- Ajaz Shaikh
Ooty - The Queens Of Hills
It would be really difficult to make a list of top places to visit in Ooty as the area is so beautiful and when it comes to things to do in Ooty there are a lot of options from beautiful gardens to boating in tranquil lakes. Honeymoon in Ooty is also very popular among couples as the cool weather and the beautiful scenery attract them. So here I have tried to create a travel itinerary from my experience, which is ideal for your next backpacking trip as well as for a family trip.
For those who don't know with its splendid beauty and picture perfect backdrops, Ooty is truly a director's delight for an outdoor shoot. Will try to give you references to some of the famous Bollywood movies that captured Ooty's charms.
How to reach Ooty from Mumbai?
There is no direct connectivity from Mumbai to this town. The nearest railway station is Mettupalayam but there is no direct between Mumbai and Mettupalayam. Coimbatore is the nearest city to Ooty and has good connectivity with Mumbai. Based on the time factor you can decide between train & flight journey. I preferred to go by flight and return by train so that I can save money on extra shopping luggage bags.
By Air via Coimbatore: If you are one of my types who has a 9 to 5 full-time job and loves to travel then the most practical and expedient way to reach Coimbatore is via flight. To save cost I had booked my ticket 3 months in advance which has cost me Rs. 2800 one-way from Mumbai to Coimbatore.
By Train via Coimbatore: Train travel is another utilitarian option if you’re looking to optimise your costs and you’ve got the time to spare. Coimbatore has direct train connectivity from Mumbai.
How reach Ooty from Coimbatore?
Local Bus Services: There are direct bus services from New Coimbatore Bus Depot to Ooty and the frequency is also high, you will get both state transport and private buses. It will take around 3 hours to cover a distance of 85 km via Coonor and the bus ticket will cost around Rs. 50 to 200 per person. Buses are available between 5 am to 8 pm.
Hired Car / Self Driving Car: Probably one of the most expensive options as it can easily cost you around Rs. 2500 to Rs.3000 for a one-way journey, but if you are travelling with your group you can go for this option. Alternatively, you can take a self-driving car from Coimbatore for your entire trip.
Bike On Rent: This is what I did, perfect for solo and budget travellers. Take a bike on rent from Coimbatore for your entire trip, this will cost you between Rs. 600 to Rs. 1200 per day. The curves on the road can bring you all the joy, plus it's super scenic so you can stop at all viewpoint
Make sure you have your driving license with you.
Don’t forget to take some warm clothes along with you to overcome the cold climate.
Wear helmets, both riders – or else you’ll end up being fined by the police.
Avoid travelling at night
From Odanthurai in Mettupalyam where you will find two ways to climb up the Queen of Hills (Ooty).
Via Coonoor → Mostly people prefer this route as the road is big. Maximum all direct public transport to Ooty via Coimbatore and Mettupalyam drive this route. You will find a lot of shops in between. Coimbatore - Mettupalayam - Coonoor - Ooty. To stop at try from dal wada with tea at
Via Kothagiri → This is not a busy road. The road is very steep. Bikers generally love this route and they wish to go in this route as this gives a lot of adventures. Coimbatore - Mettupalayam - Kothagiri - Ooty.
Where to Stay in Ooty?
To avoid wasting travel time, I prefer to stay around Main Market and Zostel Ooty is the best option. It's suitable for backpackers and solo travellers like us.
Zostel Ooty is a colonial-era bungalow that is made into a hostel with shared dorms and private rooms. There is even a fireplace inside the dorms, not functional but they have kept it there as such. The windows open to a great view of the valley with colourful houses. For a bed, in a dorm, they charge ₹ 690 per bed/night and for a private room ₹ 3000 per night for double occupancy.
For one night I also stayed at Earl's Secret & King Cliff Hotel this place is an aristocratic mansion surrounded by lush green. The purpose of my stay here was something else, which I have shared in my blog.
Day 1: Ooty - A Place Straight Outta Dream
Breakfast @ Ooty Coffee House
Coming to Ooty and the first thing you do is have breakfast at Ooty Coffee House and try the iconic coffee that enchants you with its aroma not doing so would be nothing less than a crime.
And the buck doesn’t stop here, for you can pair your coffee with some authentic South Indian fare, which is what Ooty food is in a true sense. It’s among the most popular veg restaurant in Ooty, serving splendid food that is light on your tummy and wallet.
Timing: 08:15 AM to 09:30 PM
Needle Rock View Point
One of the most amazing places to get a panoramic view of the Nilgiris and is not frequented too much by tourists. The viewpoint is also known as Soochimalai and gets its name from its conical shape.
Needle Rock is much more than just a viewpoint. Leagues apart from a usual sunrise and sunset point, it's a gorgeous place, with the drive from Ooty being a major draw to come all the way up till here.
Needle View Point forms a wonderful backdrop for a photograph with your special one which can be cherished for the times to come.
This marvellous tourist attraction derives its name from a cone-shaped rock which is one of the main features of this area. This place offers its visitor after a lonely trek a breathtaking view of grasslands and the valley of the Nilgiris. The beautiful landscapes that tourists travelling to Ooty view from this spot make them forget all the worries of a hectic life.
As per the locals, this place also offers a memorable view that visitors can truly enjoy is the sunset which is visible from this spot. But I strongly suggest not to wait until the sunsets. As it is a highly forested area, there is a high probability of wild animals coming out on the prowl after sunset. Be advised to take some warm clothes with you, as the temperatures can drop during the leeward end of the day even during the monsoon.
Ancient Jail Tea Museum
A jail in the tea garden! That was exactly my reaction when I come to know about these places. After all, jail is the last thing anyone would expect in such picturesque surroundings. Sadly, I could not find more about this place because it was close for visitors temporarily. This place will be at my top on my next trip to Ooty, but here are a few images for you to enjoy.
Pykara Lake & Waterfall
Pykara Lake is one of the most beautiful places in Ooty just to enjoy the greenery and serene atmosphere. The Pykara river gives birth to a series of fine waterfalls and the large Pykara Lake. While the drive towards the lake is an idyllic experience in itself, the boating inside is no less joyful.
A few hundred meters north of the lake, the river tumbles down the rocks to form the famed Pykara Falls. The greens around, thick forests at the shores, and the pines in the backdrop, all create an atmosphere to make you hop on the decks. At Pykara Lake and Falls, you have everything you need to enjoy a day out with your friends/family or enjoy a solitary nature walk. Whether you’re a nature lover, photographer or a newly married couple, you shouldn’t miss this attraction.
Pykara Lake and Pykara Waterfall are at different locations approx. 2-3 kms apart. Comparatively, you will find more people at Pyakara Lake as compared to Pykara Waterfall.
A major attraction for the tourists at Pykara Lake is the boathouse, apart from housing a small cafeteria. So do take a boat ride into the shimmering waters, the scenic views from the centre of the lake will literally leave you spellbound and asking for more.
Perhaps the most touching scene of the film Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani where Prem AKA Ranbir Kapoor proposes to his lady love Jenny AKA Katrina Kaif amidst the beautiful lake with boats floating around in the background? That was the beautiful Pykara Lake!
Pyakara Waterfall has a mesmerizing view and photogenic background so you can just sit back, relax and read what all you can do, apart from gorging at the scenic natural beauty.
St. Stephen's Church
A fabulous colonial structure with high-arched stained-glass windows, located in the midst of verdant woodland surroundings – that’s St. Stephen’s Church for you, it was built to coincide with the birthday of King George IV. One of the oldest churches in the Nilgiris region, it is known for its magnificent Victorian-era architecture while the tranquil vibes and spiritual aura of the edifice make it one of the must-visit places in Ooty.
The main beam and all the required timber were taken from Tipu Sultan's palace after the British defeated him in the Mysore War. The timber was bought all the way down from Seringapatanam and carried through the Sigur Ghat. The marvel of British architecture is clearly visible in the church and it also has a painting of the Last Supper.
Dinner @ Hyderabadi Biryani House (HBH)
I know after such an amazing day, you also need an amazing place to fill your stomach. For Hyderabad Biryani House - A Big Outsider's Thumbs Up!
A must-visit place in the town for all the foodies, amazing Biryani, Kebabs and grill chicken especially Alfaham Chicken. Its name is certain to come up when residents or even frequent tourists are asked about the best non-vegetarian restaurants in Ooty. All of the dishes are reasonably priced, which is another factor contributing to their appeal.
Try this: Alfham Chicken, Mutton Biryani & Grilled Chicken.
Day 2: Ooty - The Lake City
Avalanche Forest Reserve - Avalanche Lake & River
Avalanche Lake is counted as one of the star attractions that Ooty houses among nature enthusiasts and photographers. If you are wondering how the lake landed with such a name, it is a misnomer because it was formed by a huge landslide and not an avalanche. You find large varieties of flowers, like magnolias and rhododendrons blooming on all sides of the lake. The waterfalls rushing down the nearby mountains further add to the beauty of this already alluring landscape.
The surroundings of the dam are considered as a sanctuary and it's a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve with a variety of wildlife and offers a beautiful experience to visitors in the lap of nature. Trekking enthusiasts keep flocking here to try their hands at the various trekking trails, the most popular one being the trek along the Bhavani River. One can also trek up to the adjoining hills to enjoy an eagle's eye view of Ooty.
The serenity of the place is breath-taking as it boasts of the marvellous Shola forests, the gurgling rivers, spectacular mountain ranges, plantations and renowned Avalanche Lake.
If you travelling by public transport then to explore this place you can opt for Forest Department Mini Bus / Jeeps covering Lake, Bhavani Temple and Hydropower plant. The bus starts from Forest Department Check Post 3 Kms before Avalanche Lake. The buses are run between 9 am to 3 pm (2 hours ride) at specific intervals. It is advised to take the 9 am bus to have better chances of wildlife sighting. Jeeps are also available for a group of 8 people.
Avalanche Road (Around King Nook)
Apart from the lake Avalanche Road in itself is an amazing stretch to drive, if you love greenery. I took this picture around the King Nook homestay. The location of King Nook homestay is amazing but the place is not maintained well, so I don't recommend staying here. Just a few kilometres ahead of this Instagrammable point is N R Cottage, a pocket-friendly place out of the hustle-bustle of town
Emerald Lake is a part of the Silent Valley National Park, it's serene and away from the maddening crowd. The lake and its surroundings are much cleaner and offer a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely time in the vicinity of nature and quietude
It is one of the unexplored & virgin places and an ideal spot in Ooty for nature lovers. Tourists usually flock there for the picturesque scenic beauty of the lake, and the green Nilgiri slopes and tea plantations surrounding it. It is a paradise for nature photography enthusiasts as the delightful landscape offers a perfect subject and composition.
Emerald Lake falls on the way to Avalanche Lake, it's a kind of detour. If you are not able to locate it on GoogleMap just drive up to the Emerald Dam, just go ahead for almost 3 Kms and you get to see a narrow bridge and amazing lake with beautiful landscape.
It is a bird watcher’s paradise, where you can spot them easily without having to wait for a long time.
Emerald Lake is also visited due to its stunning sunrise and sunset views, which is a bonus or takeaway for photographers.
Hills and Chills are okay but did you know about the treasured tribe of Ooty? The Toda Tribe, the indigenous people of Nilgiris have been around since the 3rd century BC. While they used to be one of the high-ranking tribes of the area occupying valleys and forest lands, today they have been pushed to near extinction. The only surviving relic is the Toda Village. Toda huts are curious structures, usually without any windows and in a semi barrel shape. You have to stoop inside the hut but can manage to stand upright once inside.
Approximately, 3 km from Upper Bazaar, you will reach a small hamlet which is now mostly filled with pukka houses. Ask them and they will guide you up to the valley of sacred Toda Temples. These so-called temples were once homes to their people but are now just sacred places. The most interesting part? the huts are placed a little below the ground and the area around it is dug!
It is a must-visit for an architectural or cultural lover! Just remember to take off your shoes as you enter the place since they consider it sacred. Your feet will get muddy but that is when you will feel the attachment that the tribe has with mother Earth. Besides, bare feet surprisingly have the best grip.
Ooty Lake (West Mere)/Ooty Boat House
Ooty Lake also known as the Ooty Boat House, is one of the most visited and major attractions of Ooty. Surrounded by groves of Eucalyptus and the Nilgiri ranges in the background, Ooty Lake is one of the most serene and peaceful tourist attractions in Ooty. But it is not just the beauty of the lake that makes this place so popular - the fun activities for kids and adults alike are also a major crowd puller. Just skip this place if you don't like to visit too crowded and touristy places.
Ramakrishna Math, Ooty is situated in Elk Hill just opposite Sterling Resorts. This is the first Math started by one of the foremost disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Shivanand, who was called "Mahapurusha Maharaj" by Swami Vivekananda.
Known as a popular pilgrimage spot and an ashram, the Ramakrishna Math Ashram embraces devotees who are seeking inner peace. The beautiful surroundings of the lush green terrain all around merge with the tranquillity of the ashram to truly offer a calm oasis to those who are looking for spiritual answers. The ashram, established in 1920’s, is loved for its traditional design and architecture while the view of the tea plantations is simply breathtaking. The place is perfect for a small meditation session and to simply walk around the pleasant premises.
But before hopping to the next location, just opposite the Ramakrishna Math, you will see a private estate, request they allow visitors inside and from here you can just enjoy and bird-eye view of the entire Ooty City. Here are some pics for you to enjoy.
Dinner @ Angaara
Another place managed by HBH in this town. A perfect "Mumbai style" or Fine Dining kind of hotel with open air space with a calm and soothing ambience and the decor is a weird mash-up of vintage and modern. The most important is yummy and tasty food. I loved the food soo much that I went twice during my trip and was a lucky one to also see what happens inside the kitchen and you can trust me they maintained the best level of hygiene.
A fancy multi-cuisine restaurant lets you enjoy some of the best food with value for money in Ooty. Its among the few places in Ooty where you can enjoy tasty north indian food. A must visit place to dine for all foodie.
Try This: Kasthuri Kabab, Angara Special Kabab, Chicken Pasta (white sauce), Veg Oneton Soup, Micronal Bali Prawns with sweet chilli chutney, Rava Phirni and mocktails (Pink Lady, Deep Blue Sea & Indian Corolla).
Day 3: The Uncrowned Queen Of Hill Station
Ooty, popularly known as the Queen of Hill Stations is adorned with beautiful mountains, lakes, gardens and forests all around.
Glenmorgan Trek & View Point
Glenmorgan is a picturesque village in Ooty and it’s a rare destination among usual travellers, but it’s a great choice to unwind your vacation amidst the stunning nature. The village is located around 25kms from Ooty and is renowned for its tea estates. Glenmorgan is one of the oldest tea estates in Ooty and a famous spot among off-beat travellers.
Glenmorgan trek is an astonishing experience and you get to see the real natural beauty and stay relaxed in this slice of paradise. It’s a fun trek covering almost all the tribal villages around Glenmorgan and experiences an amazing viewpoint from the top of tea estates.
Glenmorgan's viewpoint is the final destination of your trek journey. It’s situated on picturesque hills next to the Glenmorgan Dam lies a deserted bungalow, there is a narrow winding path that takes you through the most beautiful trek routes in South India. Have a nature-filled walk through the scenic dense forests, refresh and halt in the Todas cultivated land. Enjoy the panoramic view of Bokkapuram, Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary, Masinagudi, certain parts of Mysore, Moyar valley, and the Pykara power plant. The winds are strong enough to take you through the narrow path and get mesmerized with the spectacular views!!
It’s essential to obtain prior permission from TNEB (Tamil Nadu Electricity Board) officials to enter the Glenmorgan viewpoint. Since it’s a restricted area, photography is also prohibited. The trek is organized by several local tour operators takes you through luxurious Eucalyptus forest and hill beauties. The trek comes to an end at the Pykara junction, which is the halt area for buses and vehicles.
Dinner @ Hotel Junior Kuppanna
Hotel Junior Kuppana is known for serving authentic south Indian Kongu style food cooked across Tamil Nadu and they have a branch in Ooty in the main market.
I had a finger-licking experience, I was exclusively looking forward to have Kothu Porotta and well, I wouldn't have asked for anything better. I would certainly recommend Hotel Junior Kuppana for a delicious Non-Veg traditional Tamil Nadu style Dinner.
Try This: Chicken Kothu Parotta + Gravy, Normal Parotta with, Naad Chicken Fry or Chicken Pallipalayam & Nattu Kozhi Chicken Biryani.
Timing: 08:30 AM to 04:00 PM & 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Day 4: Otty - Truly Beautiful!
Breakfast @ Earl's Secret & King Cliff Hotel
This little gem is located inside a colonial-era bungalow, which was restored to a hotel. Also known as the glass restaurant, the first thing that scores high for this place is the glass atrium, giving diners a marvellous view of the well-kept lawns. Since the restaurant is a favourite of the locals, booking a table beforehand is always a good idea. It is a good restaurant in Ooty for a candlelight dinner with your loved one.
For the non-guest visitor, the restaurant is only open for lunch. So too enjoy the best time i.e. morning and dinner, i stayed here for one night.
You get a taste of everything at this elegant heritage-hotel restaurant up above Ooty. Half glassed-in conservatory, half tables scattered across Raj-era lounges with roaring winter fires, it does beautifully.
Situated amidst the beautiful surroundings of the Sigur Plateau on the Ooty-Mysore Road or Sigur Ghat Road, Kalhatti Waterfalls cascade down the verdant Nilgiri mountains from a height of about 120 feet, also known as Kalahasti Falls. It is fabled that Saint Agastya used to live in these parts during his time. Incase you want to explore some more waterfalls around Ooty, but the right time to visit these is just post-monsoon here is the list.
The fall viewpoint is accessible from the main road through a private tea estate. Kaltatti Waterfall can be seen at starting point of 36 hair-pin bend road towards Ooty. Due to local entry restrictions, I could not see this place from the viewpoint, but the far view of the fall will make you feel that God is an architect.
Pine Forest Shooting Spot
The Pine Forest in Ooty is a major tourist hub. It is actually a small valley area, where several movies, songs and serials have been shot. The soaring pines, fresh air and picturesque views of the mountains all around make it a very sought after place for shooting.