Two hours from Coimbatore lie the Nilgiris, also known as the Blue Mountains. Here, you’ll find the hill station and bustling small city of Ooty – an anglicised abbreviation of Udhagamandalam. A former summer capital under British rule, its striking mountain views and cool sub-tropical climate mean it remains a popular holiday destination. Nearby, the district of Coonoor also offers beautiful heritage buildings and verdant surrounds. Sample both worlds with this weekend itinerary.
Day One: Coonoor
Start the day bright and early with an 8km hike to Lamb’s Rock, just outside of town, for expansive views of the countryside. From there, head on to Dolphin’s Nose, another evocatively named viewpoint, where you’ll spot the shimmering white ribbon of Catherine Falls in the distance.
Enjoy a tea tasting session at Tranquilitea (website), a boutique property ensconced amid an emerald green tea plantation. Usually conducted by knowledgeable owner Sandeep Subramani, it makes for an ideal introduction to the region’s famed teas.
Kick back and relax at Sim’s Park (Cantonment Area Rd). Located in the heart of the hill station, this botanical garden is a delightful oasis, with multiple tree-lined walkways, rock gardens and an artificial lake.
Day Two: Ooty
Chug your way up to Ooty on the UNESCO-listed Nilgiris Mountain Railway, known locally as the “toy train”. Work on the 46km track (which runs between Ooty and Mettupalayam, just outside Coimbatore, with a few stops along the way) began in 1891, but proved so tough that it was only completed in 1908.
Visit St Stephen’s Church (Upper Bazaar) for its stained-glass windows and graceful arches. Built in 1829, it was originally fashioned from wood; today, its soaring yellow façade is still a striking sight. Its cemetery is the resting place for the wife and daughter of John Sullivan, founder of Ooty.
Do as the locals do and head to Doddabetta Peak. At over 2,600m, it offers commanding views over the mountains and valleys. It’s a pleasant 9km hike from the main town; alternatively, catch a cab to the top.
October marks the end of the monsoon season, making it an ideal time to enjoy the cooler, drier weather. It takes about two hours and 15 minutes to drive the 67km between Coimbatore and Coonoor. If you’re skipping the toy train, Ooty is a further 50-minute drive away.
Where To Stay
Welaro (2/16 E-2, Lamb’s Rock ) in Coonoor is a charming B&B run by a couple from Bangalore. Its three rooms offer queen-sized beds and en-suite bathrooms.
Built in the mid-1800s, the perennial favourite Taj Savoy Hotel (tajhotels.com) in Ooty offers semi-detached cottages set among rolling lawns.
This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Silkwinds magazine.