- Saptadeepa Bandopadhyay
Ooty or Coonoor? Which one would you pick?
Ooty and Coonoor could be called the sister towns in the Nilgiri mountain ranges of Southern India. Easily accessible from the major cities of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, Ooty is often frequented by tourists wanting to relax at higher altitudes and cooler atmosphere.
I had visited both Ooty and Coonoor, a couple of times over long weekend trips from Bangalore and here is what I feel about both these places.
Setting the scales here for you to decide -
I) Scenic Beauty!
Coonoor is only 20 kilometres away from Ooty. So they are not very different from each other when I think about their scenic beauty.
Stretches of tea estates, misty meadows, lush green surroundings, mountaintop views of the Nilgiris are what attracts most tourists here.
Botanical gardens, beautiful lakes, famous viewpoints in the surrounding mountains, a pine forest are all that one comes to enjoy around both these destinations.
II) Things to do around Ooty and Coonoor
The moment you are in Ooty, you will easily figure out what all touristy activities you can involve in this destination. Places are so well known, you hardly need guidance around the Ooty town.
A quick list for reference -
A half-day visit to the Botanical Garden of Ooty or Sim's Park in Coonoor
A visit to any one of the Tea Factories. Both Ooty and Coonoor each have a tea factory!
Spending some time taking a boat ride around the lakes of Ooty i.e. Emerald Lake, Pykara Lake or Avalanche Lake.
A telescopic view from the Doddabetta peak i.e. the highest peak in Ooty OR Short treks to the Dolphin's Nose and the Lamb's Rock for panoramic views of the Nilgiri's in Coonoor!
Taking the scenic heritage train route that runs between Ooty and Coonoor!
III) The commercial sides of Ooty and Coonoor -
Here is what that get's to my nerves when I am in Ooty!
The region is overly crowded with tourists. Like most other popular tourist destinations, you have vendors selling eatables, toys, offering horse rides, etc. By mid-day, every tourist spot you visit looks chaotic.
Restaurants too seem packed with people. The Ooty town has a bustling market area and numerous budget-friendly lodges and motels. The centre of the town lacks the charm for which a hill-station is known.
Thus Ooty, in my opinion, is over-commercialized because of tourism!
On the other hand, I have a completely contrasting memory about Coonoor. You would obviously find moderate tourists in all the famous spots of Coonoor and a little chaos around the market.
Apart from that the entire town of Coonoor gives a calm laidback vibe. The temperatures dip lower than Ooty by the evening hours and the surrounding often turns misty. You hardly find any hustle-bustle in the lanes of Coonoor. The town is very pretty and aesthetically decorated owing to the presence of the Wellington Cantonment Area.
Only strolling around these lanes made me so happy and relaxed that I wouldn't mind not visiting any other tourist spots. The greenery, soothing atmosphere, chirping of little birds among the rhododendrons, occasional sound of the church bells left me so content.
This feeling was never there in Ooty! It just seems like a large amusement park!
IV) The stays around Ooty and Coonoor -
As mentioned earlier, cheap budget-friendly accommodations are available around Ooty town. This also means you hardly get to have a view from your window because it would open to the hotel next to you. Of course, you have an option to choose the branded stays like Sheraton, Mahindra, etc which have their large gated properties to eliminate the outside chaos.
While in Coonoor, you will have many mid-range resorts, homestays and BnBs where you can connect to the local families living there. There are few hostels as well for the backpacking community. All these accommodations provide some spectacular views and access to private gardens where you could relax and admire the clouds passing by you while sipping a cup of tea.
Coonoor is a perfect staycation destination!
Given an option, now that I have been to both the places, I would prefer Coonoor over Ooty. I escape the cities to reconnect with nature, breathe in the fresh air and most importantly, to get away from the maddening crowd and the rat race.
Unfortunately, I have found Ooty to be overrated, no matter what the tourism industry has to say! I sometimes wonder, the Indian Cinema which had many movies shot in Ooty during the 70s and '80s, are responsible for the over-tourism in the hill-station.
Coonoor is thus my offbeat alternative to Ooty!
Which one would you prefer?