Situated at an altitude of 2240 metres in the Nilgiri or “blue hills” hills of the Western Ghats, Ooty is quintessentially a tourist destination, providing the same sort of summer retreat that Kodaikanal does. Lofty mountains, great lakes, dense forests, sprawling grasslands, miles of tea gardens and eucalyptus trees are expected viewing on the road to Ooty. A little train slowly chugs up the hills – a narrow meter gauge, known as the Toy Train – which is ideally suited to the hilly terrain. There are energetic little ponies to ride once visitors arrive at the town’s pretty little train station and numerous picnic spots and trekking trail to explore.
Ooty was once a favourite summer retreat of Mysore royalty, who maintained their summer palace here – as well as of British colonialists who used it as a weekend getaway. When it was made into their summer administrative headquarters, colonial bungalows and cottages sprang up all around, a few of which remain. Ooty is famous for its strawberries and handmade chocolates, sold in quaint little shops on the High Street, where a discerning eye might also pick up an antique or two. For the curious and the adventurous, there are settlements of hill tribes known as the Toda, who still live exactly as they did centuries ago. They craft the most beautiful silver jewelry and dramatically coloured woollen shawls, which visitors may buy from them.