Also known as Udhagamandalam and sometimes Ootacamund, the hill station of Ooty lies near the Nilgiris in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The area came under the occupation of the East India Company around the end of the 18th century leading to its popularity as a hill station. The town is famous for its tourism and attracts a large number of tourists. Apart from tourism the major sources of the town’s economy are agriculture, photographic film and medicine manufacture.
The Nilgiris lit. ‘The blue mountains’ are the major responsible factor for this town’s popularity. The blue misty haze off the eucalyptus trees that cover the area are considered the reason behind its name, many different possible sources may exist however. In this article I have tried to list out the places you “must visit” in Ooty, especially when you’re on a short time schedule.
1. Botanical Gardens
Laid out in 1848, the government Botanical Gardens is located at the slopes of the Doddabetta peak. The terraced garden is maintained by the Tamil nadu horticultural society and covers an area of 22 hectares. The best time to visit the place is anytime except the monsoons. Now this place will be the first thing the people would mention when you visit ooty, and well, in my opinion it is pretty awesome. Now be prepared for a long walk when you visit this place, I would advise you not to get any kids or people who can’t walk for long. The place is amazing for photographers and casual visitors alike get a supply of food and drinks or you can also buy some snacks at the gardens. I visited this place because of my photographer friends and was totally amazed due to the amount of greens and flowers around me under an amazingly cool weather.
2. Tea Factory
Small and nice, tea factory that is frequented by tourists who visit ooty, although not much to do here, but it was quiet a new experience to me when I visited the place. You can smell the aroma of the fresh tea leaves as soon as you near the place. I love how machines process the fresh tea leaves and package it. There’s also a shop where you can buy the tea processed at the factory. They also provided tea prepared from the freshly processed leaves and it tastes amazingly fragrant. This is a good place to show to the kids as well and I’m sure they’d be delighted.
3. Doddabetta Peak
A visit to Doddabetta Peak was the reason I went to Ooty in the first place. I had heard a lot about the picturesque Nilgiris and the amazing views this place has to offer. The place stands at a height of around 8,650 feet and makes it the highest peaks in south India. This place offers amazing trek spots and plenty of quiet and picturesque locations to solitary wanderers like me. You might want to pack some really good pair of binoculars when you reach this place to enjoy it to the fullest. There is a small eatery placed here courtesy of the tourism department of Tamil nadu that offers some okay tasting food at a cheap price.
4. Hyderabadi Biriyani House
I was pretty hungry and was looking for a place where I could get a good amount of food for a moderate price. While there are a couple of cafes in ooty which offer some good snacks but I was looking for something more solid. I reached the place, and I could smell the fragrant flavors of the Biriyani. Some people might need to mention beforehand for the amount of spice they want though. The portion they served was nice and did quiet a great job at sating the munchies out of me. I have always been a Mughalai food enthusiast and this place I must say did a fine job at delivering the taste. Don’t keep your expectations too high and I’m sure you’ll come back with a full tummy and no sweat. The place is located at Mysore Road, Hill Bunk.
5. Avalanche Lake
The reason I came to ooty was to actually visit the aforementioned Doddabetta peak but wasn’t quite satisfied with amount of indulgence I was seeking with the nature. Although It was suggested by a local there and wasn’t on my itinerary, this place made me love my visit to ooty. Located in the heart of the Nilgiris 28 kilometers from ooty, Avalanche lake is certainly a wanderer’s haven. The surrounding landscape is simply mesmerizing. You can camp beside the lake in tents and enjoy trout fishing. There’s also a hatchery located nearby where you can get the fishing rod and other fishing equipment at. It’s an amazing trek location that made me stay here for 2 days at this place. The place derives its name from a landslide that occurred sometime in the early 1800’s.
6. Government Rose Gardens
The Largest rose gardens in India, the Government Rose Gardens lie on the slopes of the Elk Hill at an elevation of 2200 meters above sea level. It also has one of the largest collections of roses with more than 20,000 different varieties.
7. Pykara River
Known as a sacred place for the Toda people, Pykara River flows through the plateau and form several cascades and waterfalls. The Pykara falls are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ooty and are famous for the shola trees, Toda settlements and wildlife.
8. Ooty Lake
Covering an area of around 65 acres, the Ooty Lake is a manmade lake formed in 1824 under the British. It features a boathouse which offers boating facilities to the visitors and is famous for hosting boat races during the summer month of May.
9. Mudumalai National Park
Also known as a famous Tiger Reserve, the Mudumalai National Park is a home to several wildlife and bird species. The Bengal Tiger, Leopards, Indian Bison, Asiatic Elephants and several other rare species of birds and animals can be found here.
10. Emerald Lake
Although the lake is off limits for the visitors, the emerald lake is located in midst of a reserve forest. The lake can be viewed via a viewpoint on the dam located nearby.
11. Stone House
The bungalow of the erstwhile British Governor John Sullivan, the Stone house was built in 1822. Today it serves as a residence of the principal of the Government Arts College in Ooty and is also considered to be the first bungalow in Ooty.
12. Toda Huts
The last remaining bastions of the Todas, the huts are located by the Ooty Botanical Gardens. Although several Toda people have abandoned these huts in the recent years, these remain one of the most interesting specimens of Ethnic architecture of southern India.
13. Ooty Mountain Railway
Declared as a UNESCO world heritage site, the railways were built by the British in 1908. The trains are still powered using the traditional steam engines.
14. St. Stephens Church
Built in the early 19th century, St. Stephens Church is one of the oldest churches in the Nilgiris District in Tamil Nadu. The foundation of the church was laid in 1829 and shares the date with the birthday of King George IV.
15. Wax World
The Wax museum is housed inside a 142 year old bungalow in Ooty. Although the sculptures are not as impressive as the ones found at Madame Tussauds, but display a brief insight on the people and culture of Ooty and surrounding areas.
16. Tribal Museum
A part of the Tribal Research Center Campus, the Museum is a must visit for people who like to know more about the culture and the inhabitants of Tamil Nadu and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. It houses some rare artifacts and houses that belonged to the various tribes in the Nilgiris.
17. Deer Park
Located by the Ooty Lake, the deer park is one of the few high altitude zoos in India. The visitors get to view a variety of different deer species along with other rare animals and birds.
18. Mariamman Temple
Dedicated to Mariamman, the Hindu goddess of rain, the temple is located at an elevation of 2,240 meters above sea level and is built in a proto-Dravidian style of architecture. The various stucco figures and sculptures are a marvel to behold.
While I wasn’t very excited to visit ooty in the first place, as I wanted to visit more beach destinations but this particular trip made me change my mind about hill stations. There is a lot to explore in this amazingly located south Indian hill station and is indeed a wanderer’s haven.
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