OOTY, India (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore Ooty, a picturesque town of tea estates, forests and mist-shrouded hills in India’s southern Nilgiri Hills?
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short stay in the hill station established by the British colonial rulers in the early 19th century.
8 a.m. - Start off with pastries and breads at Hot Breads in the town’s Charing Cross area. For a typical Indian breakfast, walk across the road to the Hotel Sanjay for generous servings of steamed idlis, dosas and vadas. Make sure you wash it all down with a warm ‘cuppa’ of the renowned Nilgiri tea.
9 a.m. - Head to the Doddabetta Viewpoint, which at 2,633 meters (8,638 ft) above sea level is the highest point in the Nilgiris. Enjoy views of the vast valleys and the surrounding hills including, Snowdown Hill, Club Hill and Elk Hill.
10.30 a.m. - Trek through hills, forests and tea plantations to a Toda tribal village. Shop for traditional Toda shawls at bargain prices and drink some delicious buffalo butter milk before heading back into town.
2 p.m. - Late lunch at the cozy Sidewalk Cafe, which has its own fireplace. The mushroom toast is popular as are the pastas. Round it all off with a cappuccino, that goes really well with the mouthwatering desserts.
3.30 p.m. - Hire a pedal boat and navigate the tranquil Ooty Lake in the late-afternoon sun. The artificial lake is surrounded by groves of eucalyptus trees and a short trail for pony rides.
5 p.m. - Head to the Ooty Botanical Gardens with its vast, landscaped flower beds. The garden also has rare trees including a “monkey puzzle tree” — which monkeys just cannot seem to climb — and a fossilized tree trunk that is believed to be 20 million years old.
7.30 p.m. - Relax at the end of the day with drinks at the Savoy Hotel’s Canterbury Bar. Try local favorites like hot toddy, a mixture of whiskey, honey, lemon, spices and hot water. The hotel’s dining room also serves local specialties such as chicken ball curry with coconut rice.
7.30 a.m. - Take the Nilgiri Express miniature train to the near-by town of Coonoor. A one-hour ride on the UNESCO World Heritage train provides breath-taking views of waterfalls, villages and tea estates.
9 a.m. - Breakfast late at the Gateway Hotel, an English bungalow-turned-resort on the hilltop. There are freshly made jams to go with toast, delicious pancakes, muffins and omelet’s.
10.30 a.m. - Pay a visit to St Joseph’s, one of the town’s oldest boarding schools with a history dating back to the 19th century. Admire the colonial architecture and the school traditions while walking through its sprawling campus.
1 p.m. - Drive up to the Dolphin’s Nose for stunning views of the Catherine’s Falls and the surrounding valley. On your way back stop by for a picnic lunch at the Lamb’s Rock, named after an English captain who carved out a path to a scenic spot by the forest.
3 p.m. - Drop in for tea at the Singara Tea Estate, just like former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin did in the 1950s. Make sure you also take a short tour of the aromatic tea factory after having tea and cakes on the estate bungalow’s lawn.
4.30 p.m. - Tee off with retired army officers and other gentlemen at the Wellington Golf course. The 9-hole golf course surrounded by mountains is easily one of the most scenic in India. Have a peg of whiskey at the Wellington Gymkhana club before heading back to Ooty town.
7 p.m. - No trip to Ooty would be complete without a meal at Shinkow’s, the city’s beloved Chinese restaurant. Favorites include pork spring rolls, vegetable wonton soup, spicy noodles and lemon chicken.
Editing by Miral Fahmy