In the month of March, there aren’t many options of a cold place in South India. I compared Munnar (5600 ft), Ooty (7340 ft), Chikmagalur(6300 ft), Coorg (3800 ft) and a few other hill-stations weather-wise. Since, Ooty is the highest from sea level (7340 feet), it had lower temperature. The average temperature was 15 Degree C for March. Hence we decided to go to Ootacmund, a.k.a. Ooty. When we were there, it was mostly cloudy, we got even more lucky. 🙂
You must read this About Ooty section of my post, this will have useful information for those who are planning to go there.
In this post, I’ll cover
- How to reach
- Where to stay
- Cab/Taxi Service used
- Day-wise itinerary
- Places to visit in and around ooty
- About Ooty – Must Read
- What to take along
How to reach
Coimbatore is the nearest Airport to Ooty. It’s about 90km from Ooty. I was starting from Hyderabad, so the fastest way to reach was via flights. I booked the flight 5 days before the journey, so it was a bit expensive (₹4000/- one side per head), but if you book about a month in advance you can get it in less than ₹ 2000/-. I took the 10:20 AM Indigo flight. Flight duration was 1 hr 20 minutes. Once you reach Coimbatore, you can take a cab to Ooty. You can pre-book it or get one from taxi stand. The standard charges are ~2000₹ for a medium size car like Etios Liva. I paid ₹1900/-
If you are starting from Bangalore, you can take overnight sleeper/semi-sleeper buses, since it is closer to Ooty. (www.redbus.in)
Where to stay
I booked a Treebo hotel because a friend of mine recommended Treebo to me. Treebo has 4 hotels in Ooty, namely Yantra Leisures, Whispering Meadows, Rosefield Heritage, Sholas Residency. I preferred these in the said order because Yantra and Whispering looked more appealing in their online photos. But I didn’t get any room in either of them, and secured one in Rosefield. It was for ₹2200/- per night.
Treebo Rosefield Heritage, was a decent place to stay, you can read my full review on TripAdvisor. The only problem was its distance from Ooty’s main market, a.k.a. Cherring Cross. It would have been good if I had booked a place near Cherring Cross. It helps because after full day’s sight-seeing, you may want to take a walk in the market in the evening and try local food or shop. Something that I like doing everywhere I go.
Cab Service used
After googling a bit, talking to a couple of Cab service providers I got the general idea of how much they charge. For Coimbatore to Ooty drop, they charge roughly ₹2000/- in the month of March. May be in peak season they’ll charge higher. I finally settled with High Feel Tours and Travels. I paid ₹1900/- for Coimbatore to Ooty drop for Etios Liva. Different car will have different fare. Later on I ended up booking daily sight-seeing with this same travel service because they had well designed packages as mentioned on their website. I will suggest which ones you can take.
The other advantage was that all payments I could make online. The owner, Mr. Sudhakar, shared his account details, to which I could transfer money. Helped me in managing with lesser cash throughout the trip.
We started from Hyderabad on 10:20 AM Indigo flight and it landed by 11:30 AM. The cab was ready with driver and we started off right away. We stopped midway for a tea-break. The 90km road journey is in planes for 40km and hilly area for remaining 50km. There are no great sights along the journey, except when you reach Coonoor (just before Ooty) where you can see beautiful Tea gardens. We reached hotel by 3, checked-in and took some rest. Treebo Rosefield was okay, neither disappointing nor as exciting as it was in pictures. We came out around 5PM, had tea at Amma’s Kitchen (a restaurant opposite Rosefiled) and headed off to Cherring Cross by Auto-rickshaw.
Cherring cross is local market of ooty and Botanical garden is walkable distance from there. You will find many shops of home-made chocolates in Ooty. Grab some, they are good 🙂 KingStar is the most popular brand of homemade chocolates there.
We explored some local shops and then entered Botanical garden. Timing of this garden are (7AM to 6:30 PM), ₹30 per head ticket. Separate ticket is there for Camera. Almost everywhere in Ooty you have to pay for bringing your camera. Sometimes even twice the ticket fare for an adult.
Botanical garden was well maintained, full of greenery and with some fascinating trees. Here are some pics.
After spending an hour in the garden, we came back to the hotel by auto.
One thing to note is that Auto-rickshaw’s charge a lot for even small distances. Minimum fare (even if distance traveled is less than a kilometer) is ₹50/-, for 2.5 km ₹80/-, for 3.5km ₹100/-. And these are government approved fares. No bargaining is entertained and they will immediately point you to the government installed Tariff boards.
Day 2 (Saturday)
We had 3 full days for sight-seeing in Ooty, i.e. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We had booked Toy Train tour for Sunday. So on the other two days we had to do Avalanche on one day and Pykara+Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary on another. Pykara and Mudumalai are in same direction so they can be covered together. HighFeel Tour’s package are designed like that. On Monday’s Avalanche is closed so it had to be done on Saturday. For Avalanche I had booked a cab with HighFeel Tours and Travels in ₹1700/- last night. This guy shared his WhatsApp number, and I booked all cabs over WhatsApp.
We started at 9:30 AM after having breakfast in hotel. The driver took us to the place where there is a government office. After that point only Govt. vehicle take you to Upper Bhavani lake. There are two options for that,
- ₹150/- per head if you take a bus
- ₹1200/- for 8-seater jeep.
Both ways, the cost per head is same, so we grouped with another family and booked a jeep. Mind you, get a ₹25/- ticket for your Camera 😉 I’d recommend going by a jeep, since the cost is same and because the roads are very narrow on the way to Upper Bhavani Lake. It’s a 12km journey one side to Upper Bhawani lake.
On the way you’ll see a dense forest a.k.a. Cauliflower Forest. After you reach the Bhavani lake, the view at the top can be seen in the picture below. The water level was less when we went. You can find images on Google, where water level is more.
There is a pine-forest at this view point where you can click some good photographs. The weather was cloudy, lucky us 🙂
Note: Given the troublesome route and the money we paid for it (cab + jeep), I didn’t find this one worth it. If we had one less day for the trip, this one would have been cut. Our driver dropped us at Cherring Cross around 4PM. We went to Ooty lake from there to kill time.
Ooty lake was not recommended by any reviewer/friend, but we had nothing else to do. Ooty lake had boating option, some snack-points near it, some local shops for t-shirts/bags etc. Some people were boating there, but I had reserved boating for Pykara Lake, so I didn’t do it here. It was dirty too.
Opposite to Ooty lake was Thread Garden, which didn’t seem interesting enough even from outside, so we decided to head back to hotel instead and rest.
Day 3 (Sunday)
For Sunday, I had booked 9:15 AM train ticket from UAM (Udhagamandalam) to ONR (Coonoor), First Class, ₹150/- per person. I had the return ticket booked for 4:30 PM train, from Coonoor to Udhagamandalam.This is 1/1.5 hour journey one side. After reaching Coonoor, we had 5 hours to spend.
Note: I booked the train tickets only 7 days ago, so both the tickets were in waiting list, WL1/WL2 though. I had less hopes of this getting confirmed so I booked a confirmed General Class ticket for the same train (₹25/- per head). Luckily our FC ticket got confirmed when the chart was prepared that day (both to and fro journey tickets).
We reached the station by 9AM. The good thing about this Treebo hotel was that it was at 1.5km from the railway station. Took us only 10 minutes to reach the station.
The train passes through few tunnels, lush green tea-gardens and some great views of the valley. It’s a nice journey. You can’t click much photos though, just enjoy the journey. It’s worth the money and time.
When we got down in Coonoor, there were many taxi-walas running around looking for tourists. I took one package of ₹700/- where he would show us Tea Gardens, Tea Factory tour and Sim’s park. I had studied online and my friends who visited earlier this year had recommended only these two things in Coonoor.
The driver took us to some Tea-factory (Hi Field Tea Factory and Gardens) who had a small private Tea garden. Having been to Munnar, having seen inifinite stretches of Tea Gardens, this one was not going to satisfy my eyes. We took the tea-factory tour, but asked the driver to show us more of Tea Gardens. He didn’t 😦 . Then we went to Sim’s Park which was a nice multi-level park. Many stairs to climb down and at each level you’ll see variety of flowers, trees, benches to sit, decorated trees etc. At the lowest level there is a small pond where boating was available. We spent some time there enjoying the greenery, flowers and trees.
After Sim’s park the driver dropped us at a restaurant for lunch. We finished our lunch by 2 PM and still had 2 hours to kill. So we took another cab for Dolphin Nose. A friend told me that there are good tea-gardens on the way to Dolphin Nose. However Google hadn’t good reviews for Dolphin Nose itself.
Paid ₹600/- to another cab for Dolphin Nose and drop to railway station. This tour was amazing. More than the view point itself, the journey to Dolphin Nose was amazing. We saw long stretches of Tea Gardens (just like I had seen in Munnar). We stopped at a couple of places on the way to see those gardens. Picturesque long stretches of greenery.
Later on the driver dropped us at Coonoor railway station. Train was to depart in another half an hour, we spent time clicking photographs with the train. It reaches the platform half an hour before its departure.
Day 4 (Monday)
In the tour package (HighFeel Tour & Travel’s), there were many points to be covered for this day, like Pine Forest, Golf course, Shooting point, Kamaraj Dam, Pykara Lake & Boating, Pykara waterfalls and Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. We started at 10 in the morning and headed in Pykara’s direction.
First on the way was Golf course (you can see it on google maps) but it was not as green as it should have been. Then came the Pine Forest which was superb. A walk downwards through the array of super tall pine trees to the lake at the bottom. It was picturesque. There was a pre-wedding photo-shoot going on 🙂 . There were horse rides available near the lake. This was a good place.
On the way we stopped at Kamaraj Dam. In peak season it must have a great view with a little higher water level.
Clouds were following us. Then came the Shooting point, which again, wasn’t as green as it should have been. But it was at a height, and we had to climb up. The view from up there was good and worth climbing for. You can see a few pictures of that below.
Driver told us that many Bollywood movie’s songs have been shot here. Movie Sajan, Barfi, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Ajab Prem ki Gazab Kahaani etc had some scenes shot in Ooty.
Followed by this, we stopped at Pykara waterfalls. But the driver had warned us that the water level is low. Even the ticket counter had this warning written on a board. We decided to skip it. Though in full flow, Pykara Waterfall is a great sight. Google some pics.
We headed then to Pykara lake. By the time we reached Pykara Lake, the clouds were dense and black. They allow minimum 8 people in a motor boat no less than that. Again we had to find another group to get tickets. 750/- for 1 motor boat for 8 people. Boating was great and the sudden rain made it more enjoyable. Being in the middle of a lake, surrounded by woods and rain pouring in swing; nature was at its best. After getting down we were delighted to find a good cup of coffee with bread-toast. We wondered what else could we have wished for. This was the best part of the day.
From Pykara lake we headed to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. On the way we stopped at a place to have lunch. It had a sparse jungle near it. We saw deers running around. Food was also good here. Enjoyed the short break. See if you can spot the deers in the images.
We continued our journey to the sanctuary. There was jungle on both sides of the road full of dry trees. We reached the sanctuary. They offered a 30 minutes safari tour in a 30-seater bus. ₹135/- per head was the ticket. Additional 50/- for camera. The bus wouldn’t start if atleast 20 tickets aren’t sold. So we waited for half an hour for more tourists to come. The safari tour was average. We saw a lot of deers, one tiger (through the bushes) lying on on his back, peacock and nothing else. But I loved the vast area of jungle full of dry trees; giving it a feel of an abandoned place.
When we were 15km away from Mudumalai Sanctuary, one guy stopped our driver to ask if we are interested in hiring a jeep for safar for 1000/- per family. They said, they’ll offer a 1 hour safari in jungle. I didn’t accept the offer and decided to go ahead with the bus ride because we were only two, didn’t feel okay. If you are in a bigger group, you may as well take the jeep.
Day 5 (Tuesday)
End of trip. 😦
We started at 7 AM considering the travel time would be close to 3 hours and our Indigo flight was at 12:10 AM. We stopped once on the way to eat. Lalitha restaurant was the name of the place and it served good Idly and Dosa. It was 28km from Coimbatore airport as per Google Maps. We reached the airport right at 10:10AM. Packed our winter-wears back in the bag. 😦 Checked-in, waited, boarded and came back to Hyderabad with some good memories.
- As I mentioned in my day-wise itinerary, Ooty in March wasn’t as green as you’d expect a Tea State to be. At various places we saw unplanted land, definitely looks unattractive. You can do some research on the month of the year, when you’d see the best of Ooty. But if you are constrained by budget, distance or other factors then, Ooty isn’t bad for a 3 days trip.
- Ooty in March, may not delight avid travelers; who have seen the better tea states (like Munnar), but it’s a decent relaxing place. You may even set your camp in Coonoor, as it seemed to be more attractive.
- Ooty as compared to other hill-stations I have been to (Gangtok, Mussoorie, Munnar, Manali, Shimla etc) seemed much more developer city and fast paced.
- We skipped the Ooty-Local Sight Seeing package because there aren’t many points worth covering with cab. Botanical Garden, Doddabetta Peak, Ooty Lake, Thread Garden etc will be covered, and only Botanical garden is worth visiting. You can take an auto-rickshaw for that. No need to book a full day cab. The only point we missed in Ooty’s trip was Doddabetta Peak. Hadn’t read great reviews about it.
- Auto-rickshaws in Ooty charge too much. ₹100 for 3.5km, 80 for 2.5 km. Minimum charge ₹50/- And by the way, these are Govt. approved charges.
- No plastic policy is really strict. You won’t get polybags anywhere.
- Cabs charge 1700-2000 a day for any kind of sight-seeing in March (peak season charges may be higher)
- People drive too fast for the uneven terrain of Ooty. Even on Blind turns they don’t slow down.
- Everywhere you go from a small park to a waterfall or a view point, you gotta buy ticket for your Camera too. Camera ticket is sometimes 4 times the amount of an adult’s ticket. For almost everything there is entry ticket, ₹5 per head to ₹30 per head.
I am noting down the costs for two people.
- Flights from Hyderabad to Coimbatore, if you book early you can save some money on this. (roughly 16K)
- Taxi from Coimbatore to Ooty and back (4k)
- Hotel accomoodation (9k for 4 nights)
- Cabs for Local sight seeing (5k)
- Nilgiri Moutain Railway tickets. (700)
- Food and shopping. (5k)
You can do this tour in ₹40,000/- Roughly.
Things to take along
- Winter wear for sure. Even in day time you’ll need them.
- Umberalla would be good to carry, on 4th day of our trip it started raining
- Sun-glasses, as in March days are going to be Sunny. We were lucky to see clouds on 2 days.
- Spare polybags, as you won’t get any in Ooty. Also, don’t throw plastic in Ooty. They are very strict.
Feel free to drop your questions in comments, I’ll try to respond as soon as possible.