Updated: Dec 9, 2019
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but having new eyes."
The quote reminds me of this hill station which I visited several months back with my family. Also known as the "Princess of Hill Stations", Kodaikanal is situated in the hills of the Dindigul district in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is easily reachable via Bangalore / Chennai through train or bus. I preferred traveling through train since I feel it is a safer option over the bus when you travel with family. Moreover, you will skip the road traffic or any rainy season inconveniences. The train tickets are usually between 700-1000 INR per person one way and need to be booked in advance which can be done through IRCTC website.
When you arrive by train, you will get down at Kodaikanal Road station which is approx. 75 kms away from Kodaikanal. Let me tell you why it's worth spending extra bucks to go from the station to the hill top. The hill station is at a height of 6,998 feet. The entire road trip takes around 1.5 hours and you will pass through this amazing scenery along the way which will scare you & excite you at the same time.
Along the way, we stopped at one place to have some tea while enjoying the view. We booked the cab through kodaicabs for the 75 kms journey and it cost us 2000 INR one way for 4 people. Since Kodaikanal has become popular among tourists, there is no scarcity of accommodation. The preferable place in Kodaikanal to stay is near the Kodai lake where the prices are quite steep. We were okay to book a little farther to stay away from the crowd and it was frankly the best deal we got for 4 people.
Generally, MakeMyTrip.com and Booking.com are the best options out there. However, many accommodations are also available in AirBnB to get you into the homely vibe.
“ How many times have you guys been over your head again & again, re-checked your plans thoroughly in order to avoid any panicky situation later? Join the league..... ”
How many times have you guys been over your head again & again, re-checked your plans thoroughly in order to avoid any panicky situation later? Join the league. Being obsessed with planning & scheduling, you can imagine how I felt when I realized that it's just not going to work in Kodai. Jeez!! I was stupefied when it dawned on me. Kodai did not have much of public transport and you have to book a car to get from point A to B. Additionally, there will be NO taxis/cabs which will charge you 100 bucks for 3 kms. Updated price as of 2019 is 200 INR. I summed up the amount required for the trip based on the previous blogs and my entire plan went into dust.
Thus, we stayed in a hotel for 3 days and enjoyed the view from inside.
Okay, jokes apart ;-) the good news is, you will find lots of cabbies calling you, trying to show you travel packages. However, you can always choose from registered travel agents like kodaicabs or hire the local taxis who are equally efficient. We happened to stumble upon a local taxi business guy named Raja, who was really nice and polite. He didn't rush us on any destinations and didn't check the time. He had several packages just like other travel agencies.
Choose one package per day but choose wisely. For example, on our second day, we chose a village tour which covered Mannavanur and some temples (almost 8 hours of travel) and it cost 2500 RS (excluding entry tickets). I would still say it was worth because you will not really feel tired. Also, it will be safe with a experienced & friendly driver. After all, one has to choose convenience over money when it comes to traveling with your family.
Kodaikanal has a lot to offer when it comes to food. The vegetables are very fresh as they major in carrots & garlic farming. But, for the first time, I did not feel confident about the choice of restaurants people suggested over several blogs. I wish I had heard the taxi driver who was suggesting a good restaurant on the first day itself. Below are my thoughts for the hyped restaurants:
Royal Tibet - Good chowmein but Momos and chicken curry not really up to standard. Price was on the higher side too. ( Would only recommend for chowmein)
Astoria veg restaurant - Touristy spot, high prices, food not really good enough. (Alternate suggestion - Tawa restaurant. Ultimate home cooked veg food. You will not regret it)
CloudStreet - Had ordered pizzas. Great toppings but the crust was on the crunchier side which is not my preference. Freshly baked bread should usually be soft.
I went with my family of 4 and excluding hotel and bus/train cost to Kodai, it cost approximately 15,000 INR for three days(including food, chocolates, local souvenirs).
Here are few more useful tips which can equally help solo travelers and groups:
There is a specific route for specific places to visit. Example, Kodai Lake and Vattakanal Waterfalls are on different routes. So always 'add' destinations on your map to check if all those places fall on the same route. (applicable to bikers too. It will save time)
Please have some space in your luggage before reaching Kodaikanal to take fresh carrots, garlic,(maybe mushrooms? ) These are in abundance here and it's sooo fresh.
Start your day plans from 9 am in the morning as everything is foggier after 11 AM. All the viewpoints especially will go down the drain if visited after 11 AM because you will not be able to see anything.
Carry cash in bulk. ATMs are there and some restaurants accept cards too but you can't keep betting on that and let your luck run out eventually.
Alcohol is a hush hush situation here. Would request to respect the culture and go with the driver's recommendations (if he tips on that).
People are friendly here, food is fresh, the weather is awesome. Start packing your bags and let the travel begin. :)
Hope my tips help!! Happy travels. Share your thoughts, suggestions below.