The Queen of Hill Stations in South India, Udhagamandalam, is situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level. The city is named after the word 'Othakal-mund'. This word in the tribal Toda language means 'House of mountains'. A British base in the 1800s, it was renamed Ootacamund and later Ooty for easy pronunciation. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway that connects Ooty with Mettupalayam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast tea gardens, quaint cottages from the Raj, the lakes, the misty hill terrain and the home made chocolates make Ooty one of the most charming destinations in southern India. Whether one is looking for solitude, adventure or a memorable family vacation, Ooty offers them all in ample measure.
Donāt forget to pick some farm fresh carrot on the way to Ooty. Once you are in the city, try the sinful homemade chocolates of Ooty and pick up a wide variety of tea - plain, masala, chocolate, ginger etc from the tea plantation and processing units. Ooty is also known for its aromatic and therapeutic oils and organic spices. You can also pick some Toda tribal jewellery from 'Pumpoohar' or 'The Big Shop'(null-2444136) across Commercial Road.
Itās a must to visit the King Star Confectionery (null-2445785) on Hospital Road, when in Ooty. This place is famous as one of the oldest stores of Ooty and flocked by people for its home made chocolates and fudge. There are many south Indian and north Indian eateries as you walk down the Commercial Road. Also try the Nilgiri tea at Irani's. Hotel Blue Hills offers delicious spreads. You can also try Modern Store and Hot Breads for some finger licking food. For Chinese, Wangs and Shinkows are the place. All these places are located on Commercial Road.
33 kilometers southeast of Ooty, Kotagiri is one of three popular hill stations in the Nilgiris along with Ooty and Coonoor. The land has some gold mines which were used in the Raj period and was then a preferred British destination. The large number of British style cottages surrounding this area bear testimony to this. John Sullivanās bungalow in Kannerimukku, 20 mins drive away, is open for public viewing.
This area just below Coonoor along the slopes of the Nilgiri hills has been the traditional home of the 'Kota' tribes. The name āKota-giriā means āMountain of the Kotasā. While the Todas are the traditional agriculturists of the Nilgiris, the Kotas have traditionally been artisans and are experts in the art of pottery and terracotta baking. A very reclusive community, their reluctance to mix with outsiders has resulted in a sharp decline in their numbers.
Ooty is situated 2286 meters above sea level on the Nilgiri mountain range. It has an artificial lake built in 1824 at its heart. Ooty also has other water sources at the Pykara lake and the Avalanche lake. The climate is tropical and summers from April to June get hot in the day time ranging up to 36 degrees Celsius. October sees some rain showers and the winter season from November to January is considered a good time to visit Ooty. The temperatures range between 2-20 degree Celsius.
Surface - You get get to Ooty via the Coimbatore-Mettupalayam-Coonoor-Ooty road (nulli.e. the Tamil Nadu route). This is a very well maintained route. It takes about 3 and a half hours to reach Ooty from Coimbatore. Another adventurous route can be the Mysore-Bandipur-Ooty route. This takes about 5 hours but the journey is worthwhile. You drive through Bandipur national reserve and then the winding uphill climbs with 36 hairpin bends. This entry to Bandipur closes by 5.30 pm as its a wildlife reserve. There aren't many restaurants on the way and its advised to carry along some water and food. Ooty is well connected by bus service from Bangalore, Mysore and Coimbatore.
Train - One of the best ways to get to Ooty is by train. Ooty being a hill station has the narrow gauge rail line and you will need to first reach Mettupalayam(nullor Metupalaiyam) from Chennai in the Nilgiri Express (nullTrain No. 2671) at night and then change into the Nilgiri Mountain Railway which leaves Mettupalayam at 7.10 am. This train is pushed by a small steam powered locomotive imported in the 1800s with the Swiss Engine Trains. Ensure you book your tickets in advance to avoid last minute rush and unavailability.
Alternatively, you can take trains from Chennai to Coimbatore and continue by road to Ooty.
Air - Coimbatore (null kilometers) is the nearest airport.