A person, who hasn’t traveled hasn’t really lived. First, it’ll leave you speechless with all the sights, sounds and experiences and then it’ll turn you into a storyteller! Once you get a teensy weensy taste of adventure, your thirst is never quenched after that and the cycle repeats! If you are hankering after travel and thirsting for adventure then Ooty is one of the places you must visit!! This beautiful South Indian hill station will leave you spellbound and carve its name into your soul.
Of all the myriad things you can do to fill the pages of your travel experiences, and there are too many for this article, we’re going to list the 12 things you should do when you’re in Ooty.
THE DODABETTA PEAK
Best time to visit: Sunrise and Sunset!
Doddabetta which translates to “Big Mountain” happens to be the highest point in the Nilgiri Mountains. Climb up the peak and marvel in the most amazing view you’d ever see (assuming it’s a clear day), the whole of Ooty town and the surrounding greenery will be spread out before you like a beautiful carpet. An ideal place for photography, don’t forget to take your camera along and click away happily until your fingers are sore. Visiting Doddabetta Peak during the daytime with the rest of the tourists can take away a little bit of the peace and quiet that the place is known for, what with a lot of them mulling about with cameras and conversing loudly, but an early morning outing to see the sun rising from its night’s slumber, bathing the luscious green forests in a beautiful golden glow is a sight to behold. The evenings will show a huge red ball of light, bidding the world goodnight as it goes down for some much-needed rest. Both these sights will leave you in awe of the miracle that is Mother Nature and thank a million stars that just start winking in the darkening sky for the good fortune we’re blessed with.
THE BOTANICAL GARDENS
“The Earth Laughs in Flowers” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. In Ooty, you’ll find that Mother Earth laughs wholeheartedly and fill your heart with love and hope.
The botanical gardens were established in 1848, and since then have been home to more than 25,000 species of plants, these gardens are a living gallery of the natural flora of the Nilgiris.They even have a fossilized tree trunk which is believed to be around 20 million years old, talk about ancient! If only trees could talk, such stories this fossil would have to tell us all about the history of Ooty better than any book. Walk around the spectacular grounds, take a deep breath and smell the fragrance, listen to the busy bee buzzing happily as though he spreads juicy gossip from flower to flower, and just fill your soul with hope, for where flowers bloom, so does hope!
St. STEPHEN’S CHURCH
Since the year 1829, St.Stephen’s Church sits prettily perched above the town center and is the oldest church in the Nilgiris district. The British took their prejudices and left a long time ago but they left behind some beautiful pieces of architecture as a reminder. This beautiful church on the hillside which was built for the exclusive use of the British population of Ooty has some lovely stained glass, huge wooden beams which apparently were originally from the Palace of Tippu Sultan, but hauled by elephants all the way from Srirangapatna to Ooty. The house of God is a peaceful little corner in Ooty and should definitely be part of your list of things to do in Ooty.
One corner of Ooty that you will regret not sitting in is the Kabab Corner. Don’t judge the place from its appearance for outwardly it looks not very great and maybe tacky even, but all that doesn’t mean a thing if you just happen to taste a kabab in this place. Once inside, you’ll realize that their juicy kababs are so famous that people of all nationalities drop in to tear into those perfectly spiced and grilled chunks of lamb, chicken, and fish. Don’t get discouraged by the description if you’re a vegetarian! Try the scrumptious paneer with fluffy triangles of naan to sop up the juicy bits of paneer and you’ll be on a gastronomic journey that can be bested by little else.
The boat house is synonymous with the name Ooty and Ooty Lake! John Sullivan created this artificial lake in 1824 was filled with water from the mountain streams in the Ooty valley which was dammed to form the lake. On three different occasions, the lake became empty when it breached its bund. Originally it was intended to be a lake for fishing with ferries for traveling across the lake, but it gradually shrunk from its original size which gave place to the current bus stand, race course, and the lake park. In 1973 the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation took possession of the lake to provide boating facilities as a tourist attraction. Overcome your apprehension, this boat trip will definitely be worth all the courage you can sum up!
NILGIRI TOY TRAIN
Put your Sheldon Cooper cap on, it’s time to experience the rhythmic chug-chug of several wheels and the occasional toot-toot as it takes a toy train on the tracks from Mettupalayam to Ootacamund or Ooty as it’s commonly known! Being the steepest one in Asia is what makes this rail line so unique and thrilling. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway covers a distance of 46 km in around 5 hours and is a truly magical journey that takes tourists from a height of 1069 feet to 7228 feet, step aside Hogwarts; the Nilgiri Mountain Railway owns it like a boss! Get ready for the best train ride you’ll ever experience as the train winds up hills covered with beautiful forests or tea and black pepper plantations!!!
Stone House, the first bungalow of Ooty built by John Sullivan in 1822 is the perfect place for history buffs! Now it is the Government Arts College of Ooty which displays some amazing architecture and quite a few great relics. Its beautiful stone architecture takes you to an era when British ladies held pretty tea parties while they summered away the heat of the plains in the hills of Ooty.
Pine Forest, a famous haunt for tourists visiting Ooty is situated between Ooty and Thalakunda. So beautiful is the place that it has even starred in a number of popular Bollywood movies. The towering pine trees seemingly arranged in a small downhill area along the forest makes for an enchanting scenic view which seems right out of a fairytale. The kind of atmosphere here translates to peace and tranquillity which is why it’s such crowd pleaser. Walk to the bottom of the hill and the Kamaraj-Sagar Dam which is a popular picnic spot also becomes visible. The charming mist laden pine trees are a real feast for the eyes!
No one who’s ever been to Ooty has come back without sampling (or stuffing themselves full) a few chocolates and packing some (or as much as the luggage allows) for later. Anyone who returns from Ooty without having tried a few Ooty biscuits or varkey as they are locally known for their tea and then packed some more is essentially a dunce! Now if you don’t want to be labeled a dunce, run, hop and skip to Kingstar Confectionery where the art of making delicious homemade chocolates has been perfected in 1942 and continues to pull visitors to lose control amidst the aroma of chocolate! In Ooty, they are the pioneers in homemade chocolate and their fudge will drive you to indulge in some sinful decadence. While regular, plain old chocolate features in their menu, they’ve got some interesting flavors like strawberry, fig, mango, and blackcurrant to tease your taste buds. For the health conscious and diabetes patients, sugar-free chocolates are also on offer. Buying chocolates from Kingstar is synonymous with a visit to Ooty. If this isn’t on your list, you will be judged, severely!
Higginbothams offers a treat for book lovers. Set amidst the backdrop of some majestic mountains, one of Ooty’s oldest and most renowned book shops will let you spend hours browsing through their collection of books which spans all genres. Find a book, pick a spot and read to our heart’s content.
TRAILS FOR TREKKING
Are you the kind that simply can’t refuse the challenge that mountains throw? Then Ooty is your manna for trekking and hiking, the Nilgiris provides some excellent trekking spots. While you tame the mountains do try to spot a Nilgiri langur, macaque, Nilgiri tahr or gaur, you’ll be passing right b their homes. You might even see some predatory animals if your luck is right (or is that unlucky?), do take care though. The cool breeze welcomes you as a long lost friend and drifts by acting as a tour guide to its home, simply mesmeric.
Now after you’ve gone on walkabout, your stomach reminds you who’s boss and starts craving some authentic South Indian cuisine, then it’s time to head to one of the oldest restaurants in Ooty, the Nahar Restaurant. A simple, clean place that is very well-known for its vegetarian fare and filter coffee.
Well, people! There’s no time to waste, get your warm clothes on and pack some more! It’s time to head to Ooty.