Tucked away in the Western Ghats, Coonoor is one of Tamil Nadu’s lesser known hill stations. Right next to Ooty, this little town is not as popular but the crowds I saw on a public holiday definitely convinced me that it’s getting there.
Something that everyone, including travel buddy recommends, is taking the toy train called Nilgiri Moutain Railway. Obviously it’s not really a toy but I guess it’s called one because of the novelty factor. It starts from the town of Mettupalayam, which is just before Coonoor, and goes all the way up to Ooty. Travel buddy says that for a while when the train is moving uphill, it travels so slowly you can get out and walk beside it! Since we travelled in a private car, the toy train wasn’t really an option for us. Another time, maybe?
The road to Coonoor is so scenic, you want to make sure you stay awake all through the journey. Especially if you’ve decided to travel first thing in the morning like us. Right after an early breakfast at Annapurna in Coimbatore, we hit the road. We drove past fields of curry leaves and beetle nut trees, and as we entered Mettupalayam, the sight of the Nilgiris on the horizon cloaked in a thin layer of fog all made waking up at the wee hours of the morning worth it.
Anyway, while you’re there, there are a couple of sightseeing options that you can cover all in a day’s time. If being touristy is not your thing at all, you could just use this as a list of places to stay away from.
Here’s my list of top five touristy things to do in Coonoor:
1. Sim’s Park
The first place everyone’s going to tell you to visit is this botanical garden called Sim’s Park. To be honest, none of us were kicked about strolling through the gardens but we made a visit anyway. Okay, I’m the reason we end up doing these things. I can’t help it. I need to go see what everyone’s talking about for myself.
If you’re interested in botany, a walk through this park might be quite delightful for you. There’s a tiny lake that people can paddle boat in and next to it, is a tiny park for the kids. You have to pay an entry fees of Rs 30 to visit the park.
2. Lunch at Culinarium
This is a charming little restaurant located right in between Ooty and Coonoor. It is situated at a height so you can look forward to lunch with a view. I read that Culinarium is owned by a French couple and I wish I got to meet them when we were there.
The restaurant serves Continental cuisine and while it is on the pricier side, the food is absolutely worth it. You can tell it’s made with care and precision by someone who knows what they’re doing in the kitchen. I recommend you try the pot pies and the goulash. For dessert, get the salted caramel ice cream and the creme brulee, which was oh-my-god-so-creamy! There was a lavender ice cream on the menu that I really wanted to try but it wasn’t available on account of it being seasonal.
Of course, we were six of us, so that’s not all we ate. Which is why, I can confidently say that should you order anything else on the menu, you will not be disappointed. The food is good, very good.
The patisserie is within the restaurant, so while you wait for your order or while you’re deciding what to get, you can try out the quiches and pastries. Oh, make a reservation before you go! We didn’t and we sat at the bar, which wasn’t bad at all except digging our forks into each other’s plates for a taste got to be a little hard.
3. View points, view points, view points: Dolphin’s Nose and Lamb’s Rock
Coonoor is a hill station, which means you’ve got some great higher altitude views to catch. The two most famous view points are Dolphin’s Nose, which is called so because it is apparently shaped like one and Lamb’s Rock, which is apparently shaped like one? God, I’m terrible. I would read up about this elsewhere if you’re really curious.
The two are close to each other so you can visit one after the other. We only went to Dolphin’s Nose because well, how different is the view going to be? Nevertheless, mountains and clouds never cease to amaze me and you can see the Catherine Falls at a distance. It’s all worth a look even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Also, beware of the monkeys.
4. High Field Tea Factory
Visiting a tea factory is like THE most touristy thing you can do at hill station, no? Anyway, travel buddy really wanted to go and so we did. Unfortunately, the tea “museum” – which is what our driver kept calling it – was shut when we got there. So what we did was take a bunch of pictures in the plantation, tasted the different kinds of tea that were up for sampling (chocolate tea, anybody?) and purchased some of the tea and chocolates and herbal oils at the store inside the plantation.
5. Catherine Falls
You can catch a glimpse of the Falls from the view points or while driving along the winding roads. But you can also go right up to the waterfalls and possibly take a dip in/under them. I wouldn’t know because while we did go on what they said was a 1km trek to the falls, we didn’t quite get to the falls. What we did get was a glimpse of the white foam of the gushing water amidst the thick green trees after the sun begun descending for the day.
I think I’ll put up a separate post about the waterfall misadventure. It’s been a while since I’ve shared one, hasn’t it!
Before You Leave: Buy Varkey at Indian Bakery
Here’s another thing I wanted to do and didn’t do (in life… haha). Coonoor is apparently known for these crusty, flaky (I imagine they are) biscuits called Varkey. They say your visit to the hill station would be incomplete if you haven’t packed a box of these to take home. A stop at Indian Bakery post 4 PM (which is when he said they would be available) will ensure you do this.
I guess that means my trip is incomplete.
Nah, who am I kidding. It was such a wonderful day, spent with good company, even with all the fighting over who gets to sit in the passenger seat.