The name Udhagamandalam is derived from the Toda word "othakal-mund" which means "house in mountains". Udagamandalam stands at 7,347 feet above sea level in the Nilgiri mountain range. It was founded in the 19th century and served as the summer headquarters of the Madras Presidency.
Located in the mountainous range called the Nilgiris ("Blue Mountains"), it draws swarms of tourists every year. The weather is quite pleasant at a mean of 15-20 °C around the year, dropping to lows of 0 °C during winter. The landscape is marked by rolling hills covered with dense vegetation, smaller hills and plateaus covered with tea gardens, and eucalyptus trees. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests, and special permits will be needed to camp in noncamp sites. Udagamandalam is not the destination in itself, as much as it is the focal point of attraction. Auto touring the surrounding country side is certainly a must do. Unfortunately, the hill town suffers from overcrowding and erosion of natural resources. Tourism has placed an enormous strain on the natural resources resulting in pollution, water shortage and roads.
The hilly region also houses smaller towns like Coonoor and Kotagiri. These smaller towns are a better choice to visit and spend time in, since they are off the beaten path, yet less than 1 hour away from Ooty. They enjoy the same natural climes and prices are a lot cheaper.
The Coimbatore airport is the closest to the hills at 3-1/2 hours by road. There are flights into Coimbatore from Singapore, Sharjah, Colombo and most parts of India including Mumbai (Air Deccan, Indian Airlines, Jet and Go Air), Chennai (Air Deccan, Paramount, Indian Airlines and Jet) and Bangalore. The Mysore airport is about 5 odd hours away from Udagamandalam by road (but Mysore airport is currently closed and only expected to open for light aircraft), and lies to the North of Udagamandalam. The road trip is quite scenic from either airport.
The hills are connected to by a nightly train. The Nilagiri 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. The train The Nilgiri Mountain Railway leaves Mettupalayam at 7.10 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. A through ticket from Chennai to Udagamandalam will ensure a place in the smaller train, although many prefer the faster route of taking a cab or a bus from Mettupalayam.
The steam train takes a very scenic route, and the pace of travel will let you take in the beautiful scenery at leisure with stops at stations for the engine to take on water (the journey takes about 5-1/2 hours compared to 2 hours by road). 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 only at 5 - 10 Kmph, allowing some adventerous 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.
Mettupalayam can prove to be a bottle-neck during the peak season of April–June with cabs charging exorbitant rates. The train is often quite regular in this part of the country, and is by far the most comfortable way to get here.
There are other trains from Chennai to Coimbatore. The journey can be continued from Coimbatore by road, a 3-1/2 hour journey.
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 beds. The road trip from any state is quite scenic, although the Coimbatore-Mettupalayam-Coonoor-Udagamandalam 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.
There are buses and shared taxi vans that can be boarded from most parts of India to Udagamandalam. If you don't want wake up early to take the train from Coimbatore, plenty of buses are also going to Udagamandalam. 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. Udagamandalam 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 Udagamandalam by about 50 km. Keep in mind that 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 Udagamandalam one should carry some food, as there are very few restaurants.
Distance from Udagamandalam to various cities:
Taxis, tourist cabs, auto rickshaws are available in plenty. There are no standard rates except tourist cabs. Town buses are also available to all important places. Conducted sight seeing tours are arranged by the private operators and the Government Tourism Development Corporation.
- Udagamandalam Botanical Gardens
If you are on a sightseeing tour to Udagamandalam, you might want to visit the Government Botanical gardens, which were laid out in 1847.The picturesque gardens that are maintained by the Horticulture department of the state, cover an area of about 22 hectares. The Gardens have well over 650 species of plants and trees, including a fossil of a tree, which is believed to be more than 20 million years old. The garden is very popular with nature lovers and those who long to walk among greenery and see rare ferns and shrubs up close. If you are in Udagamandalam in the month of May, then you can also be a part of the summer festival, which is held here annually. The festival holds flower shows and various cultural programs showcasing the talent of the locals and the renowned artists.
- Doddabetta peak
The Dodabetta Peak stands at an altitude of 2,623 meters. It is the highest point in the district, making it possibly the best vantage point around Udagamandalam. It is merely 10 km from Udagamandalam so you can simply grab your camera and head straight to the peak, and click amazing pictures of he valley below. Many say that on a clear day, which is honestly not that often, one can see far off areas, even the plains of Coimbatore and the flat highlands of Mysore.
- Udagamandalam Rose gardens
- Wax World - (Wax Museum)
- Sims Park (Coonoor)
- The Tea Factory
- Boating at Pykara
- Falls at Pykara
- Historical Dam with Power station at Pykara
- Hidden Valley
- Echo Rock
Most travel agents / hotels conduct guided tour packages that will bundle you into a bus, and tick off the most important and hence crowded "tourist" spots in the area.
- Enjoy the weather.
- Travel in the Railway. The charming Nilgiri Hill Railway, blue and cream with wooden coaches and large windows, is widely regarded as a marvel of engineering.
- Go for long walks and hikes.
- Visit a tea plantation and if possible a tea factory.
- Travel the country side in a 4x4.
- Catch a round of golf at the Gymkhana Golf course (membership or introduction required)
- Visit the local Army cantonment - the Madras Regimental Center and the DSSC (Defense Services Staff College).
- Visit terrace farmed cabbage fields around Udagamandalam.
- Visit the Mudumalai forest sanctuary (1–2 days minimum).
- Sample the local bakeries (Kingstar bakery near Charing Cross in Ooty sells sinfully delicious chocolate and pistachio fudges).
- Visit the Needle industries which is around 6 km from maintown Udagamandalam in Ketti.
- Visit 9th mile and also the 6th mile where lot of movies are shot :-)
- Visit the Municipal Market and shop for fresh local fruits.
- You can get farm fresh carrot on the way.
Udagamandalam and Nilgiris are well known for a variety of local products like tea, eucalyptus oil, chocolates, spices and gourmet cheese. There are a lot of shops that deal these products though you have to be careful you get an authentic product.
- Green Shop is an extension of the Keystone Foundation that has been working in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve since 1995 with indigenous communities on eco-development initiatives. and makes available their handicrafts and products like bee honey, bee wax and other hand-crafted artifacts. They also have a bee museum that is certainly worth a visit as they show documentaries on wild bees and honey collection. They also stock excellent gourmet cheeses like Gouda, Colby, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Haloumi and Herb Cream Cheeses made by Acres Wild Cheesemaking Farmstay  in Coonoor.
- Shivani Stores is an old and reputed shop on Commercial road that stocks good Udagamandalam chocolates, honey, spices and gourmet cheese from Acres Wild Cheesemaking Farmstay  in Coonoor.
There are various restaurants in Ooty, mostly offering South Indian food, but some offer North Indian food.
One can also obtain some Chinese/Indo-Chinese food from restaurants such as Wang's kitchen, Shinkows and Western food such as pizza and sandwiches from chains like Hot Breads. Do not miss trying Ooty's famous buns, varkis, cakes, and other baked goods, as well as fruit and nut chocolates.
There is no dearth of accommodations, with many hotels and inns that cater to every budget. Accommodations are no more expensive than most cities in India, and the popular Indian hotel chains have a presence here.
- Sherlock Hotel . A newly renovated colonial villa several kilometers away from the town with breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and warm and friendly service. Rooms have cozy fireplaces and cost between Rs. 1875 and Rs. 3000 depending on size and view. The restaurant alone is worth a visit serving outstanding murgh boti masala and mint paranthas. Several short walking trails start nearby. A trip to Udagamandalam is worth it just for a stay at this hotel.
- Hotel Savoy from the Taj Group is one good option. Sitting firm on a rising hill, the Hotel sprawls over six acres of landscaped gardens, offering colonial style cottages that were built between 1834-1865. Colorful flowerbeds merge to form a multi-colored quilt around the cottages, adding to their gentle refinement. A quiet retreat, the Savoy Hotel offers a little pocket of paradise.