This was a destination which I was wanting to do for a long time and was definitely worth every bit of it. Once you reach this place, you'll know why it is called Queen of Hills by the local people. It is a beautiful little town connected by Nilgiri ghat roads and Nilgiri mountain railways. Ooty was a summer resort for the British colonials. Originally known as Udhagamandalam, it was occupied by the Toda and Badaga tribes. These tribes still inhabit the land which are outside of the town limits and are primarily agrarian based. I bring to you some wonderful things to do and places to hang out in Ooty:
This beautiful lake is located in the Emerald Village and is part of the Silent valley national park. The atmosphere here is absolutely serene and this lake is surrounded by lush green Nilgiri mountains and thick tea plantations. This place is a home to a lot of colourful birds and is a perfect getaway for nature enthusiasts as it is nestled away from the maddening city crowd. One can also enjoy trekking and mountain biking here.
Timing - 9:00am to 6:00pm
This splendid garden called by multiple names is located on the slope of Elk Hills is surely a sight to behold. This garden was built in the year 1995 by the Tamil Nadu Horticulture Dept. showcases rose in different colours and sizes. Local, non-local and hybrid varieties of rose can be found here. Also, there are areas where a variety of perfumed roses are on display. The garden is spread in an area of around 4 hectares. Visitors can also purchase saplings or bouquets from this garden. In the garden an observatory has been built called the 'Nila Madham' from where the entire view of the garden can be had.
Spread around an area of 55 acres, this is one of the most sought after places to visit in Ooty. A lot of indigenous and exotic variety of flowers and plants can be found here. Garden is divided into sections and the exhibits are neatly categorised. In the month of May, a flower exhibition is held and prizes are given away to the best display.
Timing - 6:30 am to 6:30 pm
Nilgiri Mountain Railway
One of the star attraction is a ride on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway which starts from Mettupalayam and goes till Udhagamandalam. In the course of the journey, the train passes through some dense forest, hills, ravines and tea plantations. The famous Bollywood song 'Chhaiyya Chhaiyya' was picturised on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. The toy train passes through some many tunnels and bridges and the railway line is considered to be one of the steepest mountain tracks in Asia. So do not forget to book your passage once you are in Ooty! From Mettupalayam, the train starts at 7:10 am & reaches Ooty at 12:00 pm. The return journey starts at 3:00 pm.
Doddabetta peak is the highest peak in the Nilgiri Hills at 8652 feet which means 'Big Mountain' in the Badaga language. The area surrounding this peak is heavily forested and is at the junction of eastern and western ghats. Doddabetta peak has an observatory at the top from where some lovely views of the Nilgiri Hills and Bandipur National Park can be seen. Sunset is beautiful from this place. Trekking is the most popular activity by the tourists. The mountain boasts of shola thickets and sub-alpine shrubs which are a beauty to admire and marvel at. If you are nearby Doddabetta peak, do not forget to visit the splendid Tea Estate view.
Timing - 7:00 am to 6:00 pm
Located around 6 km away from Ooty town in the lower region of Doddabetta peak. Tiger Hill has many vantage points from where the tourists can view the sunrise and sunset, for which this place is popular. There is an old cave on top of the hill which is surrounded by myths and legends. Trekking is one of the popular activity here and at every turn of the trail, there are beautiful sights to be explored. There is a British cemetery and a freshwater reservoir which one can explore and get to know more about the history surrounding it. Timing: 5:30am to 7:00pm
Pykara waterfalls has been declared a heritage site. Originating at Mukurthi peak, the Pykara river creates waterfalls as it negotiates curves and heights. A dam and a powerhouse has been built across the river which supplies hydro-electric power to the population there. The waterfall is dotted with Toda settlement in their natural habitat. The water falls from heights of 55m and 61m. It has captivated the hearts of the tourists and developed into a beautiful picnic spot with a restaurant and a boat house.
Timing: 8:30am to 5:00pm
Needle View Hill point
This hill point gets its name from a cone shaped rock and is much more than a sunset or a sunrise point. One can see beautiful grasslands and Nilgiri valley from this hill. Locally this place is called 'Oosi Malai' meaning 'Needle Hill'. A panoramic 360 degree view of the scenery makes this place worth a visit.
Timing: 8:00am to 6:00pm
This manmade lake is famous for boating amidst lush green settings. It is a perfect getaway for spending romantic time together. Cycling and horse riding are other activities that are offered here. There is a toy train for kids which take them around the lake. This lovely lake is spread over an area of 65 acres and surrounded by Eucalyptus trees. There are shops alongside the lake selling local produce along with shawls and stoles. Next to the lake is a wax museum housing the wax statues of some important historical figures.
Timing - 9:30am to 6:30pm
This place is couple of hour's drive and gets its name from a peak which resembles a Dolphin's nose. The place is home to a variety of flora and fauna. The region has gigantic rock formations and is lush green everywhere. One can get a view of Catherine Falls from here and the route is filled with sharp hairpin bends. Also, the route is dotted with scenic hill villages and numerous tea plantations which make this place very enigmatic.
Upper Bhavani & Avalanche Lake
Located high on hills, the water in these 2 lakes give a splendid reflection of the blue hills surrounding. In the year 1863, there was a major landslide that took place which Avalanche Lake its name. The surrounding of the lake is lush green with beautiful flowers alongside. One can enjoy horse riding or a jeep safari by the lake. Upper Bhavani lake has recently gained prominence as it is tucked away in a niche of the hills. A lot of activities have recently been opened along this lake as well.
Visit to Ooty is incomplete without an indulgence in shopping. Yes, you heard it right! Ooty is famous for some flavorful Nilgiri Tea, Bags, Shawls, Stoles and handmade chocolates which are locally produced. You get assorted variety of chocolates, souvenirs and light woolens on the commercial street. The Upper Bazar road is where you can buy spices like cardamom, cinnamon and peppers.