Before embarking on an enthusiastic tour, one has to understand the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which is an International Biosphere Reserve declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012. The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve includes the Mudumalai, Mukurthi, Wayanad and Bandipur National Parks.
Ooty is a town situated in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. As Ooty is much exploited and ecologically damaged by heavy commercialization and tourism, many places in the Nilgiri Biosphere is reserved for preservation.
The most important tourist attractions around Ooty are:
This is a post-card picture perfect lake situated inside the Reserve nearby the Emerald Lake and not accessible for visitors.
It is the highest peak (2,623 m) in the Nilgiris, about 10 km from Ooty. It lies at the junction of the Western and Eastern Ghats and offers beautiful vistas of the Nilgiri Hill ranges. It is surrounded by dense sholas. One can have a panoramic view of the landscape through the TTDC telescope. TTDC restaurant caters the needs of tourists.
Pykara is a river that originates at Mukurthi Peak and is considered very sacred to the Todas. The course of the river has beautiful Sholas, pleasant meadows, wildlife, a dam, a power plant and a series of waterfalls. The last two falls are the most attractive ones that fall from a height of 55 and 61 meters. The boat house at the Pykara Dam is an important tourist attraction. The Pykara Power Station was established in 1932 with a capacity of 6.65 MW and now enhanced to 60 MW.
Pine Forest is a slope with orderly arranged pine trees which ends in a water body. It is situated between Ooty and Thalakunda and it is a popular picnic spot. You can see some of the wildlife like Bison, black-faced monkeys and many beautiful birds. You would also notice that sunlight is struggling to reach the ground and the moisture level is high. Pine Forest is a popular movie shooting spot that has featured in many Hindi movies like Sadma, QSQT, Saajan, Dil, Deewana and in Tamil movies. The famous song sequence “Sollamal Thottu Chellum Thendral” by Ajith and Laila in the film “Dheena” vividly captures the beauty of the Pine Forest.
Wenlock Downs is a grassland area often compared with Yorkshire Dales in the United Kingdom. The 6th mile and the 9th mile on the Ooty to Pykara Road are two lovely spots where tourists throng.
Kamaraj Sagar Dam
Kamaraja Sagar Dam (also called as Sandynell Reservoir) is a picnic spot.
Mudumalai National Park
Mudumalai National Park is a Tiger Reserve and one of the first wildlife sanctuaries established in India. The sanctuary comprises of 5 ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota. One can see Indian elephants, Gaur, and Chital. The sanctuary also houses Bengal Tigers and Indian Leopards and other endangered species like the Indian White-rumped Vulture and the long-billed Vulture.
Mukurthi National Park
Mukurthi National Park is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve which is India’s first International Biosphere Reserve. It is a protected area created to protect its Keystone species, the Nilgiri Tahr.
Needle hill viewpoint
Needle Rock View Point or Soochimalai is a tourist spot near Gudalur, 43 kms from Ooty on the Gudalur-Ooty National Highway-67. The way to this point offers breathtaking sightseeings of grasslands and valleys which you would not see anywhere. As the viewpoint is on top of a conical shape hill it gives you a 360 degree view of Nilgiris and the sunrise and sunset on the hills will be a memorable experience. October to June will be a great time to visit.
Frog Hill Viewpoint
When you visit Needle Rock View Point, do not forget to visit Frog Hill Viewpoint, which resembles a frog from a distance. The Viewpoint offers beautiful views of the valleys and villages at nature’s best.
Parsons Valley Reservoir
In 1862, a British engineer discovered this valley and built an approach route. The Government of Tamil Nadu had built this Reservoir, which is located at a height of 2196 meters above MSL. It is a major source of water supply to Ooty and other nearby towns of Nilgiri District. It is considered a trekking base and one need to obtain permission from the Department of Forests of Tamil Nadu.
Adjacent to Emerald Lake, this picturesque lake is mainly situated in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors. It is located at 28 kilometers from Ooty. In the early 1800s, an avalanche (a huge land slide) hit the area and the name got stuck to this place. The slopes leading to the lake has the best of the blooming flowers and grasslands. One can hire fishing rods from the nearby trout hatchery and engage in fishing.
Upper Bhavani Lake is in the Mukurthi National Park and a great scenic lake with blue-green waters. Private vehicles are not allowed. Tourists can go to the Upper Bhavani Lake by the Department of Forest vehicles which would take 30 minutes. The tariff is Rs.150 per head for a shared van and stops at 4 places for sightseeing. The tour timings are from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm.