Ooty also called as “Ootacamund” and “Udhagamandalam” is one of the popular  hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills. It is located around 80 kms north of the city of Coimbatore in the Southern state of Tamil Nadu and is the capital of the Nilgiris district. It is around 300 Kms from Bangalore and is one of the favorite drive-down destinations for travel fanatics residing in Bangalore.

Ooty is one of my favorite tourist destinations in Southern India and I have visited this place many a times. Ooty is very well connected by road from Bangalore and takes around 6.5 hrs – 8 hrs to reach, depending upon the route that you select. There are three prominent routes that you can take to reach Ooty while driving down from Bangalore.

  1. Drive through Mysore -> Bandipur -> Masinagudi: I call it the route for the hardcore driving enthusiasts 🙂
  2. Drive through Mysore -> Bandipur -> Gudalur: For those who would want to experience a drive through the forests but want to avoid extreme ghat driving
  3. Drive through Salem -> Avinashi -> Coonoor: For those who prefer driving on express highways and limit their drive on 2 lane and ghat section roads.

I have driven these 3 routes on various occasions and each route has its own charm. I usually prefer Route 1 through Masinagudi as it is the shortest, more scenic and adventurous route – you need to negotiate 36 steep hair-pin bends.

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The shortest route to Ooty is through Masinagudi which takes you through the famous “36 Hair-pin” bends.

 

This is the route that I used to take frequently while driving down to Ooty. One has to take the 4-lane highway till Mysore and continue driving from there towards Nanjanagudu. I would be elaborating the drive from Mysore to Ooty in this post as I have a detailed post on drive from Bangalore to Mysore.

Once you reach the outskirts of Mysore, take the outer ring road and join the road that leads you to Nanjanagudu. From here the road becomes a 2-lane highway and you will find traffic all the way up to Bandipur. I have highlighted the details of the drive below. Since we were driving during the month of March, Bandipur and Mudumalai forests were pretty dry and were a bit barren to our liking.

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The highway from Mysore to Bandipur. The road is a 2-lane highway and is in good condition. You will find traffic though and it would not be a good idea to over-speed

 

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Another view of the highway. The drive is scenic with the highway lined-up with huge trees which create a perfect canopy to drive through

 

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The road opens up as you get closer to Bandipur and you will find stretches like this where you can make up some time 🙂

 

 

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I always make it a point to halt at this CCD before reaching Bandipur, as you will not find many good eating joints after Bandipur. You will have to wait till you reach Ooty to find anything decent.

 

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The arch that welcomes you to “Bandipur Tiger Reserve”

 

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As you enter Bandipur reserve, the entire landscape changes and you will find very less human settlements. It would be a good idea to drive slowly as you might find wild life crossing the road.

 

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Bandipur is one of the famous Tiger reserves in India. As you reach Bandipur, you will find the Jungle lodges which is an ideal place to camp if you are visiting the sanctuary. There are many luxury resorts also in Bandipur.

 

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There are many check posts on this road. Drive with caution and do not over-speed

 

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The roads are pretty narrow and if you find a slow moving vehicle ahead, it is pretty tough to overtake. Many a times traffic comes to a stand-still due to wildlife spotting 🙂

 

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Keep driving through Bandipur and you should be reaching Karnataka Border.

 

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The bridge that connects the Karnataka with Tamil Nadu

 

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Tamil Nadu Border – The arch that welcomes you into the state of Tamil Nadu. The Tiger reserve is called as “Mudumalai Tiger Reserve” in Tamil Nadu. You will find traffic at this place as the vehicles are usually checked. During peak season and long weekend, don’t be surprised to find a queue of vehicles waiting to cross the border.

 

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The drive through “Mudumalai Tiger Reserve” is very similar to the drive through Bandipur. The landscape does not change much.

 

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Drive through the forest. Since we were driving in the month of March, the forest was devoid of the greenery that is is usually associated with.

 

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The drive is very scenic. Though the forest in this pic looks pretty barren, it comes to life during the monsoons

 

 

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After driving for sometime, you should be reaching the Theppakadu Elephant camp junction.

 

Once you reach the Theppakadu Elephant camp junction, you can opt between Route 1 (through Masinagudi) and Route 2 (through Gudalur). 

Route 1 is the shorter option and will take you through the 36 hair-pin climb to Ooty. The climb is pretty steep and is not a route that novices should opt for. I have seen many drivers struggling to negotiate this route. If you are a newbie to ghat driving please read my following blog for some tips which can help you negotiate this route. The traffic is very thin in this route and it would be pretty tough to find help as this route takes you through dense forests devoid of human settlement. 

Route 2 is a better option for folks who would want to avoid the extreme ghat driving. The climb is not very steep and it is pretty easy to negotiate this section. Also most of the buses and tourist vehicles take this route – comes in handy when you need some help. 

I took the Route 1 through Masinagudi to continue our journey to Ooty.

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Take a left from the Theppakadu Elephant Camp. You need to cross this narrow bridge to continue your drive towards Masinagudi. Since the bridge is very narrow, vehicles from either directions take turns in crossing this bridge. Be patient, wait for your turn, switch on your headlights and cross this bridge.

 

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Traffic through this route is very thin. You will seldom find any tourist vehicle or taxi taking this route as the 36 hair-pin climb takes a toll on the vehicle.

 

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This route takes you through the dense forests of Mudumalai Tiger reserve

 

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Do no over speed on this road for 2 reasons – 1) the road is very narrow and has very less run off area. 2) It would be very tough to get help as very few vehicles ply on this route.

 

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After crossing Masinagudi, continue driving on the narrow road and you should reach the foothills. The ghat section would start few kilometers after crossing this bridge

 

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The climb towards Ooty begins. Initially the road is not very steep but within few kilometers the hair-pin bends start

 

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In total, there are 36 hair-pin bends which are very well marked with curved reflectors which help you get a birds eye view of the traffic which is coming down. Took this photo on the 34th hairpin bend where I saw few bikers take a pit stop 🙂

 

It will take you a good couple of hours to reach Ooty from Masinagudi. You should be able to reach Ooty from Bangalore in around 6 hrs 30 minutes without any stop.  If you are taking the Gudalur route, it will take you an additional hour to reach Ooty. 

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Bangalore to Ooty route through Gudalur.

 

The 3rd route that you can opt for to reach Ooty from Bangalore is to drive to Salem -> Avinashi -> Coonoor. A decade back this route was not even a viable option as this route was a good 140 Kms longer than the Masinagudi route and used to take around 12 hours or more to reach Ooty. But with advent of the 4-lane and 6-lane highway all  the way till Avinashi, the drive time has been cut down to around 8 hours 30 minutes. Tourists who prefer an uneventful and relaxed drive, opt for this route these days.

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Banglore to Ooty route through Salem and Avinashi

 

With all this information in hand, I am sure you should be packing your bags during the next long weekend and drive down to Ooty from Bangalore. Even though I have highlighted 3 routes to reach Ooty, my favorite over the years has always been the drive through Masinagudi. Driving through Bandipur and Mudumalai Tiger reserves is an experience in itself and I feel one should not miss out exploring these two magnificent wild life sanctuaries en-route to Ooty.

 

For information on more road trips from Bangalore please click here

 

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