A VISIT TO THE QUEEN OF HILLS:
2 DAY OOTY ITINERARY
Majestic mountains loom over the horizon and a sleepy sun slowly appears from behind those towering peaks. Trees, green and lush, kissed by the fresh morning dew, dance gently to the tunes of the wind. Winding lanes show miles and miles of neat, beautiful tea estates, while those colourful houses on the slopes appear like candy boxes.
The air is fresh, cold and rejuvenating. All I can hear is the sound of birds, singing happily in the soft morning light. And all I feel is a sense of serenity.
This was how I felt when I visited the chilly, sleepy town of Ooty after a long 9 years.
Though I must say that hardly anything has changed since I last visited, which is a wonderful thing, because precious little gems like Ooty should never get too commercial. The people are still warm, the tea is still amazing and the place is as breathtaking as always!
My hotel where I was staying was one of the iconic ones- Fern Hill by Sterling. It’s a beautiful, white, colonial looking building situated on a hillock with picturesque views all around. I’d always heard that Sterling is most famous for their hospitality and I got to experience it first hand. Every member of the staff is ever smiling, warm and hospitable. They’re always the first ones to open a door for you, give you a helping hand or pleasantly wish you a good day. For me, it’s always these simple yet heart warming touches that take a place from good to amazing!
We were welcomed with more smiles, a hot tea and shown to our rooms. And oh boy, the view from our window was a total stunner. Mists, trees, valleys and hills. I could have just spent hours feasting my eyes on them. Once I saw the view, I was even more excited to explore the rest of the resort. And I’m so glad I did!
From cozy cottages to splendid rooms, they have it all. The resort is also equipped with an activity area that has air hockey, table tennis, carom, chess and the like. They even have an adorable amphitheater for bonfire nights and a welcoming, gorgeous spa where you can just relax and rejuvenate.
And oh, oh, I just have to mention their restaurant. Their buffets are to die for! The food is so good and the variety just spoils you like crazy. The three days that I was there, I stuffed myself with food because just how am I supposed to stop myself when it was so good? (Hey, that rhymed!) Even if you’re not staying here, you should make a visit to try out their food. Pinky promise.
Another reason why Sterling was so well suited for my needs is because they’re experience focused rather than stay focused. I mean, I am all for whiling away time in that beautiful resort, but I feel incomplete if I don’t also go sightseeing and know about the local food and culture. Sterling took care of everything for us! They arranged an itinerary, transportation and a guide as well. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the amazing experiences that were in store for me.
So here’s a two day Ooty itinerary for you guys that I followed & loved:
We visited the nearby Toda Village, which is where the tribes stay. Their houses are small yet colourful and the village is quite peaceful. The most noteworthy things about this village is their temple which opens up only once a year for a festival of theirs; the thick, stunning red, black and white shawls weaved by the locals and worn by them; and their tradition of making eligible bachelors pick up a heavy stone that weighs over 100 kilos to really prove that they’re eligible! Quite interesting, eh?
They were also very kind to answer our questions and pose for pictures. They even served us home made sweet, which is their local delicacy. Now that’s again called hospitality.
Next we visited the Tea and Chocolate factory, because did you even visit Ooty if you didn’t indulge in some chocolate and tea?!
The aromas of the factory alternated between sweet smelling, alluring chocolate and fresh, aromatic tea. We also got to learn the difference between Black Tea, Green Tea and White Tea. But my best part was where we actually sampled a few varieties. I absolutely loved the Cardamom, Ginger and Lemon Tea. So refreshing and authentic.
Of course I bought back home a few flavours of tea and chocolate with me, along with some Saffron Almond Oil, which is made right there and is totally natural and organic!
While we headed back to our luxurious resort, I opened the windows of our bus and let the cool breeze wash over me. The little roads of Ooty were covered with mist and people everywhere were bundled up in warm clothing and woolly caps.
Once we reached the hotel, it was high tea time and if I had to describe the set up in one word, it would be ‘’fancy’’. The table was laden with an assortment of goodies, biscuits, Indian snacks, flavours of tea and coffee! My favourites were the masala fries and the green apple flavoured iced tea 🙂
This wonderful, wonderful day ended on a beautiful night with bonfires, food and a lot of dancing. We got another taste of the local culture when the women of the Toda village and the men of the Baduga community performed their traditional dances for us. Though we didn’t understand the language or the meaning, it was absolutely mesmerising to watch. They even taught us a few steps and we danced along with them, around the gorgeous bonfire, with laughter and squeals of delight. I totally enjoyed grooving with the badugas, especially!
We started the day with another round of king-sized breakfast! The pancakes, masala dosa, pongal and fruit salad were so good.
With a heavy tummy and a happy mind, we made our way to the train station to proceed to Conoor. From the train station to the train itself, everything was so retro! A small station with iron wrought benches, old school boards and platforms with just two tracks. And the train was a shiny, blue one that moved slowly, like in slo mo. The whole scenario made me remember only movies where a heroine waits patiently for her lover to come back. And when he does, it’s in slo-mo! Haha.
canThe route from Ooty to Coonoor is picturesque. There’s more of sloping hills, green tea estates, lush fauna and bright houses. It’s a pleasant journey, where the whole point is to think philosophical thoughts about life, gaze out of the window and let the wind play with your hair. At least, it felt that way for me, since I’m clearly so filmy!
For those of you who don’t know, Coonoor is like Ooty’s little sister and many people stay there as it’s less commercial than Ooty.
The true highlight of the day and one of my most favourite parts of the day came next: Lunch in a tea estate!
Picture this: A gorgeous, absolutely private tea estate on a lush, misty hilltop. Acres and acres of plantations and trees. Just the sound of birds chirping. A picnic arrangement in the center of it with blankets, food, fruits and great company. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? This truly was a very memorable experience. Out of the ordinary. It was something I had never done before and that’s why I loved it even more so, because I want my life and my travel experiences to be peppered with things I’m doing for the first time.
We sang songs, spoke, laughed and of course, took millions of pictures! On the way back, we stopped at a local tea shop and had hot, piping lemon tea to ward away the cold. We also stopped near a stunning waterfall, with the water cascading from the top of the hill to the valley below.
I am really grateful to Sterling Resorts for taking us to these offbeat places and giving us these one-of-a-kind experiences. Because it’s these tiny experiences are what make travel so breathtaking. You get to see and do things that you can’t even think of doing in your everyday life.
With this amazing experience, I now have a royal place in my heart for the Queen of Hills. When it was time to go, I felt sad and depressed as I always do when a vacation ends and its time for me to head back to the real world. But I had a heart full of memories, a mind that was peaceful after the break and tons of pictures to take back with me.
I just came back from a trip and I’m already craving for another. That’s the thing about travel, isn’t it? It’s more addictive than any other drug in the world. Only difference is, it doesn’t hold you captive, it liberates you.
P.S- If you want to know more details or experiences from my trip, head over to my Instagram and check out ”Ooty trip” in highlights.
Things to know before you go to Ooty:
Real name: Udagamandalam, Ootacamund, Udhagai (Ooty here has more aliases than a secret spy!)
Closest to which cities: Bangalore, Mysore and Chennai
Best mode of transport: Bus
Weather: Pleasant, chilly, misty all year round as it’s a hill station
Must try: Tea and chocolates
Stay: There are plenty of resorts in Ooty but I highly recommend Sterling as they have great properties, good food, facilities, hospitality and experiences. They even have another property there called Sterling Elk Hill, you can check that out too.
Length of stay: 2-3 nights in Ooty is more than enough. You can either do a day trip to Coonoor additionally or stay there for a night.
I’m going to go plan my next adventure now. Do feel free to ping me on Instagram or email if you need more information about Ooty or travel in general!
Happy exploring, fellow travellers.