A handy guide to Ooty as the popular hill station of Tamil Nadu is set to celebrate its annual summer festival in May
Ooty can be reached by road and meter-gauge rail from the foothill town of Mettupalayam (about 40km from Coimbatore).
The Government Botanical Garden vies for top position with the Ooty Lake on the list of the most popular attractions of the town. Perched at 2,250metres, the 51-acre garden (1847) is said to have 500+ species of plants, including the cork tree, the paper bark tree, the monkey puzzle tree, etc. The garden has a fossilised tree trunk said to be 20 million years old. There are six different sections – Italian garden, fountain terrace, conservatory, etc. There is a Toda village at the highest point of the garden. Entry and camera fees applicable. This is the venue of the annual flower show, to be held from May 15-17, this year.
Centenary Rose Park
Located in the heart of Ooty, this 4-hectare garden has more than 3000 varieties of roses, including back rose, green rose, miniature rose, etc. From a point called Nila Madam, you can see the entire park. The Rose Show, a part of the annual summer festival, will be held from May 9-10, this year.
Choc-a-bloc with hotels, restaurants, shops, this is probably the most crowded part of Ooty.
Dodabetta Peak (10km from Ooty city centre)
Start early to reach the peak (2,623metres) and you may be able to catch a glimpse of the surrounding countryside before the mists roll in. You can either make a 3km trek to the top or hire a jeep from the base (Dodabetta junction) to reach Tamil Nadu’s highest peak. The telescope at the view point is a handy tool on a clear day. Usually very crowded on holidays and during peak season.
Glen Morgan (20km)
The view point of this ecologically-rich forested area can be visited with prior permission from the Electricity Board. A mechanical ropeway connects Glenmorgan with the Pykara power plant in Singara.
Honey and Bee Museum
Run by the Keystone Foundation, the museum focuses on spreading awareness about indigenous honey bees and the traditional methods of honey gathering. There is a children’s activity room and a small knowledge resource unit on bees, environment and people.
Kalhatty falls (13km)
You can go drive straight to the falls or take a bus to Kalhatty village on Sigur Ghat Road and walk the remaining 3.5km. The falls drops to about 120 feet. Go hiking or bird watching.
Mukurthi National Park (40km)
Sprawling below the Mukurthi Peak, the shola forest on the south-eastern corner of the Nilgiris, it is home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr.
The 2.5km long Ooty Lake (1824) is a popular tourist zone. So be prepared for crowds during peak season and holidays. Boating facilities (paddle boats, motorised boats) available from the TTDC boat house. Children will enjoy the toy-train ride. But the cleanliness of the lake and its surroundings are not up to standard warn some regular visitors. Open 8.30am – 5.30pm, daily; entry fee: Rs 5 per head. A boat race will be held here (May 12) during the summer festival.
Pykara Falls (20km)
The Pykara River, which rises in the Mukurthi hills, flows out in a series of cascades, of which two are known as the Pykara Falls.
Pykara Lake (21km)
Off Ooty-Mysore Road, the road to Pykara Lake goes through shola forests of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The lake, much quieter and cleaner than Ooty’s, has boating facilities (Rs 650 upwards) and a restaurant. On the way, you can stop at Wenlock Downs, its grassy meadows popular with movie-makers.
St Stephen Church
The church was built in 1820 by John Sullivan who founded Ooty. Known as the Jerusalem of the East, the church is known for its glass paintings and gallery.
Craftsmanship at best, this is not actually a garden. Located opposite the Boat House, it is a display of artificial flowers. Antony Joseph and his team have hand-crafted these flowers using threads and canvas, without the help of any external aid, not even a needle. Entry and camera fees applicable. www.threadgarden.com.
Probably an attraction that the town could have done without argue many. But children will love this newest attraction of Ooty, a park containing 23 large models of dinosaurs. Of these, 16 are moving models. The park, located near the Ooty Lake, also contains a Vintage Camera gallery.
Tribal Museum (10km)
The Nilgiris have been home to several indigenous tribes, viz. the Todas, Kurumba, Paniya and Kanikaran. Know more about them, their homes and lifestyle through the sculptures and the tribal houses. The Tribal Museum is part of the Muthorai Palada-based Tribal Research Centre. Carry on to Emerald Lake and Avalanche (trout fishing allowed at the Avalanche Lake with permission from the Fisheries Department).
Upper Bhavani (60km)
The picturesque lake is located within a dense forested corner of the Niligiri hills. Drive up to the forest entry point/check post beyond which private vehicles are not allowed. From here, you will have hire a jeep or take a ride in the forest department’s safari bus. The tours usually take place between 10am and 3pm. It costs around Rs150 per head for the bus ride and Rs1800 for a jeep (8 passengers). Expect a bumpy ride.