Ooty: The serene and misty hill station

The most famous hill station south of the Vindhyas, Ootacamund’s resplendent tea plantations and red-roofed bungalows still carry echoes of its colonial past. Originally a densely forested area in the Nilgiri mountains, it was converted into a summer retreat for the British in the 19th century. The undeniable natural beauty of Ooty (as it’s universally referred to) and its misty green trails continues to draw visitors every year. Ooty is pleasant all year round, but the summer months are the high season. If you want to avoid the crowds and don’t mind a drizzle then head here between August and November, when the rains turn the hills a luxuriant green.
Tea plantation tours
Several tea estates in Ooty’s neighbour Coonoor offer guided tours, which offer stunning views and fascinating insights into the making of the popular beverage.
At 8,969 feet, Doddabetta is the highest peak in the area. It lies between the western and eastern ghats, around 10 kilometres outside Ooty. On a clear day, you can get commanding views of the Nilgiris, and even the plains around Coimbatore. There’s also a telescope which allows you to zoom in on surrounding hill-stations like Coonoor and Ketty.
The first wildlife sanctuary in southern India, this national park is located in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Spread across the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, it has plenty of options for wildlife enthusiasts.
You can take a jungle bus safari to spot common wildlife such as elephants, deer and gaur (Indian bison). The Theppakadu Elephant Camp also organises visits and elephant rides, and their evening feeding sessions are a star attraction. If you’d like to stay for a longer time, book yourself a room at the eco-friendly Jungle Retreat, which organises treks, safaris and river hikes.
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a biodiversity hotspot that’s home to a large number of species of plants, mammals, birds and reptiles. Watch out for You can walk along the shore or fish for trout and carp. The surrounding areas are inhabited by the Todas, one of the oldest Nilgiri tribes.
Pykara falls and lake
Surrounded by forests, locally known as sholas, this picturesque lake is located 25 kilometres away from Ooty.
Things to do
Besides visiting its sprawling tea plantations and red-roofed bungalows, there are plenty of things to do in Ooty. You can say a prayer at the St. Stephen’s Church that was built in 1829 in neo-Gothic style and is supported by wooden beams from Tipu Sultan’s palace.
A ride in the Nilgiri Mountain Railways is also a great way of exploring this region. If you have the luxury of time, you can even hop off at Coonor or Wellington enroute. If you think that the city only has churches and tea plantations to offer, head out to the Racecourse where horse riding is a 125 years old tradition or stopover at the Botanical Gardens for a refreshing day time excursion. With the crowds conspicuous by their absence, it’s no wonder that Ooty is a honeymooner’s paradise.
Shopping in Ooty
When it comes to shopping in Ooty, there isn’t very much the city has to offer, but there are a few things you can stock up on while you’re in this hill station in the Nilgiri mountain range. The weather in Ooty is favourable for the growth of spices and tea—almost every shop you come across will be selling locally produced varietals of both—aside from which the locally made cheese and oil is also worth buying, as is the delicious home-made chocolate.
Things you should buy before leaving Ooty
Acres Wild
Acres Wild, a family-run farm-stay in Coonoor, produces vegetarian and organic cheese with milk from Jersey and Holstein cows.
The Green Shop
Epicures can also get fresh spices like cloves, nutmeg, pepper and cardamom from The Green Shop in Ooty.
Handmade chocolates
Ooty has a sizeable handmade chocolate industry. Indulge your sweet tooth with the truffles, fudges and marshmallows available at King Star Confectioners on Commercial Road or The Modern Store on Botanical Gardens Road.
Aromatic Oils
Ooty’s plantations also produce aromatic essential oils such as camphor, eucalyptus and citronella, which can be used for medicinal purposes.

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