Ooty, short for Ootacamund , is a popular hill station in Tamil Nadu located deep within the Nilgiri hills (also called as The Blue Mountains). It is located 80 km north of Coimbatore. Originally occupied by the Todas, the land and was occupied by the Todas along with other tribes who coexisted through specialisation and trade. The major tribes of Nilgiri area are Todas, Kotas, Badagas and Alu Kurumbas, who settled in and around Ooty. The Nilgiri territory came into possession of East India Company as part of the ceded lands, by Tipu Sultan, by the treaty of Srirangapatnam in 1799.
The place served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency and other small kingdoms, much visited by British during the colonial days. Its stunning beauty and splendid green deep valleys inspired the British to name it Queen of Hill Stations.
John Sullivan the then collector of Coimbatore in 1819, was enthralled by the beauty of the place and wrote to Thomas Munro – ” . . . it resembles Switzerland, more than any country of Europe. . . the hills beautifully wooded and fine strong spring with running water in every valley”
Ooty is reached via winding hill roads or a complicated rack railway system, known as the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, built in 1908 by impassioned and enterprising British citizens with venture capital from the Madras government. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway leaves Mettupalayam pushed by a small steam powered historic locomotive that is a remnant of Swiss engineered trains imported in the late 1800s. The steam train takes a very scenic route, and the pace of travel allows one to take in the beautiful scenery at leisure with stops at stations for the engine to take on water. The journey takes about 5-1/2 hours compared to 2 hours by road. The train uses a rack and pinion system to haul itself up steep slopes, and also to prevent the train from sliding down when stopping. The train is pushed from behind. There are brakesmen at the rear of every carriage who will apply and release hand powered brakes individually for that carriage. The train often travels only at 5 – 10 Kmph. The train journey will be a very good experience. In July 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the World Heritage Site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the site then became known as “Mountain Railways of India.” after it satisfied the necessary criteria, thus forcing abandonment of the modernisation plans.
The mountainous range attracts tourists every year from across the world. Lofty mountains, great lakes, dense forests, sprawling grasslands, miles of tea gardens and eucalyptus trees greet the visitors in route to Ooty. The hill station itself is a land of picturesque picnic spots. The Government rose garden is the largest rose garden in India. Situated on the slopes of the Elk Hill in Vijayanagaram of Ooty town the garden has one of the largest collection of roses in the country. The Botanical Gardens in Ooty, is a lush, green, and well-maintained 22-acre garden laid out in 1847. A flower show along with an exhibition of rare plant species is held every May. The Gardens have around a thousand species, both exotic and indigenous, of plants, shrubs, ferns, trees, herbal and bonsai plants well identified and named.The garden also houses a 20-million-year-old fossilized tree.
The OotyLake covers an area of 65 acres with a Boat house established alongside. The lake, offers boating facilities to tourists and is a major tourist attraction in Ooty. Constructed in 1824 by John Sullivan, the lake was formed by damming the mountain streams flowing down Ooty valley. The lake is set among groves of Eucalyptus trees with a railway line running along one bank. During summer season in May, boat races and boat pageantry are organised for two days at the lake.
Other popular locations in Ooty are the Stone House, the first bungalow constructed in Ooty by John Sullivan, the Toda huts, on the hills above Botanical Garden, where Todas still dwell. St. Stephen’s Church, one of the oldest churches in the Nilgiris located on the road to Mysore in Ooty; The Wax museum that houses life-size look-alike wax statues of personalities of Indian history, culture and heritage housed in a 142-year-old bungalow; the Tribal Museum, part of the campus of Tribal Research Centre, home to rare artifacts and photographs of tribal groups of Tamil Nadu as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Deer Park, considered as one of the high altitude zoo which houses a number of species of deers and animals .
The Doddabetta Peak10 km from Ooty., Pykara river located 19 km from Ooty, the Pine forest between Ooty and Thalakunda, the Wenlock Downs, a typical grassland area typical of the original bioscape of the Nilgiris.the Kamaraj Sagar Dam and the MudumalaiNational Park, now also declared a Tiger Reserve ar some popular locations located close to Ooty.