Ooty, the queen of hills, is a small town located 100 kilometres north of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, attracting footfall from across the world for its serene beauty, lush slopes and unspoiled landscapes. This used to be a summer resort under the British Raj and now it is one of the top picks for a southern weekend gateway. Besides tourists, this place is known to have attracted the filmmakers of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Raja Hindustani and Golmaal 4.
Ooty, with its winding roads, dense green forests and monkey-laden sidewalks is a paradise for bikers. As soon as you catch a whiff of the wet forest intermingled with flowers and fruits, the smell of the city wears off, which is why it is also called the summer capital of the Madras Presidency. With its lush green slopes filled with tea plantations, cliffs with long trees and still preserved and monitored ancient architecture, a getaway here offers scenic hikes of the Nilgiris, a perfumed rose garden, quaint waterfalls and locally produced shawls, tea, and essential oils. Being nestled atop 7,349 feet boasting a -10℃ temperature, local food is what comes to the rescue with its bakery fare and traditional biscuits like buns, cakes, pies, fruit-nut chocolates, brownies, and bread. Ooty had a great climate all year round but the best time to visit is in the summer months between March and June.
Tamil Nadu’s second most popular hill station is an exquisite hilly hamlet which usually succumbs to the fate of being a day-long detour from Ooty to relish a sister sojourn. However, the picturesque destination is worth an exclusive trip on its own. Stationed atop 6,070 feet with panoramic vistas of lush green hill slopes and tea-covered patches, Coonoor has a peaceful charm. As a small town in the Nilgiri district, the hill station was perched as an escape destination for Britishers. Their journey to the hamlet is replicated via toy trains which take you through the scenic and misty hillside. Coonoor has sloppy topography. To view the plains, hike up to two vantage points high in the hills—the Lamb’s Rock or the Dolphin’s Nose and experience a deafening silence. A miniature version of Ooty’s botanical gardens is the Sims Park which exhibits a unique treasure trove of some of the rarest species on earth. Another feast for nature lovers is Catherine Falls, a double cascading waterfall situated among a thick pine forest. Break away from touristy hotspots such as Laws Falls, Droog Fort and Hidden Valley by touring the 50-year-old Highfield Tea Factory.
Shopping in Coonoor is an experience on its own as the streetside local shops offer an array of souvenirs from homemade confection jams and preserves to essential oils. They also sell pieces of heritage in the form of traditional Toda jewellery, regional handloom fabrics and homegrown teas. To explore the famous food trail of Coonoor, head to Mount Road and stop by Ramchandra’s or Rams, to savour the ‘Wellington Special’. Indulge in regional confections like the Ooty varki biscuit, honey cakes, or hot-cross buns, from Crown Bakery. Serving the town since the 1800s, this bakery will leave you with a lasting memory. There’s more to add to your indulgence list: pink coconut barfi from Baker’s Junction and the fudge bar from King Star. Its 100-year-old tradition of food and artistic heritage is something to bask in. Coonoor is to be best experienced between October to March, although it has a pleasant and cool climate year-round.
Tucked in the Shevroy ranges of the Eastern Ghats, Yercaud is a hill station growing in popularity by the day. At an altitude of 4,970 feet above sea level, Yercaud is steeped in luxuriant coffee plantations, vibrant orange orchards, lush green slopes, sedating atmosphere and utmost serenity. The woodlands are abundant in sandalwood, teaks and silver oaks while nonpareil species of fauna such as spotted and sambar deers, jackals, foxes and civets call it home.
Tourists flock to Yercaud Lake, Lady’s Seat, Shevaroy Temple, Anna Park, Bears Cave, Orchidarium, Pagoda Point, Kiliyur Falls, and Arthur Seat. Of these, the National Orchadium and Botanical Garden nurture 3,000 trees and 1,800 shrubs along with 250 species of orchids, a paradise for dendrophiles. Boating in the emerald waters of the Yercaud lake with panoramic views of the lofty hills is not to be missed.
Shopping in Yercaud is a soul-enriching experience itself. Satisfy your sweet tooth in the Yercaud chocolate factory while also packing up on whole spices and ayurvedics. Sweet tingling fragrances will lead you to shops stacked with local essential oils and herbal gels with bountiful benefits. While you are at it, be sure to indulge on the scrumptious local dosas, upma and uttapam served with lip-smacking chutneys for a hearty meal.