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Ooty – Most Visited Hill Station in South India

By Aakash Shah

Introduction

Ooty which is a part of Tamil Nadu, South India is by far one of the most sought after and beautiful hill stations of the south. It is no wonder why it is popularly also called as the ‘queen of hill stations’. Known to very few, Ooty was originally called Udhagamadalam and sometimes even Ootacamund. Ooty is only a short form for Ootacamund. Ooty is located at a height of about 8000 feet above sea level and is a part of the famous Nilgiri mountain ranges in south India. Just like many other hill stations in India, Ooty was also founded by the British in the beginning of the 19th century. The place had served as a summer retreat for the British in the old days. The weather is mostly pleasant all year round however it could drop to as low as aero degree Celsius in the winters. The place attracts tourists all year round and has always been a favourite hot spot to many. The beautiful landscapes, tea gardens, little huts and cottages surrounding the mountainous regions and the ever rising mist among the greens make Ooty a little paradise of the south.

It was the establishment of the tea gardens and estates that popularized Ooty as a famous holiday destination. The dense forests and huge acres and hectares of beautiful evergreen tea gardens adorn the lengths and breadths of Ooty. It is very unfortunate to know that apart from the natural beauty of the place, the hill towns today suffer from overcrowding, pollution, water shortage, bad roads and erosion. However, the places surrounding the town are still untouched. The virgin land has much to explore with its protected forests, stunning landscapes and picture perfect views from the majestic hills above.

Getting there

Ooty is accessible to tourists by plane, rail and road. Whatever the means of travel may be, once you get there the fresh smell of the breeze and the cool air will freshen your senses as if the distance you travelled was barely anything at all.

By Air: The closest airport to Ooty is at Coimbatore which is approximately a 3 hour drive. There are frequent flights to Coimbatore from almost every part of the country. Air India, Jet Airways, Go air, Paramount and Air Deccan are a few airlines that can be named. You also have the option to fly to Bangalore and drive down to Ooty which is approximately a 6 hour drive. The road trip from any of these places is quite scenic as the roads that take you to Ooty are mostly through dense forests and good roads.

By Train: Train Number 2671, the Nilgiri Express leaves to Mettupalayam which is a little town on the foothills of the Nilgiris from Chennai. Since this is only a night journey, most of the scenic adventures are lost. However, a good nap before you reach there is always a good idea. From Mettupalayam one can either choose to drive to Ooty are take another diesel powered mini train which is over 200 years old and takes a longer time to reach its destination. During peak season cab drivers and other transport vendors charge tourists an exorbitant price to take them to Ooty. You also have the option to go to Coimbatore by rail and then drive down to Ooty which is again a 3 hour drive.

By Road: Though Ooty is located in Tamil Nadu, Ooty is very close to the Karnataka and Kerala border. From Bangalore Ooty is only about 280 kilometres away and the roads are very well maintained. The Bangalore-Mysore highway that was recently built is an excellent road and gets you to Mysore pretty fast. From Mysore one can travel through Bandipur which is protected forest before reaching Ooty. The winding roads and the scenic landscapes make this an excellent experience. If you are lucky you may spot some of the animals that live around this region like the spotted dear, elephants, tigers and monkeys. There are many Dhabas and restaurants on the way, so you can always stop on the way to grab a quick bite or relax. You also have the option to travel by bus or hire a cab or a mini bus that have frequent shuttles to Ooty and back. Travel by road is most preferred as the roads are good, the drive beautiful and the expense affordable.

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The Nilgiri Hills were part of Chera Empire in ancient times. Later it fell into the hand of ganga dynasty, and then Hoysala empire under king Vishnuvardhana in the 12th century. They then became part of the Kingdom of Mysore of Tipu Sultan who later surrendered them to the British in the 18th century.

John Sullivan, the British governor of neighboring Coimbatore province, liked the climate of this forested land, and occupied it by taking land from the native tribes (Toda, Irumba and Badaga); often buying up many square kilometers in a day for the price of a few meals.

The hills were developed rapidly under the British Raj because they were almost entirely owned by private British citizens, unlike the rest of India. Ooty served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency, and had winding hill roads and a complicated rack railway system built by influential and enterprising British citizens with venture capital from the Madras government.

It is believed the Blue Mountains appear so because of the vast Nilgiri forest surrounding them.

Ootacamund , The Queen of Hill Station

Ootacamund or Udagamandalam (the Tamil version of the original name) rightly described as “Queen of Hill Stations” by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, now sprawls over an area of 36 sq km with a number of tall buildings cluttering its hill slopes.

It is situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level. Though the march of brick and mortar has laid waste its thick sholas which one saw in a bygone era, it still woos people from all over India as well as foreign countries right through summer, and sometimes in the winter months too.

An added attraction for the tourists to Udagamandalam is the mountain train journey on a ratchet and pinion track which commences from Kallar, near Mettupalayam and wends its way through many hair-raising curves and fearful tunnels and chugs along beside deep ravines full of verdant vegetation, gurgling streams and tea gardens.

The scenery, as it unfolds during the trip, is breathtaking, awe-inspiring and fantastic. One can notice a marvelous change in vegetation, as one goes from Kallar to Coonoor. At Kallar it is tropical and at Burliar-the next bus-stop as one proceeds from Mettupalayam-it is sub-tropical. Near Coonoor, it is humid with pines, blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) and cypress trees. As we go from Ooty to Gudalur, the change in vegetation is striking. What a splendid interaction between climate and vegetation ! It is therefore very appropriate that Mount Stuart called the whole road leading to Ooty from Mettupalayam, “One long botanical debauch.”

Tourism Industry

Located in the mountainous range called the Blue Mountains or Nilgiris, Ooty draws a large number of tourists every year. The weather is quite pleasant at a mean of 15 to 20 °C (59 to 68 °F) year round, dropping to lows of 0 °C (32 °F) during winter. The hill town suffers from rampant commercialization and various other ecological and infrastructural issues.

The landscape is marked by rolling hills and plateaus covered with dense vegetation, tea gardens, and eucalyptus trees. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests, and special permits are needed to camp outside of campgrounds. Ooty is more of a focal point of attraction for tourists, who also undertake auto tours of the surrounding countryside.

The hilly region also houses smaller towns like Coonoor and Kotagiri. These towns are less than an hour’s drive away from Ooty and enjoy the same climate, but have fewer tourists and cheaper prices.

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Ooty

Ooty sometimes abbreviated to Udhagai Tamil: is a city, a municipality and the district capital of the Nilgiris district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Ootacamund is a popular hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills. The origin of the name Ootacamund is obscure, but “mund” is the Badaga word for a Toda village, and it is probably a corruption of the Badaga name for the central region of the Nilgiri Plateau. Another likely origin of the stem of the name (“Ootaca”) comes from the local language Tamil where “Otta-Cal” literally means “Single Stone”. This is perhaps a reference to a sacred stone revered by the local Toda people. Udhagamandalam is a more recent official Tamil name for the town. Ooty stands at an approximate height of 7,440 feet (2,268 metres) above sea level.

Real Estate in Ooty/Coonoor/Kotagiri/Ketti, The Nilgiris

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