Called the "Queen of Hill Stations" picturesque, the green Udhagamandalam, better known as Ooty is the most popular hill station in the South. Located in the Western ghats at a height of 2240m, Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district where the two ghats meet. Nature has been generous with this region, which is by far the most beautiful in the state. Apart from coffee and tea plantations, trees like conifers, eucalyptus, pine and wattle dot the hillside in Udhagamandalam and its environs. Summer temperature is rarely higher than 25°c with a minimum of 10°c and winters are distinctly cooler with a high of 21°c and a low 5°c. Curiously enough, this slice of paradise remained unknown to the great southern dynasties and it took the British to discover it in the early 1800s. They were, however, not the first inhabitants of this land as a tribe called Todas had been living there long before the British came, claiming that the Nilgiris had been their home since time immemorial. But the credit for modernising Udhagamandalam and making it accessible goes to the British who constructed the first railway line in the area and made it the summer capital of the Madras Presidency.
About Udhagamandalam - Settlement in Udhagamandalam began in 1822 with the construction of the Stone House by John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore. The bungalow, which is locally called Kal Bangla, is one of the landmarks of Udhagamandalam and is now the Chamber of the Principal of the Government Arts College. Not many years after the construction of the Stone House, several other English cottages with pretty gardens, large bungalows of top officials in the Government, were built. Even today the atmosphere of the Raj lingers in places like the Club where snooker was invented by a subaltern named Neville Chamberlain, the Nilgiri Library with its rare and valuable collection of books on Udhagamandalam and St.Stephen"s Church which was Udhagamandalam"s first church.
The cemetery near the church has the oldest British tombstones in the town and includes those of John Sullivan"s wife and daughter among other prominent personalities.
The Botanical Garden is maintained by the Horticulture Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu and has a very wide variety of plants that include different types of roses, imported shrubs, rare flowering plants, eucalyptus trees, several old trees and even a fossilised tree trunk that is 20 million years old. There is also a beautiful Italian floral garden and for those who simply want to relax, there"s always the green carpet of the well-maintained lawns. The "Summer Festival" is held each year during the month of May in the Botanical Garden and is an added attraction for tourists. The Flower Show is the pride of the festival. Cultural programmes are organised for those interested in traditional classical arts. Adventure spots like trekking also form part of the festival.
The artificial Lake, yet another of Sullivan"s contributions, has facilities for boating and permission to fish can be obtained from the office of the Assistant Director of Fisheries.
Among the viewpoints around Udhagamandalam are Elk Hill, Green Valley View and Snowden Peak but the most prominent is the Dodabetta Peak, which is the highest point in the district at a height of 2623m. Provided the day is clear, one can see as far as the plains of Coimbatore and the Mysore plateau.
Also for the nature lover are the sprawling 20,000 acres of Wenlock Downs, which was once the scene of the famous Udhagamandalam Hunt. The Gymkhana Club, the factory of the Hindustan Photo Films Company, the Government Sheep Farm and the Golf Course are all in Wenlock Downs. The Government Museum, Mysore Road, Udhagamandalam has tribal objects d"art, district"s ecological details and representative sculptural arts and crafts of Tamilnadu.
COONOOR: Situated at an altitude of 2000 ft and only 17 kms from Udhagamandalam is the first of three hill stations. Coonoor is a small town with an equable climate that has made it popular as a hill resort in its own right. The main attraction is the Sim"s Park, a small well-maintained botanical garden that has several varieties of plants not to be found in other hill stations. Viewpoints and picnic spots around Coonoor include Lamb"s Rock, Lady Canning"s Seat and Dolphin"s Nose
KOTAGIRI: It is 31 kms from Udhagamandalam and is 6503 feet above sea level. Kotagiri is shielded by the Doddabetta ranges, which receive much of its rain from the northwest monsoon. One can enjoy a pleasure ride on roads flanked by green tea beds on either side.
Ooty Coonoor Kotagiri
Area in Sq.Km: 36 13.2 26.39
Altitude (in metres) 2,240 1,858 1,984
Climate: Max. Min.
Summer 25 C 10 C
Winter 21 C 3 C
Rainfall: 121 cms
Season: April to June and September to November
Clothing: Heavy Woollen in Winter Light Woollen in summer.
Languages: Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and English
Air: The nearest airport is Coimbatore (100 kms) connected to Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Rail: Udhagamandalam on the narrow gauge railway is connected to Mettupalayam, which is directly connected to Coimbatore and Chennai.
Road: Udhagamandalam is connected by good motorable road. It is 535km from Chennai(Via Salem, Mettupalayam), 89km. from Coimbatore.
PLACE OF INTEREST OOTY
Mini Garden: At about one kilometre distance Tourist can visit this mini garden (Children"s Lake Garden) which is on the way to Boat House. Children"s amusement park is housed here. A snack bar is also available. Tamil Nadu Tourism Developement Corporation Limited maintains it.
Art Gallery: Lalith kala Academy: It is situated about 2 kms, from Udhagamandalam in the main Mysore road. It has various collections of contemporary paintings and sculptures all over from India.
Rose Garden: It is located just 3/4 kms away from Charring Cross. It lies with 10 acres of land with 1919 variety of roses.
Excursions around Udhagamandalam
Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary (67kms) - The most prominent of the wildlife sanctuaries in the state, as well as one of the most important in the southern region, thickly forested Mudumalai borders the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka and the Wyanad Sanctuary in Kerala. Apart from the wide range of animal and bird life, the rich fauna of this sanctuary has made Mudumalai very popular with wildlife enthusiasts.
There are tigers at Mudumalai, though it takes a lot of luck and perseverance to spot one of these big cats that are such masters of stealth. But there are several other creatures of the jungle that can be sighted more easily.
Among these are spotted deer, elephant, gaur, sambar, barking deer, wild boar, civet, flying squirrel, four horned antelope, mouse deer, common langur, bonnet macaque and pangolin the scaly anteater. More rarely spotted are the panther, leopard, hyena, sloth bear and jackal.
The birds include peacock, woodpeckers, several species of owls, vultures and buzzards and the grey jungle fowl to name a few. On balmy April nights, when the whole sanctuary is lit up by million of glowworms, one will be in a different world altogether, a world of illuminated quiet.
Within the sanctuary is an elephant camp called Theppakkadu where there is a rest house. Accommodation is also available at TTDC"s Youth Hostel and rest houses in Masinagudi, Abhayaranayam and Kargudi and the Bamboo Banks Farm that is 18kms away. The best season to visit is between Jan-March and Sep-Oct. For further information contact the Wildlife Warden, Coonoor Road, Udhagamandalam. There are also resorts at Masinagudi.
Ketti valley viewpoint: Located on the road to Coonoor, this idyllic spot is a cluster of tiny villages that extend to the plains of Coimbatore and Mysore plateau.
Glenmorgan: It is about 17 kms from Udhagamandalam an ecologically rich forestry spot. There from is an Electricity Board (E.B). Winch which carries staff from Glenmorgan viewpoint to the powerhouse at Singara. All the 4 kms of the Winch track passes through undisturbed sholas and wildlife habitat. Prior permission of E. B. authorities should be obtained to enter the viewpoint zone.
Upper Bhavani: It is about 10 kms from Korakundah and about 20 kms from Avalanche. This is Naturalist"s Paradise. Some of the best sholas like sholas lies enroute. The area is a rich and undisturbed wildlife habitat. From Bangithapal via. Sispara one can trek to silent valley. Forest Department"s permission is necessary.
Kalhatty falls: It is located on the Kalhatty slopes at about 13 kms from Udhagamandalam on the Udhagamandalam - Mysore Kalhatty ghat road. The height of the water falls is about 100 ft. Kalhatty - Masinagudi slopes is rich in wildlife such as Panthers, Bisons, Wild Buffaloes, Wild Dogs, Spotted Deers, Sambers and different types of hill birds.
Wenlock Downs: A vast expanse of undulating landscape offering the Gymkana Club, the Government Sheep Farm and the Hindustan Photo Films Company besides pleasure of a long stroll on quiet roads.
Cairn Hill: Situated about 3 kms on the road to Avalanche, Cairn hill is one of the few surviving original walks. Dense cypress trees flank the entrance road to the hill. The clearings underneath them make good picnic spots. The stillness and silence of the cypress woods is broken only by the sounds of birds in the surrounding shrubs that can be an unforgettable experience.
Kandal Cross Shrine: This is a Roman Catholics "Holy Shrine" of the Roman Catholics considered by the Nilgiri Catholics as the "CALVARY OF TAMILNADU" situated to the west of Udhagamandalam Railway Station. A relic of the true cross is here and it cures the sick, bestow heavenly blessings, peace and joy to the visiting pilgrims and tourists. Special Novena Prayers and Holly Masses are offered every Friday. The annual feast is on 3rd May every year.
Kamaraj Sagar (Sandynallah Reservoir): The Kamaraj Sagar dam is a good picnic spot and can be reached via. Kandal amidst every old trees and green shrubs of various terrains and via Hindustan Photo films in Gudalur road. It is a very good picnic spot on the slopes of the Wenlock Sagar Downs. Apart from studying nature and the environment, fishing provides excellent game in Kamaraj as well as in Upper Bhavani and Avalanche, whose waters are especially rich in trout fish.
he Mukurthi Peak & Mukurthi National Park: Mukurthi Peak is about 40 km from Ooty. The Mukurthi National Park is located on the South Eastern corner of the Nilgiris . The area contains a viable population of Nilgiri Thar(Hamitragus hilocrius). The silent valley is located on the western side of these ranges. Fascinating feature of the Mukurthi Sanctuary is its variety and similarities to Himalayan Flora and Fauna.
Pykara: Situated about 21kms on the Ooty-Mysore Road, Pykara boasts of well-protected fenced Sholas, Toda settlements, undistributed grassy meadows and also a good wildlife habitat. The Pykara Dam, Pykara falls and the reservoir attracts many tourists. A boathouse with Restaurant is available. It is maintained by T.T.D.C.
Avalanche: Located at a distance of 28kms from Ooty. A beautiful lake surrounded by a thick shola where even sunlight cannot penetrate and abundant with a wide variety of avifauna is a Nature Lover"s Paradise.
Western Catchment: It is about 20 kms from Parsons Valley. It contains Rolling Grassy downs interspersed with termperate sholas occupying depression and valleys.