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- 23 Jan 2020, 3 nights
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Ooty is the popular nickname for Udagamandalam, a natural beauty spot in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Centred around a Nilgiri hill station town, it's known for emerald green valleys and blossoming flowers – there are over 4,000 different species at the Government Rose Garden. Visitors explore misty hiking trails dotted with pine and eucalyptus trees, overlooking rolling tea and spice plantations. Behind Ooty's lush greenery and red-roofed bungalows, the Nilgiri Mountains soar on the horizon.
Hostels in Ooty are often to be found in scenic hilltop locations. You can stay in an old colonial farm house, casual backpacker dorms, or even a tent underneath the night sky. Most have a 24-hour reception, and some Ooty hostels have extras like security lockers, individual reading lights, and tour desks to help you make the most of your time here. Pick an Ooty hostel with bike rental to explore the area on two wheels.
At the centre of the region is Ooty Lake, a recreational centre with pleasure boats and a mini train. In residential Elk Hill and Fern Hill, you'll find slopes of pretty gardens, grand houses and viewing points. Neighbouring West Mere has more green spaces, as well as a long lakeside shore. Monterosa Colony is home to Toda Village, one of the last remaining traditional tribal settlements in the area.
Top sights in Ooty include a fossilised tree thought to be 20-million-years old. Find it in the 19th-century Government Botanical Garden and tour the fern and orchid houses here too. You can trek in the Avalanche Forest Reserve among the rolling patches of cauliflower-like Shola (stunted tropical trees). Or get among the cloud canopy over 1550m above sea level at craggy Dolphin's Nose lookout point. At the Doddabetta Tea Factory you can see a working plantation and learn about tea cultivation in the region.
Coimbatore International Airport is served by domestic flights from all over India; from here it's a 10-minute taxi ride to Gandhipuram, where you can catch a bus to Ooty (a journey taking around 45 minutes). Buses from Bangalore (to the northeast) take around 9.5 hours. The closest railway station to Ooty is Mettupalayam, which has connections to Indian cities including Chennai, Bangalore and Mysore. Arriving here, take a taxi (a 2-hour journey), or ride the Nilgiri Mountain Railway for the 5-hour scenic route. Once in Ooty, get around in taxis or hire a bike to travel more independently.