Who knew you could find such beautiful destinations in South India. Lush green grass, dense forests, colourful mountains, blue skies, small cottages, big lodges – thinking of North India, right? Well, you could not be more wrong. Coorg and Ooty are such wonders, the right balance of adventure and relaxation.
Closest Airport: Mangalore
After taking a flight from Mumbai to Mangalore, I had to endure a 3 hour drive to reach the main Coorg city. With the first evening spent mostly relaxing, I was all geared up to explore this little town on the hills.
Your must see places are the Raja’s Seat park and the Dubare Elephant Camp. While the park has stunning views of the town and coffee plantations, the elephant camp was wonderful to take a boat ride on the river, Kaveri and get a chance to pet the baby elephants. Did you know that Coorg also has the second largest Tibetan settlement in India? Well, you can visit the Namdroling Monastery which is over home to over 3000 monks and nuns. I was left spellbound by the beautiful walls covered in intricate patterns in colour.
Surprisingly, North Indian cuisine is very famous here and more widely available that the local cuisine I wished to try. And mind you, their local cuisine is not primarily dosa and idli! That is just the breakfast. While my curry dreams weren’t realised until the very last evening in Coorg, I quite enjoyed the local food at the Ferntree restaurant in Taj Madikeri Resort. Definitely labelling this as a must!
THE DRIVE TO OOTY
After a lovely four nights in Coorg with loads of time to spend at the spa and wind down from city life, we set out to Ooty. But not before a quick detour to Mysore which was absolutely worth it. Having always dreamt of visiting the palaces in Rajasthan, I couldn’t comprehend the beauty of this particular palace in Southern India. The Mysore palace has had a rich history and was a part of the Wadiyar dynasty. Once a wooden palace, it is now mostly restored with glass roofs through which the sun shone over the pastel palace halls
Over the five hour drive, we crossed the state border between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and came across the reserve national forests there. We were lucky enough to spot all sorts of animals in their natural habitat! The excitement of spotting an Indian bison, a rhinoceros, boars, elephants, deers and of course, monkeys by the highways was unparalleled. This was definitely the highlight of the trip.
Closest Airport: Coimbatore
After a long drive, we finally made it to Ooty by night. The easy to spot tea plantations looked beautiful with the light rain that greeted us on our first day there.
With little to explore, you will have mucho time to relax. But do not miss out on the boating experience amidst the beautiful Nilgiri mountains. Additionally, make prior arrangements to take the UNESCO Heritage Site Nilgiri Mountain Railway, popularly known as the ‘toy train’. While the train itself is a little disappointing, the experience is wonderful. Ride the morning train up to Coonoor where you can have a quick breakfast and drive back to Ooty.
Stop for teatime at the little joints in Ooty to try their mouth-watering local biscuits. I promise you, you’d love the ‘varkey‘ so much, you’d probably buy a whole kilo to take home with you! Of the two hill stations I visited, I clearly preferred Ooty. I absolutely enjoyed the old town charm and would recommend you to visit here.