Ooty – The Queen of the Nilgiri Hills

Ooty, also known as Udhagamandalam, Ootacamund, and Udhagai, is a popular hill station and the district capital of the Nilgiris district in the Tamil Nadu state of India. Located in the Nilgiri hills, it is at the height of 7,500 feet above the sea level. Officially, it is named as Udhagamandalam.

It is not clear as to how the name Ootacamund was derived, however ‘mund’ refers to the Badaga word for a Toda village. Further, Ootaca is derived from the local Tamil language, Otta-Cal, meaning single stone. This is actually referring a holy stone that is worshipped by the native Toda tribe.

Windy hilly roads, complex rack railway system, lofty mountains, calm lakes, thick forests, slouching pampas, enormous tea gardens, and high eucalyptus trees welcome the visitors to Ooty.

In the medieval period, the Nilgiris was ruled by the Chera Empire. Then, it was under the Ganga dynasty succeeded by the Hoysala Empire whose king was Vishnuvardhana in the 12th century. Later, it fell into the hands of the Kingdom of Mysore of Tipu Sultan and was then under the rule of the British in the 18th century.

The British governor of Coimbatore, John Sullivan, was pleased with this town’s climate. Therefore, he bought the land from the local inhabitants (Kota/Kotas, Toda, Kurumba, and Badaga); at a cost of few feasts.

Exclusively owned by the private British citizens, this area flourished more quickly during the British rule as compared to the rest of India. It was the summer capital of the Madras region and the weekend gateway during the colonial era. Due to its spectacular scenes and evergreen valleys, British entitled the place as ‘Queen of Hills’.

Tourists’ Attractions

Ooty is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve to safeguard the frail ecosystem. Due to this, many of the forest areas and water lakes are not open to visitors. This is because unplanned tourism this has resulted in haywire commercialization that has negatively affected the ecosystem in Ooty.

Ooty Lake and Boat House
Ooty Lake
Built by John Sullivan, in olden days, it was quite large such that it covered the current bus stand, race course and maximum portion of the present market. Boating attracts the tourists that allow them to have the benefit of calm environs look amidst the groves of eucalyptus trees boosting the scenic beauty. You can also enjoy the nearby Mini Garden that has an amusement park and a toy train for children.

Stone House
Stone House Ooty
Erected by John Sullivan, this was the first ‘Pukka’ house, now in old Ooty. Located within the premises of the Government Arts College, it is the government office currently.

Toda Huts
These are an attractive residing place of Todas who still live up in the hills of the Botanical Garden.

Fernhills Palace
Fernhills Palace Ooty
This is a must visiting palace in Ooty.

Railway Station
Railway Station Ooty
Being a part of World Heritage Site and the station of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, it offers a unique view of the rail track built during the British rule.

St. Stephen’s Church
St. StephenGÇÖs Church Ooty
Being one of the oldest churches in Ooty, its sculpting reveals its ancient style along with the tall spires. This must be visiting church is near the District Courthouse building.

Wax World
This is a museum that exhibits wax statues of the Indian history personalities almost seem to look alive. It also houses instances of Indian culture and heritage in a 142-year-old bungalow.

Ooty Golf Links
This is a grassy forest area for playing golf.

Doddabetta Peak
Doddabetta Peak Ooty
This is the highest point in the Nilgiri Hills and is surrounded by the reserved forest area. You can enjoy the amazing views of Ooty from here. You can reach this peak through a hilly road.

Tea Plantations
Due to their scenic nature, tourists always visit these lands of cultivation at a lower altitude.

Ketti Valley
Due to ever-pleasant climate, this is also known as the ‘Switzerland of Southern India’.

Valley View
This is a point that lies in between the Ooty- road.

Pykara Lake Boat House and Pykara Falls
Pykara Lake
This is the famous picnic spot. However, most of the part of the lake is not opened to the visitors.

Pine Forest
Comprising of systematically arranged pines, it is a small region at the base of the hill between Ooty and Thalaikundha. This tourist spot was also shown in the Tamil movie song ‘Deena’.

Wenlock Downs
Being a grassland area, it comprises of rolling hills and is compared with the regions of the British Isles like the Yorkshire Dales. This region is mostly a film shooting area, especially the two areas at six and nine miles (14 km) on the Ooty-Pykara road, which is also known as the Mysore road. Based on this distance, the two areas are named as the Sixth Mile and Ninth Mile respectively.

Kamraj Sagar Lake
Kamraj Sagar Lake Ooty
This is located in between the route to Pykara Lake.

Mudumalai National Park
Mudumalai National Park Ooty
Housing variety of flora and fauna, it is at a lower altitude and shares its border with the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka.

Mukurthi National Park
Housing a peak and a lake of this name too, this is a protected area not opened for visitors.

Needle Hill View Point
Needle Hill View Point Ooty
This is a point located in between Gudalur and Pykara.

Parsons Valley Reservoir
This is the chief source of water for the Ooty people and forms a part of the reserved forest area.

Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake Ooty
Located near the Emerald town, it houses a dam and a viewpoint.

Avalanche Lake
Avalanche Lake
This is near to the Emerald Lake and is a part of the reserved forest area.

Porthimund Lake
Porthimund Lake Ooty
This lake is a part of the reserved forest lake and hence, is inaccessible.

Upper Bhavani Lake
Upper Bhavani Lake Ooty
This lake is a part of the Mukurthi National Park and hence, is inaccessible.

Hang Gliding Sport at Kalahatty
Hang Gliding Ooty
20 km from Ooty, Kalahatty in the Nilgiri ranges is famous for hang gliding. This is an adventure sport wherein you hang from a large kite controlled known as the hang glider. Training courses are conducted from March to May.

How to Reach
By Road: Ooty is well connected with the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka through the five main Nilgiri Ghat Roads. Frequent buses are available from the nearby towns – Coonoor, Kotagiri, and Gudalur. Bus services are also present in different cities of Tami Nadu.

By Rail: Ooty is linked with Chennai (formerly Madras) by a night train service. Mettupalayam, at the foot of Nilgiris, is the junction between ‘The Nilagiri Passenger’ (meter gauge) and the Nilgiri Express (broad gauge).

By Air: The nearest airport is Coimbatore and Calicut (146 km).