Introducing The Western Ghats
Welcome to the lush Western Ghats, some of the most welcome heat relief in India. Rising like an impassable bulwark of evergreen and deciduous tangle from north of Mumbai to the tip of Tamil Nadu, the Ghats (with an average elevation of 915m) contain 27% of India’s flowering plants and an incredible array of endemic wildlife. In Tamil Nadu they rise to 2000m and more in the Palni Hills around Kodaikanal and the Nilgiris around Ooty. British influence lingers a little stronger up in these hills, where the colonists covered the slopes in neatly trimmed tea bushes and created their 'hill stations' to escape the heat of the plains. It’s not just the air and (relative) lack of pollution that’s refreshing – there’s a certain acceptance of quirkiness and eccentricity in the hills that is rarer in the lowlands. Think organic farms, handlebar-moustached trekking guides and tiger-stripe earmuffs for sale in the bazaars.
There are few more refreshing Tamil Nadu moments than boarding a bus in the heat-soaked plains and disembarking in the sharp pinch of a Kodaikanal night or morning. It’s not all cold though; during the day the weather is positively pleasant, more reminiscent of deep spring than early winter.
Coonoor is one of the three Nilgiri hill stations – Ooty, Kotagiri and Coonoor – that sit high above the southern plains. Smaller and quieter than Ooty, it has some terrific small hotels and guesthouses, from which you can do just the same kind of things as you would do from bigger, busier Ooty.