Ooty has spectacular lakes, scenic viewpoints, beautiful tea estates and picturesque toy train ride from Ooty to Coonoor. We spent 3 days exploring everything that Ooty has to offer. After exploring Ooty, we spent 2 days in the Bandipur National Park. It is a Tiger Reserve where actually tigers are frequently spotted. However, the safari vehicle could have been much better for the price they charge. Also, I guess the experience depends on the guide as we got a really bad driver/guide on one of our safaris.
For Day 1 to Day 3 of our trip, check out our Kodaikanal Trip Report.
Day 4 – Kodaikanal to Ooty (252 Km, 7 hrs)
We drove from Kodaikanal and reached Ooty by 7 pm.
We stayed at the Taj Savoy Hotel Ooty and it turned out to be a good choice. Rooms were huge, had a big King size bed, a separate area for luggage and an awkwardly shaped marble bathroom. It even had a verandah with a sitting place. Only con was that it was difficult to open the curtains and being cold we even could not open the windows. So in spite of having a garden view, we could not see any view from the room. We ordered room service a couple of times and everything was delicious. The service was top-notch too.
Day 5 – Ooty – Upper Bhavani Lake, Avalanche Lake & Emerald Lake
Time – 10 am to 4 pm
Today we explored Avalanche Lake and Emerald lake which is not there on most people’s itinerary.
Viewpoint (Few km from Ooty)
- This was a random viewpoint en-route to the Emerald Lake.
- The panoramic view from here was mind-blowing. Definitely one of our favourite viewpoints.
- If you don’t have time to travel all the way to the Emerald Lake, at least visit this for gorgeous vistas.
- It doesn’t have any name.
Emerald Lake (20 km, 50 min from Ooty)
- Emerald Lake is a short detour en-route to the Avalanche Lake.
- It was a beautiful green lake with not a single soul around.
- This was our favourite spot of the day and would highly recommend to visit it.
- However, unlike Avalanche lake, for which the best views are available only after the bus tour, the beauty of Emerald Lake is visible from easily accessible viewpoints.
Avalanche Lake (6 Km, 20 min from Emerald Lake)
- It is yet another beautiful lake in this area.
- It is the point from where the bus departs for the Upper Bhavani Lake.
- Just a quick photo stop.
- There is a small cafe and probably the best place to eat in this area.
How to get to Upper Bhavani Lake
- First, get to the Avalanche lake. The GPS will take you to the outskirt of the Avalanche lake and then travel to Tamil Nadu Eco-tourism office which is about 4 km inside the jungle.
- From the Avalanche lake, you have to take the Forest Dept. Bus (Rs. 200 per person) or their jeep (Rs. 2000 with max 8 person allowed).
- The ticket counter opens at 9:00 am.
- During the season time, there is a heavy rush and it is better to arrive early.
- Once there are enough people for the bus or the jeep tour, it departs. You can also book a private jeep by paying Rs. 2000.
- Each ride is for approximately 2 hours.
Upper Bhavani lake
- There are 3 viewpoints – Cauliflower Forest, Bhavani Temple and the Upper Bhavani Lake.
- The bus or jeep waits for 10-15 minutes on every spot so that you can enjoy nature to the fullest. With jeep, stop timings are flexible as per your wish.
- Since it wasn’t a busy season we had no problems getting a bus or a jeep. We chose jeep to be more comfortable.
- It was a good 2 hour trip with the three viewpoints.
- However, the Upper Bhavani Lake wasn’t much different from the Emerald Lake.
After visiting all the lakes, we started our drive back to Ooty.
- We visited in winter, therefore it wasn’t in full bloom.
- It was good to wander around for half an hour.
We didn’t have breakfast, so by now we were starving and went for lunch to Hyderabad Biryani House. The biryani was served with salan. We ordered the smallest size and still, the portion size was huge. In all, a good place to have biryani and Indian food in Ooty.
Dad was not feeling too well, so we called it a day. Else we had plans to visit some more sightseeing spots. For dinner, we stuck to the room service.
Hotel – Taj Savoy Hotel Ooty
Day 6 – Ooty and Coonoor
Time – 8:45 am to 7 pm
Toy Train from Ooty to Coonoor
- It was an hour-long journey. We booked the morning train departing at 9:15 am and reaching Coonoor at 10:25 am.
- We were a bit sceptical whether to do this or not as we didn’t like the toy train in Darjeeling. However, this turned out to be an amazing experience. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.
- It offered stunning views all along the journey.
- Book first class tickets on the IRCTC website as soon as possible as seats are very limited.
- The right side has better views though you don’t have an option to select seats.
- Ask the driver to meet you at Coonoor so you can see Coonoor before proceeding back to Ooty.
- At Coonoor station, we had a delicious breakfast of idli. Surprisingly, it was so good that we kept going back and buying more of it.
Dolphin’s Nose (12 Km, 40 min from the station)
- The drive was gorgeous surrounded by tea gardens.
- From here, you can see a cute waterfall and enjoy the valley view.
- When we reached we could see the tiny waterfall and within minutes it was all covered in fog. We waited for a while, but unfortunately, it didn’t reveal the panorama again.
- Beware of monkeys here. They are very mischievous and will attack anything looking like food. Kapil who is most afraid of monkeys was attacked by one of them. He screamed, jumped and ran from there. It was so hilarious that everyone around had a good laugh. Unfortunately, I missed capturing it on my camera.
Lamb Rock ( 7 Km, 18 min)
- It is yet another viewpoint.
- Be careful about the so-called guides who charge around Rs. 300 to take you on a tour of the viewpoint. Just go on your own and enjoy the viewpoint.
- One needs to climb some stairs to reach the actual viewpoint. On the way, there is a homemade chocolate and oil factory.
- When we were there, it was all covered in fog, so we didn’t take efforts to climb to the top.
- This place had a vendor selling hot bhajias which was finger-licking good. He was so busy that he ran out of the stock in no time. We also had hot corn and fresh lime soda here.
- Again, beware of monkeys here.
During the drive, we passed through various tea factories and eucalyptus oil factories. You can stop for a visit if interested. We have been to quite a few tea factories, so we didn’t waste time as we had a lot of places to visit today. If interested can visit Brooklands Tea Estate or Highfield Tea Factory.
Along the road, you can also stop to click a picture in the tea estate wearing the local costume.
Sim’s Park (6 Km, 20 min)
- It is a well maintained beautiful garden.
- We did a small walk around it, saw some trees and flowers.
Ketti Valley View (17 Km, 40 min)
- This is a viewpoint located en-route on Coonoor to Ooty.
- Unfortunately, we could not see anything due to the fog.
Doddabetta Peak (10 km, 32 min from Ketti Valley View)
- It is about 40 minutes ride from Ooty to this peak.
- It is the highest peak in that region.
- Fortunately, the weather had cleared by now and we saw excellent views from here.
Doddabetta Tea Museum and Chocolate Factory (4.5 Km, 20 min)
- It is on the way to Doddabetta Peak.
- After visiting the Doddabetta Peak, we had some time to spare, so stopped here.
- In terms of the museum, it is very disappointing. Just a few posters and some machines running. No one really to show you around.
- But views from this place was as good if not better as the views from Doddabetta Peak.
- It is mainly geared towards getting tourist in and selling them chocolates, tea, oil and spices.
- It is spread over 4 floors, so we made sure our driver dropped us at the top and hence we had to just walk down.
- This place has a full commission system which I haven’t seen anywhere. The driver will make a hard push for this place, our driver was a nice guy, so instead of pushing he just asked us if we want to visit. Then he will give you tags. At each place you shop, they will ask for the tag and scan that. After the visit, the driver will ask for the tags and will go and collect his commission. We definitely knew about the commission thing, but still gave it a try.
- We tasted the tea and mom loved it so much that we landed up buying 2 packets. Chocolates were tasty and had a huge variety. We bought a couple of different types to take home.
Botanical Gardens (3 km, 10 min)
- It is more of a picnic stop with a large lawn area.
- Gardens are huge which requires a lot of walking.
- You can visit the greenhouse and see some beautiful trees, flowers and sculptures.
Thread Garden – next to the Ooty lake
- Here, all the flowers and plants are made with thread, canvas and wires. No needle is used in the process.
- 50 physically challenged girls created this garden in 12 yrs.
- It is a unique and a must visit place.
Ooty Lake (4 Km, 14 min)
- There are different boats available for boating, we chose the motorboat. It was fun boating around the lake with some pretty views.
- Apart from boating, there were lots of fun activities available like pistol shooting, 4D show, mini-train ride etc.
- We were too tired, else we could have easily spend a few more hours here.
For dinner, we chose Nahar Restaurant which serves South Indian food. This was the only place we found on our trip where you get idli for lunch and dinner. Else, at every other place, it was available only for breakfast. We had idli, dosa, channa-bhatura, paratha-korma and appam with stew. The food was good but not great.
Other Restaurants which I wanted to try but didn’t get time:
- Pakwan – Only Veg – Indian
- Momo House
- Shinkow’s – Chinese
Hotel – Taj Savoy Hotel Ooty
Day 7 – Ooty to Bandipur
Time – 10 am to 7 pm
- This was newly opened and we saw this a couple of time while going from our hotel to sightseeing places.
- Dad loves these kinds of places and forced us to visit.
- Surprisingly, it was really well made and we were amazed by the exhibits.
- Entry fees of Rs. 200 felt a bit expensive but it was totally worth it.
St. Stephen’s Church
- Again, dad wanted to visit. Hence we made a quick stop.
- This is one of the oldest churches, dates back to the 19th century.
- En-route can stop at the pine forest.
- Nothing more than a Quick photo stop.
- Just after the pine forest, make sure to stop at the beautiful green lake.
- It was en-route to the Pykara Lake.
- It had a very steep climb to reach the viewpoint. Hence, we skipped it.
Pykara Lake and Falls
- First stop is the Pykara Dam, which is 5 km before the lake on the main highway. Unfortunately, the guard there started screaming at me and didn’t even let me click a good picture from the dam.
- The Pykara Falls – This is the main spot and should not be missed. For reaching the falls, you can take an electric car to the approached road and then need to walk down 60 to 70 steps. Once you reach, the spectacular falls are seen. The climb back was a bit tough in the scorching sun for us.
- Last stop is the Pykara Boat House, where you can do boating. It had quite a few stairs to reach the lake. We were tired, therefore skipped boating and just admired the views from the top.
Needle Rock View Point
- This is the viewpoint en-route to Bandipur.
- A nice viewpoint from which beautiful valley view is seen.
Drive to Bandipur
We continued our drive through the forest. First, we passed through Mudumalai National Park which is on the Tamil Nadu side. Tamil Nadu Govt. runs safari here, but it can’t be pre-booked. Hence, we chose the Bandipur safari which is run by the Karnataka Govt. We spotted elephants, peacocks and monkeys just along the road to Bandipur.
Bandipur National Park Safari
- We had pre-booked a private jeep safari online on its official website from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm.
- Be at the ticket counter 20-30 min to get their tickets.
- We reached here quite early at 4 pm.
- Our guide/driver turned out to very bad. He drove like he had a flight to catch, didn’t stop anywhere, was continuously chit chatting on the phone and even on request wouldn’t stop the vehicle to click a photo. Basically, it looked like his mission was just to keep driving in the park without any interest to stop or find animals.
- Towards the end of the safari, it started getting dark and I believe, by fluke, he drove to the spot where all other vehicles were already there. There was a tiger sitting on the grass very close to the vehicle in open. Actually, he didn’t even spot the tiger which so close and just drove by. Other drivers had to actually point the tiger to us which was only 100 meters from the jeep. But we could not see the tiger because our great driver stopped right in front of the tree blocking our view and wasn’t ready to move forward or backwards in spite of repeated request.
- Once it got completely dark, he then finally agreed to move the vehicle but now being dark the tiger was not visible. It was our sheer back luck with this driver whereas I’m sure others got an awesome view of the tiger as he was sitting on the grass easily visible. Having paid Rs. 4500 for this jeep safari we left disappointed and in a bit of anger.
We stayed at The Serai Bandipur which was 30 minutes away from the Bandipur National Park gate. This hotel was everything we wanted and much more – one of the biggest room we have ever stayed at, huge bathrooms and a balcony with a nice sitting place. For dinner, we ordered from room service and the food was the best we had on this trip.
Day 8 – The Serai Bandipur
Today, we didn’t do any safari and spent the entire day chilling in the hotel.
We started the day with breakfast where I had paratha, idli, medu vada, channa-bhatura, sautéed vegetables, cupcake and a hot freshly made dosas. The service was attentive and he got everything we asked for.
Then we chilled in our rooms enjoying the view from the balcony for some time. Afterwards, we went for a dip in the pool. Then mom and dad went for a nature walk organized by the hotel but it was cut short as they spotted an elephant.
We went to the pool to enjoy the born fire organized every evening at a dedicated place. We were looking forward to it as we love sitting around the born fire and chilling. But there was a huge group dancing and drinking like crazy. We felt uncomfortable and were about to leave, but in the meantime, they informed us that it was a private party going there. I felt a bit insulted and left the place. He kept telling us to go to the bar instead, I told him I don’t drink and want to enjoy the bonfire. Also, it was my dad’s birthday. Eventually, he kept running here and there and saying I will start for you. After a bit of fight, he finally got the bonfire going at another makeshift place. This was only one rare incident which spoiled our mood, apart from this the hotel was top-notch.
For dinner, we ordered Ala-carte in the restaurant. We ordered a couple of starters as we were in no mood to have full Indian fare again. Since there was a bit fight earlier, he tried to make it up by offering free soup and deserts.
He did live up to his promise and send a complimentary cake in the room for dad’s birthday.
Hotel – The Serai Bandipur
Day 9 – Bandipur to Coimbatore Airport (161 Km, 5 hrs)
Time – 5:45 am to 8:30 am and 2 pm to 7 pm
Morning Safari in the Bandipur National Park
Today we had booked a morning safari from 6:30 am to 8 am. If it wasn’t booked and paid for, we were not really interested in going for it as our previous day safari turned out to be terrible. However, this time around, we got a good guide. He took us to the same place where a tiger with 3 cubs had been spotted yesterday. He was very co-operative and always catered to our request and didn’t even speak on the phone once like our previous driver. We did get a glimpse of a tiger and 2 cubs but they disappeared too quickly before I could click a picture.
Drive to Coimbatore Airport
We had breakfast, chilled for a while and started our drive back to the Coimbatore airport.
For the drive back, we took the 36 hairpin bends road back to Ooty. This is the shortest but challenging route from Ooty. They allow cars to go only from Bandipur to Ooty and not in the other direction.
Instead of taking the same road from Ooty via Coonoor to Coimbatore, we took the road via Kotagiri. Thanks to our driver who suggested this alternate route. It had some scenic valley views and tea estate along the route. We reached the airport at 7 pm and took our 8:45 pm flight back to Mumbai.
There you have it, our 3-day itinerary to Ooty and Bandipur. It turned out to be perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing except for our safari driver.
Was Ooty better or Kodaikanal? We had expected Kodaikanal to be much better than Ooty. But it turned out to be a split decision, 2 liked Ooty better and 2 liked Kodaikanal better.
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Check out all the other posts in this series:
Kodaikanal, Ooty and Bandipur: Trip Planning
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Kodaikanal: Detailed Itinerary and Trip Report