In 1819 John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore, was enthralled by the beauty of the place which resembled Switzerland more than any other country in Europe. He bought a parcel of land from the local toda people for one rupee, and built himself a bunglow at Dhimbatti. The “Stone House” as it stands even today, is the oldest house in the town that he founded called Ootacamund – a word that originated from the tamil words Othakal (single stone) Mandu (the name of a toda village), as the place was referred to centuries ago. With the patronage of the British, it blossomed and bloomed and soon it became the Summer Capital of the Madras Presidency.
If you’re a connoisseur of tea or have been born with a green thumb, Ooty is truly your cup of tea. From sprawling flower decked gardens to massive tea estates, from an elephant ride into the jungle to a fresh bath in a waterfall, there are unforgettable experiences for you everywhere, and at every corner.
Plucking tea is an art by itself. While buds are plucked for white tea, the first two leaves are plucked for black and green tea. You didn’t know that, didn’t you? Nor would you know that some teas are plucked well before dawn while others are harvested any time of the day. Surely, reading this in a book is different from being there in the garden yourself.
And if you have a streak of William Wordsworth within, time to let it out at the fascinating botanical garden with its lush lawns, exotic flora and an incredible rose garden to keep your creative juices flowing.
||36 sq. kms.
||13.2 sq. kms.
||Ooty - 88,430 ( 2011 census )
Nilgiri District - 7,35,394 ( 2011 census )
||April to June and September to November
||Heavy woollen in Winter; Light woollen in Summer.
||Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Badaga and English
Government Botanical Garden
In 1840, The Marcus of Tweedale prepared an initial layout of the garden which was established by William Graham McIvor in 1848. The idea at that time was to supply vegetables at a reasonable cost towards which a subscription of Rs.3 per month was collected from European residents. The subscribers then received the vegetables free of cost. But alas, this arrangement did not work for long, and, in early 1847, a fund was raised to form a horticultural society and a public garden.
The gardens are the pride of Ooty. They have around a thousand species of plants, shrubs, trees, ferns, herbs and bonsai. In the middle of the garden is a 20 million year old fossilised tree (gifted by the Archeological Survey of India from its National Fossil Park in Thiruvakkarai).
The Botanical garden is divided into six different sections :
III. Italian garden
- Fountain terrace
There’s a fern house with 127 species of ferns in its lower garden. The New Garden is one of few places where you can get to see three hundred varieties of roses, floribunda and polyanthas varieties.
The Italian garden was first laid out by Italian prisoners of World War 1 where an amazing bouquet of the most fascinating varieties are on show.
The Flower Show, an annual event, was first started in 1896. Today it attracts around 150,000 tourists from all over the world every year.
Located on the slopes of Elk Hill at an altitude of 2200 meters this garden has five curving terraces set over 4 hectares. With more than 20,000 varieties of roses from 2800 cultivars, it is one of the largest collection of roses in India. So it’s no surprise that it received the Garden of Excellence of Award for being the best rose garden in South Asia from the World Federation of Rose Societies in May 2006 – the feather in the cap being that this is one of 35 gardens worldwide to have received this award.
John Sullivan’s reverence of Ooty shows up in his meticulous planning in constructing this 65 acre artificial lake in 1824. Water flowing down mountain streams were channelized and a dam was built to hold the water. Originally intended for fishing and ferries, it was converted into a boating facility by Tamil Nadu Tourism in 1973, and has been a very attractive spot ever since.
More than just boating, the experience out here is invigorating. It has everything from a locations & sights for keen photo-buffs, to cycling tracks for the energetic, horse riding for the adventurous, mini-train rides for the sedate and an amusement park to keep the kids entertained.
Other local tourist attractions
This is a reclaimed area of the lake that was used to form an exotic garden in 1977. After dusk it is beautifully illuminated and colourful. It also has an interesting fibre glass dome. It’s a nice place to be in and spend your time leisurely.
Ooty is never short of activity for all and sundry. An area of 22 acres has been allocated for this special high altitude Animal Park in the country, to allow them free access to a natural habitat. Of this 6 acres has been used to develop a park for you to study animals in their natural environment.
Here you can see exhibits of Tribal remnants, sculptural arts & crafts and the district’s ecological history on display. You don’t need to pay an entry fee, but the timings are restricted: Morning: 10.00 a.m. – 1.00 p.m.: Evening 2.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. It will be closed on Fridays, second Saturdays and national holidays.
For those in the field of visual arts or who have a keen interest to see local talent being expressed in its own way, the Lalith Kala Academy would fulfil your yearning. It’s just about 2 kms away on the Mysore main road.
A 10 km drive takes you to the highest peak in the Nilgiris with an elevation of 2634 meters. What’s important to note is that this is the meeting point of the Eastern and Western ghats. Surrounded by dense shoals, it has a telescope house to give you a closer glimpse of the entire district.
Pykara Lake & Waterfall
If you wish to make a splash in mountain fresh water, it takes you a 21 km drive to get to this Toda settlement, where the Pykara Lake is considered very sacred. It flows over a series of waterfalls around 6 kms away. And for the pains you take, you will be welcomed by undisturbed grassy meadows, but if you bump into a bison...beware! Sure enough, there’s boating for your leisure and even a place to stay should you choose to do if you love the serenity.
This is perfect for the adventurer in you. A waterfall that’s abundant with wildlife in and around. Just 13 kms away is an encounter with a panther, wild dog, spotted deer or a sambar waiting for you if you are lucky enough. And for bird lovers... welcome to paradise.
Planning to stretch your tired legs? Or move a few muscles around? On this long walk on quiet roads there’s the Gymkhana Club, the Government Sheep Farm and the Hindustan Photo Films for sight seeing.
Imagine a green carpet of vegetation, gushing streams and a beautiful lake-like reservoir with mountains around. Just 20 kms from Parsons Valley...come over!
No, it’s not an English County as you may be tempted to believe. This is a ecologically dense forest zone that’s 17 kms away with a Power House operated by the State Electricity Board. So, should you choose to venture, you need the permission of the electricity board and the animals around these shoals.
Perfect, for a picnic with your family; and it’s just 10 kms from Korakundh and 20 from Avalanche. But be warned, this tranquil getaway is an undisturbed wildlife habitat. Sure, you can trek from Bangithapal through Sispara to the Silent Valley, but permission from the Forest Department is mandatory.
Just 28 kms away, the forest is so dense that even the penetration of sunlight into this place is quite a task. There are lots of avifauna for those interested.
The English confused the Sambar deer which used to frequent this place with the Elk. Hence this place called Elk hill. 500 feet from the town area and less than an hour’s walk from Charing Cross, it’s not a must see if you expect to see “Elks”.
If you’d like to set up a meeting with the Nilgiri Ibex, this is your conference room. With the silent valley on the western side, the undisturbed environment is actually compared with the Himalayas for its flora and fauna. Naturally the ibex is present here in large numbers. Hop on over for the 40 km ride to this place.
For once you can fish in plentiful waters. The Sandynullah Reservoir is rich enough to please the worst trout hunter.
Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary
At a tri-point junction between Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is a 321 sq. m. there’s this evergreen, deciduous forest that’s home to Tigers, Elephants, Gaur, Mouse deer, Sloth bear, Sambar, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Blackbuck, , Malabar Giant Squirrel, Flying Squirrel, Four-horned Antelope, Wild Dogs, Striped Hyena, Small Indian Civet , Wild Boar, Porcupine, Slender Lories... And, for your informations, the Leopards out here are more xx than shy tigers.There’s a Game Hut here too, if you’re interested in saying “hi” from a safe distance to elephants and bison. Well connected by a National Highway it’s easy to reach from all the three Indian states.
For accommodation and more details about the Theppakkadu Camp, Contact: Reception Range Officer, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary- Phone No:0423-526235
Nestled at an altitude of 1800 meters, Coonoor is the gateway to Ooty. Famous for its verdant environs, varieties of wildflowers & birds, not to forget its tea estates, it has been a dream destination of many a film-maker, apart from holidayers. It formed the backdrop of an international movie, A Passage to India (1984), apart from starring in numerous Kollywood films. The biggest attraction of Coonoor is the Sims Park. View points and picnic spots around Coonoor include Lambs Rock, Lady Canning’s Seat, Dolphins Nose, St.Catherine Falls, Law’s Falls, Ralliah Dam and Droog.
Places of Interest
Laid out in 1874 by J D Sim, it was aimed as a pleasure resort for residents before being transformed into an exotic Garden Park. Spread over 12 hectares it is home to many species of trees and shrub not found in Ooty.
This is located within a reserve forest that’s a unique eco-system and wonderful trekking terrain that’s your entry ticket into the wilderness without any boundaries. Home to endemic species like the Nilgiris Marten, Nilgiris Black Buck, Mouse Deer and the Nilgiris Pippet, it’s the perfect place when you have your nose to Mother Nature. Lady Caning’s Seat This place is named after Countess Charlotte Canning, wife of Viceroy Count Charles Canning, who was very fond of this area with its numerous Tea Estates. It is perhaps the loveliest point in the heart of the woods.
It is situated on the Coonoor River, on the 7th Km from Coonoor, cascading down from a height of nearly 200 feet. This is a beautiful watercourse and a popular tourist location. It is named after a British, Col. Law, who traced the water path and constructed the Coonoor Ghat Road. The landscape here is extremely rocky and wild. This is set inside the Coonoor forest range with vast stretches of undisturbed Sholas and is a paradise for naturalists
One of the highest falls in the Nilgiris, it’s around 1 km from Kendala Village on the Coonoor – Mettupalayam road. It has two reservoirs, built on top of each other, and has India’s first hydro-electric plant.
If you’d like to visit Droog, you can do so only after a 3 km trek through tea plantations. Known as the Pakasura Malai, the locals link it to the mythical demon Bakasura. The dilapilated Droog Fort was once a military outpost of Tippu Sultan.