I have been traveling for as long as I can remember. In my childhood, my parents moved from one city to another as part of their jobs and I tagged along, often feeling inconsolably miserable about the friends I had to leave behind in each of these cities. As I grew older, I started finding the idea of traveling to new places, meeting new people, and of course, tasting new food pretty exciting. And by the time I crossed my teens, I had developed a peculiar kind of homesickness: never-at-home-sickness! It was at the age of 22 that I took my first road trip in my father’s Maruti Omni and I have been exploring places by road ever since, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, and sometimes with Papad, my beagle, to keep me company.
Speaking of road trips, my latest one was from Bangalore to Ooty, with two of my colleagues. And that’s what this blog is about – our awesome road trip from the City of Gardens to the Queen of Hill Stations!
A Word (or Two) about Ooty, Our Destination
Ooty, also called Udhagamandalam, needs no introduction, especially if you are from the southern part of the country. This beautiful hill station in Tamil Nadu is a place every avid traveler visits at least once their life. This was my second trip to Ooty while my travel companions have been there more times than they can count. Yet, the place has an undeniable charm that keeps people going back, again and again, which has earned Ooty a place in the list of must-visit hill stations near Bangalore.
Ooty has a perfect blend of everything you would expect from a great holiday destination – great climatic conditions, unlimited natural beauty, good resorts and hotels, and of course, lots of places to visit. From the famous Rose Garden and the Nilgiri Mountain Railways to Pykara Lake and Echo Rock, this quaint little town offers many memorable experiences. But what got us excited was the very prospect of traveling by road soaking in all the beautiful vistas en route, listening to the murmur of pine trees and enjoying the sight of never-ending tea estates. Hey, can you hear that sound? That’s us starting our Renault Duster for a 5-day trip to the land of the Blue Mountains!
Choosing A Route from Bangalore to Ooty
Deciding on the route was the most difficult part because there are three different routes one can take from Bangalore to Ooty by car – the Mysore-Masinagudi route, the Kanakapura-Kollegal route, and the Salem-Coonoor Route. Each of these routes has its own advantages, in terms of distance and stopovers. After much discussions and homework, we took the first route, namely the Mysore-Masinagudi route. Here are the details:
Route: Bangalore – Mandya – Mysore – Nanjangudu – Gundlupet – Bandipur – Mudhumalai (Theppakadu) – Masinagudi – Ooty
Distance: 280 km (approx.)
Travel Time: 6 – 7 hours (approx.) without stopovers. You can choose to cover this distance in two days, spending the night at one of the stopovers and that’s what our plan was.
Advantages: We chose this route for our Ooty trip from Bangalore because we were planning to explore some of the stopovers on the way, such as Mysore, Nanjangud, Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai, and Masinagudi. Also, this is the perfect circuit for those who love driving through diverse landscapes, from the traffic-ridden roads in Bangalore and the state-of-the-art national highways to the long stretches of jungle roads and thrilling hairpin bends. As diehard travelers and experienced drivers, we were up for that challenge. The other routes also have some interesting stopovers and advantages, which I will talk about later in this blog.
HITTING THE ROAD: DAY 1
A day before the trip, we went to a supermarket and picked all the essentials (by which we basically mean food). We bought several packets of chips, nuts, biscuits, and bottles of mineral water and soft drinks to fuel ourselves up during the trip. With bags packed, food stocked up, and the car checked and serviced, we were all set and on ‘our marks’, like three runners waiting for the starter pistol to go off.
Starting from Bangalore
We are Bangaloreans and we know our city like the palm of our hand, so we wanted to hit the Bangalore – Mysore Highway before the much-dreaded rush hours begin. Thus we started our trip at 6 in the morning and managed to escape the horrendous traffic. Our first stopover, of course, was Mysore which is at a distance of about 150 km from Bangalore. We were hoping to cover this distance in about 3 hours, give or take a few minutes based on the traffic. If you too, like us, want to avoid the traffic, our two cents would be to start your trip early – by or even before 6 am, if possible. The only disadvantage of starting early is that you will miss out some attractions on the Bangalore – Mysore route, such as Kanva Reservoir, Ramadevara Betta, Heritage Winery, the shops selling wooden toys in Channapatna, and the like. But worry not; you can take another trip exclusively to cover these places.
The Bangalore – Mysore highway has many eateries such as Kamat (Channapatna), Cafe Coffee Day, and McDonald’s. However, our plan was to have our breakfast in Mysore, so we rode on without stopping anywhere except for pee breaks.
Mysore, the City of Palaces
At about 9.30 am we reached Mysore, the city best known for its Dasara celebrations, silk, and sandal soaps. Our stomachs were rumbling, so we were being driven by our primitive instinct to find some food. That wasn’t a tough task at all because there are many restaurants in Mysore that sell lip-smacking breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our pick was Gayatri Tiffin Room (GTR) located in Chamundipuram. We entered the restaurant, and blimey, the enticing smell of masala dosa, vada, and filter coffee filled our nostrils. So, we quickly grabbed three seats and ordered some tongue-tickling South Indian delights and topped it all with a cup of aromatic coffee.
Now that we fueled up our engines, we were in the mood for some sightseeing. It goes without saying that there are many historical places in Mysore that gives you a glimpse into the city’s storied past, but our itinerary contained only two – the Mysore Palace and the Rail Museum. While the former took us back in history to the times of the great Wadiyars, the latter taught us about the history of locomotives. It took us close to 4 hours to cover both these places, but the experience did make up for it.
By then, it was almost 2 pm. We had a quick lunch at Mahesh Prasad, another iconic restaurant in the city and continued on our trip to our next stopover, which was Nanjangud.
Nanjangud, the Town of Temples and Bananas
Nanjangud (or Nanjangudu as it is officially known) is a small town located about 23 km from the city of Mysore, on the banks of the Kapila River. After taking a small detour, we reached there at around 3.30 pm. This quaint little town is best known as a pilgrim center and the main attraction here is the Srikanteshwara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. If you didn’t know, Nanjangud is sometimes called Dakshina Kashi or the Kashi of the South. And guess what else the place is famous for? A special variety of banana which is locally called Nanjangud Rasabalehannu! Being foodies, how can we leave the town without tasting it? So we did, and also bought some more to eat on the way. After spending an hour or so at Nanjangud, we drove off again with our minds set on Ooty but not without taking a third stopover at Bandipur National Park, one of the most sought-after weekend getaways near Bangalore.
Bandipur: Of Crouching Tigers and Hidden Wildlife
We drove on for another hour (about 50 km) and reached Bandipur via Gundlupet by late evening, at around 6 pm. We reached there too late to enjoy the scenic beauty of the park or to spot animals. Moreover, night traffic is banned in Bandipur from 9 pm to 6 am. But we were smart enough to foresee this problem and had it sorted out by booking a room in one of the famous jungle resorts in Bandipur National Park. We checked in at the resort and, oh boy, let me tell you, the experience of staying in wilderness and enjoying nature at its rawest best was enticing and frightening at the same time. The resort was designed based on eco-friendly principles and the food served was simple but delicious. After a whole day of driving and sightseeing, we had a good night’s sleep, woke up refreshed the next morning, had our breakfast, and by 11 am, we were ready to hit the road again.
DAY 2: JUNGLES AND HAIRPIN BENDS
After leaving the resort, we drove on through the national park. The road had several humps which slowed our pace down, but that also gave us a chance to soak in the wild beauty. We could also spot some peacocks, herds of deer, and elephants on the way before reaching Mudumalai.
Passing through Mudumalai
Where the Bandipur National Park ended, we entered into Tamil Nadu and the next thing we knew, we were driving through another national park, namely Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. To put it simply, we drove out of one national park and drove into another, without even realizing it. And wow, that indeed was amusing and pretty confusing at the same time. So we checked online for some information and found that the Tiger Reserve at Mudumalai is divided into different ranges including Masinagudi, Theppakadu, and Mudumalai. After crossing the borders of Karnataka and entering Tamil Nadu, we drove for about 5 km and reached a place called Theppakadu, which is known for its Elephant Camp. From here, we had two options to reach Ooty – one via Masinagudi and the other via Gudalur. The former is apparently the shorter route but has steep hairpin bends – 36 of them- while the latter is a regular public transportation route that Bangalore to Ooty buses would normally take. So, to quote Robert Frost, two roads diverged in the yellow woods and which one did we choose?
Of course, the one with 36 mighty, hair-raising hairpin bends! Didn’t I tell you, we three have a thing for adventure and adrenaline rush?!
Navigating Through the Hairpin Bends
The route to Ooty via Masinagudi is a picturesque one, but has its own advantages and disadvantages. For starters, the route is a little tricky and the steep curves on the road are enough to give shudders to an inexperienced driver. Also, taking into consideration the safety of travelers, the road is closed during the night, so we had to make sure that we covered that stretch before evening. Another disadvantage is that there aren’t many restaurants or eateries on this route, but we were sufficiently covered on the food front. Nuts, biscuits, and Nanjangud bananas, remember?
The greatest advantage of this route is the beautiful vistas it offers. Smoky clouds, lush green valleys, and expansive mountains – for a moment there, we thought we were in another world! Also, Masinagudi is home to a fascinating range of avifauna. So if you are a birdwatcher, this route is just the perfect one for you.
Ooty, At Last!
From Masinagudi, Ooty is about 30 km away via MDR 700 and we took about an hour to reach our final destination. We could see that both these routes –Gudalur as well as Masinagudi – merge at about 6 km before Ooty. We reached the town in the evening and checked in at one of the best budget hotels in Ooty. Though our trip was adventurous, it had left us totally exhausted. We decided to stay put in our room, eat, relax, and gear up for the 2 days of sightseeing ahead of us.
DAY 3 AND DAY 4: UP ABOVE THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
For the next two days, we traveled the breadth and width of Ooty and visited many places. On the first day, we visited some of the popular lakes in Ooty, including Ooty Lake and Pykara Lake. We also covered the Rose Garden and Tribal Museum post lunch. The second day was dedicated to some of the exotic experiences in the town, such as traveling in the Nilgiri Mountain Railways, visiting the Doddabetta Tea Factory, and taking a trip to Dolphin’s Nose. All through these sightseeing expeditions, we didn’t forget to satiate our hunger at some of the best restaurants in Ooty.
Of course, we didn’t explore everything the town had in store for us, but we were cool about it because our objective was not to cover as many places as possible but enjoy the experience itself. If you are traveling to this hill station, you can plan for a 3 day trip. Here’s a blog on the places to visit in Ooty in 3 days to help you out.
DAY 5: THE TRIP BACK
On the fifth day morning after breakfast, we checked out from the hotel and started our return trip. Typically, return journeys are the saddest and least exciting ones. But when your focus is on the road and the adventures it offers, even return trips are as stimulating as the onward ones. On the way, we stopped to buy some Ooty chocolates, tea powder, and other souvenirs. While returning, we took the Gudalur route instead of navigating through the hairpin bends. We reached Bangalore in about 8 hours and my, oh, my, what a trip it had been!
Other Routes from Bangalore to Ooty
Besides the one we have taken, there are two more routes to reach Ooty from Bangalore. Some of the most popular waterfalls near Bangalore, such as Chunchi Falls and Hogenakkal Falls, are located on these routes.
1. The Kanakapura-Kollegal Route
Route: Bangalore – Kanakapura – Shivanasamudra – Kollegal – Chamarajanagar – Masinagudi – Ooty
Popular Attractions En Route: Mekedatu, Chunchi Falls, Shivanasamudra, Talakadu, Somnathpur, Mudumalai National Park
2. The Salem-Coonoor Route
Route: Bangalore – Hosur – Krishnagiri – Dharmapuri — Salem – Avinashi – Coonoor – Ooty
Popular Attractions En Route: Krishnagiri Dam, Hogenakkal Falls, Yercadu, 1008 Lingam Temple