By Mohammed Mirza
A newlywed’s dream and a nature lover’s favorite, Bollywood’s much loved shooting location, the beautiful hill station of Ooty has a reputation of being one of the most popular travel destinations in India.
Situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level, lofty mountains, dense forest, scenic grasslands and miles of tea gardens greet the tourists here. We had taken a travel package to Ooty, it took us via bus towards the beautiful hill station. I must say that having a tour package beforehand saves a lot of time while searching for hotels and finding a suitable guide.
After checking in our hotel, out tour guide took us towards the beautiful Ooty Lake. A boat house is located alongside the lake; we hired a boat from there and sailed across the lake. It was a soothing experience just sailing across the picturesque lake with groves of Eucalyptus trees surrounding the lake whilst listening to chirping sounds of myriad birds.
Following the boat ride we entered an equally pleasing place known as the Ooty Botanical Garden. Laid out in 1847, the 22-acre the Ooty Botanical Garden is lush, green and well-maintained. The gardens house around a 1000 species of both exotic and indigenous plants, shrubs, ferns, trees, herbal and bonsai plants. It also houses what is claimed to be a 20 million-year-old fossilized tree.
I had such a great time and wanted to stay there longer but as I was part of a larger group of tourists I had to comply to their decision that it was lunch time and we had to leave. There are a few Halal dining options available in Ooty, though they may be a bit hard to find, we were lucky enough to have a Halal restaurant right next to our hotel.
The following day our tour guide showed us a few locations in and around Ooty where some of the most popular Bollywood movies were shot. We had an absolutely fantastic experience reliving those magical moments of Bollywood.
While in Ooty I must say trekking is pretty enjoyable. Ooty provides a number of charming treks, some long and some short, into the adjoining hills. Summer is the best time to explore the natural beauty of Ooty through trekking. We trekked our way to the Doddabetta Peak The highest peak (2,623 m) in the Nilgiris Mountain range, about 10 km from Ooty. It stands on the junction of the Western and Eastern Ghats and offers beautiful vistas of the Nilgiri Mountains. There is a telescope located on top of the peak that offers tourists a panoramic view of the quaint mountain range.
We were then ushered into the beautiful tea gardens. A view of the acres and acres of tea gardens amidst the sloping mountains is truly unforgettable. Through the dense fog we were able to catch glimpses of the farmers working hard to make a living – slowly plucking one tea leaf at a time.
There are many tea factories in Ooty, we visit the one located right next to the tea garden. The visit to the tea factory was pretty exciting, it reminded us of the days when we used to go for a factory visit in our school days. The factory is well equipped, produces tea of different qualities and flavors and even exports to a large international market. A visit to the tea factory is incomplete without the taste of the fresh, just made tea that gave the essence of freshness unlike never before.
And we had free time for the remainder of the day so we strolled around in the pleasant weather across unfamiliar city streets, which led us to a Rose Garden – which according to the grapevine is the largest rose garden in India. Situated on the slopes of the Elk Hill, this garden has one of the largest collection of roses in the country with more than 20,000 varieties of roses. The collection includes some of the reddest of red to the pinkest of pink roses. There are roses in some unusual colors as well like black, green and purple.
During our tour of the town we would many times see glimpses of the illustrious Ooty toy train. This railway is particularly picturesque because of the surrounding rocky terrain, tea plantations, and forested hills that it runs through.
Towards the end of a long travel, we normally feel home sick and want to rush back home. I must say Ooty is one those very few places that I didn’t want to leave it all! Touring the tea plantations and taking walks through gardens was one of our favorite activities while in Ooty. Trying the fresh tea straight from the factory is a an experience of a different level. Witnessing the magical shooting locations of some of the most popular movies was a dream come true!