I hope you read my last post around the Nilgiris and the Neelakurinji flowers that will bloom this year. This article is in continuation which revolves around the gorgeous town of Wellington and its neighboring places like Coonor, Kothagiri, Lovedale, Ooty emphasizing on the history and heritage of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This will also give an insight to the travelers to plan a trip to South India and explore places beyond Ooty.
The Nilgiris have reasons galore to excite the traveler in you. I travelled and discovered these five beauties for myself.
1. Udagamandalam (Ooty) – Queen of the Hills
Being the capital of Nilgiris district, Udagamandalam or Udhagai always tops the charts for those who travel to Tamil Nadu for the first time. It is the most popular hill station of South India and a real favorite among family vacationers as well as honeymooners. The mountains, floating clouds, picturesque valleys, rolling tea plantations, misty mornings, cascading Pykara falls, the famous botanical gardens, highest peak Doddabetta (2,623 m), abundance of scenic charms and a heritage that lives through British styled houses make Ooty unique and special.
As the region is part of a fragile ecosystem, Ooty is home to myriad of plant species, giving way to some of the most beautiful gardens and parks on its slopes. St Stephen’s Church is the oldest church while St Thomas Church commands a compelling view of the Ooty Lake. Talking of lakes, this British hill station also boasts of Pykara lake, Emerald Lake, Avalanche Lake and Porthimund Lake.
The credit for discovering Ooty goes to John Sullivan, then Collector of Coimbatore. He built a house up in the mountains called Stone House, which is famously known as the first bungalow of Ooty, now converted into a government museum that is worth a visit. 169-year-old Ooty Hunt Club, the only hunt club of Asia is the most exciting place to trace the history of hunting days of India. Arts College, Post Office, Nilgiris District Library, Breeks School, Adam’s Statue, Rajbhavan, Fern Hill Palace, Lawley Institute are some of the other colonial buildings which add to the historical significance of the Nilgiris.
2. Coonor – The smaller cousin of Ooty
If you have been looking for a laid back holiday in the hills that are far from the maddening crowds of the city, Coonor could be a beautiful bet. It is clean, calm, absolutely uncluttered with colorful houses and layered landscape. Not only it enjoys the status of being the second largest hill-station in South India after Ooty, it also enjoys a fascination among the bird lovers. Some of the best and rare species of birds can be spotted here.
With the peace of tea gardens, comfort of colonial buildings cum homestays and proximity to the rich bio-diverse universe of the Nilgiris, Coonor is alluring in its own sweet way. A walk around the Sim’s park, breakfast at 80 McIver Villa and a drive to Dolphin’s nose should definitely be on the list.
3. Wellington has a glorious past and a disciplined present!
Endowed with a plethora of striking charms and salubrious climate, Wellington is home to the ‘Defence Services Staff College (DSSC)’ of India. This self-contained military cantonment, 14km from Ooty is one of the most photogenic places to settle down and enjoy the finer things of life. Blessed with scenic views of mountains, floating clouds, terraced tea gardens and colonial aura, Wellington enjoys a gorgeous setting. The effort that is made to keep it immaturely clean and disciplined enhances its beauty many a times.
The first bridge that transfers one from Coonor to Wellington is the Black Bridge. This is a historic bridge of the area and is now called Manekshaw Bridge, named after Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal. The people from tri-services have known Wellington’s for decades and some of these places like Gymkhana Club, the golf course, Wellington Lake, Madras Regimental Center and DSSC canteen are part and parcel of its existence.
4. Lovedale – The lovely neighborhood
There is something so magical and unpretentious about this peaceful place that it instantly soothes the city-worn soul. Boasting of some stunning vistas and being an all-weather destination, this is one of the most idyllic and quaint places in the Nilgiris. While Dodabetta (8000 ft) is the highest peak of Nilgiri mountain range, Lovedale at 7200 feet over mean sea level, happens to one of the highest settlement. Lawrence School, one of the prestigious residential schools of India is the pride of this region. The Nilgiri Mountain Railways traverses through Lovedale and one should definitely get down to show some love to this lovable place.
5. Kothagiri or ‘mountain of the Kotas’
This is definitely one of the best kept secrets of Nilgiris. Surrounded by dense Shola forests and lush green tea estates, Kotagiri, ‘mountain of the Kotas’ gets its name from the Kota tribes. 33 km southeast of Ooty, this quaint and traditional town is known for its mild and temperate climate, second best in the world after Switzerland. Kotagiri is the smallest and oldest hill station of the South which the British officials chose to build their cottages to beat the scorching heat. The carefully cultivated tea gardens have their own stories to tell. Kotagiri happens to be the first place around this region where coffee and tea were planted on experimental basis.
The verdant vegetation, cool mountain air, the floating clouds, close-to-the-elements experience makes Kotagiri a place of sheer beauty. One can do morning drive from Coonor or Wellington and spend the day exploring some of the nearby attractions like Kodanad View Point, Catherine Waterfalls, Elk Falls, Sullivan Museum. Others who prefer to do treks may choose from the three, Kotagiri–Kodanad, Kotagiri–St Catherine Falls and Kotagiri–Longwood Shola.
The charm of the Nilgiris is undeniable. Period.