From misty forested hills, placid lakes and rolling tea plantations to quaint chocolateries and colonial-era charms – discover why Ooty in India's Western Ghats makes for an idyllic weekend retreat.
The sleepy hilltop town of Ooty – short for ‘Udhagamandalam’ – embodies an unmistakable old-world charm. Ooty teems with verdant tea plantations, blooming botanical gardens, roaring waterfalls and serene lakes. To complete the storybook setting, Ooty (which is also affectionately known as the 'Queen of Hill Stations') has a historic blue toy train that gently chugs up the town's slopes and through its landscape.
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Immerse yourself in Ooty’s natural beauty
Ooty’s scenic landscape is a blooming paradise, home to rare and vibrant flora. Find your way to the Ooty Botanical Garden (also known as Government Botanical Gardens), home to the 127-year-old annual Flower Show and fascinating floral displays, from myriad roses to pansies and petunias. A natural next stop are the banks of Ooty Lake. Breathe in the crisp air as you go boating on the lake and admire the blue hills in the horizon. For adventure lovers, trekking up Ooty’s Dodda Betta Peak, the tallest mountain in the Nilgiri range, is a heart-pumping experience. Be sure to enjoy a bird’s eye view of Ooty town as you take a peek through a telescope from the summit.
Learn about the town's colonial history
Ooty is a quick getaway from the nearby cities of Bengaluru, Mysuru and Coimbatore, so it's no surprise that the town and wider area, with its similarity to the English countryside, served as a summer resort of the British. Colonial-style bungalows, churches and tea culture popped up around Ooty as a result. To get a glimpse into Ooty’s past, make your way to the 19th-century St. Stephen’s Church, an architectural marvel with stained glass windows, panelled doors and even a painting of The Last Supper. Any visit to Ooty is incomplete without taking a ride aboard the blue toy train journeying along the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Nilgiri Mountain Railway, from Mettupalayam to Ooty. Transport yourself to another world as the train huffs and puffs its way through 16 tunnels and across 250, stopping at quaint heritage stations like Coonoor and Lovedale. The entire journey takes a little less than five hours in total and tickets can be booked in advance.
Get a taste for the local tea industry
The winding roads of Ooty are flanked by manicured tea gardens. Take a stroll through a tea plantation and watch tea be picked by hand before learning about the process of tea making at a local factory. Here, you will learn the subtle differences between first and second flush and get an opportunity to taste a fresh brew. Sample aromatic Nilgiri tea blends or shop for tea powder to take home. Head to the Tea Estate View Point near the Dodda Betta Peak and admire a view across acres of tea gardens. A visit to the Tea Factory and Museum is a must for any tea connoisseur.
Take the short trip to Coonoor
Only an hour’s drive from Ooty, the mist-clad town of Coonoor is another quaint treasure in the Nilgiris.
Thanks to its colonial-era bungalows, tea estates, cascading waterfalls, museums and chic little cafes, Coonoor is just as beautiful as Ooty. There is plenty to explore, from the moss-laden Tiger Hill Cemetery to the jutting rock of Dolphin’s Nose, offering panoramic views of the Catherine Waterfalls. Be sure to make a stop at the pristine Wellington Lake too.
Where to stay: WelcomHeritage Ayatana Ooty
The newly unveiled WelcomHeritage Ayatana Ooty is a unique gem in the ‘Queen of Hill Stations’. Spread across more than 20 acres and featuring 30 stylish chalets, this luxe five-star property overlooks a tableau of manicured tea gardens. This is the only property in Ooty that offers private heated pool chalets, which come with in-room fireplaces and is designed impeccably with local tribal art-inspired décor. The hotel’s convenient location also makes it the perfect base for exploring both Ooty and Coonoor on a weekend trip. Take a relaxing dip in the hotel’s infinity pool, warm up on a cool evening around a bonfire and even embark on a thrilling night safari to spot wild bison and bears. The property’s glasshouse-inspired Tycoons restaurant serves up a wide variety of local as well as international cuisine.
Looking for more travel inspiration? Read The Royal Treatment: India’s Best Palace Hotels.