Our plan called for a two-night stay in Ooty with half-a-day set aside for the Ooty Toy Train Trip and the rest for sightseeing within Ooty. This worked fairly well, although there is definitely things to do, if one has more time. Ooty lacks a resort hotel - options that come close include a good heritage place called Savoy by Taj, Gem Park Hotel which was formerly a Holiday Inn, and Sinclairs Retreat. In the 3-star and below categories, there are a large number of choices. Economical alternatives include the YWCA Guest House and the TTDC Youth Hostel both of which are blessed with great locations. In terms of restaurants, choices are aplenty although high-end options are generally lacking. At the low end, there is a Saravana Bhavan for South Indian food near Charing Cross which has a good rating. Nahar Hotel and a Gujarati restaurant (both on Main Bazar Road) are good economical choices as well. For pure vegetarian fare, the Nahar Niligiris Hotel at Charing Cross has several options: Chandan (North Indian food), Garden Restaurant (South Indian cuisine) and Side Walk Café (Italian). Also, Thendral Restaurant or Ooty Coffee House, both near bus-stand are good choices as well. Preethi Multi-cuisine restaurant next to Ooty Gate is a good eclectic choice. At the high-end, choices include the restaurants at the Gem Park hotel and Savoy. The Jade Garden restaurant at Gem Park is rated the best Chinese restaurant in Ooty. Shinkow's is a popular economical alternative and offers authentic Chinese fare - the best way to locate the place is to ask for St. Stephen’s Church and take the road on the opposite side (Commissioner’s Road) - a classic Higgin Bothams building and a large government building flag this street and further down at the first junction to the right is Shinkow's - it is very well-known and a unique thing about this place is the way they take your order: the waiter presents you with a pen and a slip of paper to write down the order.
The first item in our itinerary was Deer Park on the way to Honeymoon Boat House. The place has no entrance fee! There are a large number of Samba Deers and some caged barking Deers on offer here - the location next to the lake is pristine and offers great views of the main gate house area of the lake. The honeymoon boat house is far less crowded compared to the main gate house but services are minimal: one can rent a boat (Motor boats - Rs 385 to Rs 700 for 20min, Row boats - Rs 140 for a 5-seater for 30min, and Pedal boats - Rs 90 to Rs 140 for 30min), go for a short walk along the side of the lake, or shop at the TTDC (Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation) Nursery for flowering plants at the entrance. There is a park with slides for small children and a small but beautifully maintained garden here as well. The main gate house area of the lake is the center of most of the activity around the lake - entrance fee is Rs 5. It has a restaurant overlooking the lake, a large and popular lawn area, boating, children’s rides, horse riding, etc ticketing counters and several retail outlets - the items popular with tourists include chocolates, eucalyptus oil, hand-embroidered textiles, and tea.
Botanical Gardens (established 1848) is the most popular spot in Ooty after the lake. Hours are 8:30AM to 6:30PM with admission around Rs 30. Private parking is available next to the gardens for around Rs 50 - curio and other touristy shops flank either side of the road. The gardens are a great option to spend upwards of two hours. It is spread over more than 50 acres and is divided into five parts: lower garden, new garden, Italian Garden, Conservatory Fountain Terrace, and Nurseries. The gardens host around a thousand species of both indigenous and exotic plants, shrubs, ferns, trees, and bonsais. The bhaji in the caffe inside deserve special mention as it was exceptionally good. It rained while we were there resulting in a good taste of hail. Curio shops are at the entrance and inside as well. Governor’s House (Raj Bhavan) overlooks the garden but the entrance to that area is out-of-bounds to public. There are several elevated platforms that provide a great view of the garden area. Other highlights of the gardens include a fossil tree trunk exhibit (from 20 million year old rock per the Geological Survey of India), McIvor Fern House considered the crown jewel of Victorian Architecture in the area (in honor of W.G.McIvor from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew who set up the place in the 1840s), Heritage Gate Building (built in 1859 and renovated in 1995 for the centenary flower festival), an elevated Italian Garden area, British era cannons, and statues and other tributes to Jayalalithaa, the Chief Minister. Several large lawn areas, ponds with lilies, and several carpet-bed designs with different themes (map of the Indian Union, Ashok Chakra, etc) dot the area.
Other major attractions in and around Ooty include St. Stephens Church established in 1829 and designed by architect John James Underwood as one of the first buildings by the British, Rose Garden (seasonal), and Pykara Falls & Pykara Lake located around 20KM from Ooty. Attractions in the neighboring town of Coonoor include Sim’s Park, Dolphin’s Nose, Katery Falls, Lamb’s Rock, Law’s Falls, and Droog View Point.
Last Updated: 01/2013.
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Last Updated: 01/2013.