Introducing Ooty (Udhagamandalam)
Ooty may be a bit bustling for some tastes, and the town centre is, frankly, an ugly mess, but it doesn't take long to get up into the greener, quieter areas where tall pines rise above what might almost be mistaken for English country lanes. Ooty combines Indian bustle and Hindu temples with lovely parks and gardens and charming Raj-era bungalows, the latter providing its most memorable (and generally most expensive) places to stay.
The town was established by the British in the early 19th century as the summer headquarters of the Madras government, and memorably nicknamed ‘Snooty Ooty’. Development ploughed in a few decades ago, but somehow old Ooty survives. You just have to walk a bit further out from the centre to find it.
The journey up here on the celebrated miniature train is romantic and the scenery stunning. Even the road up from the plains is pretty impressive. From April to June (the very busy season) Ooty is a welcome relief from the hot plains, and in the colder months (October to March) you’ll need warm clothing, which you can buy cheap here, as overnight temperatures occasionally drop to 0°C.
The train and bus stations are at the west end of Ooty's racecourse, in almost the lowest part of town. To their west is the lake, while the streets of the town snake upwards all around. From the bus station it’s a 20-minute walk to Ooty’s commercial centre, Charing Cross. Like Kodaikanal, Ooty has an international school whose students can often be seen around town.