquitous gardens and flower beds in bloom.

WHEN TO VISIT

Peak Season – April to June
Low Season – Feb to March or July to September
Second Season – October to January

PLACES TO VISIT

Kodaikanal Lake, 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the bus stand, is an artificial, roughly star-shaped 45 ha (60 acres) lake built in 1863. It is recognized as Kodaikanal’s most popular geographic landmark and tourist attraction. Rowboats and pedalos can be hired at the Kodaikanal Boat Club with its main entrance near the only five-star hotel in Kodaikanal, The Carlton. Horses and bicycles can be hired beside the lake for short periods. The 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) path that skirts the periphery of this lovely lake is a favourite walk for the locals and tourists alike.

Bryant Park

Just east of the lake and 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the bus stand, is a wonderfully maintained 20.5 acres (8.3 ha) botanical garden. The park was planned and built in 1908 by a forest officer from Madurai, H.D.Bryant, and named after him. With 325 species of trees, shrubs and cactuses, the park is a rainbow of stunning flowers during the peak season. A large section is dedicated to nearly 740 varieties of roses. There is a 1857 Eucalyptus tree and a Bodhi tree which adds a religious significance to the park. Ornamental plants are cultivated in a nursery for sale. The park organizes horticultural exhibits and flower shows every summer, to coincide with the peak season. Entrance fee to the park is nominal and it is open all year.

Coaker’s Walk

kodaikanal-coakers walk

Coaker’s Walk, 500 metres (1,600 ft) from the bus-stand, constructed by Lt.Coaker in 1872, is a 1-kilometre (3,300 ft) paved pedestrian path running along the edge of steep slopes on the southern side of Kodai. The walk, winding around Mount Nebo, starts in front of the Van Allen hospital, running parallel to the Van Allen Hospital Road and joins the main road beside St.Peter’s Church, providing a stunning panoramic view of the plains. On a clear day one can view as far as Dolphin’s Nose in the south, the valley of the Pambar River in the southeast, Periyakulam town and even the city of Madurai. A fascinating rare phenomenon called Brocken spectre can be witnessed, when a person can see his shadow on the clouds with a rainbow halo. This occurs when the sun is behind the viewer and clouds and mist are to the front. There is an observatory with a telescope halfway along the walk. Entrance fee to the walkway is nominal and it is open all year.

Bear Shola Falls

kodaikanal-bearshola-falls

Bear Shola Falls, 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from the bus-stand, is a tall waterfall in a Reserve forest. The final approach to this quiet area is a gently climbing foot-path.

Green Valley View

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Green Valley View, (formerly called Suicide Point) 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) from the bus-stand and near the golf course, has an excellent panoramic view of the plains and a sheer drop of 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) overlooking the Vaigai Dam to the south. The stairway leading up to it is highly commercialized and lined with rows of shops to tempt tourists.

Shadowy Pine forests

Pine forests, In 1906, with a view to growing valuable timber, Mr.Bryant started the Kodaikanal pine plantations in the south-west of Kodaikanal.

Shembaganur Museum of Natural History

Shembaganur Museum of Natural History, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the bus-stand, founded in 1895, is open to the public (except Tuesdays) for viewing their outstanding taxidermy collection of more than 500 species of animals, birds and insects and a living collection of over 300 exotic orchid species. The museum is affiliated with Loyola College in Chennai and exhibits artifacts of the ancient Palaiyar tribes people whose descendants still live in these hills.

Kodaikanal Solar Observatory:

Kodaikanal Solar Observatory, 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from the bus-stand on Observatory Road, at 2,343 metres (7,687 ft) is the highest location near Kodai. The first observations were commenced here in 1901.Former Director John Evershed, discovered the phenomenon of radial motion in sunspots, now known as the Evershed effect. The Kodaikanal Terrestrial Telescope can view a grand panorama including: Sothupparai Dam, Vaigai Dam, Periyakulam and Varaha river. This Indian Institute of Astrophysics facility has a comprehensive Astronomical Science museum with organized public tours, access to the astronomy library, and scheduled night-time telescopic sky viewing. It is open daily to the public during peak season, and a few hours each Friday the rest of the year.

Pillar Rocks

kodaikanal-pillar rocks

Pillar Rocks, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the bus-stand, is a set of three giant rock pillars which stand 122 metres (400 ft) high.Managed by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, The viewpoint can be crowded but is not commercialized. There is an excellent public garden adjacent to the viewpoint.

Guna caves

Guna caves or Devil's kitchen - kodaikanal

Guna caves, made popular by the Tamil movie Guna, previously called Devil’s Kitchen, are deep bat-infested chambers between the three gigantic boulders that are the Pillar Rocks. The deep narrow ravines of the caves are now closed to public due to the tragic deaths of twelve youths there. These dangerous caves are highly protected now, and tourists can see sections of the cave system from afar.

Silver Cascade

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Silver Cascade, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Kodaikanal at a wide bend in the long and winding Laws Ghat Road, at altitude 1,800 metres (5,900 ft), is a 55-metre (180 ft) waterfall formed from the outflow of Kodaikanal Lake. The water quality is reportedly poor and not good enough for bathing. This impressive waterfall is a popular stop for first-time visitors. There are a few souvenir and fruit vendors and many monkeys here. There is also a smaller but more serene waterfall below the bridge which crosses the stream here.

Dolphin’s Nose

kodaikanal dolphin's nose

Dolphin’s Nose, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the bus stand, is flat rock projecting over a breathtaking chasm 6,600 metres (21,700 ft) deep. It is an undisturbed area 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) down a very steep rocky trail beginning soon after Pambar Bridge. Orange juice vendors along the trail offer a welcome rest stop. Beautiful views of steep rocky escarpments rising from the plains can be seen. The old village of Vellagavi can be reached through a rugged bridle path here. A short paved walkway leads from the road here to Pambar falls (which is also locally addressed as ‘Liril Falls’ after the famous Liril Soap Advertisement filming in 1985).

Kurinji Andavar Murugan temple

kodaikanal-kurunji andavar temple-madurai

Kurinji Andavar Murugan temple, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from the bus-stand, is famous for its Kurinji flower which blossoms in the area only once every 12 years. The deity here is called Sri Kurinji Easwaran, who is in fact Lord Murugan. This temple was built in 1936 by a European lady, who on coming to Celon, converted to Hinduism.She changed her name to Leelavathi and married Mr.Ponnambalam Ramanathan. She is also known as Lady Ramanathan. This temple was handed over to Arulmighu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Thiru Kovil, Palani by Mrs Devi Prasad Bhaskaran(also known as Padmini, niece and adopted daughter of Mr S Natesan Pillai, son in-law of Lady Ramanathan) and her husband Dr R.Bhaskaran.

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