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Kodaikanal: Nature at its Best
Perched 7,000 feet above sea level in the Palani Hills, Kodaikanal is a long-time favourite of honeymooners, tourist groups, and those looking to escape the heat. This small city is known as “The Gift of the Forest”, and it’s easy to see why. Situated on a postcard-worthy lake, birds, exotic flowers, fragrant pine forests and breathtaking waterfalls are just a few of the natural gems waiting to be discovered. But Kodaikanal is more than just good looks. Sacred temples and a seriously one-of-a-kind museum are also part of the mix, including a few surprises like rare sightings of the endangered grizzled giant squirrel, and the fleeting blue blossoms of the kurinji shrub that make an appearance every 12 years. New hotels are springing up to keep pace with demand, but it’s wise to book a room early at this popular tourist destination that deserves all of the attention that it gets.
Stop to Admire the View
Kodaikanal takes its scenic viewpoints seriously. Surveying the surrounding flora and fauna is a favourite pastime of locals and tourists alike – and with so many spectacles of nature, it’s a good idea to find the nearest vantage point and stay for awhile. Luckily, you won’t have to go far, and you can take your pick of hard to reach lookouts that aren’t for the faint of heart, accessible family-friendly lookouts, and something in between. Some of the best places to admire Mother Nature include Pillar Rocks and Lake View Point. At Pillar Rocks, three imposing rock pillars stand 400 feet high, often mysteriously shrouded in mist. The area is managed by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, and myrtle, mahogany and magnolia trees are just a few of the tree varieties to keep an eye open for. An adjacent public garden adds to the experience, but make sure you get there early to avoid the crowds.
Lake View Point is also a popular choice with visitors, and it’s a must-see if you want to get a panoramic view of Kodaikanal Lake. The best time to visit is at night – less tourists and you’ll be rewarded with the romantic ambiance of twinkling lights shining off the lake. Moir’s Point is also a strong contender for viewpoints worth your time. Located 13 km outside Kodaikanal, it’s low on tourists and high on expansive views over the picturesque plains. If you do plan on a day in search of the best view possible, you might want to reward yourself with a soak in a tub, or better yet, a visit to the spa. Kodaikanal only has one 5-star hotel with a full-service spa, so make sure that you plan accordingly to avoid disappointment.
Nature’s Water Taps
Waterfalls are another one of nature’s wonders that visitors come to Kodaikanal to see. Bear Shola Falls is perhaps one of the best examples in the area, but make sure that it has been a good year for rain, because the falls can run dry. Once a watering hole for bears, getting to the falls requires walking down an enchanting trail where you will be rewarded with a lovely waterfall tucked away in the forest. Three kilometres down the road, Fairy Falls is a steep waterfall with a viewing platform for great photo opportunities. For maximum impact, plan on visiting during rainy season when it can mean the difference between a trickle and a roaring deluge. Vattakanal Falls is a cascading waterfall that is a popular spot for a picnic. But what sets this waterfall apart is the accessibility to Dolphin’s Nose and Echo Rock. A short 30-minutute trek will get your blood pumping, and when you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with mesmerising views of the landscape below. Those with a fear of heights might want to sit this one out, but otherwise it’s a top attraction in the area.
When it’s time to head inside, the Sacred Heart Natural Science Museum is a carefully curated collection of oddities that is far from a typical museum. Bordering on the ghoulish, it’s located on the grounds of a former Jesuit seminary. You’re sure to see something you haven’t seen before – whether it’s a collection of giant moths, bottled snakes or the impressive display of over 300 orchid species. The enthralling space also has over 500 species of animals, birds and insects, plus a collection of ancient artifacts from the Palaiyar tribe.
Visiting a few temples is another good way to get to know the area, and in addition to marvelling at their usually colourful exteriors, you’re able to see locals in prayer at these highly revered and sanctified sites of worship. Kurinji Andavar Temple derives its name from the famous kirinji flower and is a pleasant three kilometre walk from Kodaikanal Lake. The shrine is known as the “God of the Hill” and is surrounded by lush jungle and rolling terrain. It’s also located in an area of modest hotels, one of which could be a good option if you would like to start and end your day near the water, while avoiding the steeper prices of hotels located directly on the lake. Palani Temple is dedicated to the Hindu God of War, and while it isn’t easily accessible at 65 km from Kodaikanal, it is the most revered and elaborate temple in the area, receiving thousands of pilgrims every year.