Udagamandalam, better known as Ooty, is a hill station in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and serves as a popular tourist and honeymooning destination for Indians. Tucked away in the Nilgiris, this hill station is connected by the century-old Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which is among the oldest running trains in India and gives some stunning views of the valley as you head over from Coonoor to Ooty in this mini-locomotive. There was something odd about this place that intrigued us whenever we visited any building here — there were no fans! The climate is cool throughout the year, which nullifies the need for fans. Ooty has some tourist hotspots and some hidden gems; however, even at the bustling hotspots, there are activities that you can do and get a different feel of the place.
In Awe of Ooty
1. Ooty Lake
It is situated near the centre of the town and has lots of activities around for kids and adults alike. We headed over to paddle boat here just after the rain and could see mist floating over the water and icing the tips of our noses. We also chanced upon some ducks swimming around our boats and spotted dears peeping their heads out of the surrounding thickets! Our inner child came out when we went for some thrilling rides on the lakefront, and it was worth every penny spent. A lazy stroll around the lake is a must-try!
Mist over Ooty Lake
Boating in Ooty Lake
2. Pykara Lake and Falls
Located at about 20km from the town centre, this lake is a scenic spot with forest all around and turns into rumbling waterfalls as you head ahead. The waterfalls don’t have a ‘majestic’ drop, but the sheer volume of flow and the trickling sound of water makes this a special place. The clear blue sky and white clouds in the backdrop make it a very photogenic location as well. We headed over to a hill next to the falls and instantly drowned into a siesta only to be woken up by the serene sound of the falls.
3. Needle Rock View Point
Near the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border lies Needle Rock View Point at a distance of 40km from Ooty. This site finds hardly any visitors, but we found it totally worth the travel. The needle rock rises in the midst of a valley, and we trekked right up to the pinnacle and could get panoramic views of the entire valley surrounding it. With seemingly no barrier, it was possible to see till the eye could take us! We also found hundreds of pine trees here with monkeys playing around them. Getting a public transport here is difficult; it’s better to come via a private vehicle.
En-route to Needle Rock View Point
View from Needle Rock
View from Needle Rock
4. Avalanche Lake
This lake is located at a distance of 20km from Ooty and is a part of the Avalanche Forest Reserve. It is so named because it was formed due to a landslide two centuries back! A stroll here in the wild gave us some beautiful views of the forest, and the stream flowing to the lake had various species of birds and butterflies flying around it. The guided tours by the forest department took us right into the middle of the forest and drinking chilled water from the trickling streams here was a treat! We also saw a waterfall and got some panoramic views of the lake.
Stream to the lake
5. Ooty Forest Walk
One of the most under-visited spots in the town, this forest walk is near the city centre, and yet we found that we were the only ones here! It takes nearly two hours to complete the trail and the trek to the summit of the forest. The entrance to the park is flanked by tea gardens, and later the forest gets denser. You can find some ages-old inscriptions on marble here which are sure to scare you when walking alone. The incline towards the summit is a steep one but is totally worth the effort. We found an old sentry tower at the hilltop and climbing it took us above the treetops and gave stunning views of the town and valley. The park also has some wild bisons, and we encountered a young one right at the park’s exit — quite an experience!
Two roads in the woods
View from the top of sentry tower
6. Ooty Botanical Gardens
Right at the bustling centre of the town are the Ooty Botanical Gardens. Spread out over a vast area, these century-old gardens are filled with colours and have hundreds of plant and flower species. They also have a special ferns greenhouse that houses a variety of ferns. Here, we found sunflowers larger than the sizes of our palms, while flowers and bushes were arranged to form various designs like the map of India. There are many quirky trees here like the elephant’s foot tree, which resembles an elephant’s foot.
Ooty Botanical Gardens
Ooty is THE place for you to head to in South India throughout the year. With pleasant summers, it serves as a perfect retreat for those looking to seek shelter from the burning heat. Ooty captivates your attention right from the moment you step into the town and gives you memories that last a lifetime.