Just a two-hour drive from Coimbatore lies the Nilgiris, also known as the Blue Mountains. Its heart is the hill station of Ooty – an anglicised abbreviation of Udhagamandalam – which is a bustling small city. In contrast, the nearby district of Coonoor 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. Bring along a picnic to enjoy with the view.
Enjoy a tea tasting session at Tranquilitea, a boutique property ensconced in an emerald green tea plantation. Usually conducted by knowledgeable owner Sandeep Subramani, it makes for an ideal introduction to the Nilgiris’ famed teas. By reservation only.
Coonoor is a place to kick back and relax – and there’s nowhere better to do so than at Sim’s Park (Cantonment Area Road). Located in the heart of the hill station, the botanical garden is a delightful oasis, with multiple tree-lined walkways, rock gardens and an artificial lake.
Where to stay
Welaro (2/15 E-2, Lamb’s Rock) is a charming B&B run by a couple from Bangalore, who moved to Coonoor in search of the quiet life. Get cosy in one of its three rooms, which each offer queen-sized beds and en-suite bathroom.
(image credit: Welaro)
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 from Ooty to Mettupalayam) began in 1891, but it proved so tough that it was only completed in 1908. I recommend catching the 10.30am train for the picturesque 90-minute ride to Ooty.
Visit St Stephen’s Church (Upper Bazaar) for its stunning stained-glass windows and graceful arches. Built in 1829, it was originally fashioned entirely from wood. Today, its soaring pale-yellow façade is still a striking sight. The adjoining cemetery is the final resting place for the wife and daughter of John Sullivan, Ooty’s founding father.
Do as the locals do and head to Doddabetta Peak. Standing at just over 2600m, it offers commanding views over the Nilgiri mountains and valleys. It’s a pleasant, moderately difficult 9km hike from the main town; alternatively, you can just catch a cab to the top.
Where to stay
The Taj Savoy Hotel is the true embodiment of old world charm. With English-style, semi-detached cottages set amid verdant lawns, along with a spa offering Ayuverdic therapies, it’s a perennial favourite.
When to visit
A former summer capital under British rule, its beautiful mountain views and cool sub-tropical climate means it remains a popular holiday destination. The best time to visit is in the cool and dry season between December and April.
Published in the October 2017 issue of Silk Winds, the inflight magazine of Silk Air.