Just 20 km from its more illustrious and popular neighbour Ooty; Coonoor is nestled amidst the magnificent Nilgiri Hills. It is blissfully non-commercialized and tourists usually visit it from Ooty as a day trip. Apart from soulful wandering amidst the vast tea estates, there are plenty of other places to see in this quaint hill station.
1Tea Plantations & Factory
As you rumble along the serpentine roads, Coonoor starts filling your car glass windows with green gorgeousness. You will see vast tracts of verdant green tea plantations crop up on either side with a hanging veil of mist finding solace within the perfectly manicured tea bushes. Take a lungful of clean, crisp air as you walk through these “beverage terrains” under the canopy of clouds. A visit to the nearby tea factory is a must. For an entry ticket priced at Rs 5, you will get enlightened about the entire manufacturing process starting from plucking, withering, rolling, fermentation, firing, sorting and finally packing of different types of tea – white, green and black.
Boasting of more than 1000 species of flowers, this park is a mecca for nature lovers. Established in 1874, it is spread across an area of 12 Ha making it one of the biggest parks in Tamil Nadu. With terraced flower beds, varieties of trees, shrubs, creepers and several plant species from all over the world, it is a Botanist’s delight. See the pretty yellow coloured Peruvian Lily, the suave Purple Verbenas and the blood red Zinnia. With temperate climate throughout the year, the park is a blooming paradise. Tiled pathways, arched bridges over waterways, delicately manicured rose gardens and a small lake with boating facilities add to the charm of the place.
Aren’t you sometimes tempted to float in the clouds when you look at the fluffy balls of white cotton in varied shapes and sizes from the airplane window? Imaginations run wild as you try to give a semblance of shape in our mind to these floating wonders. Approximate 8 km from Coonoor, on the slopes of Nilgiri Hills, lays Lamb’s Rock (named after Captain Lamb who was instrumental in making a pathway to this point during the British era), the view from which, the feelings will be similar. With a white blanket of clouds beneath your feet, standing on the edge of the rock will make you feel on top of the world (like a la Kate Winslet from the famous movie Titanic!). View of the surrounding Nilgiris and the viridian green plains, with a sheer drop of more than 800 feet, Lamb’s rock is one of the best places to visit in Coonoor. Talking of imaginations running wild as mentioned earlier, the place actually has witnessed it literally, with it also being called the Suicide Point!
As the name suggests, perched at 1000 feet above sea level and almost always covered in mist, this is an enormous rock protrusion in the shape of a Dolphin’s nose. A popular picnic spot for tourists, you can see gigantic ravines on either side with a view of the beautiful Catherine Falls. The best time to visit is usually before afternoon when the surroundings are clear of haze.
5Kodanad View Point
An hour’s drive from Coonoor will take you to the small, quiet unassuming town of Kotagiri. A small winding road from the town will lead to one of the most spectacular viewpoints in your trip. See rugged peaks intermingling with pastures of varied greens, a silver streak emanating from nowhere (read Catherine Falls) and the sacred protruding rock called as Rangaswamy Peak (1788 meters above sea level). You will stand transfixed soaking in the panorama and the cool breeze.
6Trek to Rangaswamy Peak
The peak is dedicated to a deity called Rangaswamy. Drive down Kodanad road and take the diversion at Kaikatty towards Kil Kotagiri road. This path will lead you to the Devarshola estates and the base of Rangaswamy Peak. From here you have to trek uphill. The trek falls under the light-moderate category. During monsoon, the pathways can be slippery. The start of the trek is guided by stone steps which eventually give way to narrow trails. It takes an hour to reach the peak and you will be rewarded with unmediated views of the green valley, water bodies, scattered villages and adjoining mountains.
Mettupalayam is the nearest railhead from Coonoor. It takes a little more than an hour from the station to reach Coonoor. Another way from Mettupalayam is to opt for the toy train of Nilgiri Mountain Railways – designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It takes 3.5 hours to reach. Tickets can be booked through www.irctc.co.in.
Direct Bus services are available from Bengaluru operated by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation and will take close to 13 hrs. (300 km)
A hired cab service will be a faster option (8 hrs.) and will charge anywhere between INR 6000 to 10000 depending on the car type.
WHEN TO GO:
Though Coonoor can be visited year round, it is advisable to visit immediately post monsoons to see the gushing waterfalls and verdant green surroundings.
WHERE TO STAY:
Neemrana’s Wallwood Garden: A 19th-century Scottish styled heritage property with its own award-winning botanical garden. Rooms double from INR 30000 onwards.
Kurumba Village Resort: A luxury property set amidst vast estates of tea gardens with tribal style cottages and suites. Rooms double from INR 13000 onwards
Sree Harshav Cottage: A B&B budget option in Coonoor with the option of booking whole cottages subject to availability. They have cottages in four different locations in Coonoor. Rooms double from INR 2000 onwards.
Be it the aroma of freshly brewed tea from the gardens, the chance to see the riot of colours at Sim’s Park, the magnificent vantage point at Lamb’s Rock, the peculiar formation at Dolphin’s Nose or the panoramic view of Nilgiri peaks from Kodanad Viewpoint, Coonoor is impossible to describe in phrases that aren’t clichés – breathtaking, enchanting and unforgettable.