Princess of Hills - Kodaikanal
Wondering why Kodaikanal is called the 'Princess of Hills'? Here are the reasons to get you convinced.
Travel and writing are the two things that turn my soul on. I often wonder what makes these two so close to my heart. On giving it a deeper thought, I realise it might be because they allow my physical and mental being wander indefinitely, explore newer trails, enjoy every moment and get completely lost in their realms. Over the years, I have managed to make a career out of writing, yet somewhere amidst personal and professional commitments, my other love stood long neglected, wanting its due right to be indulged. Somewhere in 2016, I decided to break myself free from the mundane life and pack my bags at every possible opportunity that came my way. My visit to Kodaikanal was one such trip that fell in place sometime in July 2018.
Kodaikanal is one of the most favourite tourist destinations of South India. Nestled beautifully within the Western Ghats mountain range, Kodaikanal is a part of the Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu. Popularly referred to as the 'Princess of Hills', the hill station invites scores of tourists from April to June, when people usually are on the lookout for some relief from the scorching summers. July is no less a month to visit Kodaikanal with the climate being moderate to cold. July and August are technically the monsoon months around the Nilgiri region, however, I hardly encountered precipitation during my visit to the place.
Before starting my trip, I did actually do some travel research. I was travelling with my family from Chennai and was looking for an appropriate travel option. I found that there were some private buses operating direct services from Chennai, other than travelling to Madurai or Theni first from where one could easily get connecting buses to Kodaikanal. The second option was by train from Chennai to Madurai or Kodai Road stations, from where one could rent a cab to Kodaikanal which is about 2hrs drive. I chose the second option for obvious reasons that it would be more convenient to travel by train with the kids around.
Tourism remains to be the major industry in Kodaikanal with umpteen number of budget and luxury hotels and resorts spread over the city. We opted to stay at a budget-friendly accommodation that was pretty close to the city center. We are a family of vegetarians and were thus looking for some nice vegetarian restaurants around. Luckily, we found one by the name "Woodlands" where we could relish some mouth-watering idlies and dosas, in addition to their authentic filter coffee. During our 3 day stay at Kodai, we did try one other restaurant named "Astoria Veg" that offered awesome South Indian breakfast and lunch menus. I would personally recommend carrying some food packed on your way sightseeing since we hardly got to see any decent eateries around those places.
We had booked an SUV from a local travel operator for all the 3 days that we spent at the city. The cab guy promptly reported at 9 AM and brought us back by 3.30 PM every day. On the first day, we decided to take a city tour which encompassed major attractions nearby. We started with a stroll around the Coaker’s walk which presented some amazing views of the hill station. The year 2018 incidentally happened to be the year when the exotic flower Neelakurinji (Scientific Name: Strobilanthes kunthianus) blossoms over the Western Ghats. Call it coincidence, we were lucky enough to visit Kodaikanal during this rare occurrence and got to witness the violet beauty bloom. Our next stopover was at the Upper lake viewpoint, the one place that offered an enchanting view of the Kodaikanal lake below. Don't forget to get yourself clicked by professional photographers at this place, just like how we did, as the picture would serve as a sweet memoir of your visit to the hill station. Could you imagine how it would feel to visit locations that we usually see only in films? Such was the excitement I had on visiting Pillar rocks, Guna caves, and Pine tree forest. After clicking a good number of photos at these locations, we were back to the city center to experience the most enthralling activity of the town. Yes! You got it right. We went on a boat ride around the renowned Kodaikanal lake. Do remember to treat yourself with a ride on the horseback or grab a rented bicycle to go around the Kodaikanal lake.
The Berijam Lake tour was on the second day's itinerary. We drove through the dense reserve forest area for which prior permission had to be sought from the forest department against the payment of an entry fee. Enroute Berijam Lake we stopped at a place called Silent Valley from where we could witness deep gorges and distant mountains. We then halted at a viewpoint from where we got to see amazing views of a medicinal forest locally called "Madhikettan Sollai". Driving further down, we reached the charming Berijam Lake, the final point of that day’s tours. On spending about an hour around, completely immersed in the tranquillity of the lake and its surrounding areas, we finally made our way back to the city center.
With most of the major attractions covered in about 2 days, we were wondering how to while away time on our final day at Kodai. Our conversations with the locals enlightened us on a picturesque place called Mannavanur that was about two and a half hours drive from the city center. As we embarked on the sightseeing journey, we halted at a village on the way that was about 18 kilometers from Kodaikanal. Known by the name “Poomparai”, the village was adorned by several layers of step farming, making it appear strikingly beautiful. The village houses a popular Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Karthikeya called “Kuzhanthai Vellapar Temple” that dates back to thousand years. Back on track once again, we proceeded towards Mannavanur driving through some picturesque countryside. The next stop over was at the Sheep and Rabbit farm in Mannavanur surrounded by lush green grasslands on all sides. Awe-struck with the pristine beauty of the landscape, we advanced towards the Mannavanur Lake. The lake and its surroundings were very well maintained, thanks to the efforts of the local body of that zone. When we were done relishing the awesomeness of the place, we got on to our car back to our hotel for checking out.
With that came an end to our amazing time at the ‘Princess of Hills’. Even as one part of me craved to stay there forever, my rational senses directed me towards reality. Vowing to come back again someday, we started off to Chennai with loads of pictures and pleasant memories for a lifetime.