The cool serene landscape of Ooty with its movie-like; winding, twisted lanes, craggy, majestic mountains and colonial architecture breathes a sigh of fresh air into the weary visitor. It is a great escape for those wanting respite from the scorching Indian sun that torments the plains. Whilst the town centre may be somewhat chaotic, a short journey up into the hills reveals a world of greenery, infused with bright gardens, Hindu Temples, ancient churches, pristine lakes and a wealth of astounding views.
Ooty is a valley nestled in the Nilgiri mountain range of the Western Ghats in the state of Tamil Nadu and once was the most popular Hill Station for the crème de la crème of British residents and Indian royalty. So to ensure that you get the most out of your trip to Ooty, we’ve compiled a mini-travel guide of things you should do, where to stay, when and how to go so that you will cherish the memory of the trip, as others have done before you.
How and when to go to Ooty
First lets deal with the when part, you can travel to Ooty pretty much all year round, but it’s best if you go between the months of March to June. The monsoons start off in July and lasts till September and this area does receive quite a bit of rain, but if you feel thirsty for some rain quenched excitement, you can still head to Ooty. The winter months are quite cold with temperatures falling to a freezing 0°C, so all in all summer is the season to be here. After all if the royals did it this way, it should be enough for us too! But we aren’t complaining if you go off season too, that way you get a lot more of Ooty without the pesky crowds that are an ever-present feature in the summers!
So now that the when is done we get to the “How to go there” part. Ooty being so close to several national parks with some endangered species and unique biodiversity, it comes as no surprise that there is no airport! Well, the closest airport is Coimbatore which is about 88kms away. But the whole point of going to Ooty is to be closer to nature while enjoying the wilderness and the only way to do that is ride/drive/be driven till there!
Where to stay?
Now if you could only find a place to rest your head for the night.
Maybe a nearby meadow or a hollow tree?”
Wait this isn’t a Disney movie, so you’ve got a lot of options between homestays, villas and hotels. We’ve already got several posts on them on the blog, do check them out here. Whatever you do, make sure that the place you’re staying in offers great views of the surrounding countryside as well as is easily accessible to the famous sightseeing haunts.
What to do in Ooty?
We’ve covered this too, but what’s the harm in going through it again. So first there are all the sights to see. Depending on how many days you plan on staying in Ooty here are a few things you must see before you come back.
Ooty Botanical garden
No sane person goes to Ooty and comes back without visiting the botanical gardens. Take a leisurely stroll through the lush greenery and treat your eyes to the 650 species of flowers and trees at the Ooty Botanical Garden. Originally created in 1848, the garden covers an area of 22 hectares and is also home to a fossil tree that is over 20million years old. Besides the lawns and nurseries, the key attractions include the Conservatory and the Toda Hill; where visitors can have a glimpse in to the culture and daily lifestyle Toda Tribes (Ooty’s original settlers).
They have an annual flower show at the Ooty Botanical Gardens during mid-May, where the best of the flora are on show for all to see. Open from 8.30am to 6.30pm daily, this is a great place to spend some time in.
The Toy Train
There’s no better way to start your trip than with a scenic journey on the Toy Train with panoramic views. The scenery is a lush verdant green owing to the heavy rainfall during the monsoon season and waterfalls are in abundance. The train leaves from Metupalaiyum and goes all the way to Coonoor, another hill station that is definitely worth a visit.
Enjoy the warm weather with a trip to Ooty Lake, where you can relax on its banks, ride the attractions or take a paddle boat out and float gleefully along its surface. The lake is open from 8.30am-5.30pm daily and costs a mere 5 rupees per person.
Other Attractions in Ooty
It’s not just all nature in Ooty; there are some interesting bits of history lying around, like the Fernhill Palace. Built in 1844, it started out as the summer home of the Maharaja of Mysore. Or the Stone House, the first bungalow built by John Sullivan in Ooty which now serves as a museum, displaying some rather interesting relics. Other notable structures that you can take in include St. Stephen’s Church and Elk Hill Murugan Temple, a great sight-seeing experience in Ooty.
Ooty Lake, an unmistakeable and unmissable sight where you can relax on its banks, ride the attractions, by which we mean horses or take a paddle boat out on the lake and pedal gleefully along its surface. The lake is open from 8.30am-5.30pm daily and costs a mere 5 rupees per person, which should be enough to entice anyone.
If you’re up for an excursion, a short distance from Ooty is the Emerald Lake and Avalanche Lake. The Emerald Lake is surrounded by tea plantations this is a great place to set-up for a picnic or buy and taste some delicious Indian tea, not to mention get some great pictures! The Avalanche Lake is situated inside a National park and even has a trout farm on its banks. Both these places as well as several view points on the way here offer some crazy good views of the mist laden mountains of the Nilgiris. So throw on those hiking boots and get ready for adventure is out there!
Live a little on the Wild side
We’ve already mentioned that Ooty has several National parks around, right? But there are two places that you must absolutely visit. It’s time to explore the wilderness of Bandipur National Park and Mudumalai National Park; both of these places are tiger reserves and have hordes of wild animals living in them. Take a safari tour into the jungles to see the occupants in their homes. Take a picture of an elephant or two or a herd of beautiful spotted deer and if you’ve said your prayers right, you might even spot a leopard or even a tiger! But beware; these aren’t Disney animals that help you clean your house, so keep a respectful distance.
A walk down gastronomic lane
If ever you’re in Ooty, you’ll need to eat. And what you need to eat first is the chocolate that the place is so famous for. Head to Kingstar bakery or any half decent bakery on Charring Cross and load up on plain chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, fudge or some interesting flavours like fig, mango, strawberry, blueberry etc. Next stop, Kingstar bakery for Ooty’s signature cookies, the Varkey. Get yourself some of this buttery, crumbly, flaky goodness to go with your evening tea. These come in a variety of flavours too, so if you’re diabetic or anti-sugar they have sugar-free and masala flavoured ones too.
If you’ve decided to visit Coonoor as well, then do not miss Ramchandradas or Rams as it’s affectionately known to the students and alumni of the prestigious schools in the area and home to the famous Wellington Special. His Parotta and mutton gravy are to die for. By the way the Parotta is a culinary masterpiece that is stuffed with spicy minced mutton and fried with a coating of egg! Not only will your stomach thank you but you earn exclusive bragging rights along with the alumni of some really elite boarding schools.
How to explore?
So now that you’ve reached Ooty, how do you plan on doing all those things mentioned above? If you’ve driven yourself or hired a vehicle for the duration of the trip then you’ve saved yourself the cost and hassle of hiring a cab each time to set out. But if you flew down or took the train your only option is to hire a cab each day or hire one for the duration of your stay. If you’re choosing the latter, it would be better to book this in advance while booking your hotel rooms and for the former your hotel concierge is your best friend and they’ll definitely help you out.
So there you have the list, this should have you ready and raring to go to the “Queen of Hill stations” without further ado!