Ooty was a realm of tribal people (the Todas) and shola forests till the British annexed the Nilgiris in 1799. Over the years, the city – hardly ever called by its original name, Udhagamandalam – took its place as a Nilgiris tea-plantation hot spot and served as the summer headquarters of the sahibs who ruled from Madras.

Today, Ooty is south India’s most famous hill station. Tourists throng to this scenic destination, especially during the summer, because of its breathtaking natural beauty and picturesque vistas.

Things to See & Do

Walks and rides around the hills are the best way to enjoy a holiday here. Wildlife enthusiasts can consider a visit to the Bee Museum where the Nilgiri Natural History Society is based.

Ooty Lake

Ooty Lake is this hill town’s most famous tourist spot. The lake itself is hedged by beautiful trees on the far side. Vendors sell flowers, snacks and toys at the entrance. Boating is the prime attraction. There are also game shows and a mini-train ride on offer.

Prashant Panjiar
The picture-perfect Nilgiris tempts visitors with scenic landscapes
The picture-perfect Nilgiris tempts visitors with scenic landscapes

Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden, built in the 1840s, is a popular tourist haunt, and has a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers from all over the world.

Rose Garden

The Rose Garden is a small terrace atop a hill off Etiennes Road. The season to be here is April, when there are more than a thousand varieties in bloom.

Churches

Built in 1829, the Protestant St Stephen’s Church is the oldest church here. Union Church and Holy Trinity Church, Gothic and Tudor in appearance, with stained-glass windows, intricately carved pews, and inscribed plaques, are worth a visit. St Thomas Church commands a lovely view of the lake, and the Kandal Church houses what is said to be a relic of the cross on which Christ was crucified.

Wenlock Downs and the Ninth Mile

Wenlock Downs is a famous picnic spot. It is a vast stretch of green grassy knolls. Pony rides are also on offer. On the way to Wenlock Downs lies the Ninth Mile, another lovely picnic spot.

Nilgiri Toy Train

The Mettupalaiyam-Ooty Passenger on the narrow gauge promises a scenic hilly ride and a wonderful experience.

Dodda Betta

At 8,696 ft, this is the highest peak in the area. On a clear day you can also see the plains of Coimbatore and the Mysore plateau. There’s a telescope in a high-up viewing chamber.

Where to Stay

Ooty offers a variety of stay options, but during peak season it’s best to make reservations well in time.

Taj’s Savoy Hotel (Tel: 0423-2225500; Tariff: ₹10,200–19,400) on Sylk’s Road is located in one of the oldest buildings in Ooty and has been a hotel continuously since 1841 under different names. It offers well-maintained, stylish rooms. It also has a games’ rooms, billiards and a gym.

Fernhills Palace (Tel: 2443910; Tariff: ₹9,000–28,000) is part of a large property south-west of town and is owned by the Wodeyars of Mysore. Holiday Inn Gem Park (Tel: 2441761/ 62; Tariff: ₹7,000– 16,000) on Sheddon Road is well equipped with a disco, central heating, a health club and even a temperature-controlled swimming pool.

There are three hotels clustered together off Havelock Road in the northern part of the town. Howard Johnson The Monarch (Tel: 2444408/ 18/ 20; Tariff: ₹3,500–6,800) is a bulky structure which seems a bit out of place among the rolling hilly landscape, but is a good option.

A lovely experience can be had at the colonial bungalow called the King’s Cliff (Tel: 2452888/ 89; Tariff: ₹4,100–7,750). It is set in a charming 130-year-old property, amidst lovely trees and lawns. It has tasteful décor and wonderful food. The rooms come equipped with fireplaces. The Willow Hill (Tel: 2223123/ 4123, 2444037/ 758; Tariff: ₹1,700–5,200), next to King’s Cliff, has a good location looming over the town.

Among the downtown hotels, Hotel Nahar Nilgiris (Tel: 2442173, 2443685; Tariff: ₹2,500–4,000) is located in the Charing Cross area. It has a restaurant and a coffee shop.

Also in Charing Cross is TTDC’s Hotel Tamil Nadu (Tel: 2444371/ 77; Tariff: ₹1,900–3,200), which is always a dependable option. The affordable Reflections Guest House (Tel: 2443834; Cell: 09843637974; Tariff: ₹1,200) is walkable from Ooty Station and located bang on the northern shore of Ooty Lake. Hotel Lakeview (Tel: 2443580/ 82, 2443904, 2440978/ 83; Tariff: ₹1,900–2,650) also has good views of the lake, from beyond the western shore.

Where to Eat

Ooty does not have many stand-alone restaurants, but many hotels have restaurants meant for walk-ins. Earl’s Secret in King’s Cliff is highly recommended, especially for Continental dishes. Tiffanys in The Willow Hill is good for the views and the food. They serve Indian and Continental.

In the centre of the town, Nahar Hotel’s Sidewalk Café offers salads, soups, pizzas and pastas. Shinkows, opposite the Nilgiri Library, is a good option for non-vegetarian Chinese.

Fast Facts

When to go All year round. Summer can be crowded. Ooty is delightful during and after the monsoon rains (July–September), and fun in winter (December–February)

Tourist Office

Tamil Nadu Tourist Office, Wenlock Road, Ooty, Tel: 0423-2443977

STD code 0423

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Coimbatore (96km/ 3hrs). Taxi costs ₹1,600–2,000

Rail Udhgamandalam Station on meter gauge is connected to Mettupalaiyam (51km/ 1.5hrs) by the Nilgiri Mountain Express. It’s a 5-hr-long scenic ride.Mettupalaiyam has broad gauge connection with Chennai. Nearest major broad gauge railhead Coimbatore Junction, connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram

Road From Bengaluru, Ooty is a comfortable hill drive.There are scenic stretches as you pass through the Bandipur and Mudumalai National Parks and some medium hairpin bends en route to Ooty via Gudalur Bus Volvo bus services (9hrs/ ₹800 approx) from Majestic Bus Stand in Bengaluru. The ultra deluxe overnight bus to Ooty from Chennai’s Metropolitan Bus Stand takes 14hrs and costs ₹530