The narrow Muthorai Road leads out of Ooty to the villages of Palada, Ithalar and Emerald, all surrounded by acres of cabbage and carrot, and further to an area called Red Hills. Take this road away from the clamour of Ooty to put the magic back into jaded Nilgiri holidays. For here, you’ll be transported back to the time of the British, with the landscape giving you enough evidence as to why they so loved the Blue Mountains.

The forests here are magnificent and vast, the foliage dense, and the air crisp and pure. Lush, eye-soothing greenery covers whole areas right into the horizon. Red Hills offers a permanent guarantee of natural beauty, since no further development is possible under the law in the ecologically fragile area of the sensitive Upper Bhavani Sanctuary nearby. Ringed by an almost never-ending array of mountains clothed in olive green finery, Red Hills, so named by the British in remembrance of a similar area in England, is a place where you find a calming, soul-enriching tranquility.

Prashant Panjiar
Pretty blossoms at Red Hills
Pretty blossoms at Red Hills

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Eight lakes form the finest beauty spots on the face of Red Hills. You can take a tour of these, all within a 25-km radius of Red Hills. A gentle walk along their shores is a great way to spend an afternoon. You can also fish for carp and trout in the lakes.

But the best thing to do in Red Hills is to just take a long, unhurried, amble amid the wilderness through the pencil thin pathways that go all around the valleys with the mountain air caressing your face and the greenery around.

Lake District

The area is dotted by eight lakes – Emerald, Avalanche, Upper Bhavani (40 km), Parson’s Valley Lake (12 km), Porthimund (15 km) and Western Catchment 1, 2 and 3 (40 km). From atop the lofty perches around Red Hills, they appear as oddly-shaped mirrors reflecting the clouds. The occasional glint of the sun is magnified on their surface, as the waters break into fine ripples.

The area receives heavy rainfall every year – 100 inches in just two months between June and August – that fills up the lakes. Towards evening, the winds blowing from across the peaks and through the trees make you long for the warmth of a cosy fireplace.

H. Satish
The shimmering waters of Avalanche Lake
The shimmering waters of Avalanche Lake

Avalanche

About 13 km from Emerald (7 km from Red Hills by the metalled road to Ooty) is the village of Avalanche where lives one of the oldest tribes of the Nilgiris, the Todas. Basically cattle rearers, they would barter ghee and butter for grains in the olden days. And while visiting them, if you happen to see an elderly man placing his foot ritualistically on the head of a woman, don’t be appalled. That is how Toda elders bless their young. Avalanche also has a trout hatchery that is over a 100 years old. The hydroelectric power stations at Emerald and Avalanche built in the 1950s can be visited.

Note Red Hills Nature Resort arranges all visits and permissions

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

In the Red Hills area, Red Hills Nature Resort (Tel: 0423-2595755, Cell: 09842259544; Tariff: ₹ 9,000 with meals), is a great homestay run by the Vijaykumars. Situated dramatically on the top of a hillock at 7,000 ft, the whitewashed, gabled bungalow dated back to 1875. It overlooks Emerald Lake and the hills beyond, with a sprawling 250- acre tea garden around it.

Courtesy Red Hill Nature Resort
Red Hill Nature Resort
Red Hill Nature Resort

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are like family get-togethers at a well laid out dining table in the main bungalow itself. Most of the vegetables and fruit are completely organic, having been grown on the estate. Ask for their special Badaga chicken and beans.

The Vijaykumars can arrange guides for trekking and sightseeing, and also organise mountain biking on request.

Nestled among the beautiful Avalanche hills is Destiny, The Farm Stay (Tel: 0423-222545, Cell: 09487000111/ 222; Tariff:  ₹ 8,675- 10,675), part of the innovative The Little Earth Group. It offers a lovely eco-friendly holiday in a self-sufficient farm, near a lake. The resort cottages are elegant and tasteful and the views are stunning.

There are lots of indoor as well as outdoor activities to do while you are there. Take a walk into the hills, go trekking, horse riding, fishing, rappelling or golfing. Visit their dairy farm, the stables and cow sheds. Relax at their spa or pamper your taste buds with a variety of cuisines at their restaurants.

When to go September to May Location In the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, 27 km south of Ooty Air Nearest airport: Coimbatore Rail Nearest rail: Coimbatore

THE INFORMATION

Tourist Offices

Tamil Nadu Tourism Complex

No. 2, Wallajah Road, Chennai

Tel: 044-25368358

Cell: 09176995863

W tamilnadutourism.org

Tamil Nadu Tourism

Hotel Tamil Nadu Complex

Dr Nachiappa Road

Coimbatore. Tel: 0422-2303176

Tamil Nadu Tourism Complex

C-1, State Emporia Complex

Baba Kharag Singh Marg

New Delhi. Tel: 011-23366327

Yelagiri Hills

Tamil Nadu Tourism

Fort Complex

Vellore Port, Vellore

Tel: 0416-2217974

Cell: 09865323653

STD code 0416

Hogenakkal

TTDC

Hotel Tamil Nadu

Via Pennagaam

Hogenakkal

Tel: 04342-256447

STD code 04342

Red Hills

Tamil Nadu Tourism

Wenlock Road

Udhagamandalam (Ooty)

Tel: 0423-2443977

Cell: 09176995875

STD code 0423

 

THE INFORMATION

Gangaikondacholapuram

Tamil Nadu Tourism

Hotel Tamil Nadu Complex

Thanjavur

Tel: 04362-230984

Cell: 09176995873

STD code 04362

Palani Hills

TTDC

Hotel Tamil Nadu

Opp Winch Station

West Giri Station

Palani

Tel: 04545-241156

W tamilnadutourism.org

Tamil Nadu Tourism Complex

Poet Thyagaraja Road

Kodaikanal

Tel: 04542-241675

Cell: 09176995867

STD code 04545

Kamarajar Valley

Tamil Nadu Tourism

1, West Veli Street

Madurai

Tel: 0452-2334757

Cell: 09176995868

STD code 0452

Courtallam

TTDC

Hotel Tamil Nadu 1

Opp Parashakthi Womens’ College

Courtallam

Tel: 04633-283003

STD code 04633