Every year we take a customary anniversary trip and I am sure you guys are already aware of it :P
This year we decide to go to Ooty - Coonoor. Why? Because we had just shifted our base location from North India (Delhi) to South India (Bangalore) and wanted to explore The Nilgiri Mountain Range and we thought why not start with the Queen of the hills - Ooty!
We had hired a zoomcar for the 9 hour long road trip from Bangalore which costed us around 30k for 4 days. We started early in the morning at around 6 am from Bangalore and reached Ooty around 4 pm. We only took a break in Mysore where stopped for lunch. The weather in February was pleasant and we enjoyed the cool breeze on our way to Ooty. However, once we reached Ooty, it was surprisingly quite hot and we decided to quickly check into our hotel and relax to shake off the tiredness of the journey. We decided to spend the rest of the day taking rest and enjoying the beautiful views from our Hotel window. Our hotel, Accord Highland was located 6 kms uphill from the city centre away from the hustle bustle of the city where we could enjoy the serenity and solace while getting a better view of the hills. I must say this was the only respite from what we thought was an "Overrated Densely Populated Way-Too Commercialised Hill Station".
Cost of Hotel (booked through MMT): Rs 8,000/night
The next day we got up early in the morning, took a quick tour of the property and the surroundings and then went about exploring the city and its tourist spots.
We were very hungry and decided to first stop at this beautiful breakfast joint called, Le Café, Ooty. The café was as pretty as a postcard and the food was delectable. The wood fired pizza and the hot cup of coffee acted like a medicine on our tired muscles and prepared us for what was going to be a "not so adventurous day".
After breakfast, we headed out to visit the famous tourist spots of Ooty. Our first checkpoint was at the Ooty lake followed by the Botanical Garden and The Rose garden. These spots were not exceptional and can be given a miss. In addition to that, the hot and sultry weather was not helping our cause.
Entry ticket for Botanical Garden: Rs 30/ adult
Entry ticket for Ooty Lake: Rs 20/ adult
It was already 3 o clock by the time we finished visiting these places and hence decided to go for lunch. We had heard a lot about the Fernhill Palace and the royal food they serve there. The Palace was beautiful with tasteful interiors and imperial furniture making you feel "Regal". They are famous for their non-veg dishes and bread and butter pudding. We ordered fish fry, chicken curry, some chapatis and undoubtedly their "oh so famous pudding". The food was tasty, the service was impeccable and the presentation was stately.
The waiters were all dressed in movie style princely uniforms which gave a unique touch to the place. The only issue with the place is that there are a lot of spooky stories surrounding this palace and we would recommend you to visit this palace only in the day time.
The next day we had hired a cab to take us to Pykara lake and the Toda huts. But first, breakfast!! You cannot leave Ooty without visiting the Ooty Coffee house. Located in the middle of the Commercial Road, this café is a traditional eatery serving piping hot dosas and aromatic filter coffee.
With our stomachs full and moods uplifted, we started our journey to the Pykala lake. This is situated 20 kms away from Ooty and is famous for its waterfall and boathouse. We enjoyed the beauty of the pristine streams of water while enjoying some snacks at the boathouse. The surrounding area is also popular for Toda settlement.
Toda huts and temples are one of the most attractive and unique sightseeing places in Ooty. This was something we had never seen before. But once you are here,you have to be utmost careful not to disrespect their customs. We need to keep our footwear outsides while climbing our way to the temple and are advised not to enter the temples but pay our devotions from outside. We were also lucky to get invited to one of the huts of the toda tribe to have a look at their handicrafts and also to buy some if we liked. We bought a charming shawl from them on our way back.
We had also planned to visit the Dodabetta peak which is supposed to be highest mountain in the Nilgiris and is said to be a very scenic spot but unfortunately, it was closed due to construction. We decided to call it a day because we had something very exciting planned for the next day.
We got up at the crack of the dawn the next day, all excited to board the toy train from Ooty to Coonoor. The train runs 4 times a day from Ooty to Coonoor and takes around 1 hour 5 mins for the entire journey. The train is called Udagamandalam Coonoor special and the tickets can be booked from any site including IRCTC and MMT .We had booked the first train ,the one which leaves at 9.15 am because we wanted less crowd and better seats so that we could enjoy the views of the tea gardens and the rugged mountainous terrain.
Luckily, we got a seat by the window and we enjoyed the scenic views of the dense forests,gushing waterfalls, meandering rivers and mist clad mountains. This ride is must must do when you are in Ooty or Coonoor.
Coonoor is a quaint untouched hill station with lush tea gardens and clear blue skies unlike Ooty. The weather is cooler, the air is fresher which makes it one of the most rejuvenating destinations to visit in South india. Starting Day 4, we had planned to stay in Coonoor for 2 nights. The first night we were staying in this beautiful resort called "Teanest" situated right in the midst of the tea gardens. The same day we had booked ourselves Teanest's famous 7 course tea tasting menu. Everything on the menu from the tea smoked salad and kebabs to the tea flavoured main course and dessert was delicious. The waiters and care takers of this resort were extremely courteous and cooked great meals.
Cost of Hotel (booked through MMT): Rs 4,000/night
After lunch, we took some rest and then headed off to this incredible café called 180 Mciver Villa. Some of you might recognize it from the movie "Kappor and Sons". Its restaurant "La Belle Vie" is open to public and serves great finger food. We enjoyed our evening tea and snacks there before returning to our resort.
We had booked ourselves an Airbnb called Xanadu for the next night in Coonoor and it proved to be one of the best places we have stayed so far. The villa was nothing less than a beautiful glass house with a magnificent lawn and an amazing view. After we checked in, we spent the next one hour appreciating the absolute beauty that this villa was. Then we were served a delectable spread of homecooked food for lunch. The rest of the evening was spent in relaxing in the lawn, enjoying the beauty of the tea fields surrounding the villa and listening to some good music.
Cost of the villa (booked through AirBnB): Rs 12,000/night
The same night was our anniversary night and the host was courteous enough to organize a special candle light dinner in their backyard . We had a wonderful meal overlooking the stars and enjoying the cool air.
Oh what a grand way to end a bitter sweet trip!
The Benjabi recommendation:
1. Give Ooty a miss and drive straight to the beautiful town of Coonoor
2. Book a stay at Xanadu but reservations have to be done atleast 2 months in advance.
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-By The Benjabi Affair
A Bengali girl and a Punjabi boy having found their common love for travel and tea