Bangalore is an amazing city, no doubts about it. But what makes it better apart from its pleasant weather is that it is practically in the middle of South India, so no picturesque place is far enough – whether it’s the sunny beaches on the east coast or the chilly hills of western ghats.
One of the most sought after destinations is Ooty. I am taking the liberty of calling it the backyard of Bangalore. Since we have moved to Bangalore a little more than 2 years back, we have visited Ooty 4 times and with each trip we saw a new place. So, let me share the itinerary we followed for our latest trip.
Day 1: Mysore
Srirangapatnam: Start early from your place, probably around 8 am because it will surely take you an hour or more to actually get out of Bangalore given the heavy traffic which somehow doesn’t die down on a holiday also. Take the Bangalore-Mysore road and around 10 /10.30 am stop by any restaurant along the way for breakfast. For some time after getting out of Bangalore you will not find any proper places to eat but after a drive of 2-3 hours, there are good restaurants and cafes to eat at. After breakfast start towards Mysore.
Roughly 20 kms before Mysore, there is Srirangapatnam where there was Tipu Sultan’s palace and lies his tombstone. The palace is towards the left side of the highway and the tombstone, temple are on the right side. We missed going to the left side on our first visit since it is a little confusing there if you haven’t gone through an itinerary like this one before your travel (self promotion – wink wink 😉 ). Towards the right – the tombstone and temple isn’t much of an attraction as it has not been maintained well, can be visited just for the sake of history. The palace on the other hand (and on the other side) is a little better maintained with the royal items on display, the weapons, the artillery, Tipu Sultan’s clothes, the hierarchy of the Kings and paintings showing the fall of his empire by Britishers.
After spending sometime at Srirangapatnam, head towards Mysore and check in to the hotel. We found this really good hotel at nominal price, not in the middle of noisy markets but not even secluded from Mysore. I would totally recommend – Jade Garden hotel.
Mysore Palace: Take some rest and have lunch at the hotel and then head out to visit the Mysore Palace – the top attraction of Mysore. Mind you, there is generally a long queue but it is mostly a moving queue. You do not have to wait to get inside, there is a nominal fee to go inside. As you set your foot inside the palace gates, you see the grandeur with which the kings lived, the sprawling grounds, the huge gates on all sides, big trees inside the compound, I personally felt – Oh I wish, I was born in those times and was a princess living in the palace.
Shoes are not allowed inside the palace so you have to deposit them before you go in. Cameras are also not allowed and needs to be deposited near the main gate. Once you step inside the actual palace the magnificence which you had earlier thought of just goes exponentially high. The palace interiors, the wood carvings on the doors, the floor tiles, the painted glass ceilings are a sight to behold. Building the type of interiors at that time when each tile must have been laid and fixed by hands, the carvings that were done on the wooden doors, it is just amazing. Multiple artifacts are kept behind the rope for the visitors to see and adore. From main entrance to the entertainment halls, it looks much grander than the sets of Sanjay leela bhansali’ movie. Once out of the palace insides, you can collect your shoes and stroll down the pathway where towards one side there is an entrance to see the then residential area of the palace for which there is a separate ticket. If not interested in that, keep moving ahead on the pathway and there is a small temple and near that is a small area where camel rides are offered for kids. Towards the exit there is small handicrafts store as well.
Mysore Zoo: Next you may head to the Mysore Zoo which is around 4-5 kms from the palace. The zoo is huge and after walking that much in the palace you cannot cover the whole zoo by walking but can sure walk around for some time. You will see lions, Chimps, Tiger and many different type of birds. I had not seen even seen that many species of birds before that. If you have time and energy I would suggest not to leave out Mysore Zoo. There are a couple of small eateries also inside where you can munch on snacks before heading to the next place.
Chamundi Hills: From the plains of Mysore start towards the Chamundi hills. It is 20 kms from the Zoo and as the name suggest you have to climb up to the top of the hill. Very curvy but smooth road up till the top. If it is about to get dark, stop midway where the road divides – one towards the chamundi temple and the other towards the bull temple. There is a small area where you may park your car, off-board, look farther from that point and appreciate the beauty of the whole Mysore city from there. After spending few minutes there, head to the Chamundi temple. Every time I have been there it has always been crowded and there is a large queue of devotees so we offered our prayers from the outside. A minute away from the temple is a small play area for children and few stadium like row steps where you can sit, enjoy the sunset and munch on a bhutta (roasted corn stick).
Bull Temple: Next start driving down the same path and visit the bull temple towards the left. A narrow road goes till the temple. It is not a proper temple but a huge single rock which is carved as a Nandi. (A bull from mythology).
End the day by visiting the Mysore mall and you can have your dinner there. Go back to the hotel for the much-needed sleep after this amazing but tiring day.
Day 2: Ooty
Enjoy the Buffet breakfast at the Hotel and start for Ooty by 9 am.
Bandipur National Park: Once out of Mysore, the drive till Ooty is beautiful. While still on the plains you will see vendors near the big trees selling watermelons or coconuts. Stop by at the coconut vendor for a small refresher. After a drive of 80 kms you enter the Bandipur National park. It is a tiger reserve and is home to other animals like Elephants, deers, peacocks. I have not been lucky enough to see a tiger ever but sure have seen the family of elephants cross by. What is good about Bandipur is that it is a National park, the animals are in their home where they are happy unlike the zoos where they are caged. In Bandipur you are not allowed to honk horns, park your car and in fact there are boards instructing the travelers to wait for animals to cross roads if they are doing so. Vehicles are not allowed there during the night is what I have heard. Bandipur also offers Safari to the core jungle if you wish to see Tigers. Deer, Peacocks, elephants you will see along the road from your car itself.
With Bandipur ends Karnataka and the national park stretches to Mudumalai reserve from where starts Tamil Nadu. After Mudumalai, Ooty is 40 Kms and from there the weathers starts to a get cooler. There are 36 hair pin bends while climbing up the hills. As soon as the bends end you are almost in Ooty. A little traffic starts coming up since the town starts. Head up to your hotel for check in and an hour or so rest. Have lunch at hotel or in the Ooty town market.
Doddabetta peak: After lunch, climb up further to Doddabetta peak. This is the highest mountain in Nilgiri hills. If you are there after 4pm or so carry a jacket since it gets a little chilly. Parking is a bit of a mess in Doddabetta so if not really comfortable driving on narrow roads on hills then better to take a driver along. If driving yourself, be gentle on the curves ( 😉 ) and be ready to spend some time on getting proper parking. Dodabetta gives you the complete view of Ooty. It feels as if you are looking at the city from above the clouds. It is truly beautiful. Throughout this trip and places you visit you will find photographers taking out pictures. In these times everybody has a camera or a smartphone to click pictures but I would suggest to take at least 1 picture there and get the hard copy, frame it and hang it when back home. It will be a beautiful memory to look back on. Have a cup of tea, eat maggi, boiled corn or other such items that vendors have lined up.
Take in all the beauty of and from Doddabetta and head back to the town.
Tea factory: On the way back just before reaching town there is a tea factory and homemade chocolate store. Visit that and be privy to each and every step in the process of getting that ultimate hot cup of tea. There is actual tea that they are processing from the tea leaves and at the end of that line, you get a cup of tea to drink from the same tea that is made there. Just next to it is a small homemade chocolate store. Buy your favorite chocolate flavors to take back home.
Ooty lake: Enjoy boating? Just outside the town market is a lake where boating is offered. There are also some rides for kids, some small shops for souvenirs, eatables and all.
Rose garden: Prefer a walk in the garden over boating? Head to the rose garden directly from Doddabetta. We were lucky enough to see the flower show there once which was beautiful. All the display pieces were made of colorful flowers.
By the time you visit all these places it will be dark already, best to head to the town market, take a stroll, have dinner and get back to the hotel.
Day 3: Coonoor
The drive from ooty to coonoor is amazing. It is approximately 30 kms, there are huge tea gardens all around and its lush green. It is not to be missed. When approaching coonoor, park anywhere and the view will be brilliant but there are certain points which have been developed by the government as a tourist spots.
Dolphin’s nose: Drive down to Dolphin’s nose from the main town and get soaked in the nature. This place in fact can be seen in some Bollywood films – the popular one being the famous ‘Saajan’. View the mountains all around separated by a deep trench. On the mountain, just opposite you can see the Catherine Falls.
When driving back up to coonoor from Dolphin’s nose, stop by at one of the restaurants just next to tea estate and sip from a variety of tea types.
Sim’s park is another such spot which is a very peaceful park built in step-wise manner from top to down rather than sprawling plain.
Tea plantation: Some tea plantations are open for the visitors to see. There is one such in coonoor which is owned by yester-year actress Mumtaz. There is also a factory near to the same where essentials oils are prepared from the different herbs and trees in the vicinity.
We were done by 1 pm with visiting all the above spots and headed back to Bangalore thereafter.
One thing which we couldn’t do but would recommend everybody else is – take one more day and stay somewhere between Ooty -Coonoor and do nothing. One time I want to visit again and just do nothing. Stay at one of the many good resorts/cottages and just spend time taking it all in.