What makes Ooty the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’? Is it its stunning setting amidst the enchanting Nilgiris, the salubrious climate, the mesmerising lakes and peaks, the winding country lanes, the magnificent colonial architecture or the gorgeous tea gardens? Just like a bejewelled queen, Ooty is adorned with the gems of nature’s splendour which have blessed it with eternal grandeur. It is a traveller’s paradise, a wanderer’s respite, a couple’s dream and a family’s delight, all rolled into one brilliant destination. So you see, there isn’t a ‘best’ time to visit Ooty at all. Perhaps that’s the reason for its timeless appeal that beckons travellers all year around.
The Hidden Gems of Ooty
Given that every corner of Ooty has much to offer in terms of scenic beauty, you don’t really have to hunt for picturesque locales. But there are some sights that are frequented by tourists and considered the pride of this hill station. Among them are Doddabetta Peak, Botanical Garden, Rose Garden, Ooty Lake and the iconic Toy Train ride.
However, if you are interested in taking the path less travelled, below are some activities/experiences that will help you explore the hidden side of Ooty:
Forest Walk in Cairn Hills
It’s only in Ooty that you can find a dense forest within a few kilometres of the city centre. The Cairn Hill offers a 3km walking trail through a thick and peaceful jungle. It is Ooty’s best kept secret and offers you precious moments of peace and a feeling of oneness with nature. There is a museum at the entrance where you can learn about the native tribes of Ooty and see photographs of the bygone era. The views from the old clock tower located in the centre of the forest are worth every bit of the hike.
Trek to the Droog Fort
The Droog Fort is another little known destination in Coonoor, just 9kms from Ooty. Used as an outpost by Tipu Sultan, most of the fort now lies in ruins except for a majestic clock tower that seems to have withstood the test of time. Nonetheless, the trek to the top, strewn with tea gardens and waterfalls and the Instagram-worthy views it offers, make it a fabulous experience. You can also take a trip to the Droog village nearby and observe the life and culture of the native tribes.
Honey Collecting at Vijayalakshmi Natural Farms
The Kurumba tribals of Ooty are known for their age-old honey collection techniques. At the Vijayalakshmi Farms you can join a trek that takes you through the Nilgiris and allows you to witness the honey harvesting methods of the
tribe at close quarters. You can also buy pure honey from the farm to carry home.
Ooty is home to seven tribes that are native to this region. If you are interested in getting a sneak peek into their lives and lifestyle, you can do so by visiting them in their native surroundings through the culture trails organised by Sterling. This memorable escapade will offer you a glimpse into the tribal villages and their way of life, as well as their beautiful handicrafts. You also get to interact closely with the people and learn about their rich cultural heritage. Certainly an opportunity you don’t want to miss!
Ooty is studded with gorgeous water bodies nestled in the lap of the mountains. If the Ooty Lake is too ‘touristy’ for you, then drive to the Avalanche Lake or the Emerald Lake, both a short distance from the town. Surrounded by hills and forests these lakes make for a great day trip. Spend the day discovering new trails in the hills, and later cool-off by soaking your feet in the tranquil waters of the lake. Watch the lush green surroundings and listen to the sound of the forest; it is the best stress-buster therapy you will ever get.
M&N Chocolate Museum
Don’t just take back chocolates from Ooty like a regular tourist, instead get to learn how they are made, at this museum. Located on the Gudalur Ooty road, this quaint museum has a small area dedicated to showcasing the art of chocolate making. They even give out DIY kits in case you want to recreate the magic at home. They also have a retail counter where you can purchase some exotic chocolates.
Ooty is a destination that will reveal a new side each time you visit. You will magically stumble upon hidden waterfalls, veiled hiking trails and concealed view-points every time you set foot on this enchanted land. It is this spell-binding charm that makes Ooty a hill-station like no other.