There’s something about Coonoor which captures the heart of even the most seasoned traveler. This quaint little hill station, nestled in the heart of the Nilgiris, retains an aura of peace and tranquility even today. Unlike most other hill stations (including nearby Ooty) which have become a mess of loud tourists and haggling touts, Coonoor remains in a bubble of its own.
Here’s a view of beautiful Coonoor – With stunning pictures courtesy our favourite photographer Kunal Shah.
Getting to Coonoor is no problem at all. Those who love to drive would enjoy the journey from Bangalore to Coonoor (285kms). The drive takes you through the beautiful forests of Bandipur National Tiger Reserve and Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park. Don’t be surprised to see deer scurrying across the highway (perhaps the odd elephant too) as you drive by!
Driving through Bandipur Forest, Karnataka on the way to Coonoor
Alternately, fly in to Coimbatore (the closest airport) and drive to Coonoor (the distance is about 70kms). However, irrespective of which route you take, you will have to brace yourself for some very steep inclines and sharp hairpin bends on the Nilgiris. Read: 9 Insanely Thrilling Bucket List Experiences – Do You Dare?
The Simple Life
Depending on how you see things, there’s just so much to do in Coonoor – or absolutely nothing to do! If you’re there to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, well chosen! Upper Coonoor is a magical little cocoon, with lovely old homes scattered amid the lush green contours of the Nilgiris. As evening turns to night, temperatures plunge and the entire area is covered in a blanket of thick fog. Eat hearty meals, go for long walks, read and laze about – Enjoy the simple pleasures of life!
A tranquil lake en route to the Glen Morgan Tea Estates
The Delightful Heritage Train
For those who love to explore new places inside out, there’s more than enough to do in Coonoor as well. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway heritage train ride is a complete joy – and an experience to not be missed. It is advisable to take the first train of the day from Coonoor to Ooty to avoid the crowds that build up. Grab a window seat in the general compartment as the first class area is rather small and stuffy. Read: The Great Indian Bucket List: 9 Must-Have Experiences
The quaint blue train has an ornate steam engine, large picture windows and delightful polished wooden seats – an air of nostalgia hangs thick! The journey is equally fascinating. The little train chugs away through the mountainous slopes, offering passengers breathtaking views of the landscapes and sweeping valleys. The stations that the train stops at along the route are most charming, as are the unscheduled pauses in the hills.
A spectacular aerial view of Ooty is an added bonus. If you love the ride, try riding the entire length of the railway as well, from Ooty to Mettupalaym.
A view of the more commercialised part of the Nilgiris (clearly)
Driving Down The Road Less Explored
For those who love long drives on unexplored roads, Coonoor is perfect for you! A drive not to be missed is to the Glen Morgan Tea Estates (about 40kms from Coonoor in the direction of Ooty). Glen Morgan is home to some of the oldest tea estates in the region. Drive through beautiful roads that wind through tea gardens and sparkling lakes, with not a single human in sight!
Around the beautiful Glen Morgan Tea Estates
The road finally leads past the Glen Morgan Tea Estates to a precious, well-kept secret – a stunning vantage point of sorts, with the entire Nilgiris spreading out around and a massive drop to a valley below. A now-defunct ropeway (previously operated by the Electricity Board from this point) makes the scene even more fascinating. This spot is now out of bounds for casual visitors due to safety reasons. However, a bit of luck coupled with some relentless bargaining got us through.
The now-defunct ropeway, once operated by the Electricity Board
The vertical drop and spectacular view of the valley
Another great drive is towards Kotagiri (30kms from Coonoor). The roads are great and the views are stunning. Kotagiri is a quiet, unassuming town with a history of its own. Those interested in knowing about the history of the Nilgiris should visit the Sullivan Memorial in the Kotagiri town centre. The Memorial is essentially a 19-century house built by John Sullivan, the founder of Ooty. It is filled with interesting photographs, relics and antiques.
Tea Estates along roads less traveled around Coonoor
Dinner With A View
Picture this: A sprawling 18-hole golf course, nestled amid the beautiful Nilgiris. The army-managed Wellington Gymkhana Club (located at Wellington, about 2kms from Coonoor) makes for a delightful visit. Settle down beside the golf course to enjoy a leisurely drink, or stroll through the club’s interiors for some delightful relics from the Armed Forces. Read: 6 Spectacular Restaurants Every Food Lover Must Visit
Don’t miss a meal at the beautiful McIver Villa (180 McIver). This colonial-style bungalow is located at the edge of the cliff, providing a birds-eye view of the hills. You can settle into a quaint little chair in the garden, sipping on a cup of tea as you watch the sun set. Later, amble across indoors into the stately bungalow for a delicious dinner. The glorious, old world décor is the icing on the cake! Read: The Best Dining Experiences In Sydney
The beautiful McIver Villa (180 McIver) at Coonoor
Our charming table at McIver Villa (180 McIver)
Of course, other typical tourist spots are also worth a visit if you have time. Sims Park is a refreshing spot for lovers of nature. Dolphin’s Nose and Lamb’s Rock are vantage points (after all, every hill station has them) for some wonderful views of the mountains. St. Catherine Falls and Law Falls, both located on the outskirts of Coonoor, are good picnic sites. For those interested in knowing more about the process of tea production, most tea estates in the valley offer special tours.