Endless mist pervading gorgeous and expansive hills, a breezy cool weather throughout the year, wide patches of lush greenery, a fun trekking experience, wild bisons idling amongst eucalyptus trees -- these are some of the things you’d associate with a trip to Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. Yet there’s a place just nearby that harbours the same charm and pleasantness, that offers the same enriching experiences but without the crowdedness that you’d expect out of the former.
This is the village of Vattakanal, and it’s quite the charming little hill station in the Western Ghats. At a height of about 2011 m and towards the western edge of Tamil Nadu, Vattakanal is a small hamlet at a distance of about 7-8 km from Kodaikanal. The name of the place translates from Tamil into ‘circle of forest’ -- and it is indeed quite accurate. The abundance of flora here not only freshen the air but also make for endearing scenery. One shouldn’t miss out on visiting it, especially if they’re in Kodaikanal.
Places to See
Ridges, cliffs forests, gorgeous path trails, and waterfalls are some of the elements of Vattakanal’s natural beauty and constitute its major attractions:
1. Vattakanal Falls
Quite the gorgeous sight to behold, these falls can entice all those who choose to visit. Staying in this wonderful lap of nature, paying close attention to the meditative sound of water hitting the rocks as birds chirp in nearby trees, you’d find yourself mesmerised! This site is ideal for picnic with friends or family. Additionally, the beauty of these falls get especially heightened during monsoons when the falling waters form a clear, cold pool: some tourists even opt for taking a dip! At a distance of about 3 km from Vattakanal, these falls should definitely be your priority if you travel to Vattakanal, attempt nature photography, or simply intend to relax.
2. Vattakanal Shola Tree Nursery
If you’re enthralled by the diverse flora of Vattakanal on your visit and find yourself curious about it, then Vattakanal’s Shola Tree Nursery is the place you should be consider visiting. Maintained by the Vattakanal Conservation Trust, this nursery houses native shola trees and engages in distributing and planting them all across the village. There’s also hundreds of rare species of plants here. The nursery also has a glasshouse. If you’re a nature lover, then this is certainly not an experience to be missed.
3. Dolphin’s Nose
A half an hour trek downhill for those light on their feet, Dolphin’s Nose is essentially a rock protruding from the mountain. Standing upon its narrow surface and gazing at the valley down below, you find yourself at once scared and wonderstruck. The experience becomes downright spooky when the mists are intense, whereas on a clear day you get to see a vast expanse of hills as well as the town of Periyakulam. As with most locations in Vattakanal, some of the most memorable and picaresque visits are to made during the early morning hours. All in all, Dolphin’s Nose be has come to characterise the thrilling yet awe-inspiring experience that Vattakanal is capable of providing!
4. Echo Point
A mere ten minutes walk from Dolphin’s Nose, Echo Point is yet another unique vantage point that Vattakanal has offer. Here you can -- as the name suggests -- scream your name and the hills would reverberate it back at you! It makes for quite an eerie yet interesting experience. Overlooking lofty ridges and distant valleys, it still makes for a great view. The trail to this point is lined with shrubberies and plants, so be sure to watch out for those and pluck a few ripe Avocados straight from the belly of nature!
Things to Do
Given Vattakanal’s fine attractions, there are a number of activities which you can indulge in:
At an altitude of about 6650 feet, Vattakanal is abundant in places that require trekking to reach. Whether visiting the various vantage points in the village by braving slippery trails or climbing atop a cliff to get a view of clouds down below or reaching for an obscure nook that overlooks distant grassy Palani hills in the distance, all of these things are only made possible trekking. So make sure to dress comfortably, carry loads of water, and get ready to trek because this place yields its beauty to those willing to put in the effort!
Yet Vattakanal is not just about tiring you out! These gorgeous mountainscapes are best enjoyed through relaxing with your friends, family, or partner. So don’t hesitate to bring some snack, drinks, and simply idle around and chat amongst yourselves while soaking in the breathtaking views. Sometimes the occasional friendly stray dog joins you in your rendezvous. The experience is heartwarming and memorable!
3. Exploring the Forests
In Tamil, ‘vatta’ suggests circle whereas ‘kanal’ translates to forest and indeed forests are what the region is mostly covered in. So it only makes sense that exploring the forests in Vattakanal is quite a popular activity amongst the tourists. Strolling through these blissful woods amongst pine and eucalyptus trees, plucking delicacies like avocados and fresh apples is an enjoyable way to spend your evenings in Vattakanal. Make sure to carry adequate water and foods supplies though.
Food and Shopping
Vattakanal is furnished with numerous cafes and restaurants where you can not only grab a delicacy of your choice but enjoy the view of distant cliffs and valleys. As it is a haven of Israeli tourists, there are multiple eateries where you can visit and feast on various middle eastern cuisine. Among tourists’ favourites are Falafels and Shakshouka (an Israeli egg preparation)
There’s also plenty of Indian foods available, including but not limited to South Indian delicacies like dosa, vada, sambhar etc. Among beverages that people choose to enjoy in the cold include ginger lemon tea and the popular South Indian filter coffee. For these feasts and more, you are best served at tourists’ favourite Altaf’s Cafe, Shola Cafe, Muncheez, amongst others.
Vattakanal is not as a shopping destination as such. Yet the village has a lot of treasures that you’d wanna take back home with you. Among these are the locally grown coffee and tea as well fruits like avocados, egg fruits, fresh apples etc.
Accomodation is not hard to come by at an exclusively tourist destination like Vattakanal. Natives offer rooms in their lodges for guest stay, and this is what most tourists opt for. These rooms are cheap, well-equipped with basic amenities, and you also get food at the same spot! A popular choice in this regard is Edwin’s Guest House.