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An Ooty City Guide – a bustling Colonial era hill station in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri Mountains

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Ooty’s lofty spot high above sea level was first put on the tourist map by Colonial Brits, who would retreat here in the summer. Today you can hide from the incessant heat of the south Indian plains among the Victorian era bungalows. Crowds of tourists are drawn here by the lush grasslands and clusters of evergreen shola woodland, not to mention the terraced tea plantations that surround town.
Parks and gardens

 

 

Of course, the holidaying British needed somewhere to spend their leisure time in Ooty, and today you’ll still find landscaped parks and gardens formed in the Colonial era. The Botanical Gardens are arguably Ooty’s most popular attraction, just a 12-minute stroll from Charing Cross – the town’s main commercial area. As well as being a perfect picnic spot, the gardens are home to a fossilised tree, thought to be 20 million years old. The Rose Garden is another pretty spot, with an abundance of rose bushes, which burst into colourful bloom in the summer.

 

Cultural attraction

 

 

It may not be as famous as the likes of Darjeeling, but Ooty’s also well known as a tea growing area, with terraced tea plantations adding to the greenery of the Nilgiri hillsides. Just a 7-minute taxi ride from Charing Cross, Doddabetta Tea Factory and Museum offers a fascinating look into the tea making process. You can tour the factory, soaking up the aroma while conveyor belts of green tea leaves are dried into tea powder, which you can buy from the fairly priced factory shop.

 

What to see and do

 

 

The awesome Doddabetta Peak is the highest point in the Nilgiris. Often cloaked in shrouds of mist, it’s best on a clear day or early in the morning. If you don’t fancy the complete trek from town, you can get a taxi to Doddabetta Junction and hike the last 3 kilometres. Another way to enjoy the Nilgiri scenery is to take a trip on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. A ride in one of the steam train’s vintage blue and white painted carriages is a thrill – albeit a slow one – as it travels precariously around the craggy hills and valleys.

 

Travel tips

 

 

Ooty can at times become overwhelmingly crowded with tourists retreating into the hills from the heat of the plains. Generally April to June are the busiest months, as well as Christmas and whenever there’s a festival. If you’re heading to the area in winter, you’ll find an enchantingly romantic landscape awaits. However, temperatures may drop to as low as freezing at night, so you’ll need to pack extra layers at this time of year.