Create the perfect itinerary for Kodaikanal
Kodaikanal, the princess of hills is one of the most sought after south Indian hill stations. It competes with the likes of Munnar - also called the Kashmir of Kerala and Ooty - also called the Queen of hills and yet its beauty and charm makes it a darling of traveller’s heart, just like a princess. But many travellers are not really able to make the most of this gem. So here is a complete travel guide to help you plan the perfect itinerary for Kodaikanal, India with details of how to reach, what to see, where to stay and what to eat.
Location of Kodaikanal
Located on Palani hills in Tamil Nadu state, Kodaikanal is actually quite close to Kerala. Some of the farthest tourist spots in Kodaikanal and Munnar in Kerala are quite close. In fact you can reach from Berijam Lake in Kodaikanal to Top Station in Munnar in 7-8 hours only. You can either trek a distance of 30 kms to cross the hills or ride a car for 220 kms driving around the hills. The Kodai town as such is located on a plateau at a height of 2100 metres which is slightly less than Ooty but around 600 metres more than Munnar. However it is relatively less frequented by tourists mainly because of accessibility and isolation. People visiting Munnar usually plan Thekkady with it while those visiting Ooty have added attractions like heritage toy train, Coonoor, Lovedale etc. While those who visit Kodaikanal, only specifically visit Kodaikanal with no other attractions on the way or nearby.
Kodaikanal is relatively smaller town compared to Ooty. The town is centered around the star shaped man-made lake – Kodai lake which is the center of attraction as well as geographical center of the town. There are few more attractions such as parks and activities around the lake. Rest of the attractions can be majorly found located on 2 circuits little far from the lake. We will talk about this later in this travel guide to help you with the itinerary.
While it is true that one can cover most of the tourist places in and around Kodaikanal within 2 days, 1 circuit per day, we would definitely recommend having few more days in your hands and planning a trip for at least 4-5 days. Instead of just striking off the places to see in a tourist brochure, we would recommend absorbing the beauty of Kodaikanal in different ways detailed in later part of the blog.
How to reach Kodaikanal
The fastest way to reach Kodaikanal would be to take a flight to Coimbatore or Madurai and then hire a cab to reach Kodaikanal. Madurai is closer and would take around 2.5-3 hours while Coimbatore would take around 4 hours by road to reach Kodaikanal. Tourists from Bangalore and Chennai can easily drive to Kodaikanal and some from Hyderabad even tend to do that. The road from Coimbatore to Kodaikanal also has number of windmills on its way in case you love clicking them. As of Sep 2017, the rate of private cabs from Coimbatore to Kodaikanal would be around Rs.3000-3300. We would recommend Kodai Travellers Inn as reliable, polite and fare taxi service. You can check their website here.
A cheaper option would be to take a train to Kodai road which is the foot of the hills and then hire a cab or take public transport to reach Kodaikanal. Buses are available from Coimbatore, Kodai road and Madurai; but will certainly take little more time than a privately hired cab. Alternatively, you can also rent out a self-drive car from Coimbatore from Myles.
Sightseeing in Kodaikanal
Most of the tourists who have not driven to Kodaikanal in their own cars tend to rent out taxis or cabs for sightseeing. You can get full day cabs ranging from Rs.1200 upwards depending on places you want to cover. You can also just rent out a car for couple of days and ask the driver to take you around and he will cover all the standard sightseeing places. There are no auto rickshaws in Kodaikanal mainly because the hilly terrain does not suit them.
However if you are of the adventurous kind, we would suggest why not rent out a 2 wheeler? While there are limited options to rent out 2 wheelers in Kodaikanal probably because taxi unions would not like it, we were able to find one and had a great time driving around Kodaikanal. Depending on the type of two-wheeler and the season, the rent could vary from Rs.400 to 700 per day. You can contact Mr. Ramji at 09884166632 or 09884800243 to hire 2 wheelers such as activa or bikes.
In terms of sightseeing places, as we mentioned before apart from the Kodai Lake and couple of waterfalls located separately, rest of the places can be classified and covered in 2 circuits. These circuits are designed so that one can cover the best places at the right time of the day. This itinerary could prove hectic for some who might carry small children or older people as some of the sites involve some walking. We request you to customize the itinerary to suit your taste and needs. Note these circuits are routes that we recommend to cover various sightseeing places properly:
Circuit itinerary – 1: Dolphin’s Nose, Vattakanal falls, Mannavanur lake
Start early in the morning at something like 8 AM and reach Dolphin’s Nose. While it is still relatively cold and foggy, start descending. Dolphin's Nose is a small trek downwards towards a rock that looks like Dolphin’s Nose. The place can be quickly covered by clouds making it lovely in a mystical way. Since this requires quite some amount of walk, it is good to cover it while it is colder and tourists are few. It may take you around 3 hours to go, spend some time at Dolphin’s nose and come back depending on your speed and stamina. If you are older or have children who need to be carried, doing this trek might not be a good idea. Wearing comfortable sports shoes is highly recommended. Also there is no need to carry food or refreshments as there are number of small shops selling these things on the way.
On returning, reward yourself with some juices and food at the most popular café around – Altaf’s café. It is very famous for its open views and italian, middle eastern cuisines. We would also recommend a young and upcoming café with great views – Above & Beyond Clouds. On your way back, quickly visit Vattanakal falls. You can also enter the water if it is not too cold. You should ideally be done with all these by 1 PM.
Post this, head straight to Mannavanur lake which will take around 1.5 hours. Mannavanur lake and, as such, the whole way towards the lake is a quiet area. Very few tourists head towards this direction as it is little further away and isolated. However if you love nature and peace, this is highly recommended. There are many other viewpoints such as Mannavanur view, Lake view, Poombarai viewpoint and Palani view point on the way to Mannavanur lake. There are also some below average waterfalls such Polangara Odai and Kundaaru waterfalls and some temples on the way. However we would recommend reaching directly to Mannavanur lake and stopping for all these places while returning based on how much time you have. Note that it will take around 1.5 hours to reach back to Kodaikanal town area from the lake.
Circuit itinerary – 2: Kodaikanal Lake, Berijam Lake, Moir point, Pine tree forest, Guna Caves, Pillars rock view point, Coakers walk
On day 2, we would first recommend experiencing Kodaikanal Lake at its best. We are not talking about boating in it. We are suggesting wake up early and reach the lake around 6 AM. The still water surrounded by lush green trees (colored trees if you go in autumn) provide the perfect mirror like reflections teleporting you to a fairyland. For once you might be confused if you are in Kodaikanal or an exotic European country. The white foggy layer over the pristine lake gives surreal painting like pictures. Cycling around the lake at this time is sheer joy which unfortunately only few avail. Staying at The Carlton (read details below) enables you to do this easily.
Post this have your breakfast and head towards Berijam lake which is more than 1 hour from Kodai Lake. This lake is again situated in the middle of forest and thus the last 2 kms drive is a unique experience. 2 kms before the lake (near Moir point), a queue starts forming as one needs to take permission from forest officer before proceeding. Forest department staff opens the first check post at 9 AM but the queue starts forming from as early as 7 AM as only 50-60 vehicles are allowed to enter at a time. So it is advisable to reach this queue as early as possible. On reaching closer to the lake, there is a second check post where one has to pay Rs.200 and fill a form. Post this one can enter the lake area and also do boating here. If the pre-decided number of cars are already inside, one cannot get their vehicle inside the first check post. Instead, there is a facility of Forest department vans which charge Rs.300/head to drop and pick up again from Berijam lake. You can also spend some time at some viewpoints such as Silent valley view, Berijam lake view and Caps fly view all of which are on the way to Berijam lake. The entry to lake closes at 3:30 PM but it is advisable to visit in the morning as birds are chirpier, crowd is relatively less and the place much more fresh. You can stay for around 2 hours here depending on your taste.
After this while returning towards Kodaikanal lake, one can cover various attractions starting from Moir Point, Pine tree forest, Guna caves, Pillars rock view point and Green valley view point. These are the most crowded attractions apart from Kodai lake and according to us quiet mediocre. Moir point, Pillars rock view point and Green valley view point provide standard views which you see all around Kodaikanal with some variations. Pillars rock view point might attract some but we were not fascinated by 2 pillar like mountain structures in a distance.
What we liked and would recommend is Pine tree forest and Guna caves. These 2 tourist attractions are quiet unique and found only in Kodaikanal. Pine tree forest is a huge area full of straight pine trees. The earthy colors and vertical trees give a unique feel to this place. It would remind you of some 80-90s bollywood movies using these tourist locations quite effectively. Guna caves is often disliked by travellers as some cave seen from a distance and nothing more. However we really loved the unique root structures of some of the trees here which was the biggest myriad web of roots we had ever seen. Very unique, very fascinating and definitely recommended to all visiting Kodaikanal.
You should be able to cover all these places by 3 to 4 PM post which you can head to Kodai lake for boating or just stroll at Coakers walk overlooking lovely landscapes. Note the boating closes around 5:30 PM and Coakers walk at 6:30 PM.
The places not covered in the itineraries above include Fairy falls, Bear shola falls, silver cascade falls, bryant park and Upper lake view point. We do not recommend them as we feel these are mediocre and while a short visit would not be bad, we suggest doing them only if you have additional time. There are couple of museums, couple of churches and few temples too which you can visit if these suit your taste and you have more time on your hand. If some of these interest you more, you can replace say Mannavanur lake and have 2nd half of 1st day free to do what you are interested in. Kodaikanal also has a beautiful golf club and a not so sought after Solar observatory, just in case you are into these things.
Stay in Kodaikanal
While Kodaikanal has plenty of options to stay, how do you finalize just the right option for you? As you would spend at least 2 days sightseeing, we feel it doesn’t really matter which hotel you stay at. You just need one with basic amenities and comforts as you would spend most of the day outside hotel.
Apart from these 2 days, we would recommend some unique experiences in terms of stay at Kodaikanal:
Pear County – Have you ever lived in a Pear orchard where there are hundreds of Pear trees around and you can simply pluck pears from the trees and eat as many as you like? What if you could camp here? Pear county located opposite to the Kodai town hill is an offbeat option to stay in decent cabins or camping tents right in the middle of a pear orchard. You also get comforts of having an attached washroom with this. And don’t even get us started on the views you get from here. Read our detailed review of Pear County here.
The Fern Creek – We would recommend Fern Creek to anyone who loves nature, luxury and wants to relax in peace. An artist's paradise, living in fern creek would feel like getting luxury in an enchanted forest. Just 2 kms from the Kodai Lake, Fern creek provides swiss tents equipped with all amenities one would require in a silent, lush green floral property. With excellent service and food, it is must visit for anyone needing a break and wants to rejuvenate. You can read more about us experience of staying in Fern Creek here.
The Carlton – We would recommend everyone
visiting Kodaikanal to stay at least 1 day up-close to Kodai Lake. And one property which offers the best possible experience of staying in Kodaikanal is The Carlton, the only 5 star property here. Not only is it situated right across the lake providing great views, it also has its own private boating club offering you boats to take around the lake. They also provide cycles complementary to ride and has loads of other activities in their club house. Read our detailed review of The Carlton here.
There are some other amazing properties in Kodaikanal including long term holiday homes which we would have loved to explore but couldn’t. Accommodations we would have loved to stay at includes Villa Retreat, Atman Homestay, Wunderhaus artists getaway and homestay, Holiday Home resort, Great Trails Kodaikanal etc.
Food & Shopping
Apart from stay and sightseeing, we would also suggest the following for food & shopping in this travel guide -
Food - While restaurants around Dolphin's nose specialize in Israeli food, while in Kodai town, we would recommend heading to Poet Tyagaraja road which is quite close to Kodai lake. This street houses many options right from pure veg to tibetan to continental and mexican. Aby's cafe, Muncheez and Cloud street are pretty famous here.
Chocolates - Kodaikanal, just like Ooty and Munnar is known for home-made chocolates. We would recommend Manna Chocolate factory which is on Bazaar road for variety of good chocolates from white to dark, crunchy to dry fruit. Their hot chocolate shot is also something one should try.
Natural Cosmetics & essential oils - While we would recommend Munnar for these, you would find herbal cosmetics and essential oils being sold all around Kodaikanal. We would recommend Kaleeswari super market which is right next to Manna chocolate factory for these. They have variety of products from oils and cosmetics to dry fruits, chocolates, tea, coffee etc. We really loved their oils though were not satisfied with select cosmetic products. You can also find them online here.
You would also find tea, coffee, spices, dry fruits etc. in many a shops all around the town but we learnt that these come from Munnar or Thekkady and thus are little bit expensive or might not be original.
Hope you were able to design a perfect itinerary for Kodaikanal based on all the details provided in this travel guide. Let us know if this was helpful or did we miss something in the comment section below. We would also love to hear how your trip panned out and if you have any suggestion that we could include in this itinerary.
Note: The information provided in this travel guide is to the best of our knowledge as of publishing the blog. It is suggested you do your own research and update yourself before finalizing your itinerary.