Engulfed by the majestic Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor is the quieter sibling to next-door Ooty and Kotagiri. Aimlessly strolling for hours and immersing yourself in a sea of tea estates, you’ll soon realise that solo tripping to this stunning hilly hamlet is totally worth the run. The air is restorative and the town, drenched in an old world colonial charm. You can visit Coonoor for a weekend from Chennai and Bengaluru. Here’s how to get the most out of your trip.
Tick-off the mandatory sights on your first day.
Visit Lamb’s Rock and Dolphin’s Nose Point
Foggy lanes lined with sylvan tea plantations and beautiful African Tulips take you to Lamb’s Rock. You trek for a while and find yourself surrounded by clouds and panoramic vistas of the Nilgiris. Overlooking Coimbatore, the spot bustles with sefie-taking couples and picnicking families from Karur and Madumalai. Soak in the fresh air as you marvel at the sheer magnificence of the environs. Let your bike then manoeuvre through hairpin bends to reach Dolphin’s Nose Point. It is so named due to reasons best known to God. Some say it bears a stark resemblance to a dolphin's nose (tell us if you could figure it out!). This vantage point also offers inspiring views of Catherine Falls cascading in all their glory.
Take a guided tour at Benchmark Tea Factory
A visit to Coonoor is incomplete without a tea tasting session at one of its many estates. Head to the Benchmark Tea Factory and take a guided tour. Wonderful aromas seamlessly blend in the air as you learn how the fine tea is manufactured. Allow the hosts to guide your palette through their exquisite range of gourmet teas (the cardamom variation is the best!). Getting informed about the history of tea through interesting wall posters is fascinating. Don’t forget to pick up a few packets of home-made chocolates from the in-house store at the tea estate.
Loll around at Sim’s Park
After a quick lunch of crunchy daal vadas and piping hot sambar at any roadside eatery, you must spend some leisurely time at Sim's Park, known for housing some of the world's most exquisite plant species. The highlight here are the bead trees or rudrakshas. Dating back to 1874 and named after JD Sim, the then secretary to the government, the park hosts an annual vegetable and fruit show in the month of May.
Pizzas at Open Kitchen
Satiate your hunger pangs at Open Kitchen in Bedford with their authentic pizzas. A former journalist, the extremely friendly owner Priyank is a great host and would love to take you through his amazing book collection. End your day relishing bell pepper pizzas in the august company of Marilyn Monroe, John Travolta, Marlon Brando and others who stare down at you from the walls.
Your next day should be all about appreciating everything Gothic in Coonoor.
Start with St Anthony’s. One of the oldest churches of the Roman Catholic Diocese, the iconic white structure stands as a prominent legacy of British rule. A fine specimen of Gothic architecture, it was set up in 1863 by Catholic priest TJ Leese, who had converted a barn into a place of worship for soldiers posted in Wellington. What we see today was raised only after 1886. You must then surrender yourself to the almighty at the St Sebastian Church at Gray’s Hill and the All Saints Church, Coonoor’s oldest.
Appreciate British heritage at Tiger Hill Cemetery
Locating this cemetery beautifully hidden behind verdant tea plantations is quite an adventure and one that you must embark on. An imposing fountain adorned with a statue of a mourning angel overlooks the entrance to this cemetery with immense architectural splendour. Dating back to 1905, the cemetery is designed in the Gothic-renaissance style of European architecture. Steeped in history, the place is eerie in a beautiful way. Head back to town for an evening stroll in the cheerful markets before things get spooky.
Visit 180 Mc Iver, the Kapoor and Sons Home
Remember the Kapoors’ house in Kapoor and Sons? You can’t visit Coonoor and not visit 180 Mc Iver, an upscale heritage villa that boasts a stunning 180-degree view of the town and its surrounding hills. Even though the resort is occupied by guests, visitors are welcome to take a tour of the property and enjoy an organic meal at La Belle Vie, the multi-cuisine restaurant, known for preparing dishes with fresh vegetables from its kitchen garden. Don’t leave the chance to earn bragging rights by taking pictures of the elegant rooms that once housed a few handsome men including Rishi Kapoor, Fawad Khan and Sidharth Malhotra.