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Of the three main hill stations in the south – Udhagamandalam (Ootacamund, or Ooty), Kodaikanal and Yercaud – Kodaikanal is undoubtedly the most beautiful and, unlike Ooty, the temperature here rarely drops to the point where you need to wear heavy clothing, even in winter.
On the southern crest of the Palani Hills about 120 km north-west of Madurai at an altitude of 2100 metres, Kodaikanal- better known as Kodal- is surrounded by thickly wooded slopes, waterfalls and precipitous rocky outcrops. The journey up and back down again is breathtaking, through there’s no toy train and access is by bus or car.  In the town, there are lookouts with spectacular views of the south within easy walking distance of the town centre.
Kodai has the distinction of being of being the only hill station in India to be set up during the Raj by Americans, through it didn’t take long before they were joined by the British. American missionaries established a school for European children here in the mid-1840s, the legacy of which is the Kodaikanal International School – one of the most prestigious private schools in the country.
Kodaikanal is not just for those who want to get away during the summer months, but also for those seeking a relaxing place to put their feet up for a while and do some occasional hiking in the quiet shoals (forests). In the surrounding hills you’ll find plantations of Australian blue gums which provide the eucalyptus oil solid in Kodai’s many street light, purple-blue-coloured blossoms which flowers every 12 years (the next will be in 2004 though there are always a few whose natural clocks seem to be out of time).
April to June or August to October are the best times to visit Kodaikanal, April to June is the main season, whereas the peak of the wet season is November / December. Temperature here are mild, ranging between 11oC and 20o C in summer and 8oC and 17oC in winter.

Built in 1889, this laboratory stands on the highest point in the area, three km uphill from Kodai’s lake. It houses a small museum which is open Friday from 10 am to noon and 3 to 5 pm. The building with the instruments are off limits. It’s a hard 45 – minutes uphill walk pushing a bicycle, but it only takes five minutes to coast down.

Also worth a visit is the Flora & Fauna Museum at the Sacred Heart College at Shembaganur. It’s a six-km hike and all uphill on the way back. The museum is open from 10 am to noon and 3 to 5 pm; closed Sunday.

Near the start of Coaker’s Walk is Bryant Park, a botanical park laid out, landscaped and stocked over many years by the British officer after whom it is named. At Chettiar Park, about three km uphill from town near the Kurinji Andavar Temple, you may be able to see some Kurinji flowers.


The views from Coaker’s Walk which was has an observatory with telescope and from Pillar Rocks, a seven-km hike (one way), are two of the most spectacular in southern India.
For more serious trekking, head to the District Forest Office, on a windy road down (north) towards Hotel Tamil Nadu. Here you can buy a pamphlet called Kodaikanal Beauty in Wilderness which describes 17 local treks ranging from eight-km ambles to 27-km hikes.


The lake at Kodai has been wonderfully landscaped, and row boats. Down by this same boat house, you’ll be accosted by people who want to rent you horses.



The MYH Youth Hostel has a pint –sized skating rink.

THE CARLTON, (Government Approved) 5 Star
PRADISE INN, (Government Approved) 3 Star
HOTEL KODAI INTERNATIONAL (Government Approved) 2 Star

The Cottage Crafts shop on Bazaar Rd opposite the post office has some excellent bits and pieces for sale. It is run by Corsock, the coordinating Council for Social Concerns in Kodai. This organization, staffed by volunteers, sells crafts on behalf of development groups, using the commission charged to help the needy.
The road down to the lake (alongside the Kodaikanal Club) is lined with stalls run by Tibetans selling warm clothing, shawls and other fabrics. Their prices are very reasonable.
Kodai is a lush orchard area and, depending on the season, you’ll find various fruits –pears, avocados, guavas, durians and grapefruit – in the street stalls around the bus stand.


There are fine views of the plains and scattered rock outcrops on the bus ride from Kodaikanal to Palani. The town’s hill temple, Malaikovil, is dedicated to Lord Muruga, and an electric winch takes devotees to the top. Some 200,000 pilgrims gather at this temple fro the Thai Pusam Festival in January.

This is one of the three wildlife sanctuaries on the slopes of the Western Ghats along the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Though recently renamed the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, most people still refer to it by its original name. It covers almost 1000 sq km and is home to elephant, gaur (Indian bison), tiger panther, spotted deer, wild boar, bear porcupine and civet cat. The Nilgiri tahr, commonly known as ibex, can also be spotted, as can many birds.
In the heart of this beautiful forested region is the Parambikulam Dam which has formed an immense plain of water that spreads way into Kerala. The rights to this water, used mainly for irrigation and energy purposes in Tamil Nadu, are the source of one of the area’s bitter disputes. 

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