Planning a Trip
1 Get in
1.1 By plane
1.2 By train
1.2.1 The Mountain Railway
1.3 By bus
1.4 By car
The Coimbatore airport is the closest to the hills at 3½ hours by road. There are flights into Coimbatore from Singapore, Sharjah, Colombo and most parts of India including Mumbai (Air India, Jet Airways and Indigo), Chennai (Spicejet, Air India, Indigo and Jet Airways) and Bangalore. The Mysore airport is about 4 hours away from Ooty by road. The road trip is quite scenic from either airport.
The hills are connected to by a nightly train. The Nilgiri Express (Train No. 2671) leaves from Chennai at night, and reaches Mettupalayam (which Indian Rail spells Metupalaiyam), a small town at the foothills of the Nilgiris early the next morning.
Most people prefer to travel the 51 km distance from Mettupalayam to Ooty by taxi or bus because those who have travelled by the mountain railway option know how uncomfortable and slow it can be. Even worse is the fact that two thirds of the jouney doesn't go through scenic hills. The beautiful hills start only after Ketty or Lovedale. The 51 km distance can be covered in two hours by road whereas the toy train takes about six hours. That is why the locals avoid the mountain train like the plague.
The Mountain Railway
If you have lots and lots of patience, theNilgiri Mountain Railway train leaves Mettupalayam at 7:10 am pushed by a small steam powered historic locomotive that is a remnant of Swiss-engineered trains imported in the late 1800s. The steam train is much smaller, and can only accommodate a portion of the passengers that disembark at Mettupalayam.You have to book separate ticket for this journey. Tickets can be booked through [http:/www.irctc.co.in IRCTC] like any other rail ticket booking.
The steam train takes a very boring route and there are constant stops and repair sessions on the way. At some stations, the engine has to take on water. The train uses a rack and pinion system to haul itself up steep slopes, and also to prevent the train from sliding down when stopping. The train is pushed from behind. There are brakesmen at the rear of every carriage who will apply and release hand powered brakes individually for that carriage. The train often travels at 5-10 km/h, allowing some adventurous passengers to disembark from the train and walk along the train. This practice is not recommended and can be dangerous, besides there is a good chance that the train will speed up, and you will be unable to get back on board.
If you don't have a confirmed ticket of that toy train then you would not get the chance to board in it as railways issue limited say only 30 tickets on the spot at Mettupalayam starting at 5 am, and at 1 pm at Ooty for the entire journey from Mettupalayam to Ooty, and make sure that you have gained proximity to the ticket window before it opens. This is because of unexpected rushes when the ticket counter opens for business. It is no use trying for a ticket at Mettuppalayam because of the heavy rush in the morning. But tickets are easier at Ketty and Lovedale stations up the hill. You can go there by bus.
There are buses and shared taxi vans that can be boarded from most parts of India to Ooty. If you don't want wake up early to take the train from Coimbatore, plenty of buses are also going to Ooty. The Coimbatore "new bus station" has frequent bus service to Ooty via Mettupalayam, and it takes around 3½ hours to get there. However buses are not every comfortable and often crowded. The lack of air conditioning in the buses hurts till it reaches the hills. One can also avail taxi from the same "new bus stand".
On the way back in morning, some buses make a 10-15 minute stop over at Mettupalayam for breakfast. From the "new bus station" it takes about 25 minutes by (another) bus to reach the Coimbatore railway station. From Kozhikode (Calicut) there are two government buses daily, leaving 05:00 and 07:00, travel time is about 6 hours. Mysore is served few times a day, too. From Kannur there is a KSRTC bus starting at 7:30AM everyday and a Tamil Nadu bus at 10PM everyday reaching ooty at 4PM and 7AM next day respectively.
The Nilgiris are in Tamil Nadu, but it is quite near the borders of neighboring states Karnataka and Kerala. The hills consequently can be reached from within Tamil Nadu by travelling up a heavily forested winding road, with many sharp hair-pin bends. The road trip from any state is quite scenic, although the Coimbatore-Mettupalayam-Coonoor-Ooty road (i.e. the Tamil Nadu route) is the most travelled and well maintained. All roads to the Nilgiri hills are toll roads, although the tolls are quite nominal.
One can also avail taxi from the Coimbatore "new bus stand", they agree to go for ₹2500/- (negotiable) when reserved and ₹600/- each on sharing basis, four people share an Omni (Maruti Van). In case a hotel has been per-booked, they often have contracts will taxis to provide pick-ups to and from Coimbatore for ₹2000/-.
Ooty is 284 km from Bangalore by road. The journey takes about 8 hours, depending on the condition of the road. One can take a shorter route for which a diversion has to be taken at Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary. This route will take you past the small towns of Masinagudi and Kalhatti. This route will curtail the distance to Ooty by about 50 km. This road is closed at night as it passes through the jungle, so you may actually have to spend a few hours at the check post which is closed invariably at night. Only good drivers should take on this road as it is very narrow and steep.You'll find some eateries and a fuel station in the town of Masinagudi. There are some wonderful resorts around Masinagudi town where one can rent a cottage. These places are a good weekend getaway for rest and relaxation. There are eating places between Bangalore and Mysore, and within Mysore, but from Mysore to Ooty one should carry some food, as there are very few restaurants. Start early if you can so that the drive through Bandipur and Mudumalai forest can be done leisurely taking in the occasional animal sightings.
Distance from Ooty to various cities: