Alternate Ooty – Offbeat things to do

Magical sunset at the foothills of Nilgiris in ooty

The Nilgiris mountain range in the south of India are amalgam of eucalyptus trees, thick forests teeming with wildlife, hanging clouds and breezy evenings. It is no surprise that this part of India  also happens to be loaded with hill stations famous of which is Ooty. These towns provide a much needed respite in the tropical heat of summers, a splendid sight in the monsoons and a magical romantic escape in the winters. Over years people have been paying frequent visits to this paradise down south.

Like most folks we came to Ooty looking for a charming and an idyllic escape but the hoards of tourist boating at Pykara lake, the masses sharing the viewpoint at Doddabetta peak and the tour buses unloading at the famous gardens in the middle of the town put us back. Scoring that ticket on the toy train to ride the scenic Nilgiris mountain way was a feat we couldn’t get our self to even give a try. After a day of engaging ourselves in the most famous attractions we set out to find the alternate Ooty, the part that still provides tranquility and coziness most couples come looking for.

Sunset in the hills of Ooty

Those magical sunsets over the hills of Ooty

Any imaginations of Ooty will surely involve green hills shrouded in mist, acres of sprawling tea plantations, windy mountain roads,thick forests, tiny villages, local farms, untouched lakes, wildlife encounters, gushing waterfalls and spectacular views. These would have been an easy find a few years back but with the influx of tourists finding the real beauty of Ooty needs venturing into some of the off beaten tracks, taking that car on bumpy rides over forest roads, getting dirty on the hiking trails. Here is what we think you should venture out to the next time you are in the Nilgiris.

The beautiful Nilgiris and its many lakes

Acres of sprawling tea plantations and lakes by the dozen!

Go lake hopping

Driving out of the throbbing town on roads that climb into the clouds through thick forests to get to the magnificent lakes has to feature in any ultimate trip to this side of India. Ooty makes for a great base to explore the many surrounding lakes.

Emerald lake Grab your picnic basket and head to this stunning lake which is well connected by road. We passed through tiny colorful homes where the villagers were tending to the farm while acres of tea plantations spread behind and a soaring sky swept above. The lake extends far and wide and is a delight to the eyes. The shores are great spot to spend an afternoon of lazing around, taking a swim or just scampering in the trees around.

Emerald lake Ooty, a must do

Scampering at the Emerald lake, look at that color.

Avalanche lake When the final stretch of  the road towards the lake is only possible through forest vehicles because the dense jungle isn’t safe for self drive, you can be assured of being in a faraway land. Muddy earthly shores, the unbelievable color of the waters and unspoiled nature will make the spine breaking drive worth it in the end.

Avalanche lake Ooty, a must do

A peek of  the hard to reach  Avalanche lake

Upper Bhavani lake Tucked deep in the Nilgiris and almost 35 kms away from Ooty this lake is as idyllic as it gets. Access to the lake is only possible through the safaris arranged by the forest department. Going through the thick sholas brimming with exotic species of plants and wildlife and finally approaching the lake is an adventure in itself that is well topped with the marvelous lake.

Pykara lake Being easy to get to this lake gets a fair share of visitors but is a great place if you like to hike the trails around the lake.  Taking a boat tour here is a great option over the crowded Ooty lake. Combined with the nearby Pykara waterfalls it makes for a good half day trip.

boat tour pykara lake,ooty a must do

the best activitiy at Pykara lake

Tea making tour

We stopped by at a small tea shack while driving towards Kotagiri to sample some of the local tea and instantly loved the taste and fragrance of it. We loved it so much that we ended up buying a stash for the whole year. We requested if we could take a peek at the plantation behind their store. They were kind enough not just to let in but giving us an elaborate tour and explaining in great detail the entire process of tea making from picking up the tea leaves at the right time of the day to packing them up into what we all are used to seeing at the grocery stores. There are of course dedicated tours that are run by Dodabetta tea factory and museum , but getting to hear from the locals themselves was really intriguing. We also got to pick tea leaves ourselves and believe me it’s a tedious process. Did you know that the tea leaves themselves don’t get their amazing fragrance until dried and roasted.

Tea estates in Ooty and conoor

Is it time for tea already?

Kotagiri

The neighboring hills around Ooty are a great escape to seek some solace. Get to the nearby Kotagiri and head to the Kodanad view point where the pinnacles of Rangaswami pillars are a touching distance away and the river Moyar snakes through the brown hills leaving behind a trail of green while in the far horizon the Western and Eastern Ghats meet. Stretch your legs and go on a short hike to the Rangaswami peak and be prepared to be amused by the wonders of nature and wildlife. Even short walks in this region are serene and filling.

kodanad viewpoint ooty and the river Moyar

This view was the most amazing, resembles the grand canyon.

Rangaswami peaks in kodanad

Majestic Rangaswami peaks

kodanad view point, a offbeat sight

Catherine falls

You could either take in the view of this waterfall cascading down through the thick of the forests from the Dolphin point or instead trek to the foot of the falls. Either way the waterfalls are a strikingly beautiful sight. The start of the trail is about 8kms from Kotagiri. A rough path through the dense forest and some of the tea plantations leads to the gushing waterfalls. A walk in this area is sure to leave you behind with a contend feeling of stepping into the cradle of nature.

Catherine falls from Dolphin nose

Thick forests and trickling waterfalls, this view never gets old

View from the Needle rock

For a view of the Nilgiris and the pretty little towns scattered across them drive out of Ooty  and take a quick walk from the highway to the Needle rock view point in Gudalur. It is miles away from the nearest town but is easily accessible through the NH 67 road that connects Ooty and Gudalur. The observation point is a short 10 min walk and you get to soak in the views of a dense forest stretching below your feet. The green blue hued Nilgiris and the hoards of Eucalyptus trees that you will pass by to get to the view point are a sight to behold. It also made for a great pitstop on our drive from Ooty towards Masinagundi.

Needle rock viewpoint hike

Needle rock view point on the drive to ooty

the view from Needle rock viewpoint

Madumalai and Bandipur national park

Spend a night in the forest, take a wildlife safari or better yet combine them both for the ultimate thrills of being a forest explorer. You will get to see owls skimming over water streams, deer frolicking in groups, wild boars scampering around, hear the trumpeting of elephants the occasional roar of a tiger, and the screeching bats. The adrenaline of what lay head and the unexpected wildlife encounters will leave a lasting memory.

Deer in Masinagundi at the Wilds This deer paid us multiple visit in the evenings

Elephants at Bandipur national park

Always thrilling to see these mighty creatures of the forest

Stay at The Wilds Northern Hay like we did for a great retreat in the jungle and experience the old world charm retained well as it was a century ago. We loved standing on the wooden deck at the tree house for a panoramic view of the jungle. We spotted many colorful birds, the names of half of which I had no idea of. Herds of Deer would pay us a visit while we enjoyed our coffee under a tree canopy.

The wilds Northern hay

The Wilds Northern Hay, a jungle retreat dream come true.

Peeping from the tree top at the wilds Northern hayI spy monkeys over the sweeping greens

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