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Get Ready for a Good Time in Ooty
Ooty is known as the “Queen of Hill Stations”, a name that is well-deserved. Home to the Nilgiri Hills and the famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Ooty offers an enticing blend of tourism, nature, adventure opportunities, and local agriculture. Hillside temples and dense pine forests co-exist with the bustling Ooty market and town centre, making for an irresistible juxtaposition of old and new. And that’s not the extent of Ooty’s marvels – pleasantly mild year-round temperatures and surprises around every corner like farm fresh wild honey and homemade chocolate, hidden tea estates, and a lively cricket pitch put Ooty on the map for good reason. Whether you stay in budget accommodation or an upscale lakeside hotel, you’re guaranteed to have a good time in Ooty.
Get Lost in the Gardens of Ooty
Established as the summer headquarters for the Madras government in the early 19th century, “snooty Ooty” as it was formerly referred to, has a few historic hotels that will not only take you back in time, but make you feel like a distinguished guest. And when you arrive in style on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, known as having the slowest train in India and also the steepest railway in Asia, you’ll feel right at home at either the Savoy Hotel or Sinclairs Retreat. Each has something special to offer, with the Savoy Hotel exuding colonial charm since 1834, and Sinclairs Retreat showing off with commanding views of the Nilgiri Hills and surrounding eucalyptus forests.
Once you’ve unpacked, a good place to start your Ooty adventure is the 22-acre Ooty Botanical Gardens, which can trace its early beginnings back to 1897 and the Marquis of Tweedale. It has a mind-boggling 1,000 species of plants, and the star of the show, a 20 million year-old fossilised tree. Exotic and ornamental flowers, shrubs and trees of every shape and size each compete for favour. Which one will you like best? The aptly named Monkey Puzzle tree that monkeys are unable to climb, the only Cork tree in India, or perhaps the spellbinding display of orchids and ferns? If you’d like to make it a full day of horticultural delights, head over to the Government Rose Garden, the largest one in India with an amazing 20,000 varieties of roses, and 2,800 cultivators. If you aren’t too distracted by the heavenly scent, see if you can spot some of the more unusual roses in the garden, such as the rare black and green varieties.
All the Fresh Air That You Can Handle
Because temperatures are milder in Ooty, it’s comfortable to spend all day outside, which isn’t usually the case with other vacation destinations in India. In fact, the highest recorded temperature is 25 degrees Celsius, and if anything, you might want to bring a sweater for cooler mornings and evenings. Take advantage of the pleasant climate with a visit to Mudumalai National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s an exhilarating place to spend a day, with the chance that you might see herds of Indian elephants, guar, chital, and even threatened species like Bengal tigers and leopards. Bird lovers will appreciate the 250 species of feathered friends found here, so bring your binoculars and a notebook for a bit of bird identification.
For a peaceful way to spend the day, Ooty Lake is 65 acres of aquatic fun, namely in the form of boating. Renting a boat from the boat house is a major tourist draw, but there is plenty of room for everyone, and spending a few hours on the water surrounded by beautiful scenery is just the thing for relaxation. If you’d like some outdoor exercise, Doddabetta is the highest peak in the Ooty area. It’s roughly 10 km outside of town, and on a clear day, it’s an excellent vantage point amongst the fragrant shola forest.
So Much to Learn in Ooty
If the weather doesn’t cooperate, there are several great places to spend some time away from the elements. At the Tribal Research Centre Museum, visitors get an in-depth look at the various hill tribes in the area. Tribes like the Todas, Kotas, and Kurumbus still inhabit the Nilgiri Hills, and the research centre and museum aims to showcase each tribes’ distinct identity. You’ll leave with a renewed appreciation for people who live off of the land, and when you retire for the evening, you’ll be sure to notice that the comfortable quarters of your hotel room are a stark contrast to the huts and stone houses of the aboriginals that call the hills home. For further information on this subject, the Nilgiri Library is worth a visit for the history of the library building and to learn even more about area hill tribes. There are 30,000 books housed in the circa 1867 library, which also has fascinating British journals and a portrait of Queen Victoria given to Ooty in 1887, her Golden Jubilee. When you’re ready to switch gears, Ooty has a wax museum that also portrays the history and culture of the Nilgiri Hills and tribespeople, and a chocolate museum for a sweet ending to a day of sightseeing.