Guide To Ooty: What To See, Shop And Do

If you are putting together a plan to visit the "Queen of the Hills," our ultimate guide to Ooty will prime you with the best recommendations on where to stay, what to do and see
The lush green hills and the cool weather of Ooty are the biggest draw for tourists
The lush green hills and the cool weather of Ooty are the biggest draw for tourists

City Overview

Once a summer retreat of the British Raj, Ooty is a stunning hill station in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu. Considered the "Queen of Hill Stations in India," today, Ooty is one of the most frequented destinations in the country, offering visitors the opportunity to bask in its natural beauty, pleasant climate, and rich heritage.

Originally known as Udhagamandalam, Ooty boasts of several historical landmarks. Among them, the Government Botanical Garden is a must-visit attraction. Established in 1897, it has over 600 varieties of species of plants, making it a popular destination for sightseeing.

Another must-visit landmark is the Government Museum of Ooty. The museum showcases artefacts belonging to the local Toda tribe. The collection includes coins, sculptures, and pottery, offering visitors an insight into the region's rich history.

Besides, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, home to diverse flora and fauna, also straddles through Ooty. One must also take the Toy Train ride from Mettupalayam to Ooty, India's only daily operational meter-gauge rack railway.

Things To See & Do

Besides visiting the tourist spots listed below, wander around the periphery of the town. You will get a heady cocktail of rolling hills, tea plantations, vegetable patches, trees with moss and lichen hugging them, and a thick undergrowth all of them inhabiting a world of cloud, mist and sunshine. Most hotels will arrange taxis, while autos are readily available all over the town.

The picturesque Ooty Lake attracts several holidaymakers
The picturesque Ooty Lake attracts several holidaymakers

Places To Visit

Ooty Lake

This hill town's most famous and lively tourist spot, Ooty Lake is a pleasing 2.5-km-long body of water, hedged by beautiful trees on the far side. John Sullivan, who was the Collector of Coimbatore and is also regarded as Ooty's founder, constructed it in 1824. The tourist infrastructure occupies a small patch on the northern bank. There's a large neat area at the entrance with flowers, snacks and toy-sellers. Boating is the prime attraction. Next to the boathouse is a set of three game shows called Freaky Jungle, Horror House and Mirror Maze. There's also a very cute mini-train ride on offer. The train runs 1km along the tree-lined bank of the lake and returns to the boathouse area. 

Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden is also a popular tourist haunt, and offers a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. People come here to lounge on the lawns and walk among the shady trees and plants. One of the oldest botanical gardens in the country, it began life in the 1840s as a vegetable garden to supply veggies to Ooty&rsquos residents. Trees and plants from all over the world were brought here over the years. 

The Churches

A British hill station would be incomplete without its churches. St Stephen's Church is the oldest here. This Protestant church was built in 1829, one of the few remaining examples of Ooty's Anglican architecture. There is an interesting old cemetery adjoining the church. Union Church and Holy Trinity Church, Gothic and Tudor in appearance, with magnificent stained glass windows, intricately carved pews, plaques detailing the British battalions that attended the services there, and tranquil cemeteries, are worth a visit. St Thomas Church commands a compelling view of Ooty Lake. It can also be seen while boating on the lake.

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

Wenlock Downs and the Ninth Mile

Wenlock Downs is Ooty's most famous picnic spot, and deservedly so. Located 17km from Ooty on the way to Pykara Falls, it is a vast stretch of pretty green grassy knolls. People simply walk around drinking in the beauty and the mist. Pony rides are also on offer. On the way to Wenlock Downs lies the Ninth Mile, another lovely picnic spot worth visiting. A short but steep walk through a cluster of pine trees down from the main road takes you there. There is a small lake below.

A ride on the toy train promises views of the countryside
A ride on the toy train promises views of the countryside

Toy Train

The Mettupalaiyam Udhagamandalam Passenger on the narrow gauge promises a beautiful, picturesque ride and a wonderful experience. The train runs via Hillgrove, Coonoor, Wellington, Aravankadu, Ketty and Lovedale to reach Ooty.

Dodda Betta

If panoramic views speak to your soul and if you want a clear picture of the mutual geography of these pretty Nilgiri beauty spots &mdash Ooty, Coonoor, Ketty, Aval anche &mdash you shouldn&rsquot leave without visiting Dodda Betta. At 8,696ft, it is the highest peak in the area, located at the juncture of the Western and Eastern Ghats. On a clear day you can also see the plains of Coimbatore and the Mysore plateau. A telescope in a high-up viewing chamber facilitates the views.

Taj's Savoy Hotel
Taj's Savoy Hotel

Where To Eat & Drink

Ooty does not have many standalone restaurants, but many hotels have restaurants meant for walk-ins. Earl's Secret in King's Cliff is on the top of the list and offers delicious food. Tiffanys's in The Willow Hill is good for the views and the food. They serve Indian and Continental.

Shinkows, opposite the Nilgiri Library, is quite a famous repository of good non-vegetarian Chinese dishes. Kurinji on Commercial Road serves up scrumptuous south Indian fast food -- crisp dosas, spicy vadas and steaming sambar. Do try the Nilgiri speciality, the varki from West Coast Bakery on Commercial Road. The varki is a cross between a chakli and a biscuit, crisp, flaky and melt-in-the-mouth delicious. All over town, tea stalls sell good cardamom and masala chai. Ooty Gate's Glass Restaurant serves multi-cuisine fare. Other multicuisine options are Sterling Fernhill's The Fern Restaurant, Hotel Lakeview's Supper Club, and the restaurant at Hotel Blue Hills.

Willy's Coffee Pub is a great place for coffee and sandwiches. They have a small library too. Taj Savoy's restaurant dishes up amazing Continental, Indian and pan-Asian fare.

Where And What To Shop

The hill station has many options for tourists exploring its lanes, with shops selling local souvenirs, spices, and much more. Some popular markets include Charring Cross, Tibetan Market, Upper Bazaar Road, Commercial Market and Ooty Municipal Market. If you start with Charring Cross Road, you will find pop-up stores selling woollen clothes and gift items. Here, you will also find bakeries selling handmade chocolates and scrumptious cakes. Interestingly, a wide range of Tibetan products is being sold in Ooty markets as the hill station hosts a significant population of the Tibetan community. The Upper Bazaar Road market, known for its spices and Niligiri products, must be noticed too. However, the highlight among all markets is the Ooty Municipal Market which has over 1,500 shops selling goods from flowers to oils, fruits to vegetables. 

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, on Sylks Road in the northwest of the town, is located in one of the oldest buildings in Ooty and has been a hotel continuously since 1841 under different names. The hotel is set among landscaped gardens and offers well-maintained, stylish rooms and game rooms, billiards and a gym. Book here.

Fernhills Royale Palace is part of a large property south-west of town and is owned by the Wodeyars of Mysore. The hotel has a mini golf course and offers horse riding and indoor games. Book here.

Hotel Gem Park on Sheddon Road is well equipped with a restaurant, spa, health club and even a temperature-controlled swimming pool. More importantly for some, it offers beautiful valley views. Book here.

There are three hotels clustered together off Havelock Road in the northern part of the town. The Monarch has luxuriously furnished rooms and offers brilliant views of Ooty and its environs. There's a disco, swimming pool, gym and a multi-cuisine restaurant. Book here.

The King's Cliff is more than 130 years old. The Willow Hill, right next to King's Cliff, has a great location looming over the town.

Amongst the downtown hotels, Hotel Nahar Nilgiris is located in the heart of the town in the Charing Cross area. It has a restaurant and a coffee shop, and offers many packages. Also in Charing Cross is TTDC's Hotel Tamil Nadu. Ooty Gate is on Coonoor Road, near Charing Cross. Reflections Guest House (for bookings, contact 98436 37974) is walkable from Ooty Station and bang on the northern shore of Ooty Lake.

Getting There

The hill station can be reached by air, train, or road. The nearest airport is Coimbatore International Airport, which is about 88 km away from Ooty. The major railway station close to Ooty is Mettupalayam, which is about 52 km away. Ooty can also be accessed by road, with regular bus services from nearby cities like Coimbatore, Bengaluru, and Mysore.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller