Things You Wanted To Do In Ooty, But Couldn’t
Ooty (short for Udhagamandalam or Udhagai), or the Nilgiris, is a quaint hill station in the Western Ghats mountains in the southern state of Tamilnadu. Ooty was rediscovered by the colonial powers that ruled Southern India, particularly the British, and this region served as a place to escape from the hot and humid weather of Chennai, the capital city of Tamilnadu. Though Ooty’s main attractions over the years include the world-famous botanical garden, rose garden and the Ooty boat recreation club, the lush green meadows, beautiful valleys, and serene and still lakes make Ooty truly special as a travel destination. Here are a few places in Ooty, you wish you can visit, but couldn’t, and the things you had always wanted to do there, but couldn’t.
Nilgiri Toy Train:
The Nilgiri Toy Train is one of the longest serving steam engine-powered trains that ferries people from the small town of Mettupalayam to the plains of Ooty through Coonoor. This vintage train has endowed such an enduring legacy that the UNESCO has announced it as a World Heritage. The departure time (tentative) of the train from Mettupalayam is 7:30AM and arrives at Ooty about 12PM. The little engine huffs and puffs his way up the hill, struggling to reach the lovely Ooty railway station on time. Between you’ll love small stations like Wellington, Lovedale and Hillgrove as much as you feel the ‘Englishness’ in their name, making them really unique in many ways. So, the next time when you watch the famous Chaiyya Chaiyya” song from the Hindi film ‘Dil Se’, you know the every location the song has been shot, on this train of course.
Bison Valley in Belikkal
Located at about 26 km from Ooty, the Bison Valley in Beikkal derives its name from the wild Indian Bison that is ubiquitous in this region. You will also be able to spot bison and other animals like elephants, tigers, leopards and tigers here. Consider yourself lucky if you’re able to see a big cat or rare Indian giant squirrel known for its unique colour and pace. The valley is known for a variety of species of birds including drongos, bulbul, shrikes, woodpeckers and shrikes. Great for adventure sports like trekking and climbing, you can also visit the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary, a one-hour drive via Mysuru – Ooty Road. Vehicle safari is the most popular attraction in Mudumalai. Try the elephant safari too which will take you deeper into the woods.
An hour drive from Ooty, the Pykara lake is another major attraction, and is easily accessible because of the usually low traffic on the highway road connecting Coimbatore to Gundulpet. The Pykara river discharges into the lake, and a dam is located near the main Ooty road to Gudalur road, which has one of the oldest power plants in South India. Main attractions include boating, though not as popular as the Ooty boat club. It is worthwhile spending an hour or so doing nothing but soak yourself in the beauty of mother nature, capturing memorable selfies or group photos in the process.
Sim’s Park, Coonoor
Located almost in the heart of the spectacular little hill station of Coonoor, 20 km from Ooty, the Sim’s Park has an expanse of 16 hectares with a small waterbody that offers recreation boating. Famous for its lush green cover, the Sims park has tall trees that almost reach out to the skies. The park comprises several species of tree including tree ferns, pines, tree ferns and camellias. You can also spot a number of rare Indian birds here such as the common rosefinches, Nilgiri wood pigeons and Indian blue robins. Though not much crowded (even during peak seasons) as the Ooty botanical garden, the Sim’s park offers a better connect with nature before you plan to move upwards to Ooty.
St. Stephen’s Church
Historically, Ooty served as the capital of the British during the colonial Raj, and Britishers’ favorite escape destination during the stifling summer months was Ooty, and therefore they felt a church was needed for Sunday services and other religious activities. Consequently, Stephen Rumbold Lushington, governor of Madras from 1827 to 1835, laid the foundation for the St. Stephen’s Church in 1829. It was opened for congregation in 1831. It is widely believed that the construction materials for the church were confiscated from the palace of the Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan after his death. You can find several paintings on the stained glass window panes and walls. Besides being one of the oldest churches in the region, the St. Stephen’s Church is the finest colonial legacy in the Nilgiris.
Lawrence School, Lovedale
How can a school be ever classified as a touring destination? Again like the St. Stephen’s Church, the Lawrence School in Lovedale is a Gothic-style structure constructed in the British Raj. A heritage site in every way, today it is one of the most top-rated schools in the country, and has had a long list of famous alumni. Do take a visit to this school, and if nothing impresses you, the lush green sprawling campus will keep you spellbound.
Don’t think that there are only a handful of offbeat destinations to travel to the ‘Queen of Hill station’. There are many more, probably if you plan to spend more time, and do a better planning of your tour itinerary.