Udhagamandalam is better known as Ooty, a beautiful and cool hilltop town in the Nilgiri mountain range of Tamil Nadu, the southern Indian state. Ooty is a lovely spot: not so much for the town itself but for its luscious green surroundings and landscaped charm. Come here for walks in the countryside among the pines, eucalyptus and wattle. Make time for a leisurely visit to tea and coffee plantations and simply enjoy the cool climate and misty mountain air.
Fondly known as the “Queen of Hill Stations”, Ooty was founded by the British in the 19th century and used in the summers as a residency for the Madras Presidency. Rail travel here is a special treat aboard the Nilgiri mountain railway, a celebrated old miniature train that offers spectacular mountain scenery on the upward journey.
Nowadays, it has a chaotic city centre that is best avoided. Instead, head for the hills, parks, the gorgeous Botanical gardens, the rose gardens, tea plantations, or expansive lakes. Upper Bhavani Lake and Pykara Lake and Falls are particularly beautiful, as are Avalanche Lake and Emerald Lake. The view from Needle Rock is striking. Bakasura Malai is a mammoth trek but worth the extra effort for its sweeping panoramic views of three Indian states, while the nearby Mudumalai Forest Sanctuary is a highlight for nature enthusiasts.
A quieter and calmer alternative to Ooty, Coonoor is one of the three hill stations perched in the Nilgiri Ranges of Tamil Nadu. Since it’s only 17 kilometres away, you can enjoy all the sights and pleasures of the same region without fighting through the crowds to do it. The region surrounding Coonoor is full of lush tea plantations, so if you’re a tea drinker, be sure to leave some time to visit Coonoor’s working tea factories and indulge in the spicy regional blends.
A particular pleasure is a ride on the toy train connecting Coonoor with Mettupalayam and Ooty. Avoid the town centre of Coonoor and stick to the upper side instead for peace and spectacular views. Nearby sightseeing highlights include Sim’s Park on a steep and striking ravine, Lamb’s Rock, the Dolphin’s Nose Viewpoint and Laws Falls. The latter two are wonderful picnic spots. A trip to Coonoor is all about strolling through the countryside, taking in the fresh mountain air at high altitudes, and being thankful for the escape from India’s heat and crowds in the cities,
The Rajakkad Estate is one of those hotels that feels completely removed from the world and is stepping back into a time gone by. It’s situated in the foothills of the western ghats in a very rural location about 50km from the nearest town, Dindigul. It’s set amongst lush peppercorn and coffee plantations in the Palani Hills and is well known for its bird watching opportunities with over 200 species of migratory birds - a haven for bird watchers.
The Pallam palace is the house that sits in the heart of the plantation. You’ll find 7 bedrooms all with direct garden access and lovely views. The style is in keeping with the 18th century wooden structure. Vibrant soft furnishings give the rooms a homely feel. Expect a comfortable but not overly luxurious stay.
Whilst staying at the estate, it’s perfect to take some time out from normal life and sightseeing and just enjoy the surroundings. Go for a walk, visit the local village, perhaps do some early morning yoga. This isn’t a property with endless activities to fill the day. The cuisine is predominantly South Indian with influences from the Mediterranean and there is a strong focus on using local ingredients.
Rajakkad Estate is a favourite of our staff here at Experience Travel Group as there aren’t many other places like this in southern India. You might find the service a little on the friendly laid back side of things, a few quirky details here and there, but the stunning location, lovely food and intimate feel make it a special stay for most.