Ooty or Udhagamandalam, the headquarters of the Nilgiris district, is the largest and most important hill station in South India. It is an extensive valley enclosed on all sides except the west, by a lofty range of hills. Situated at an altitude of 2200 meters, it is fondly called the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’ and is a prime tourist and honeymoon destination.
Attractions: The 55-acre Government Botanical Garden laid out in 1897 that is home to a variety of rare trees and plants, the award-winning Centenary rose park with over 3000 varieties of exotic roses, the 65-acre Ooty lake set up in 1834 which has an amusement park and boating facilities and the Doddabetta peak at 2623 ft, the highest peak in Tamil Nadu. You could also visit Avalanche, a scenic picnic spot 28 km from Ooty for magnificent scenery, angling, bird watching and relaxation, and the Pykara lake. If you have children travelling with you, you must take a ride on the Nilgiris Mountain Railway which has been assigned a world heritage site tag by UNESCO. Also called the toy train and featured in Indian movies, it passes through 16 tunnels and over 250 bridges, covering a distance of 46 km.
While in Ooty, visit the Toda Cultural Center. The Todas, a unique tribe of India, have been the guardians of the rich vegetation of the Nilgiris for centuries. They rear the buffalo and worship it. Typical toda houses are very different from the modern cement and mortar homes and use a range of locally available materials. The todas today are educated with doctors and engineers among them, however they retain their ethnicity and customs and definitely are intertwined with the culture and history of the Nilgiris.
Other places to see in and around Ooty are the Raj Bhavan (Government house,) Ooty horse races, Honey & Bee museum, the Glenmorgan tea estate, Kalhatty falls and Ketti valley view.
Shopping: The famous Ooty chocolates and bakery products, honey, tea, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables including peaches, plums, pears, avocado, passion fruit and mangostines that are not available in the plains, essential oils like eucalyptus and the oil of wintergreen, woolen garments, shawls and material woven by the toda tribals, flower and fruit seeds and saplings.
Accessibility: Easily accessible from Mysore (91 km) or Coimbatore (84 km) by road. The nearest airports are Bangalore and Coimbatore and the nearest railway stations are Coimbatore and Mysore.
Best time to visit: Through the year, with September – March being the best to avoid the monsoon rains. April and May is peak tourist season where you could also witness the flower show and the dog show.