"That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material." ~ Swami Vivekananda

Tamil Nadu

Ooty
Ootacamund or Ooty as it is popularly known, spreads over 36 square miles, amidst tea and coffee plantations, is an ideal holiday destination for the city-weary.

Ootacamund or Udhagamandalam, which stands 7,349 feet above sea level in the Nilgiris, is known as the Queen of southern hill resorts of India. Ooty, as it is popularly known, spreads over 36 square miles and offers a picturesque green feast for the eyes. Apart from coffee and tea plantations, trees like conifers, eucalyptus, pine and wattle line the hillside in Udhagamandalam and its environs.

The first inhabitants of this land were a tribe called Todas who had been living here long before the British came in the early nineteenth century. But the credit for modernising Udhagamandalam and making it accessible goes to the British who constructed the first railway line in the area and made it the summer capital of the Madras Presidency.

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Settlement in Udhagamandalam began in 1822 with the construction of the Stone House by John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore. Locally known as Kal Bangla, it is one of the landmarks of Udhagamandalam and is now the Chamber of the Principal of the Government Arts College. Not many years after the construction of the Stone House, several other English cottages with pretty gardens, large bungalows of top officials in the Government were built.

Even today the atmosphere of the Raj lingers in places like the Club where snooker was invented by a subaltern named Neville Chamberlain. The Nilgiri Library with its rare and valuable collection of books on Udhagamandalam and St. Stephen's Church which was Udhagamandalam's first church are reminiscent of the Raj. The cemetery near the church has the oldest British tombstones and includes graves of John Sullivan's wife and daughter, among other prominent personalities.

 

Among the viewpoints around Udhagamandalam are Elk Hill, Green Valley View and Snowden Peak. The most prominent viewpoint is the Dodabetta Peak, the highest point in the district, from where on a clear day, one can see as far as the plains of Coimbatore and the Mysore plateau.
Charing Cross is a road junction with markets surrounding it. A short walk from here is the Spencers departmental store, which still sells its own Planter's Special cigars, made of Indian tobacco. Ootacmund Club is the most exclusive, and best preserved of all the former British clubs. The Ooty hunt, which still rides to hounds, in pursuit of jackals, is one of the main offerings of the club. A good game of golf can be had, at the Wenlock Downs, of the Ooty Gymkhana Golf Club. Ooty races are the other major attraction. The Ootacmund Derby is the climax of the season and attracts top Indian jockeys.

The Botanical Garden maintained by the Horticulture Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu has a very wide variety of plants that include different types of roses, imported shrubs, rare flowering plants, eucalyptus trees, several old trees and even a fossilised tree trunk 20 million years old. The Summer Festival is held annually during the month of May in the Botanical Garden and is an added attraction for tourists. There is also a beautiful Italian floral garden and for those who simply want to relax, there's always the green carpet of the well-maintained lawns. The artificial Lake, yet another of Sullivan's contributions, has facilities for boating and permission to fish can be obtained from the office of the Assistant Director of Fisheries.

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Among the viewpoints around Udhagamandalam are Elk Hill, Green Valley View and Snowden Peak but the most prominent is the Dodabetta Peak, which is the highest point in the district at a height of 2623m. Provided the day is clear, one can see as far as the plains of Coimbatore and the Mysore plateau. Also for the nature lover are the sprawling 20,000 acres of Wenlock Downs, which was once the scene of the famous Udhagamandalam Hunt. The Gymkhana Club, the factory of the Hindustan Photo Films Company, the Government Sheep Farm and the Golf Course are all in Wenlock Downs.
Among the viewpoints around Udhagamandalam are Elk Hill, Green Valley View and Snowden Peak. The most prominent viewpoint is the Dodabetta Peak, the highest point in the district, from where on a clear day, one can see as far as the plains of Coimbatore and the Mysore plateau.
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Landmarks

Mini Garden
At about one kilometre distance from the bus stand is the mini garden (Children's Lake Garden), which is on the way to Boat House. A children's amusement park is housed here. A snack bar is also available. It is maintained by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation Limited.

Lalith kala Academy
It is situated about 2 km., from Udhagamandalam on the main Mysore road. It has various collections of contemporary paintings and sculptures all over from India.

Rose Garden
It is located just 3/4 km away from Charring Cross. It lies with 10 acres of land with 1919 variety of roses.

Botanical Garden
Established in 1848, by the Marquis of Tweeddale, the gardens lie on the lower slopes of Dodabetta peak, the highest point in Ooty. The gardens are formally laid out with lily ponds, and there are clipped bushes in the form of elephants, with raised trunks. Here, a thousand different species of plants including some thirty types of eucalyptus are to be found. There is a fossil three trunk 20 million years old in the midst of the garden. The Roman Catholic Cathedral, recently enlarged, can be seen on the road from Charing Cross to the Botanical Gardens. The botanical gardens are the venue of an annual Flower Show every May.

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Lake
This artificial lake was constructed in 1824 by Mr. John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore. The lake covers an area of one and a half square miles, with a railway running along one bank. The large graveyard of St. Thomas's church, built in 1870, overlooks the lake. It has the tallest memorial of Ooty, a huge pillar surmounted by a cross, over the grave of William Patrick Adam, the Governor of Madras Presidency, who died in Ooty in 1881. Paddleboats or rowing boats are available for boating enthusiasts. The lake garden and toy train are other attractions.

Government Museum
The Government Museum, Mysore Road, Udhagamandalam has tribal objects, the district's ecological details and representative sculptural arts and crafts of Tamil Nadu.

The Mukurthi Peak & Mukurthi National Park
Mukurthi Peak is about 40 km from Ooty. The Mukurthi National park is located on the South Eastern corner of the Nilgiris plateau. The area contains a viable population of Nilfiti Thar (Hamitragus hilocrius). The Silent Valley is located on the Western side of these ranges. Fascinating feature of the Mukurthi Sanctuary is its endemism and relationship with Himalayan flora and fauna.

Ketty Valley View
Located en route to Coonoor, this idyllic spot is a cluster of tiny villages that extend to the plains of Coimbatore and Mysore plateau.

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Pykara (21 km)
Situated on the Ooty Mysore Road it boasts of fenced Shola and Toda settlements, undisturbed grassy meadows and also a good wildlife habitat. The Pyakara Dam and the reservoir attract many tourists.

Glenmorgan (17 km)
An Electricity Board van carries staff from Glenmorgan viewpoint to the power house at Singara. All the four km of the winch track pass through undisturbed Sholas and wildlife habitat. Prior permission of E. B. authorities should be obtained to enter the viewpoint zone.

Upper Bhavani
10 km from Korakundah and about 20 km from Avalanche. From Bangithappal via Sispara one can trek to the Silent Valley.

Avalanche (26km)
About 26 km from Ooty is Avalanche, known after an avalanche in the area in 1823. This is one of the best spots for trout fishing, and rods can be hired here from the trout hatchery. A 7 km walk from Avalanche is the MacIvor's Bund. Ahead of this is Mukerti Peak, at an altitude of 8031 feet, which is also a part of Nilgiri Tahr Sanctuary, created in the most remote part of the mountains. An abundance of a wide variety of avifauna makes it a Nature Lover's Paradise.

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Western Catchment
It is about 20 km from Parason Valley. It consists of rolling grassy downs interspersed with temperate Sholas occupying depressions and valleys.

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctury (67 km)
Lying in the Nilgiri District abutting Kerala & Karnataka State, this is situated at an elevation of 1000 metres and extends over an area of 321 sq. km. The sanctuary has a variety of fauna, which includes elephant, gayr, tiger, panther, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse, wild boar and porcupine. The avifauna is varied with minivets, hornbills, fairy blue birds, jungle fowls etc. The reptilians are represented by python, monitor lizard and flying lizard etc. Flora includes tropical evergreen forest, moist deciduous forest, moist teak forest dry teak forest, secondary grasslands and swamps.

Other picturesque scenic spots in the sanctuary include the Moyar Waterfalls, the Chief Minister's watchtower. Ombetta Swamp, Theppakad elephant camp etc. Elephant and vehicle rides in the sanctuary along visitor routes can be made on payment.

Doddabetta (10 km)
The highest peak (2623 metres) in the Nilgiris, it lies at the junction of Western & Eastern Ghats and offers beautiful vistas of the Nilgiri Hills ranges. There is a telescope house run by TTDC.

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Kalhatty Falls
It is located on the Kalhatty slopes and about 13 km from Ooty

Wenlock Downs
A vast expanse of undulating landscape offers the pleasure of long stroll on quiet roads. Gymkhana Club, the government Sheep Farm and Hindustan Photo Films Company are important landmarks here.

Elka Hills
A wide and uninterrupted view of Udhagamandalam and the Lovedale Valley can be had from here.

Snowden Peak
Situated on the Kothagiri Road, it offers a picturesque view of Mysore.

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Coonoor (17 km)
Coonoor a small town that stands on a lower ridge of the plateau at an altitude of 1858 m has an equable climate that has made it popular as a hill resort in its own right. The main attraction is the Sim's Park, a small well-maintained botanical garden that has several varieties of plants not to be found in other hill stations. Viewpoints and picnic spots around Coonoor include Lamb's Rock, Lady Canning's Seat, Dolphin's Nose, St Catherine Falls, Law's Falls, Ralliah Dam and Droog.

Dolphin's Nose
12km from Coonoor, a glimpse of the Catherine Falls can be had from here.

Lamb's Rock (8km)
A sheer precipice of several hundred metres it commands a good view of the Coimbatore plains.

Law's falls (7 km)
It is situated in the Ghat RF of Coonoor forest range and the drop of 180 feet is a sight to see. St. Catherine Falls (8 km) The environ of the falls has a beautiful scenery.

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Sim's Park
This park - cum - botanical garden contains many rare species of trees. The Annual Fruit and Vegetable show is held here in May.

Kotagiri (31 km)
It is 1983 m (6503ft) above the sea level and has a climate advantage over Ooty as Kotagiri is shielded by the Doddabetta ranges, which receives much of its rain from northwest monsoon. One can enjoy a pleasure ride on road flanked by green tea beds on either side.

Kodanad View Point
20 km from Kothagiri on the eastern edges of Nilgiris. On either side of the road one can experience the sight of the endless view of the distant plains, tea estates, the River Moyar, dams and the green pastures of the paddy field, a place not to be missed. Other areas of attraction around Ooty are Mukerti Lake, Pykara Lake, Tiger Hill and Marlimun Lake.

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Fairs & Festivals
1. Tea & Tourism Festival Ooty (January)
2. Thaipoosam in Elk Hill Murugan Temple (February)
3. Bokkapuram Mari Amman Annual Festival (February)
4. Ooty Mariamman Temple Festival (April)
5. Coonoor Mariamman Temple Car Festival (April-May)
6. Boat Races and Boat Pageantry in Ooty (May)
7. Summer Festival in Ooty (May)
8. Flower Show in Ooty (May)
9. Fruit show in Coonoor (May)

The Summer Festival is held each year during the month of May in the Botanical Garden and is an added attraction for tourists. Salubrious climate, lingering taste of tea and fruits tempt you to come here year after year. The Flower Show is the pride of the festival. Cultural programmes are organised for those interested in traditional classical arts. Adventure spots like trekking also form part of the festival.

An annual Seasonal festival is held here with a display of the various varieties of flowers and vegetables. Various cultural programmes are held during the summer season, attracting viewers from around the world. The boathouse at the Ooty Lake provides boating and also offers an annual water sports competition, which attracts a huge number of participants.

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Various festivals related to Tea and Tourism are hosted here. A fruit show is hosted at the Sim's Park annually during the summer. The united planters association (U.P.A.S.I.) has its head quarters here. The Pasteru Institute one of its kind of located here, which is renowned for their vaccines. All these are jointly organised by the Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu & Ministry of Tourism, Government of India.

General Information

Accommodation
Savoy Hotel and the Fernhill Palace owned by the Maharaja of Mysore and managed by the Taj Group are some luxury options. Hotel Tamil Nadu, Hotel Dasaprakash, Nilgiris Woodland Hotel, Regency Villa and Hotel Nahar are some mid-range hotels in Ooty. The TTDC Youth Hostel, YWCA and Reflections Guest House offer budget accommodations.

Places to Eat
Savoy Hotel, Hotel Dasaprakash and Tandoori Mahal offer good meals. The Shinkow's Chinese Restaurant has some delicious Chinese cuisine.

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How to get There
Air: The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (105 km), which has daily flights to and from Madras, Bangalore, Cochin and Trivandrum.
Rail: For a magnificent view of the hillside covered with forests, a train journey is recommended. The Nilgiri Express leaves Madras at night, reaching Coimbatore in the morning, and continues to the small town of Mettupalyam, at the foot of the mountains. From Mettupalyam, it connects to the Nilgiri Passenger, which takes you to Ooty.
Road: There is a regular bus service from Bangalore (300 km), Mysore (170 km), Coimbatore (105 km), Calicut (187 km) and Cochin (281 km).

Getting Around
Ooty has taxis, three wheeler scooter rickshaws, local buses, and during the season, guided tours to take you around the city. Fixed prices for standard tourist sights are listed at Charing Cross taxi stand. Temperature (Averages)
Summer: 10c to 25c
Winter: 5c to 21c

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Best Season
April to September.
Tourist Information
Tourist Office, Govt of Tamil Nadu, Supermarket Complex, Charing
Cross, Udhagamandalam - 1, Phone: 0423/43977


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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.