Perched on top of the Palani range, around 120km northwest of Madurai, Kodaikanal, also known as Kodai, owes its perennial popularity to its hilltop position which, at an altitude of 2133m, affords breathtaking views over the blue-green reaches of the Vaigai plain. Raj-era bungalows and flower-filled gardens add atmosphere, while short walks out of the centre lead to rocky outcrops, waterfalls and dense shola forest. With the more northerly wildlife sanctuaries and forest areas of the Ghats closed to visitors, Kodai’s outstandingly scenic hinterland also offers south India’s best trekking terrain.

After a while in the south Indian plains, a retreat to Kodai’s cool heights is more than welcome. However, in the height of summer (April–July) when temperatures compete with those in the lowlands, it’s not worth the trip – nor is it a good idea to come during the monsoon (Oct–Dec), when the town is shrouded in mist and prone to heavy downpours. From January to early March the nights are chilly so the peak tourist season runs from April to June, when prices soar.

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