6 Popular Places to Visit in Ooty: Have You Seen Them All?
We call Ooty the 'queen of hill stations', as the mountain range offers some of the most stunning landscapes on this planet. Ooty remained unexplored till the nineteenth century, when Britishers made it their summer capital. (At an altitude of 2,240 meters above mean sea level, it is the coldest among all hill stations in Tamil Nadu.) Only a few tribal groups, such as the Kadambas and the Irulas, lived there before Britishers set foot in the region. With the laying of roads and railway lines, tourism picked up, and Ooty continues to be a favorite hill station thronged by people from all over the world.
6 Must-Visit Places in Ooty
1. Botanical Garden
2. Ooty Boathouse
3. Rose Garden
4. Doddabetta Peak
5. Dolphin's Nose
6. Upper Bhavani Lake
1. Botanical GardenClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Government Botanical Garden spreads over 55 hectares with a terraced layout. There are six sections: the new garden, conservatory, nurseries, lower garden, fountain terrace and Italian garden. The fresh smell of plants and flowers fills the air throughout the botanical gardens, lifting the spirits of those who visit. This is the first place that comes to the mind of a regular traveler when he or she thinks of Ooty.
As an added attraction, a 20-million-year-old fossilized tree trunk is on display inside the garden. They conduct flower shows every year inside the botanical garden. The annual flower show is a two-day event conducted in May to showcase flower sculptures, floral artistry and craftsmanship.
2. Ooty Boathouse and Surroundings
The Ooty Lake spreads over an area of 65 acres. It is an artificial lake developed to promote tourism. Row boats, paddle boats and motorboats are the different options available at the boat house run by Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC).
There is a garden on the boathouse campus, and kids can have a good time by taking a ride on the mini train or going for a horse ride. The other attractions for kids include a horror house and dashing cars (a.k.a. bumper cars). There is a wax museum near the lake with lifelike wax replicas of famous personalities.
3. Rose GardenClick thumbnail to view full-size
the Ooty rose garden spans an area of around 4 hectares and has a terraced layout. The weather in Ooty is ideal for rose plants, so the flowering season is long. It is a highly acclaimed rose garden with thousands of exotic and indigenous species of rose plants.
It has an observation platform, the Nila Maadam on the slopes to have a good view of the rose garden. Nila Maadam (in Tamil) refers to an ancient structure resembling a terraced patio in old palaces for the exclusive use of Royal families. The Nila Maadam in the rose garden has a raised platform and open sides to give a good view of the garden. This Nila Maadam isn't just for royalty, either—any and all are welcome there.
The rose garden has a nursery selling plants and seeds. Most of the plants in the nursery are not well-adapted to hot climates. We learnt this the hard way after picking up a few plants on one of our earlier visits. These plants did not survive the Chennai heat beyond a few weeks. You could try keeping the plants indoor with partial exposure to sunlight, but we have yet to test this.
4. Doddabetta PeakClick thumbnail to view full-size
Doddabetta is the highest peak in Tamil Nadu and is topped with a telescope house to attract tourists. From there, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding landscapes. I recommend planning a visit in the evening so that you can witness the sunset from this high point, clouds permitting.
Ardent tea lovers will enjoy another attraction near Doddabetta peak in the form of a tea museum. There, one can learn about the various kinds of tea leaves used across the world. When one gets to see tea being made in CTC machines, it demystifies the tea-making process. CTC is an abbreviation for cut, twist and curl.
5. Dolphin's NoseClick thumbnail to view full-size
This unique rock formation is shaped like the nose of a dolphin. It is near Coonoor town and is an attractive tourist spot with an expansive view. There are huge and deep gorges on either side of the nose. One can also spot the steep Catherine Waterfalls from there.
The drive towards Dolphin's Nose takes one through the tea plantations and offers breathtaking views of the mountains. One can also visit Tulsi Mall, a large supermarket in Coonoor town where one can pick up a few souvenirs of the trip.
6. Upper Bhavani Lake
Though few people know about Upper Bhavani Lake, those who visit rank it right at the top of places to see in Ooty. It takes about an hour and a half of drive time from Ooty town to reach the forest department parking lot. It takes another hour for the forest department vehicle to take you to the lake.
The forest department vehicles only operate between 9 AM and 3 PM, so it is best to reach the parking lot early in the morning to give yourself enough time. The mesmerizing views of the lake and surroundings make it a memorable experience. If I only have time to visit one place in Ooty during my next visit, upper Bhavani lake will be that place!
How to Get to Ooty
The nearest airport is in Coimbatore, and direct flights connect this airport to Bengaluru, Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai. It takes about three hours of drive time to reach Ooty from Coimbatore airport. The nearest railway station is Mettupalayam, and it takes an overnight journey from Chennai or Bengaluru to get there. From Mettupalayam, it takes about 2 hours of drive time to reach Ooty. One can take the heritage train from Mettupalayam, but it takes about five hours to reach Ooty.
Stay Options in Ooty
There are three types of accommodation options to consider in Ooty.
- Resorts and hotels are the first and most typical type of accommodation in and around Ooty. Tata Savoy and Sterling Fern Hill are options worth considering.
- Homestay is the second accommodation type that is gaining in popularity. It suits large groups, as you get plenty of space at a very affordable cost without compromising on quality. You can go by the latest traveler ratings and reviews online to choose the best homestay option.
- Jungle resorts are the third stay option. Jungle resorts in and around Masinagudi area offer a chance to stay close to nature. If you get lucky, you may get to spot a big cat like a leopard or a tiger in the wild (a rare event). What more incentive do you need?
More on Ooty
If you are interested in knowing more about the less touristy side of Ooty, please read 6 Hidden Gems in Ooty.
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© 2019 Mohan Babu