This charming little town, called the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’, has a reputation for having beautiful botanical gardens and picturesque tea estates.
After more than a few dozen stomach-churning hairpin bends, ascending the ghat section from the foothills of the Nilgiri range in Tamil Nadu, you arrive in Ooty. A sense of calm takes over as the soft blanket of fluffy clouds slowly envelopes you. Udhagamandalam, Udhagai or Ootacamund as it is known officially is at an altitude of 2240 mts above sea level, making it a popular vacation destination for families and young couples alike.
The best time to visit Ooty is between January and March when you can avoid the high-season crowds (April-June & September-October). For people who would like to experience some cool and misty weather, June to September and November are good months to visit, but the nights can get very cold.
Long and Winding Roads
The sights that meet your eye here are tree lined narrow winding roads, glimpses of quaint stores that sell sinful homemade chocolates, home grown tea, aromatic oils and spices. Hordes of vendors hover around tourists with baskets full of carrots and brightly coloured ‘paper flowers’ known to last for many months without shedding a single petal. Apart from being a tourist Mecca, Ooty is popular as a residential educational district in South India. So, don’t be surprised when you see groups of children in school blazers trooping in and out of candy stores and restaurants on their weekend visits into town.
Everywhere you look in Ooty, you will find well-manicured flower beds and gardens, orchids and rose bushes and so it seems all of Ooty has a green thumb. A legacy that John Sullivan, a clerk in the East India Company left behind; his keen eye and prudent investments back in the 19th century transformed pastoral land into rich agricultural tracts, with the land bought for small sums of money from the Todas, an isolated tribe indigenous to the region. Tea and eucalyptus are the biggest exports of Ooty.
Ooty Ooty Bang Bang
While in Ooty you must try and visit The Nilgiri Blue Mountain railway station which is a narrow gauge Swiss track system for the train that plies between Coonoor and Mettupalayam. You could register for a day long tour of Ooty and surrounding areas which cover Pykara dam, the falls, the boat house and the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary; this however can be a very hectic day of sightseeing. A less rushed tour of Ooty and Coonoor alone would cover Sim’s Park, the Botanical Gardens, the lake, Doddabetta peak (the second highest peak in the Nilgiris range), Lamb’s Rock and Dolphin’s Nose. Another interesting visit is the Toda’s colonies, where tribal women dressed in traditional garb show you around their settlements.
The clocktower building on Charing Cross has a private tourist information centre (10 am - 7 pm) that can help you plan your itinerary. Must dos in town are a visit to St. Stephen’s Church built in Gothic style which is northwest of Charing Cross and lunch after at the old Chinese restaurant Shinkows or the old Persian Irani cafe. The church incidentally has an incredibly beautiful graveyard behind the building dating back to the British Raj, with tombstones that are delicately carved and are worth more than a peek.