Udhagamandalam was anglicized as Ootacamund and then shortened into Ooty. This town sprawls on a plateau, 2240 km above sea level, in the Nilgiri Hills. Ooty is a charming hill town and is one of the popular travel destinations in Tamil Nadu. The slopes around the town are covered with tea, eucalyptus, and conifers. The patches of fern, carrots and turnips impart beauty to these slopes. The journey from Mettupalayam to Ooty is picturesque. While you can drive up, you can also do this journey by Nilgiri Mountain Railway which has a small train running on narrow gauge track. Ooty was once the most popular hill station in South India. Today though it has newer counterparts, it enjoys a significant patronage from nature lovers and holiday seekers.
Attractions in Ooty
Situated at 8696 ft, Doddabetta is the highest peak in Ooty and its environs. It offers splendid views of the surrounding summits. It is 9 km from the town. The road is scenic but you’ve got to be prepared for a bumpy ride. For viewing through the telescope, installed in a chamber, you’ll have to wait in a queue.
This is one of the most pleasant places to visit in Ooty. Spread over fifty acres, the botanical gardens are dotted with lily ponds and beds, and numerous varieties of shrubs, flowers, and trees. Here you can walk around and breath in the fresh air or just lounge on a bench and take in the scenery.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway
Built around the end of the 19th century, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This line was sponsored by tea-planters and other British inhabitants. In the distance of 46 km, the small train passes through sixteen tunnels, eleven stations, and 250 bridges. It crosses several deep gorges, forests, and tea plantations. While the ride is enjoyable, it takes twice the time taken by road travel.
Ooty Lake and Boat House
Ooty Lake is a major attraction in the town. It is an artificial lake constructed in 1824 by John Sullivan. There is a boathouse which provides pedal-boats and motor-boats. Touristy things like horse riding, food outlets, and children entertainment are also available.
St Stephen’s Church
This small Gothic-style church is one of the oldest churches in the region. It was built in the 1820s. As per local lore, there was a Toda temple here before the church was built.
Tea Factory and Museum
Tea plantations had sprouted in Ooty very soon after John Sullivan discovered this place in the early 19th century. If there are plantations, there has to be a processing house; this processing house doubles up as a Tea Museum. Here they try to present the history of tea; how it originated in the world, in India, and in the Nilgiris. They also offer an introduction to the tea processing and a walk through the factory.
Pykara Falls and Lake
The best excursion out of Ooty is to Pykara Falls. You’ve got to drive 25 km north of Ooty to reach this place. The road traverses through the thick forest. You’ll have to leave your vehicle 500 m before the fall. Here a gentle stream gently descends through a tract of rocks. A further drive of 1.5 km will take you to Pykara Lake, which is situated amidst the forest. Tamil Nadu Tourism, runs a snack bar here. Boating is available for enthusiasts. You can take a virtual tour of Pykara Lake by clicking here.
When to visit Ooty?
Ooty is an year round destination. Hordes of holiday-seekers ascend to Ooty from the nearby plains during summer. So, summers can be pretty much crowded. The Nilgiris are at their best during and after monsoons. During winter, temperatures can drop to zero degree celcius.
How to reach Ooty?
Rail: Ooty has a railway station which is connected to Mettupalayam (50 km) by a narrow gauge railway. The nearest major rail-head is Coimbatore Junction (84 km).
Road: Ooty is 84 km northwest of Coimbatore and 126 km south of Mysore.
Air: The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (88 km).