The Queen of Hill Stations
The Queen of Hill Stations in South India is Udhagamandalam or Ootacamund. I find both terms far too long and tongue twisting; and prefer the much shorter term Ooty.
Ooty is certainly the most popular hill station in South India.
Ooty, located in the Western ghats at a height of 2240 metres, is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district where the Eastern and Western ghats meet.
Flora and Fauna
Ooty is full of coffee estates and tea plantations. The dense forests around are full of connifers, eucalyptus, pine and wattle; numerous animals and birds.
Surprisingly, probably due to its inaccessibility, Ooty was practically unknown to the Indians till the early 1800s when it was discovered by John Sullivan, the then British Collector of Coimbatore. The Britishers constructed the first railway line in the area and made Ooty the summer capital of Madras Presidency.
The earlier inhabitants of the land were the tribals called Todas who claim to have lived in the Nilgiris since time immemorial.
The centre of attraction, the artificial Ooty Lake, was constructed by John Sullivan in 1824. The Lake is surrounded by well maintained gardens.
You can do boating in the lake. You can also do fishing, but you have to obtain prior permission from the Assistant Director of Fisheries.
John Sullivan lies buried in the cemetery close to St. Stephens Church (built in 1829) on Club Road.
The beautiful Botanical Garden laid over 50 acres of land was established by the Marquis of Tweeddale in 1848. It is maintained by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
It has a large collection of exotic and ornamental plants; a beautiful Italian floral garden; well maintained lawns and a 20 million year old fossilized tree trunk.
The Government Museum on Mysore Road, which was set up in 1989, has a good collection of tribal artefacts and arts and crafts of Tamil Nadu.
Doddabetta (10 Kms)
Doddabetta is the highest peak (2623 metres) in the Nilgiris. It lies at the junction of Western and Eastern Ghats and offers panoramic views of the Nilgiri Hills. There is a telescope house.
Kotagiri (29 Kms)
Kotagiri is a lovely hamlet (1982 metres feet above sea level). The climate here is very salubrious. The road to Kotagiri is flanked by tea gardens.
It is located about 4 kms from Charring Cross. Spread over 10 acres of land, it has about 2000 variety of roses.
Art Gallery – Lalith Kala Academy (2 Kms)
Situated on the main Mysore road, it has a good collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures from all over India.
Mini Garden (1 Km)
The mini garden (Children’s Lake Garden) is on the way to the Boat House. There is also a children’s amusement park here.
The Deer Park is a park worth visiting.
Mudumulai Wildlife Sanctury (64 kms)
The dense forests shelter a wide range of animals and birds.
The animals include tiger, leopard, elephants, sloth bear, gaur, sambar, spotted deer, Indian muntjac, wild boar, hyena, wild dog, jackal, langur, bonnet macaque, mouse deer and flying squirrel.
The birds include Malabar trogan, Grey hornbill, crested hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle, etc.The Ooty Mysore road actually passes through the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary.
Once we were passing through it in a bus. A musth male elephant was standing in the middle of the road. All traffic had stopped. Finally, after several hours, the elephant felt it was enough and decided to leave. Then only, the traffic resumed.
Coonoor (on the toy-train line – 28 kms from Mettupalayam )
Coonoor, located at an altitude of 1858 metres (6100 ft.) is on the way between Coimbatore and Udhagamandalam. It is a smaller, but equally enchanting, and far more quiet and picturesque hill station in the Nigiris.
The Sim’s Park in Coonoor, having a distinctive Japanese style, contains a large array of plants including the Rudrakhsa (holy beads) tree.
Dolphin’s Nose (12 Kms from Coonoo)
This is a beautiful spot. You can also see the Catherine Falls from here.
Ketti Valley View Point
Located on the road to Coonoor, this spot is a cluster of small villages that extend to the plains of Coimbatore and Mysore plateau.
Kalhatty Water Falls (13 kms from Ooty)
Is located on the Kalhatty slopes on the Ooty – Mysore Kalhatty Ghat road. The height of the water falls is about 100 ft. Kalhatty – Masinagudi slope area is rich in wildlife and different types of birds.
Mukurthi Peak & Mukurthi National Park (40 kms from Ooty)
The Mukurthi National Park is located on the South Eastern corner of the Nilgiris.
The unique feature of this sanctuary is the similarity of its flora and fauna to those found in the Himalayas.
The area contains Nilgiri Tahr (Hamitragus hilocrius).
Silent valley is located on the western side of these ranges.
Pykara (21 kms from Ooty)
Pykara has well protected fenced Sholas; Toda settlements; virgin grassy meadows and also a large variety of wildlife.
The Pykara Dam, Pykara falls and the reservoir are good tourist spots.You can also do some boating here.
Avalanche (28 kms from Ooty)
This is a beautiful lake surrounded by thick shola trees where even sunlight cannot penetrate. This area is a Nature Lover’s Paradise.
The nearest airport is Coimbatore – 100 Kms.Coimbatore has direct flights from Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore.
The unforgettable train journey from Mettupalayam to Ooty passes through eleven stations and over nineteen small bridges.
The train passes throgh areca plantations, tea and coffee estates offering spectacular views of the misty Nilgiris.
Ooty is connected by good motorable road.
It is 535 Kms from Chennai (Via Salem, Mettupalayam) and 89 Kms from Coimbatore.
Ooty has a number of summer festivals.
Flower and Fruit shows; Boat races; Boat pageantry; Dog shows; Cultural Programs; Fashion parades, etc.
These attract a lot of tourists.
Adventure sports like trekking also form part of the festival.
The main season is the summer.
But Ooty is more enchanting during the rainy season.