Ooty is a town with 2 sides. A hubbub of hotels, restaurants, shops, markets, tourists, and traffic whirs around central Ooty. However, the farther out you head, the less bustling it gets, so by the time you reach the Colonial villas, pretty gardens, and tree-lined avenues of the suburbs, it can feel like you’ve stepped into a different world – and time – altogether.
Ooty’s markets and shops are brimming with cosy scarves, jumpers and fabrics to warm you up on chilly mountain nights. As a prime tourist spot, there are plenty of shops and stalls selling souvenir trinkets and handicrafts. Ooty is well known for its foodie gift items that are produced locally, including tea, chocolate, and gourmet cheeses. Although if you’re not heading home for a while, you might need to scoff the cheese and chocolate yourself.
Visit Ooty in the height of tourist season and it’s hard to believe it was once an undiscovered tribal village. The refreshing hill-top atmosphere of crisp mornings and cooling evenings first appealed to the Colonial-era British, who retreated here from the heat of the plains. Nowadays there’s a mix of Indian tourists and foreign travellers, who come to picnic in the gardens, boat on the lake, and trek into the mountains.
Ooty’s lofty spot high above sea level was first put on the tourist map by Colonial Brits, who would retreat here in the summer. Today you can hide from the incessant heat of the south Indian plains among the Victorian era bungalows. Crowds of tourists are drawn here by the lush grasslands and clusters of evergreen shola woodland, not to mention the terraced tea plantations that surround town.
Much of Ooty’s best value food is found on the street and in the markets. Plenty of cheap eats are served up by street vendors – especially chaat, or snack food – and the local road-side eateries called dhabas. If your constitution isn’t quite used to street food just yet, Ooty has a selection of dining locations offering Westernised menus, smart restaurants often linked to a hotel, and a handful of good Chinese pig-out spots.
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