Ooty (The Queen of Hill Stations)
Udhagamandalam or Ooty is rightly called the 'Queen of Hill Stations' because of its unrivalled beauty and everlasting charm. It is in the Nilgiris where the western and eastern ghats meet. The mystic beauty of Ooty lied unknown to the rest of India until it was discovered by the British in the early 1800s. Though hill tribes like the Todas, the Kotas, the Kurumbas, the Badagas inhabited the whole area, the Panias and the Irulas, it was only after the first railway line was constructed that much of its enchantment was revealed. Its popularity grew because of the gold hunt pursued by early colonialists in the Nilgiris. Though the gold hunt was given up in the early 20th century, its rich endowments of nature came to the limelight and Europeans and the well-to-do natives settled there. It became the summer capital of the then Madras Presidency. It is known as 'Nilagiri' meaning Blue Mountain because of the blue haze that prevailed to look at from a distance. It is at a height of 2240m, and is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district. Besides coffee and tea plantations, eucalyptus, pine and wattle dot the hill sides of Udhagamandalam. The summer temperature is rarely higher than 25°C with a minimum of 10°C and winter with a high of 21°C and a low of 5°C, rarely it touches 0°C.
Settlement in Ooty began in 1822 with the construction of the Stone House by John Sullivan the erstwhile collector of Coimbatore. It was locally called 'Kal Bangala' and is now the chamber of the Principal of govt. Arts College. Following this, several English cottages with pretty gardens sprang up. Even today, the atmosphere of the British Raj lingers in places like the club where snooker was invented by a subaltern Naville Chamberlain, the Nilgiris library with rare and invaluable collection of books on Ooty and St. Stephen's Church, which was Ooty's first church.
Places to worship
Temples: Murugan Temple, Elk Hill, Venkateswara Perumal temple, Sri Mariamman temple, Subramaniaswamy temple, Vittobha temple, Muniswara temple.
Churches: St. stephen's Church, Union Church, Holy Trinity Church, Sacred Heart Church, St. Mary's Church, St. Thomas Church and Kandal shrine.
Mosques : A few mosques are also available.
Place to see in and around Ooty
The Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden Maintained by the Horticulture Department is a unique place containing a wide range of plants that include different kinds of roses, important shrubs, rare flowering plants, eucalyptus trees, several old trees and even a fossilized tree trunk that has become a hard stone in about 20 million years. A beautiful Italian garden, green carpets of well maintained lawns attractthe visitors inclined to relax. The summer festival is held here annually in the month of May, surely an added attracts to tourists. The annual flower show is the pride of the festival, besides, cultural programmes are also organized to bring to light traditional classical arts. adventurous sports like trekking also form part of the festival.
It is about 1km from the railway station. This mini garden also called 'Children's Lake Garden' is on the way to Boat House. There is a children's amusement park here. a snack bar is also available. Maintained neatly by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, the garden is open from 8 am to 6pm.
It is an artificial lake created by Sullivans. It has boating facilities. Even Fishing can be done in the lake with a permission by the office of the Asst. Director of Fisheries.
Just 3/4km from the Railway Station is the Rose Garden. It is about 10 acres full of roses of 1419 varieties a real feast for the eyes.
Lalitha Kala Academy, is about 2km from Ooty in the Mysore Road. The Art Gallery is located here. It has various collections of contemporary paintings and sculptures from all over India.
The government museum is on the Mysore road. Items of tribal objects, district's ecological details and representative sculptural arts and crafts of Tamil Nadu are on display.
It is a heaven for nature lovers, sprawling over 20,000 acres. It was the famous erstwhile Udhagamandalam Hunt. The Gymkhana club, the Hindustan Photo films Factory, The Government Sheep Farms and the Golf Course are all in the Wenlock Downs.
The Viewpoints around Udhagamandalam:
Elk Hills, Green Valley View, Snowden Peak and Doddabetta Peak are the most important viewpoints and the chief among them is the Doodabetta peak, which is the highest and is at a height of 2623m. If the day is clear, one can see as far as the plains of Coimbatore and the plateau of Mysore.
Coonoor is 17km from Udhagamandalam, coonoor is at an altitude of 2000ft and is the first of these hill stations. It is a small town with an equable climate that has made it popular. The Sim's Park is the major attraction, though small it is well maintained and contains varieties of plants not to be found in other hill stations. Lamb's Rock, Lady Canning's Seat, Dolphin's Nose, St Catherine Falls, Law's Falls, Rallia Dam, The Agricultual Farm, and Buliar Agricultural Farm are the other important view points, picnic spots and places of tourist interest in Coonoor.
Mudhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
Mudhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary is the most prominent in the state and the most important in the southern region. The thickly forested Mudhumalai borders the Bundipur National Park in Karanataka and the Wynad Sanctuary in Kerala. Tiger spotted deer, elephant, gaur, sambar, barking deer, wild boar, civet cat, flying squirrel, four-horned antelope bison, mouse deer, common langur bonner macaque, pangolin, the scaled ant-eater, panther, leopard, hyena, sloth-bear and jackal roam about the forest. The birds of the forest include peacock, woodpeckers, several species of owls, vultures, buzzards and the grey jungle fowl. During the April nights, the whole sanctuary is lit up by millions of glow-worms, which look like a dream world of illumined quiet.
Theppakadu is an elephant camp within the sanctuary. There is a rest house here besides, accommodation is also available in TTDC youth hostel and rest-houses in Masinagudi, Abhayaranyam, Kargudi and Bamboo Banks Farm. The best season is between January-March and September-October. The wildlife Warden at Coonoor Road, Udhagamandalam can be contacted for further information.
Ketti Vallley Viewpoint
Located on the road to Coonoor, this idyllic spot is a cluster of tiny villages that extend to the plains of Coimbatore and Mysore plateau.
It is about 17km from Ooty. Ecologically it is a rich forestry spot. From here, the Electricity Board winch carries staff from Glenmorgan Viewpoint to powerhouse at Singara. All the 4km of the winch track passes through undisturbed shoals and wildlife habitats. Prior permission of the E.B. is necessary to enter the viewpoint zone.
It is about 10km from Korakundha and 20km from Avalanche. This spot is a naturalists' paradise. This is also a rich and undisturbed wildlife habitat. From Bangithapal via Sirpura one can trek to Silent Valley. The permission of the forest department is necessary to go there.
It is on the Kalhatty slopes, 13km from Udhagamandalam on the Mysore-Kalhatty ghat road. The height of the waterfalls is 100ft. Kalhatty-Masinagudi slope is rich in wildlife such as panthers, bison's, wild buffaloes, wild dogs, spotted deer, sambars and different varieties of hill birds.
It is about 3km on the road to Avalanche and is one of the few surviving original walks. The entrance road to the hill is flanked by dense cypress trees. The clearing underneath them make good picnic spots. The quiet and silence of the cypress woods is broken by the chirping of birds in the shrubs an experience unforgettable.
Kandal cross shrine
This Roman Catholic church is to the Nilgris Catholic 'The Calvary of Tamil Nadu'. It is about 3km from Ooty railway station on the western side. A relic of the true cross is here and it cures the sick, bestows peace and joy to the visitors. Special prayers and holy masses are offered every Friday. The annual feast falls on 3rd May each year.
Kamaraj Sagar (Sandynallah Reservoir)
The Kamaraj Sagar dam is a nice picnic spot. It can be reached via Kandal amidst old trees and green shrubs of various terrains via the Hindustan Photo Films in Gudalur road. Apart from studying nature and the environment, fishing provides excellent game in the dam. Upper Bhavani and Avalanche are also good places for fishing. The trout fish abounds in them.
The Mukurthi Peak and Mukurthi National Park
It is about 40km from Ooty. It is located on the southeastern corner of the Nilgiris. The area contains a large number of Nilgiri trees (Hamitragus hilverius). The Silent Valley is located on the western side of these ranges. The main feature of Mukurthi Sanctuary is its variety and similarities to Himalayan flora and fauna.
It is 21km on the Ooty-Mysore road. Pykara has a well protected fenced shoals, Toda settlements, undisturbed grassy meadows and wildlife habitat. The Pykara dam, Pykara falls and Pykara reservoir attract many tourists. T.T.D.C. maintains a boathouses and restaurant here. The Pykara power station to which water is carried through pipelines along the slope is a fascinating sight.
It is 28km from Ooty. A beautiful lake teeming with a thick shoal where even sunlight cannot penetrate and abundant with a wide variety of avifauna really a paradise for nature lovers.
It is 28km from Ooty. It contains rolling grassy downs interspersed with temperate shoals occupying depressions and valleys.
It is 31km from Ooty. It is 6503 feet above sea level. The climate here is very salubrious. It is shielded by the Doddabetta ranges which receives much of its rain from the north-west monsoon. One can enjoy a pleasure ride on roads flanked by green tea beds on either side.
It is about 16km on the eastern edges of the Nilgiris. On either side is a panoramic view of tea estates and the river Moyar is breathtaking. A watch-tower is there to view the panoramic view of Rangasamy peak and pillar. Bus services are available for Kotagiri.
St. Catherine Waterfalls
From Dolphin's Nose, Coonoor, one can have a magnificent view of St. Catherine waterfalls which is about 250 feet high. But it can't be reached from Kotagiri which is 8km from here. To reach the top of the hills, tourists should take a diversion at Araveni on the Kotagiri-Mettupalayam road.
It is 51km from Ooty. It is the gateway to Nilgiris from Kerala and Karanataka. Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri lie in the upper plateau of Nilgiris while Gudalur lies in the lower plateau. The Ooty-Calicut road and the Ooty-Mysore road meet at Gudalur town. Most of this area is a green carpet.
Frog Hill Viewpoint
It is 14km from Gudalur on the way to Ooty. From here, one can see the gigantic frog shape of a hill view.
Needle Point Rock View
It is 12km on the way to Ooty from Gudalur. From here, one can enjoy panoramic views of Mudhumalai wildlife sanctuary and Gudalur town.
It is 8km from Gudalur. A shrine of Battarayaswamy (Lord of the hunts) with sub-shrine built in Kerala style is situated here Wynad scenes are visible from here.
It is 15km from Gudalur. A dilapidated old fort is seen here.
It is 20km from Gudalur. Ruins of the historical Ummathur dynasty can be seen here.
It is 35km from Gudalur. It is the extreme western corner having plantations and mica mines. Sultan Bathery is very near this place.
It is 14km from Gudalur on the way to Mudhumalai wildlife sanctuary. A Siva temple at Baro Wood Valley, Marava Kandy Dam at Masinagudi and Moyar waterfalls are the other places of tourist attraction here.
The Summer Festival in Ooty is the best event during the season in May. Regular cultural programmes, fashion shows flower and fruit shows, boat races, boat pageantry, dog shows etc. are held during the festival. It is a gay occasion of fun and frolic and enjoyment of never forgettable experiences.
How to get there?
Rail: Ooty is on the narrow gauge railway connected to Mettupalayam which is directly connected to Coimbatore and Chennai. Mettupalayam 89km from Coimbatore is the downhill railway station.
It is also connected by good motor able road. It is 535km from Chennai via Salem and Mettupalayam. From Coimbatore (89km) road link is available to Mettupalayam and umpteen buses ply from there to Ooty and the surrounding places in Ooty. Private vehicles and taxis are also available. There is also a road link from Mysore.
Air: The nearest airport is at Coimbatore (100km) and flights connect you from there to Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore.
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