Ooty Travel guide

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Ooty, short for Ootacamund (an anglicized name for Udhagamandalam), is a popular hill resort in the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India.

The name Udhagamandalam is derived from the TODA word "othakal-mund" which means "house in mountains". Udhaka Mandalam also means "Water Abode" in Sanskrit. Ooty stands at 7,347 feet above sea level in the Nilgiri mountain range. It served as the summer headquarters of the Madras Presidency.

Understand


Located in the mountainous range called the Nilgiris ("Blue Mountains"), it draws swarms of tourists every year. The weather is quite pleasant at a mean of 15-20°C around the year, dropping to lows of 0°C during winter. The landscape is marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation, smaller hills and plateaus covered with tea gardens, and eucalyptus trees. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests, and special permits will be needed to camp in noncamp sites. *Ooty, is not the destination in itself, as much as it is the focal point of attraction. Auto touring the surrounding country side is certainly a must do. Unfortunately, the hill town suffers from overcrowding and erosion of natural resources. Tourism has placed an enormous strain on the natural resources resulting in pollution, water shortage and roads.

The hilly region also houses smaller towns like Coonoor and Kotagiri. These smaller towns are a better choice to visit and spend time in, since they are off the beaten path, yet less than 1 hour away from Ooty. They enjoy the same natural climes and prices are a lot cheaper.

ATMs

There are plenty of cash machines in the town centre, but be aware that the most frequented ones often run out of cash by Sunday afternoon, or on three day weekends. So be careful.

Get in


By plane

The Coimbatore airport is the closest to the hills at 3-1/2 hours by road. There are flights into Coimbatore from Singapore, Sharjah, Colombo and most parts of India including Mumbai (Kingfisher, Indian Airlines,Jet and Go Air), Chennai (Spicejet, Air India, Indigo and Jet) and Bangalore. The Mysore airport is about 4 hours away from Ooty by road but There are no scheduled air services to anywhere from Mysore Airport since quite a while. Also Kingfisher has ceased operations since acouple of years. The road trip is quite scenic from either airport.

By train

The hills are connected to by a nightly train. The Nilgiri Express (Train No. 12671) leaves from Chennai at night, and reaches Mettupalayam (which Indian Railway spells as Metupalaiyam), a small town at the foothills of the Nilgiris early the next morning. The train The Nilgiri Mountain Railway leaves Mettupalayam at 7.10 pushed by a small steam powered historic locomotive that is a remnant of Swiss engineered trains imported in the late 1800s. The train journey will be a very good experience, but only 30 tickets are issued on the spot. A separate queue for this train is at Mettupalayam railway station. You have to be in queue atleast by 5 am. A token will be given from there and you have to take this token to ticket counter(outside the platform,yellow building),get the tickets and get back to the same queue. If you are a team, one can represent for taking token and tickets but all have to be present in queue while embarking the train. Try to get a seat to farther side of platform as this side offers maximum viewing experience. The steam train is much smaller, and can only accommodate a portion of the passengers that disembark at Mettupalayam.You have to book separate ticket for this journey (tickets can be booked through IRCTC(www.irctc.co.in) like any other rail ticket booking.), although many prefer the faster route of taking a cab or a bus from Mettupalayam.

The steam train takes a very scenic route, and the pace of travel will let you take in the beautiful scenery at leisure with stops at stations for the engine to take on water(the journey takes about 5-1/2 hours compared to 2 hours by road). The train uses a rack and pinion system to haul itself up steep slopes, and also to prevent the train from sliding down when stopping. The train is pushed from behind. There are brakesmen at the rear of every carriage who will apply and release hand powered brakes individually for that carriage. The train often travels only at 5 - 10 Kmph, allowing some adventerous passengers to disembark from the train and walk along the train. This practice is not recommended and can be dangerous, besides there is a good chance that the train will speed up, and you will be unable to get back on board.

If you don't have a confirmed ticket for that toy train then you would not get the chance to board in it as railways issue limited say only 30 tickets on the spot at mettupalayam starting at 5:00 AM , and at 1:00 PM at ooty for the full stretch journey from mettupalayam to ooty.

Ooty - Coonoor Train Timings

Ooty to Coonoor

9:15 AM - 10:38 AM

12:15 PM - 1:38 PM

2:00 PM - 3:26 PM

6:00 PM - 7:22 PM

Coonoor to Ooty

7:19 AM - 9:05 AM

10:14 AM - 12:00 PM

12:09 PM - 1:50 PM

4:04 PM - 5:45 PM

By bus

There are buses and shared taxi vans that can be boarded from Coimbatore to Ooty. If you don't want wake up early to take the train from Coimbatore, plenty of buses are also going to Ooty.Also there are plenty of buses leaving from Bangalore and Mysore for Ooty. The Coimbatore "new bus station" has frequent bus service to Ooty via Mettupalayam, and it takes around 3-1/2 hours to get there. On the way back in morning, some busses make a 10-15 minute stop over at Mettupalayam for breakfast. From the "new bus station" it takes about 25minutes by (another) bus to reach the Coimbatore railway station. From Kozhikode (Calicut) there are two government buses daily, leaving 05.00 and 07.00, travel time is about 6 hours. Mysore is served few times a day, too. From Kannur there is a KSRTC Bus starting at 7.30 am everyday and a Tamil Nadu Bus at 10PM everyday reaching ooty at 4PM and 7am next day respectively.

By car

The Nilgiris are in Tamil Nadu, but it is quite near the borders of neighbouring states Karnataka and Kerala. The hills consequently can be reached from within Tamil Nadu by travelling up a heavily forested winding road, with many sharp hair-pin beds. The road trip from any state is quite scenic, although the Coimbatore-Mettupalayam-Coonoor-Ooty road (i.e. the Tamil Nadu route) is the most travelled and well maintained. All roads to the Nilgiri hills are toll roads, although the tolls are quite nominal. If you are planning to visit Ooty and Coonoor from Bangalore then the road trip from Bangalore is the best option to enjoy the scenic beauty & opportunity to click lovely pictures of mountain peaks & tea-coffee plantations. One can travel by booking a taxi from rental service providers.

Ooty is 284 km from Bangalore by road. The journey takes about 8 hours, depending on the condition of the road. One can take a shorter route for which a diversion has to be taken at Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary. This route will take you past the small towns of Masinagudi and Kalhatti. This route will curtail the distance to Ooty by about 50 km. Keep in mind that this road is closed at night as it passes through the jungle, so you may actually have to spend a few hours at the check post which is closed invariably at night. Only good drivers should take on this road as it is very narrow and steep. You'll find some eateries and a fuel station in the town of Masinagudi. There are some wonderful resorts around Masinagudi town where one can rent a cottage. These places are a good weekend getaway for rest and relaxation. There are eating places between Bangalore and Mysore, and within Mysore, but from Mysore to Ooty one should carry some food, as there are very few restaurants. One can hire a comfortable cab with well-experienced drivers from Bangalore to Ooty. Start early if you can so that the drive through Bandipur and Mudumalai forest can be done leisurly taking in the occassional animal sightings.

Distance from Ooty to various cities:

Get around


Taxis, tourist cabs, auto rickshaws are available in plenty. There are no standard rates except tourist cabs. Rickshaws charge a minimum of Rs 30. Town buses are also available to all important places. Conducted sight seeing tours are arranged by the private operators and the Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC). There are around 3-4 different day trip routes/packages available. Bus day-trip cost around Rs 125-150 and taxi day-trip cost around Rs 900-1100. Even if you arranged the taxi through the hotel (even TTDC), please verify with the hotel and operator before the trip that there are no hidden costs. Because the taxi drivers demand high parking fees extra and lunch, which is already paid for. The bus/taxi drivers get commission from remote restaurants and shops and they are overpriced, try avoiding such restaurants.

Both bus and a taxi will take tourists to some remote high-priced restaurant for lunch, try not to eat in such places because the food is cold, overpriced and the place is not clean beyond the facade, and you will end up paying for taxi driver's lunch too.

You can get a one-way cab from Coimbatore which is quiet economical, starting at Rs 1200/- for one side, especially useful if you are planning to stay for long. Once you reach Ooty you can hire another taxi or other means for local sightseeing and use the one way taxi again to go back to Coimbatore or if you plan to exit from Mysore or Bangalore

Also, avoid auto drivers recommendation they will take you to the hotels for accommodation where they get 20% commission which will be already added in your room tariff without your knowledge.

If you are a solo traveller or a backpacking couple, or a group of adventure enthusiasts, it is best to hire a two wheeler. You can really enjoy and explore areas in and around Ooty with the two wheeler. There are plenty of two wheeler rental shops. An Activa will cost you around Rs. 400 to Rs. 500 per day with Rs. 1000 deposit. You can search on Justdial for two wheeler rental shops, call them in advance, and book your bike. Many shops can deliver a bike to your hotel at a nominal charge of Rs. 50. Before taking a delivery, make sure to inspect the two-wheeler and take its photographs in your phone from all the sides. Make sure it is fitted with rear view mirror.

See


If you are on a sightseeing tour to Ooty, you might want to visit the Government Botanical gardens, which were laid out in 1847.The picturesque gardens that are maintained by the Horticulture department of the state, cover an area of about 22 hectares. The Gardens have well over 650 species of plants and trees, including a fossil of a tree, which is believed to be more than 20 million years old. Some trees towards the interior uphill side are more than 100 years old. And one should walk down till very end (uphill) to see the tall eucalytus tree pair.

The garden is very popular with nature lovers and those who long to walk among greenery and see rare ferns and shrubs up close. If you are in Ooty in the month of May, then you can also be a part of the summer festival, which is held here annually. The festival holds flower shows and various cultural programs showcasing the talent of the locals and the renowned artists.

It is located about 20 km from Ooty. It an amazingly dense forest. You need to park your vehicle at the entry post and purchase tickets for the jungle Safari. Government vehicles will take you on a 2-hour ride into the deep forest. You can spot wild animals such as Deer, Sambars, Bisons, Foxes, and Elephants. Carry a camera with a telephoto lens (or zoom lens). If you are visiting this place during monsoon (June to September), carry full rainproof jackets and trousers (or raincoats). Usually this region gets a lot of rainfall. Last stop during the safari is Avalanche lake (also known as Upper Bhavani lake) backwaters. It the most beautiful place for photographs and relaxation.

The Doddabetta Peak stands at an altitude of 2,623 meters. It is the highest point in the district, making it possibly the best vantage point around Ooty. It is merely 10km from Ooty so you can simply grab your camera and head straight to the peak, and click amazing pictures of the valley below. Many say that on a clear day, which is honestly not that often, one can see far off areas, even the plains of Coimbatore and the flat highlands of Mysore.you can get there by catching a bus from ooty bus stand which will just charge you 10 Rs. but will have to walk about 3 km. from the stop where the bus will drop you. you will enjoy the way up the peak ,if you love walking.

Doddabetta Tea Park is situated right next to the Doddabetta Peak in Ooty. It is also simply called as Tea Park. It is a treat to the eyes, with lush-green tea plantations and lawns for the tourists to walk around. It is a great spot to relax with the family, with lot of place for the kids to play. It has a children's playing area as well. As soon as you get down the Doddabetta Peak, instead of taking left to the Ooty town, you need to take sharp U-turn. From there the Tea Park is about 2 kms. An arch towards the right of the road welcomes you to the Tea Park.

Recently developed by Ooty horticulture department. This has a large variety of flowers and florals shaped in different kinds of animals. It's a large garden with varirty of cactii plants. Good for family and kids to enjoy and relax in the open area.

Annamalai Temple is a situated about 20 km distance from Ooty. This place has grown as a famous temple of Lord Muruga, known as 7th Hill house of the lord. The view from the Temple is really awesome. There is an observatory at the top of the hill for the public to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view.

It is an amazing and very large area garden. You can enjoy varieties of roses there. The roses bloom only for 2-3 months a year (not sure when), so going during the off-season is not very interesting. If interested can buy the seeds and plants also.

This is in (Coonoor) which is 32km away from Ooty and usually accessible via toy-train. Similar to ooty botanical garden, very rare plants and trees are present. The park is famous for the fruit show it hosts annually during summer festivals. Some very old and rare trees are found in this garden. Recently some activity is going on to add a small man-made lake/pond to this garden, and add kids' play area.

An exibition of artificial flowers and paintings made from threads. Its collaborative effort of many weavers and brought into the limelight by some NGOs. Its located in front of Ooty Lake.

The small lake which gets water from the rain-water from hills. Govn is developing this as a tourist spot by opening boating facilities. But lake water is deteroriating Ooty Lake

Its a private investment not supported by Govt. Don't expect much like other foreign wax museums which are helped by tourism authorities for advertisements and promotions. But for sight seeing its good. More attraction is the very old house, where the museum is set up. Candles are available. But it is suffering from funds for expansion so they request tourists to visit so that they can get help from them, which is the only form of support.

Several Tea gardens and factories are there. On the way, you will get lots of them. They will approach you with free tea taste and offer some tea packets to buy. But be cautious if you don't have much knowledge about tea, better not to buy from them as the packet tea has not the same taste as they gave you to taste. The spices quality is not so good. They also have a chocolate factory, but you may get better chocolates from Ooty Market as well.

It's an awesome experience. Though the rate of boating is a little bit high but still it is worthy. Fresh air, good feeling and good view. The rates are as follows (June 2017): 8 seater motor boat Rs 750 (for 20 mins); 20 seater motor boat Rs 1200 (for 20 mins), 2 seater speed boat Rs 600 (for 10 mins). It is best to go with 8 seater boat. If you do not have engough numbers to make it 8, just ask people standing in a ticket queue and you form a group of 8 people. There is no compulsion that 8 seater boat should always carry 8 people. If you want, you can have the entire boat for yourself by paying 750 Rs.

Some called it as 'Lambs rock" naturally took the shape of a lamb. Go through a very small forest and then you can see the rock.

It has beautiful meadows on the rolling hills. It will be full of lush green grass during the rainy season. To experience the beauty, you need to climb the hill and look around. This location is on the way to Pykara lake.

It's a natural beauty. Beautiful pin forest to click lots of photos or to just relax and enjoy the shade. There is a lake if you climb down from the forest trail. Be careful while walking on the trail as it is steep. This location is on the way to Paykara lake.

The area is near Coonoor, which is 32KM from Ooty. From Coonoor, you need to hire a Jeep/Taxi to visit the local spots.

The Ooty Radio Telescope (ORT) is a 530-metre (1,740 ft) long and 30-metre (98 ft) wide Cylindrical Paraboloid telescope. It an inspiring place to visit, if you are an Engineer or interested in Astronomy/Astrophysics.

Do


Most travel agents / hotels conduct guided tour packages that will bundle you into a bus, and tick off the most important and hence crowded "tourist" spots in the area. Some hotels also arrange for private cars like Indica, TATA Sumo.

Buy


Ooty and Nilgiris are well known for a variety of local products like tea, eucalyptus oil, chocolates, spices and gourmet cheese. There are a lot of shops that deal these products, though you have to be careful you get an authentic product.

Visit Taj Bakers, Main Bazaar, Ooty. For traditional Ooty Biscuit called (Varkey)and other bakery items like home made chocolates, cakes etc.

Eat


There are various restaurants in Ooty , mostly offering South Indian food, but some offer North Indian food.

One can also obtain some Chinese/Indo-Chinese food from restaurants such as Wang's kitchen, Shinkows and Western food such as pizza and sandwiches from chains like Hot Breads. Shinkows is a bit overpriced.Do not miss trying Ooty's famous buns, varkis, cakes, and other baked goods, as well as fruit and nut chocolates. Try Modern Stores and Kingstar Bakery.

Drink


The Nilgiris is famous for Teas.

Hotel Blue hills on Commercial Road. Best Non-veg hotel in Ooty. Serving biriyani and other dishes for more than a decade.

Sleep


There is no dearth of accommodations, with many hotels and inns that cater to every budget. Accommodations are no more expensive than most cities in India, and the popular Indian hotel chains have a presence here.

Get out


There are a few comfortable KSRTC buses which ply for Bangalore, 510rs. Book with a tour agent.

Takes about 8 hours and there is a food stop along the way.

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