Hidden in the Nilgiri Hills and enveloped in blue mist, the lovely laid backhill station of Ooty exudes its own special charm. Ootacamund or Udhagamandalam, as it is officially known, is Tamil Nadu's most sought after holiday destination. Ooty nestles in the hollow of four grand hills of the Blue Mountains. The hill slopes are veiled in a profusion of wild flowers. A little outside town, plantations of cardamom and tea, and eucalyptus forests take over the landscape. The heady frOotynce of spices and the bouquet of tea waft across the hills around Ooty and envelop the town. There is a colonial side to Ooty- old British style cottages and bungalows, many with fireplaces and pretty gardens; and stone walled churches with stained-glass windows. The rolling meadows with cattle grazing peacefully complete the picture.
At 2286 metres above sea level, Ooty is essentially a small town that bustles and bristles with the activity of locals going about their daily business, kids rushing towards and rushing away from school and tourists ambling in the streets. A little outside town, plantations of cardamom and tea, and eucalyptus forests take over the landscape. Snuggling in the Nilgiri Hills, enveloped in the blue mist that the name implies (nil=blue, giri=mountain), Ooty continues to exude the charm of a laid back beautiful little town that it is and is a lovely tourist destination.
How to Reach Ooty?
By Air : The nearest airport is at Coimbatore. There are flight services to Coimbatore from Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. You could also take a train up to Mettupalayam and from there, take the quaint hill train upto Ooty, 35 kms away. You can also hire a private car or taxi or take a bus up to Ooty. The road winds up with loops and bends and in the rains gets washed away in parts.
By Rail : The real way to arrive at Ooty is by the Blue Mountain Railway (weather permitting). The train begins at Mettupalayam (35 km from Coimbatore), and makes a short stop at Conoor for refreshments. Mettupalayam has direct connections with Chennai and Coimbatore.
By Road : There are buses to Ooty from all over the state, including Chennai (535 km). Or you can come the Mysore way from the state of Karnataka – there are many many more hairpin bends on this route so be prepared for a roller coaster trip. Rent a car if you’d rather not risk the buses, and keep it for the rest of your stay..... really, the most convenient thing to do. Unlike Kodai, which is quite compact, Ooty spreads out over several hills. A car at your disposal would save you the hassle of finding a new ride every time.
Best Time to Visit Ooty
Ooty is a year round destination except monsoon season that starts from the month of July and August. The best time to visit is during the peak tourist season when the schools have vacation and the plains get stifling hot in May and June. You can also enjoy the summer festival is in May when there are flower shows and boat races.
It gets quite cold in the winter months from December to February, but beautiful and worth going if you enjoy the clouds and the mist floating into your face. Weather wise it is still great from September to November. The Mudumalai National Park is best in September-October and January-March when the foliage thins out.
Things to do in Ooty
Radiating its special charm, Ooty offers a variety of things to do to her visitors. You can choose from sightseeing or shopping or whatever takes your fancy in this lovely hill station in Tamil Nadu.
If you are interested in horticulture or just want to know more about the flora and fauna of Ooty, then a visit to its Botanical Garden is a must. The main attractions of the garden include fossilised tree trunk which is 20 million years old and a model of a household of Toda tribe of the hill station.
Rose Garden in Ooty is the largest rose Garden in the country and has 1919 varieties of roses. The roses’ collection includes Miniature Roses, Ramblers, Hybrid Tea Roses, Yakimour, Polyanthas, Papagena, and Floribunda. The garden has an observation platform from where one can view the entire rose garden at a glance. Amidst the roses stands a statue of an angel.
Paddle boating is another activity that you can indulge in Ooty at the Ooty Lake. And while you are enjoying boating you can admire the stunning views the hill station has to offer.
You can also walk around the town through the forests in the hills and delight in the variety of birds visiting the hills. You can also pack a picnic basket and head to forests to find unexpected waterfalls and nice secluded picnic spots where you can just sit back and relax.
The Gymkhana Club in Ooty offers golf course with 18-holes facility where you can play some golf. Not too adventurous for you then you can go trekking or hiking. Trekking and hiking are also the best way to explore the stunning landscape of Ooty. Experienced guides are available for these tours.
Another activity that you can indulge in Ooty is ‘angling’ which is a favourite pass time here.
Coonoor, Kotagiri, and Mudumalai National Park are some of the nearby places that you can visit while in Ooty.
Shopping enthusiasts can pick up things like traditional silver trinkets, shawls by Toda tribe, aromatic medicinal oils, and local chocolates.
Hungry after all the sightseeing, activities and shopping then you can indulge in scrumptious meals available at various restaurants in the hotels and if you want to taste authentic South India cuisine then you can head to wayside cafes or restaurants.
With a wide variety of activities Ooty offers, do come and explore the charms of this stunning hill station in Tamil Nadu.
Places Near Ooty
Ooty has many places nearby that you can visit.
Coonoor is another small hill station only 17 km from Ooty. It is less famous but equally beautiful. The botanical garden called Sim’s Park has conifers, magnolia, and tree ferns. There are several quaintly named vantage points that provide a view of the surrounding countryside. Sample: Lamb’s Rock, Lady Canning’s Seat and Dolphin’s Nose!
Pykara (21 km) has a dam, reservoir and Toda settlements in the nearby forests. There is quite a bit of wildlife in this area. There is a boathouse on the reservoir that has a restaurant.
Kotagiri (31 km) is another small hill station close to Ooty.
Mukurti Peak and Sanctuary (40 km) is prime Nilgiri Thar habitat.
Mudumalai National Park (67 km) neighbours Wayanad Sanctuary in Kerala and Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. There’s a wide array of bird life and the Moray River, which runs through the park supports endangered aquatic wildlife like otters, turtles and crocodile. The forests are home to wild elephant, deer, panther, the gaur and the notoriously shy Bengal tiger. The park is best for spotting animals in January-March and September-October when the ground foliage is thin. You would want to stay overnight here and there are fairly good, though basic, sanctuary resorts here. Do book in advance – this is a popular excursion. The Theppakkadu elephant camp has basic accommodation. There are mid- rung hotels in nearby Masinagudi, and top-end resorts in Bokkapuram. The Wildlife Warden’s office is on Coonoor Road in Ooty.
Hotels in Ooty – Choice is Yours
There are numerous hotels in Ooty ranging from 3-star, 4-star and 5-star deluxe to budget hotels.