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Posts Tagged ‘Toursim in Ooty’

Getting to know the real Ooty – Things you won’t get off the internet! – by Afshan. Our Dear friend Afshan was kind enough to share her thoughts about Ooty. Thank you Afshan 🙂

I don’t think I have ever come across a single place with so many names! Most popularly known as Ooty, this quiet South Indian hill station is also known as Ootacamund, Ottakalmandu, Whotakaymund, Udhagai and Udhagamandalam, its official name (for NOW). Ooty is the capital of the Nilgiris, or the Blue Mountains, and has been christened as the Queen of Hill Stations for its outstanding beauty. Founded in 1819 by John Sullivan, the then collector of Coimbatore, Ooty is a blend of British colonial architecture and a natural beauty unique to Southern India.

What is so British colonial about it?

The Government House (Raj Bhavan), The Ooty Club, Adam’s Fountain and several other structures are so quintessentially British colonial in their architecture that one half expects women in corset gowns and bonnets to be walking around them! The Stone House, John Sullivan’s residence, still stands too and has been converted into the Government Arts College of Ooty. There are also several churches and summer palaces that lend Ooty a man made grandeur of brick and stone. Additionally, the terraced Botanical gardens, rose gardens and even the railway coaches take the visitor to another space in time with their age old charm.

Here is a post about how to find Cheap Hotels in Ooty

What about Ooty natural beauty?

Ooty is filled to the brim with natural scenic beauty. John Sullivan was so captivated by it, that, in a letter to his friend, he said that Ooty is to Southern India what Switzerland is to Europe, a beauty that has to be seen to be believed. Ooty is peppered with lakes, waterfalls, tea and coffee plantations and several mountain peaks that give breathtaking panoramic views of the landscape. Some such places to visit are: the Government Botanical Garden, Centenary Rose Park, Doddabetta Point, Honey and Bee Museum, Avalanche Valley, Ooty Lake, Pykara River and waterfalls, Kalhatty Falls and so on. Being a popular destination amongst Indian hill stations, information about these spots is easily available on the internet.

What your average net guide won’t tell you about Ooty!

You can get all the information on where to go and how to get there on the net so far as Ooty is concerned. But it is the little nuances that set one tourist spot apart from the other and, unfortunately, this kind of know how seldom makes it to the net. So here is some insider information on what you should look out for when visiting the Queen of Hill Stations.

Chocolates! Yes, one of Ooty’s domestic industries is home-made chocolates and I can tell you, they are DELICIOUS! These come in varieties – plain, dark, with nuts, rice crispies, dry fruits and so on. Large chunks of these are packed in transparent plastic bags which usually don’t have any labeling but can be purchased at most shops, hotels and restaurants in Ooty.

Shawls and other Woolens! The local tribes of Ooty make lovely hand woven shawls and other knitted garments which can be purchased at ridiculously low prices. These woolens are naturally dyed and so have very specific tribal colours and designs, setting them apart from what is available anywhere else in the world.

English Fruits and Vegetables! The British influence doesn’t end at architecture in Ooty. One is amazed at the quality and variety of English fruits and vegetables that are grown in Ooty. Try out the strawberries, avocados, red radish, broccoli, lettuce and artichokes. Needless to say, most of the restaurants and hotels serve food made from home grown organic produce so it’s not just the air that is healthy in Ooty!

The People! Ooty has one of the friendliest and approachable local populace one can come across. Walking through the winding roads with cottages on either side, don’t be surprised (or alarmed) if a smiling local invites you in for some coffee or tea. If you need help with getting about, just ask. Even if the person does not understand your language, they will take you to someone who does and will be able to guide you. Another fact, Ooty has one of the lowest crime rates in India, so tourists need not fear being cheated or harmed in anyway.

The Tribes! Although Ooty was founded nearly 200 years ago, that too by the British, it still retains most of its ethnic tribes. These are the Todas, Badagas, Irulas, Kothars and Kurumbas. You can tell these tribes apart from settlers by the way they dress in natural dyed woolen clothes and have facial features that are not quite like everyone else. I would suggest that you get a local guide and visit the small ‘munds’ or villages located around Ooty. The members of these tribes are extremely friendly and this would give you a great opportunity to see their culture and traditions up close and personal!

Visit Ooty in the month of May. The weather is great all year round but this is the month when Ooty is at its festive best. You will be able to attend the famous Flower show, Rose Show and Dog show. Also, try out the horse riding options available at the clubs as well as through private operators in the town. Going through misty tea and coffee plantations on horseback is a must have experience!

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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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