This is a travelog about the Nilgiris of Tamil Nadu, in India, and their famous tourist spots. Anyone looking to travel there or read up about these places before travelling there may find this travelog useful.

Prologue

It’s the summer of 2008. We’re all getting ready to travel to the Nilgiris, each in our own way. I, the teenager, ask myself what I am going to wear, my father tests out his camera and my mother is checking up all the details. I walk in to see her surfing the Internet, looking up Coonoor and Ooty, the places we are to visit.
“There’s hardly any information about Coonoor” she says. “There’s a lot about Ooty, but nothing about Coonoor. Looks like I’m going to be the only source of information here.”
My mother stayed for a few years at Coonoor and knows quite a lot about the place. So, if there was very less listed about Coonoor, we were going to have to rely on her memory.
“But what I don’t understand is why people don’t write about Coonoor as much as they do about Ooty. It’s just as beautiful and in fact, more of a getaway as there are less people about” she says again.
People ask us what our plans are. We tell them that we are visiting Coonoor and Ooty.
“Oh, Ooty! Ah, yes. Lovely place, but quite commercialized nowadays.” Here they hesitate and ask “What’s Coonoor? Where is it?” or worse “Never heard of it.” Some experienced travelers say “Oh, yes. Coonoor. We stopped there once, on the way to Ooty.” That’s it, nothing more.
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And so, we went on our trip. Within those four days, we grew to love Coonoor for all its subtleties. Tranquil, refreshing, wondrous…these might be a few words to describe how we felt about the place. We were struck afresh each time we looked out of our window and saw the lush mountainside, by the fact that Coonoor was not getting what it deserved. And that was a recommendation. At least, a description of what it has to offer.

How could people not know about it? We asked each other, amazed. The tourists, making their way up to crowded, polluted places…they didn’t know what they were missing. It seemed kind of sad.
Then, we felt a sort of responsibility towards Coonoor and its helpful, friendly residents. So, to describe in detail the wonders of Coonoor, this blog was created. Here is the tale of Coonoor, seen through our eyes...

Chapter 1: the Practical Details and the Journey

Coonoor, located in the state of Tamil Nadu at a height of 1502 m above sea level, is one of the popular tourist spots of the Nilgiris. During the times of the British Raj in India, Coonoor was a preferred destination for the Britishers, the reason being that it had a moist, cool climate like their home country and also provided them a wealth of resources. For example, the slopes were developed due to their potential of growing tea. Thus, due to the Western influence, Coonoor flourished and developed into a centre for the tea industry, and also for educational institutions. Long since India gained independence, the town still displays the major influence of Western culture and society. Churches, typical colonial architecture, convents and business centres set up in that age still stand as testimonials.
Here are some more travel details. Summertime, in Coonoor, is from March to late June with temperatures reaching between 21 and 27 degrees celsius. The monsoon is from June to late August with moderate to heavy rainfall occurring. Winter extends from November to early March, reaching extremely low temperatures ranging between 4 and 20 degrees celsius. The languages spoken here are Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam. The best time to visit is the month of June and September-March. Another thing to remember is that the Tea and Tourism festival is held in January, a festival where one can get a taste of exquisite teas and witness the culture of Coonoor.
A note to the tourists: Travelling around Coonoor is not at all a problem as many taxis, buses, autorickshaws etc. are available. The Government also runs buses that connect Coonoor to other towns and cities. The address of the Tamil Nadu Tourist Office is Wenlock Road, Ooty and the telephone number is 0423-2443977
(Statistics from Travelguru.com)


Now, for the travelling details…
Here are the statistics- Coonoor is at a distance of 71 km from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and is 175 km from Mysore, Karnataka. Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka, lies at a distance of 310.6 km away from Coonoor. Coonoor is around 19 km away from the popular tourist destination of Ooty.
So, to travel to Coonoor directly from the plains, taking a road trip from Coimbatore would be ideal, considering the fact that it is the shortest distance mentioned. Also, Coimbatore is well-connected by rail as well as air and thus can be reached from any major city in the country.
The road trip from Bangalore to Coonoor could also be made, but it is not advisable as the journey will take far too long and will leave the tourist exhausted.
However, if one prefers to reach Ooty first and then come down to Coonoor, there is another way. Tourists may travel from Mysore to Ooty, travelling a distance of 155 km and then travel the additional 20 km to Coonoor. This journey too is quite long and, perhaps, can only be made by hardier travellers.
There are many taxicab services available as these are quite popular tourist destinations.
There is another enjoyable way of making the climb up to these hill-stations. The Nilgiri express is a nightly express broad gauge train service operating between Chennai and Mettupalayam (the town at the foothills of the Nilgiris). It is operated by the Indian Railways. It passes through Coonoor, Ooty and Kotagiri, providing tourists the opportunity of viewing the choice sights of the “Blue Mountains” while making the journey uphill.

The Journey


The best thing about the journey from the plains to the upper hills is the sights you can see. As tourists travel up the long, winding and narrow Ghat roads, they are able to breathe in fresh, moist mountain air. The temperature steadily drops as the altitude rises and the green cover of trees, bushes, ferns and creepers also grows thicker. At intervals, you can hear the tinkle of tiny mountain streams by the side of the road. Of course, the mist builds up and the sky seems to come closer towards the earth.

After a while, we notice that we are not quite alone in these dense roads, as groups of monkeys clamber on the rocks, peering curiously into the vehicles. If it is a cloudy day, the view of the valley seems to be ethereal. It is like as if curtains of clouds have been drawn upon the lush mountains and forests. If it is a sunny day, (which is a very lucky incident) everything seems to light up with brightness and the true beauty of every leaf, every blade of grass and every rock seems to impress upon tourists.
After the climb has been accomplished, the heart of Coonoor, the marketplace looms up. Then, there is a feeling of comfort from seeing the noise and bustle that there is civilization in the hills after all!


The marketplace hosts the Coonoor Railway Station and the Bus Stand, both of which are centres of activity. A number of trains pass through this railway station, mainly the Nilgiri Express. There are other passenger trains passing through the station too.
The marketplace also teems with shops selling everything from footwear to homemade chocolates and from jewellery to antique furniture. Anyone looking for souvenirs might be interested in these ancient shops. They are also very useful to buy replacements in the case of annoying incidents such as broken shoe heels and forgotten batteries! In case you haven’t brought woolens along and it’s getting really cold, never fear, there are shops that stock warm woolen wear too.Here, tourists may navigate their way to their respective hotels, lodges, inns or cottages, which inevitably circle the marketplace.

Chapter 2: Lodgings





Coonoor is home to a collection of hotels that offer the ultimate hillside experience. To name a few, the Velan Ritz, the Taj Garden Retreat and the MGM Hillworth Resort. After careful research, with the aid of my mother’s memory of Coonoor, we decided to stay in the MGM Hillworth Resort, situated in the Mount Pleasant Road.









Immediately after reaching there with bag and baggage, we applauded the decision whole-heartedly. The first thing that delighted us was the beautiful view from the large windows of our room. It showcased the green splendor of the hillside, dotted with tiny (so they seemed to us from there!) houses, the mountains shrouded by the mist in the distance and nearby, a gushing stream of water that flows past silvery rocks. What was more; we could even see the railroad of the Railway Station from the windows! It was truly a treat for the eyes and it must be mentioned that we spent many happy hours just gazing at the sight, awed by the beauty and tranquility.




We would definitely recommend the MGM Hillworth Resort to every tourist entering Coonoor who seek an unforgettable experience. What constituted a stay that we enjoyed to the utmost was not only the view and the tasteful and comfortable rooms, but also the excellent service offered by the hotel staff. Delicious food, interesting d├ęcor and, once again, the marvelous view from the dining area made mealtimes special too.
The staff was helpful and friendly, and we couldn’t help thinking that their information would be quite useful to someone who had never stayed in Coonoor before.
The fact that the entire hotel has only ten rooms might be viewed as a strange thing but for people like us, it is a good thing for there was less crowding and ensured personal space. The staff could pay more attention to detail of service. Another fact to mention is that some of the rooms open out into a balcony. I don’t think I need to mention how great that is for purposes of viewing the hillside!
Another quaint thing about the rooms is the bed. Seriously.
The beds are what are called “four poster beds” except without the fancy curtains. They are, however, neat and comfortable. The delightful thing about these beds is that they have a set of steps that need to be climbed up in order to sit or sleep in the bed.

This review is something to be considered, for we are quite critical in our approach to hotels! As soon as we had finished our trip and were on our way back, all of our fingers were itching to get to the keyboard and tell everyone about how fantastic this hotel is. So, tourists who truly seek ultimate hill experience may seriously consider checking in to this hotel.



The hotel can be contacted at hillworth@mgm.co.in. The official address being :
MGM Hillworth Resort
Mount Pleasant Road
Coonoor 643 202
Nilgiris District, Tamil Nadu

The manager, Mr. Sampath Rao, and his team will be pleased to assist in any way. The number to be contacted is: +91 97890 91392 or +91423 2207995

For reservations or travel assistance, you can contact:

Nivalink

A-205, Godrej Coliseum, Behind Everard Nagar, Off Eastern Express Highway, Chunabhatti, Sion, Mumbai - 400022. Phone : +91-22-24042211

E-mail : hillworth@nivalink.com Office Hours: 09:30 AM to 06:00 PM

The MGM resorts offer the same quality of service at their locations in Muttukadu, ECR Chennai, Velankanni, Ranipet and in Marry Brown restaurants across the country.

Chapter 3: The Sights








Sim’s Park: A Serene Spot



Located quite close to the central part of Coonoor, Sims Park, an area of twelve hectares, has gained a reputation for one of the most visited tourist spots in the area. One man’s private collection of flora diversified and developed to become the present day park. The board that we saw as soon as we entered stated that the park houses flora of all species and families. Some are rare species, brought in from all parts of the globe, including species of magnolia, rudraksh, camellia, tree ferns and pines. The Park is open from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm and charges an entrance fee of Rs. 5 for adults, Rs. 2 for children and Rs. 25/250 for camera/video.


Sim’s Park also hosts the Annual Fruit Show, for which Coonoor is famous. A few metres away from the park is the Pomological station of Coonoor, which markets items such as preserves, jams and jellies of fruits. You can be sure that the stuff sold here is delicious and made of real fruit.
It truly was an experience to walk in the cool shadows of trees that are over a hundred years old. The fact that we were getting a bit of scientific education, while strolling along the paths and enjoying the sight of sunshine streaming through the trees, added to overall contentment.The grassy mounds and sloped looked extremely inviting, so we just threw ourselves on to the grass and listened to the calls and songs of birds that call these majestic trees home.



There is also a lake in the grounds of the park, which is the reward of a long walk along the winding paths that slope down towards the centre of the park. This is a popular picnic and walking spot for tourists as well as locals. Don’t forget to have that camera on hand when you visit this place, for its splendor deserves a few shots.

Lamb's Rock and Dolphin's Nose: Breathtaking Viewpoints


The fact that they offer a breathtaking view of the hills and all the way down to the plains, combined with their interesting names, has made these viewpoints spots of great tourist interest. Accessed by car and onwards by foot, these viewpoints offer quite awe-inspiring sights. Lamb’s Rock is the closer viewpoint, as measured from the Coonoor marketplace. Dolphin’s Nose is situated further along the road.
Lamb’s Rock is a popular picnic spot and the view is so spectacular that, on a sunny day, one can see all the way down to Mettupalayam. Dolphin’s Nose is at a higher altitude than Lamb’s Rock but, honestly, the drive is worth the view. The view is, perhaps, even more spectacular at this point.

The area around Dolphin's Nose is also full of shops selling spices, tea and all other local products. Before we knew it, we found ourselves carrying 6-7 bags of tea! Believe it or not, we found all kinds of tea available there...masala tea, rose tea, chocolate tea, orange pekoe, ginger tea and of course, normal tea! Local herbs and medicinal products can be bought here...in fact; they can be bought anywhere in Coonoor or Ooty. Eucalyptus oil, clove oil, wintergreen oil and other products can be found in abundance, and they really prove to be beneficial as they are cures for common cold, aches and pains, earaches etc.

These spots are certainly worth a visit!

Lady Canning’s Seat: Another famous viewpoint

This viewpoint finishes the collection of famous tourist viewpoints of Coonoor. Named after the Viceroy’s wife of the same name who liked to visit the spot, Lady Canning’s Seat offers a great view of the hills and valleys. Though we didn’t make this spot a part of our trip, some of you might want to explore it as well.