Weekend Planner: Go local in Ooty, Tamil Nadu

Shrouded in clouds, the Nilgiris present a magical scene
Photographer: Reader Arjun Krishna

Words AISHWARYA MENON

In the winter months, as you approach the popular hill station Ooty, a thick blanket of mist shrouds the entire mountainside, making it seem as if you’re on an island in the middle of a sea of clouds. The scene might seem straight out of a dream, but, happily, this is just a taste of things to come. The Western Ghats presents some amazing vistas in the region. Stay at Sterling Ooty – Fern Hill, set in the Nilgiris, surrounded by terraced tea estates; it makes for the perfect base from which to explore the queen of hill stations. 

Known for rolling tea plantations and delectable chocolates, this honeymooners’ paradise was once the lofty domain of wild beasts and ancient tribes such as the Todas, Kotas and Badagas. Sterling Ooty – Fern Hill not only offers a premium stay option, but also a peek into the lives of these local tribes by incorporating their food, culture and traditions into every nook and corner of the resort. 

Whether you’re travelling with your friends or family, there’s always something to do here. The property boasts a garden with more than 40 kinds of herbs and over a hundred varieties of flowering plants. Even if you’re no botanist, a walk through the garden will pique your interest, and soothe your senses. It makes for the perfect place to acclimatise, especially for those who are taking a much-needed break from their hectic professional routines. Choose from experiences such as high rope adventures, land zorbing or video gaming within the property itself. And, if you would like to venture out, the ever-helpful staff has suggestions that range from visits to plantations and tribal villages to treks. You could even chance upon a live dance performance by the friendly Toda and Badaga tribes around a bonfire. If you’d like some more help with unwinding and rejuvenating, there’s also a splendid range of spa treatments available onsite to choose from. The clean, crisp mountain air is sure to whet the appetite – the all-day dining restaurant, The Fern, offers a variety of delectable dishes; do ask the chef for the Vettaikaran (hunter tribes) cuisine. 

Once you’ve spent enough time relaxing, head out to explore the town a bit. The famous Ooty Lake draws a lot of visitors, so make sure you’re there early enough, especially if you’d like to paddle around on the calm waters of the picturesque waterbody. For an insight into one of the prominent indigenous communities of the region, head to the tribal village of the Todas. Their uniquely-shaped dwellings used to be made out of stones, bamboo and dried grass but are today made with concrete. If Lady Luck smiles upon you,one of the Todas might even invite you in for a cup of tea. 

If the flame-of-the-forest on your way in made you happy, you’ll definitely want to visit the Government Botanical Garden, to witness the riot of colours here And, if you’re feeling adventurous, try the two-hour trek up to the Doddabetta Peak, known to be the highest mountain in the Nilgiris, which promises sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. 

In the evening, when the town comes alive, head to the Charring Cross to shop for tea, essential oils, chocolates and even saris or sandalwood at the Mysore Silks and Handicrafts Emporium Make your next weekend trip to Ooty an unusual one.One with a unique glimpse at the local tribes and a better understanding of what it means to connect with nature. 

Make your next weekend trip to Ooty an unusual one. One with a unique glimpse at the local tribes and a better understanding of what it means to connect with nature.

To travel this trip NOW, check out LPMI’s  January 2020 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.