Makar Pongal is a festival that is celebrated in the entire state of Tamil Nadu with great pomp and show. The festival is celebrated in mid-January and falls between the 12th and 15th day of the month. It is actually the Harvest Festival of the state and everybody, especially the farmers take great joy in making a huge celebration on the day of Makar Pongal.
The festival is believed to bring prosperity and wealth into the lives of those who celebrate it. In Ooty, it is celebrated by thanking the Sun God and the Rain God for helping the crops grow. The cattle are also thanked for their help provided in this endeavour.
All Hindus decorate their houses with flowers and make ‘rangolis’ or designs on the floors of their homes. These designs are prepared using petals of flowers and coloured rice powder. A special sweet using milk, rice and jaggery is prepared on this day. This is known as rice pudding and is considered a must eat on the day of Makar Pongal.
The Botanical Garden or the Government Botanical Garden are located in Ooty and are spread over an area of 22 hectares. The Gardens, which are built on the slopes of Doddabetta Peak, have a terraced look of lush green carpets. The Tamil Nadu Horticulture Department is responsible for the maintenance of the Gardens.
The Gardens were laid out in the year 1847 and were designed by the English architect William Graham McIvor. During the pre-Independence era, one required membership of the Gardens, which was open to only Europeans and they were charged a fee of Rs. 3 per month.
The Gardens are visited by lakhs of tourists each year because of the innumerable plants of different species that are found here. These plants are both exotic as well as indigenous. There are herbs, shrubs, trees, bonsai plants and ferns. Within the premises of the Gardens is a fossilized tree trunk as well, that is believed to be at least 20 million years old!
Dodabetta is the highest mountain peak of the Nilgiri Hills and stands for 'Big Mountain' in Kannada language. The mountain stands tall at a height of 8650 ft and is about 9 km from the city of Ooty and is accessible via the Ooty-Kotagiri Road.
One can get a clear view of the Chamundi Hills from the Dodabetta. The other peaks visible from atop the Dodabetta are Kulkudi, Kattadadu and Hecuba. All these three peaks lie close to Udagamandalam. The uniqueness of Dodabetta lies in its summit that is actually a flattened curve. The peak is another popular tourist attraction in Ooty.
Around 3500 tourists visit the peak per day during the tourist season of April and May. To make the visit to the peak more interesting forest officials have added an observatory on top of the mountain. There are two telescopes that the tourists can use to get a view of the scenic valley.
Mukurthi National Park is situated in the western side of the Nilgiris Plateau. The park falls on the west of the Ooty Hill Station and is part of the Western Ghats. The main reason behind establishing a national park in the place was to protect the Nilgiri Tahr which is a Keystone species.
This national park also has the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is part of the Western Ghats. Mukurthi National Park is elevated at some points, and these elevations vary between 4,900 ft and 8,625 ft.
The famous peaks in the park are the Kollaribetta peak, the Mukurthi peak and the Nilgiri peak. These three are the highest peaks in the park. Their heights are way above the mark that is kept for plateaus. The specialty of the peaks is that they have cliffs made from granite rocks.
If you are taking a leisurely walk in the national park, then you cannot miss the Mukurthi Dam that has been built on the base of the hills. This dam was constructed as a sub-section to the Pykara hydro electricity project near the village of Glenmorgan.
Avalanche Lake is located in the Nilgiri Hills and is at a distance of about 22 km from the city of Ooty. The lake has been so named because of the avalanche that was experienced in the area during the 19th century. The lake is a popular tourist destination among the tourists and the locals alike. The area surrounding the lake has a magical charm about it.
The rolling hills surrounding the lake remain covered with magnolias, rhododendrons and orchids for the most part of the year giving the area an ethereal look. Many tourists can be seen taking a leisurely stroll on the winding path that surrounds the lake.
Some people also prefer fishing in the lake that is full of trout. In fact, a trout hatchery has been opened in the vicinity that provides tourists with fishing rods, baits and other accessories. Adventurous tourists also set up camps next to the lake and spend most of their days lazying around the lake. Some indulge in adventurous activities like trekking while others prefer the daring sport like rafting.
Wenlock Downs is a very famous picnic spot near the town of Ooty and the place is mainly popular for shooting films because of its beautiful location. The gently rolling hills, the green stretch of land, the wide open spaces and the endlessly sprawling greens are enough to fill your heart with joy.
Wenlock Downs covers an enthralling area of about 20,000 acres. The entire place is lined with majestically standing eucalyptus trees. During the pre-independence era, the place was very popular among the Europeans who would regularly visit the grounds for the purpose of hunting. This was where the popular Udhagamandalam Hunt would take place.
Once hunting was banned in independent India, the place became a famous picnic spot among the local population. In today’s times, no tourist coming to this side of the country can leave without visiting the place. In fact, the place now harbours the Gymkhana Club including the club’s golf course as well as the Government Sheep Farm.
Ooty Lake is perhaps the most popular destination among the tourists who visit Ooty. The Lake is an artificial one that was built by John Sullivan in 1824 and covers an area of 65 acres. It was constructed after collecting the water that would flow down from the mountains during the monsoons. However, it had to be emptied out thrice after it went above its mark.
The idea was to prepare the lake for fishing by local fishermen. The lake is no longer its original size and has shrunk because of various geographical factors and because of the construction of a bus stand, a race course and a lake park in the vicinity.
Today the lake is popular among the tourists because of the boating opportunity that it offers. One can enjoy the scenic beauty of the lake by leisurely boating in its calm waters. In fact, during the month of May a boating race is organized by the state government and the event lasts for two days.
Flower Show in Ooty is organized during the month of May, primarily because the hill station is very touristy during this month. Different varieties of flowers are exhibited in the Botanical Gardens and thousands of tourists visit the show each day.
The Flower Show in the Nilgiris is very popular as there are some 150 varieties of flowers that are put on display at the show. These flowers are indigenous as well as imported. There are some variations of flowers that are exotic as well as rare. To keep the spirit of the Flower Show alive, organizers conduct competitions as well.
Many people from all over the country participate in this competition and display the flowers that they have so lovingly planted and watched them bloom. Some 250 people participate in the flower show each year under different categories. The show lasts for two days and at the end of the second day the winners are announced.
Pykara Lake is a sterling example of nature’s exquisiteness and lies around 30 km from the Mudumalai National Park. The lake has a wonderful panoramic view and pristine green water. The largest lake in the Nilgiris district, it is considered very sacred by the Todas.
Wenlock Downs, a vast, undisturbed lush meadow is a favourite picnic spot of dwellers and tourists, and this is located very close to the Pykara Lake.
The Tamil Nadu Tourism and Development Corporation maintains a boathouse on the lake. Fitted with a restaurant, the boathouse offers visitors a chance to take a trip along the beautiful water body. A bridge on the main road presents the ideal vantage point for one to take photos, and the view from here is exhilarating. The Pykara river has a dam and power plant as well.
Timings: 8.30 AM–5.00 PM
Entry Fee: Nil (Lake), Rs. 550 for a boat ride.
Shopping in Ooty is great fun, although some people will be disappointed if they are looking for local handicrafts, since the place has no special handicrafts that are centralized to the area. Passionate shoppers can shop for a variety of things from Ooty.
The amazing variety of tea and coffee that the place offers is unmatched. You have a whole range of specialties to choose from. And it would be a crime not to buy tea leaves or coffee beans from Ooty. The teas are amazingly flavoured, and you can pick from honey, eucalyptus, tulsi, strawberry, green apple and many more.
Homemade chocolates are also a specialty of the region. There are many shops that sell dark and white chocolates, bitter chocolates, dry fruit chocolates, flavoured chocolates and chocolates prepared from marshmallows.
Antique jewellery made in the Todas style is very popular among the ladies. These intricately designed jewellery pieces are available in almost all the major shopping centres of the town.
Glenmorgan is located about 35 km from the town of Ooty and this scenic village is very popular among the tourists. The specialty of the village lies in the tea estates that sprawl the hills near the village.
A popular attraction of the Glenmorgan Village is a ropeway that goes from the power house (located in Singara) up to the village. The ropeway is about 3 km long and is built at a height of 980 ft. It is at an incline of 41 degrees close to the area called the German Point.
The ascent and descent via the ropeway becomes difficult near the German Point because of the incline. It is regularly used by those working in the power house. The village is very popular among the locals as well as the tourists for being a picnic spot. It is for the wonderful view that it offers of the tea estates.