“A little corner of India that’s forever old England;” that’s one of the many ways in which Ooty has been described. Short for Ootacamund, which itself is an anglicized version of the current official name, Udhagamandalam, the town is happily referred to as Ooty, by most.
Settled at the top of the Nilgiri Hills (or blue mountains, named after misty blue haze of eucalyptus trees or the blue kurunji flowers that bloom once in twelve years), Ooty, in Tamil Nadu, is also given the moniker “queen of hill stations” like several other hill stations, by the tourist trade (although sticklers may argue that it’s at least the queen in the south)!
Like most other hill resorts in the country, Ooty too was a popular colonial summer retreat, for the British, many of whom have chosen to settle down here. Compared to the relatively harsh terrain of some of the northern hill resorts, it is distinctly more lush green with a placid tranquil air about it.
The town offers quite a lot to see. Spend the day lolling in the magnificent Botanical Gardens, where every other movie has been shot; go boating ride in Ooty Lake; pop in for a movie in the quaint old Assembly Rooms theatre; or just hire a cab and drive around seeing the sights in the Nilgiris – Rose Garden, St. Stephen’s Church, Dodabetta Peak, Sims Park, Lamb’s Rock, Dolphin’s Nose etc.
Not to be missed is a ride on the hill train (not “toy train,” as the ones up north are called!) If one has missed the ride all the way up from the plains, one can take a short one to Coonoor that runs several times a day. (Ooty Station phone 0423- ….)
One can halt at Ooty and explore other scenic places nearby – the most prominent being Coonoor, 19 km away, about an hour’s drive downhill, at 6000 ft; or Kotagiri, 31 km away. The military base of Wellington. Site of the Madras Regimental Corps, lies next to Coonoor. Also worth checking out is Avalanche, a restricted biosphere, replete with virgin hills and Chola forests; for which a permit from the forest department is necessary; available a day in advance.
The best time to visit is March to early June (before the rains start) and end-September to November (after they stop). Either way, it’s best to beat the crowds, which can be excessive and maddening in peak season.
Ooty is 80 km from Coimbatore, the nearest airport (a three-hour drive) or 272 km from Bangalore (about five and a half hours by road). One can take an overnight train from Madras/Chennai (the Blue Mountain Express, No. 12672), followed by the connecting mountain railway from Mettupalayam in the early morning (Mettupalayam-Ooty passenger, No. 56136); for which booking needs to be made in advance, especially during the tourist season. Overnight comfortable Volvo buses are available for Bangalore.
EXCERPTED FROM THE INTERNET:
Situated in the very heart of the Nilgiri Hills in the Western ghats, Ooty is one of the most serene hill stations you can visit. It was the summer capital of the Madras Presidency during the British rule. Lofty mountains, dense forest, sprawling grasslands and miles of tea gardens greet travellers on most routes. Coffee and tea plantations and trees like conifers, eucalyptus, pine and wattle dot the hillside. This area was inhibited (and still is) by the Toda tribe, long before anybody could venture into the region.
In 1819, John Sullivan, the Collector, visited Ooty and wrote, ” … it resembles Switzerland, more than any country of Europe… the hills beautifully wooded and fine strong springs with running water in every valley…..”
Despite lying in the tropical part of southern India, Ooty, due to its elevation, enjoys one of the most pleasant and cool climates throughout the year (although the monsoon can sometimes be heavy and extended). The temperature rarely goes beyond 20 degrees Celsius throughout the year. The average temperature during the summer months stays around 15 degrees and it can get chilly during the nights in winter.
Known for its serene surroundings, Ooty is one of the most visited hill stations in India. Amid gardens, meadows, viewpoints, wildlife reserves, temples, churches, colonial style buildings, ethnic centers and eateries; it has quite a lot to offer. The town is famous for its vast tea plantations and terraced farms that provide a breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains. Ooty is also famous for its chocolates and gourmet cheese that can be bought at several stores located across town.
Botanical Gardens, Ooty Lake, Doddabetta Peak (the highest in south India), Rose Garden, Emerald Lake, Stone House (a landmark 1822 bungalow, reputedly the first to be built), Toda Huts, Mountain Railway, St. Stephens Church, Wax World, Tribal Museum, Deer Park, Pykara River, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and Mariamman Temple are some of the main tourist attractions in and around Ooty[see link]. Several exhibitions, boat races and cultural festivals are also held during the month of May.
How to Reach
Ooty is well connected through roads and trains. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway that runs from Mettupalayam in the plains has been declared as a UNESCO world heritage site. The train follows a very scenic route and is a must to experience. Alternatively, the town can also be reached via road as buses and taxis are available from all major towns in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states. Like the train route, the road trip is equally scenic and is best travelled during the day when visitors can enjoy the view.
Ooty – places to visit:
Nilgiri Mountain Railway (BBC film)