Do you know what makes Ooty, the Queen of Hills, one of the most popular tourist destinations in India? To be honest, if someone asked me the same question, I would have no clue where to begin. Because according to me, Ooty has almost everything that a tourist can ask for, and therefore, it would be difficult to single out any particular thing that makes it a tourist’s favorite. Unlike most other tourist destinations that are only popular for their scenic beauty, or historical monuments, or places of religious significance, Ooty offers it all to its visitors. And besides all this, the best part about an Ooty trip is that most of the things you get to do here are either free or are very nominally priced.
So if you are planning a budget trip with friends or family, Ooty is the place to be. That said, here’s a list of things that you must do on your trip to the hill station.
1. Get close to nature at Pykara Waterfalls
Around 21 km from Ooty, Pykara Falls is one breathtaking waterfall that will wow even the hardest to please. Pykara Falls are formed by the Pykara River that originates at Mukurthi peak and travels through a series of waterfalls. Pykara Falls comprise two separate falls that are 55 meters and 61 meters high. Watching the river fall amidst a lush green forest is a visual treat that one doesn’t get to see very often. So if you are in Ooty, make sure you don’t miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime.
- Wear shoes that have a firm grip
- Carry warm clothes even during summers, as it can be quite chilly at the falls in the evenings
- Stay away from falls during the monsoon, as the water level might rise suddenly and catch you unaware
Timings: Morning to evening
2. Capture the magnificence of Avalanche Lake
Located around 20 km from Ooty, Avalanche Lake is one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the Nilgiris region. And just in case you are wondering why the name ‘Avalanche,’ here’s how the lake derived its name. In the early 1800s, the Nilgiris region was hit by a giant landslide, and that’s how the lake got famous as the Avalanche lake.
Avalanche Lake is surrounded by a picturesque landscape with beautiful flowers, such as orchids, magnolias, and rhododendrons blooming in the backdrop, making the region a favorite of nature lovers. The region is also a popular camping destination among tourists who pitch their tents near the lake.
- Take your camera with you to capture the beauty of the region
- Avoid swimming unless you are really adept at it
Timings: Morning to evening
3. Travel back in time with a tour of Raj Bhavan
The beautiful pale green building that is now the official summer residence of the Governor of Tamil Nadu is one tourist destination you must not miss if you are in Ooty. Raj Bhavan is not just a testament to the architectural brilliance of the colonial times, but it’s also a place that will enchant you with its lush green cover of ornamental gardens spread in an area of around 9 acres.
But the beautiful structure that you see today is not how it used to be in the 1870s. In fact, when the Duke of Buckingham stayed overnight at this place, he realized that it wasn’t fit for accommodation. He, therefore, proposed the construction of a large two-story building that cost the government almost ₹ 8 lakh during that time. Since then the building has gone through several major renovations, modifications, and additions.
- Travelers must make an online request for visiting the Raj Bhavan
- All online requests to be made at least three days before the visit date
- Reach on time to avoid being denied entry.
- Carry valid photo id proofs
Timings: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
4. Visit the quaint Stone House
Stone House, or the Kal Bungalow as called by tribals, was Ooty’s first bungalow built by John Sullivan in 1822. Besides the fact that it is the oldest bungalow in Ooty, a point worth noting about the bungalow is that the land on which it is built was acquired from the Toda people at ₹ 1 per acre. Surprised? Well, don’t be because ₹ 1 was a substantial amount in the early 1800s, an amount no average Joe could have afforded during those times. Currently, the heritage building is the official residence of the principal of Government Arts College, Ooty. Wish I was the Principal of this college!
- Do not litter. Carry a bag to dump all the waste
- The building can be seen only from the outside, so don’t barge into the house, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
5. Explore St. Stephen’s Church
One of the oldest churches in the Nilgiri district, St Stephen’s Church was constructed on the orders of the Governor of Madras, Stephen Rumbold Lushington in 1829. The church was built because there was no church exclusively for the British in Ooty; however, it was later opened to the public in 1931. One of the notable features of the church is that the massive beam and timber that have gone into the construction of this church were taken from the palace of Tipu Sultan, and transported up the Sigur Ghat all the way from Srirangapatna.
- Be respectful to the church, its rules, and its processes
- Dress appropriately. Find out if the church follows any dress code
- Observe the people around you to understand things better
Timings: 10:00 am to 01:00 pm and 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
6. Pay respect at Mariamman Temple
Dedicated to Mariamman, the regional goddess of rain, Mariamman temple is situated near Ooty Market. According to popular folklore, every Tuesday, traders from Coimbatore used to visit the market to buy and sell goods to the tribals. One such Tuesday, when two sisters with a divine appearance visited the market and asked for a place to stay overnight, all they were offered was a place under a tree. Soon after, the sisters disappeared, leaving behind lightning near the tree. When the locals realized that the two sisters were goddesses, they built a temple at that place. Since then, the temple is frequented by devotees every Tuesday.
Every year in April, the Mariamman Temple Festival is celebrated to honor the goddesses, and thousands of devotees from all parts of the country take part in it. Yet another festival, is the car festival akin to the Ratha Yatra or Puri. During this 28-day event celebrated in February, processions featuring the idols of various goddesses are carried out.
- Avoid visiting the temple during the festival if you don’t like crowded places
- Several devotees, sometimes to show their love for the goddess, walk barefoot on burning coal. Don’t get carried away is all we can say
Timings: 6:00 am to 8:00 pm
Kaala Sandhi – 7:00 am
Utchikaalam – 12:00 pm
Saayaratchai – 6:00 pm
Raakala Pooja – 8:00 pm
Now you know what all things you can do in Ooty for free, so no need to stay put at your hotel in Ooty. Head out and explore all you can without spending a single penny!