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Editor's Note Ooty  
OotyThis is nature's own domain, the site of many a Bollywood superhit movies and perpetually crowded by romantic honeymooners. There are some who even feel that Ooty's lost some of its charm. But one visit here and you get your answer on why this is Scotland of the East. We say, skip the tourist season, and head out during off-season. This is when you get to see the numerous panoramic vistas - the splendid views of the setting sun, the green shola trees, ponies trotting by the lake, lovers on a boat ride, fragrance of pines and the quaint life of the Toda tribes, Nirgiri's oldest residents. Sloped terrace gardens give way to old cottages and somewhat newer buildings. And the locals would only be too glad to tell you where the chayya chayya sequence was shot! Ooty has attractions, yes, and most of it can be covered on foot. Visit the beautiful gardens and the old churches; gather some herbs to make your own aromatic oil and while you're at it, savour the world's best home-made chocolates available only here!
Climate
Summer Summer
April-June, Pleasant & cool
Temperatures - 10.2°C-26.3°C.
Monsoon Monsoons
July-August, Heavy rainfall & cold at night
Annual Rainfall - 2120 mm
Winter Winter
November-February, Cold & chilly
Temperatures - 5.6°C-21.2°C
Local Languages: Badaga, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Malayalam & English
Best Time to Visit: April - June & September - November
Clothing: Light woolen in summer & heavy woolen in winter
Moving Around:

Local city buses, private cabs and taxis are available, which would be glad to take you around the city. Of course, a place as beautiful as this is best explored on foot. However, autos and jeeps are also available to take you around the city.
Tourist Offices: Tamil Nadu Tourist Office
Ooty
Tel: 0423-2443977
Ooty

Gardens: One of the most popular picnic spots, the Botanical Garden consists of well maintained lawns, rare tree species including the monkey puzzle tree (so called because monkeys cannot climb this tree!), a 20 million year old fossilized tree, an Italian- garden lining a clear pool and rare flowers like orchids. This garden is the hub of activity during the annual Flower Show held in May. Another popular haunt, especially with children is the Mini Garden, which has a children's amusement park within. Located in the city centre, you must also make time for a visit to the Rose Garden, which has the largest collection of roses in the country. Hybrid Tea Roses, miniature roses, Ramblers and unusual colored roses like black and green are some of the highlights here.
Open from: Botanical Garden - 7.30 am-6.00 pm, Entry fee - Rs 5
Rose Garden - 8.30 am-6.30 pm, Entry fee - Rs 10

Doddabetta: Located 4 kms from Ooty, Doddabetta is the highest mountain in the Nilgiris. Literally meaning Big Mountain, the entire range is covered with thick shola trees, rhododendron bushes and shrubs. Atop the peak are two telescopes to let people enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding vistas.

St. Stephen's Church: Located on the Club Road, this is a tiny gothic church, one of the first colonial structures to have come up in Ooty. It's pews are remarkably done and there are stained glass paintings inside, depicting Mary holding baby Jesus and the crucifixion of Christ. The Western Wall has a huge painting of the Last Supper. Watch the wooden beams inside, which was transported from Tipu Sultan's palace. If you can, visit the cemetery closeby, which houses the grave of John Sullivan, founder of Ooty. Also popularly visited are the Gothic and Tudor churches, Union Church and Holy Trinity Church, which have huge stained glass windows, carved pews and plaques carrying names of British battalions.

Tribal Research Centre: This was established as a plan to promote growth of the tribal of the Nilgiri area. This centre is concerned with conducting studies on the lives of the communities, imparting training and education on their development abd to develop a tribal museum for maintaining records of their times. For this, you must also visit the adjoining Library and the Special Cultural Museum, which safeguards several important literatures and structures of their evolution.

Government Museum: The Government Museum on Mysore Road has on display tribal items, the ecological details of the town and several sculptures and crafts of Tamil Nadu.

Lalith Kala Academy: Situated 2 kms from Ooty, this houses a vast collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures from across the country.

Ooty Lake: One of the prime highlights of this city, the lake appears in an L-shape. Artificially formed by John Sullivan, the far end of this has the Boat House, where you can hire boats for excursions on the lake. In fact, this lake is the centre of attention during the annual Boat Race and Boat Pageantry. Close to the Boat House is a children's amusement park and a toy train. Next to it is a deer park and adjacent to it is a mini-garden. The entire perimeter of the lake has well-paved roads, which is frequented by walkers and ponies.

Pykara Falls: Located 19 kms from Ooty, this is a beautiful picnic spot. Located closeby are shola growths, Toda settlements and green fields. Also enjoy a session of boating with the Boat House located nearby.

Charring Cross: This is the most happening areas of Ooty, since this is where the main vegetable and fruit markets are located.

Fernhill Palace: The erstwhile summer palace of the Maharaja of Mysore, Fernhill Palace is a beautiful construction of carved wooden boards and ornamental cast iron. The palace grounds abound in well-tended gardens, firs trees and cedars. Also visit the badminton court inside, which resembles a church! Today, this palace has been converted into a heritage hotel.

Trout Fishing: Kamaraj Sagar is a popular picnic spot set amidst old trees and green shrubs and offers great avenues for trout fishing. Similar to this Upper Bhavani Lake is also rich is trout fishing and set amidst great shola shrubs. A huge dam constructed over this lake has also facilitated tea cultivation. Located 28 kms from Ooty, Avalanche Lake is surrounded by a thick forest and is another trou-rich river. Remember to seek prior permission before you venture trout fishing.

Wenlock Downs: This vast land is a popular picnic spot made of rolling hills. Offering breathtaking views of the valley below, it today houses the Gymkhana Club, Hindustan Photo Films Factory and the Golf Club. Also located nearby is a Government Sheep Farm.

Ketty Valley View: Located en route to Coonoor, this is a picturesque village with a wonderful climate. The region abounds in tea plantations and it is believed that tea cultivation was first introduced in this region.

Glenmorgan: This is another popular tea estate, 25 kms from Ooty. There is a beautiful lake located here, which supplies water for the Pykra powerhouse. Also located in its vicinity are Toda settlements.

The Mukkurthi Peak and National Park: Located about 40 kms from Ooty, Mukkurthi is a beautiful peak offering great views of the region. Located nearby is the Mukkurthi National Park, which is established to protect rare wild animals. The Mukkurthi Lake here abounds in several water-birds and ducks and boating facilities are also available.

Needle Rock View Point: Located 12 kms en route to Ooty, this offers beautiful views of the Gudalur and Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary. Also visible from here is a mountain called Aanakkallu or Sleeping Beauty, so named because of its shape of a sleeping woman.

Deer Park: One of the few high altitude parks, this offers a great opportunity to observe wildlife from close quarters.

OotyConsidering the popularity gained by Ooty, finding a place to eat would definitely be the last of troubles. The entire region is dotted with restaurants and hotels serving a range of cuisines. We recommend that you skip the Indian and Mughlai and try some Nilgiri cuisine, which includes crispy dosas, spice-laden vadas and piping hot sambar and the famous varki, which is a combination of chakli and biscuit. Among Chinese specialities, Shinkows continues to be the favourite. Their chicken 65 is definitely worth it! For South Indian fare, head out to Kurinji on Commercial Street. Of course, all hotels have their in-house restaurants serving everything, from tandoori rotis to baked lasagna. The specialty restaurant at Holiday Inn Gem Park, Jade Garden Chinese Restaurant is a multi-cuisine option. Or you can visit the 24-hr open Toda Café. Hotel Nahar Nilgiris also has Chandan Veg Restau¬rant cooking Chinese and North Indian, and a Garden Snack Bar for tiffin meals. For South Indian, another good option would be TTDC's Hotel Tamil Nadu. Multi-cuisine can be had at Nilgiri Woodland's Toda Arch, Sterling Fernhill's Gulmohar Restaurant, Hotel Lakeview's Supper Club, Blue Hill International and The Willow Hill. Nahar's Hotel serves sumptuous idlis with four varieties of chutney. Nilgiri Woodlands' Toda Arch is a colonial setting offering veg options. For Punjabi meals, head out to Dhabba Express on Coonoor Road. Head to Almora for a range of North Indian, Chinese and Continental vegetarian dishes. And once you're through trying out all these yummy meals, wash it down with the amazing cardamom and masala chai available at every corner of the city!
OotyTea, what else! Though you must remember that tea is not really grown within the city, but a lower altitude. However, packaged tea in a few varieties is available across the city. Ooty is more popular for its large variety of handmade chocolates, which are available at almost every shop here. The most popular for these would be King Star on Commercial Road, which stocks up liberally on varieties including rum, raisin, mint and coconut. Also look out for shops dealing in aromatic oils and food spices like nutmeg and cardamom. Ooty's signature shopping item would be the handicrafts and other items prepared by the Toda Tribal. These include red, white and black Toda shawls, linens, traditional Toda silver jewellery, aromatic oils and honey. You may also visit the Commercial Road, which has a number of bookstores stocked with interesting books on the Nilgiris.
Ooty One of the most important festivals celebrated with great fervour is the Tea and Tourism Festival held in January. This includes visiting the local tea estates, taking a lesson or two in tea making and of course, sampling some of the most delectable teas available. Held in May, the Summer Festival holds great attraction for all visiting it. Special cultural programmes, boat races, fashion shows and dog shows are the highlight of this festival. An added attraction is the Flower Show, which is your best chance to watch a fine collection of rare and exotic flowers. In additional traditional classical arts as well as adventure sports like trekking are also arranged and highlighted.
For a place that's thronged by honeymooners, families and the Bollywood stars, finding a hotel would not be a problem! One of the best hotels you can try and get a room at would be Fortune Hotel Sullivan Court, which overlooks the Nirgiri Mountains and is set on the slopes of Selbourne Road. Similarly popular is the Zest@Danish Villa Sheddon, owned and managed by Club Mahindra, which has rooms offering great views of the hills. Another 4-star hotel would be Hotel Sinclairs, overlooking the Blue Mountains and offering beautiful rooms and suites. Towards the budget category, we recommend Hotel Darshan overlooking the Ooty Lake and Ooty Villa Park on Baikey Road. Also popular with wildlife enthusiasts is Monarch Safari Park, located near the Mudumalai National Park and offering interesting machan-like accommodations. A three-star hotel, Nahar's Nilgiris Hotel is located on Charring Cross Road in the heart of the city. Similarly popular is The Monarch located off Havelock Road and housing a multi-cuisine restaurant. For complete tranquility, try and book yourself at Sagar Holiday Resorts, which has cottage-like rooms and overlooks the Ketti Valley at Lovedale. Also located overlooking the valley at Lovedale is Hill Country Holiday Resorts, which has apartment-style cottages. Hotel Lakeview also offers good views of the lake and is a budget-style hotel with cottage-style rooms. Remember that Ooty gets maddeningly crowded during the summers, so check your rates and book well in advance.
Air: Air Coimbatore at 96 kms is the closest airport, connected with regular flights to Chennai. Hire a taxi from here to reach Ooty.
Rail: Railway Mettupalayam at 51 kms is the closest railhead connected to Chennai. If time permits, you must enjoy the famous toy train that connects Ooty to Mettupalayam and Coonoor and takes you through the winding Nilgiri Hills.
Road: Road Connected mostly to Chennai, the drive here would be a tough one. However the TNSETC operates buses to reach Ooty from Chennai.
Ooty The Toda Tribe is a small pastoral community in the Nilgiris, believed to have existed since its inception, whose life and times are now the subject of great studies. While their origin is not clear, Todas believe that their patron goddess Teikirshy and her brother Lord Amnodr first created their sacred buffalo, followed by the first Toda man. Since women were almost always the subjugated lot, their beliefs go that the first Toda woman emerged from the right rib of the first Toda man! Curiously enough, the Toda religion forbids them from walking on bridges and crossing rivers on foot or by swimming. One of the most reserved groups, the Toda villages or munds are made of five tiny dwellings or barrel-shaped huts decorated with rock mural paintings - three occupied by an entire family, one as a dairy and one to protect the calves at night. Their dairy buffalos are greatly revered and their only religious ceremony is the Kona Shastra, which is the annual sacrifice of a male buffalo. The Toda Temples too are similar in design to their huts and are constructed in stones.