‘Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu’s best-kept secret, lies only a stone’s throw away from the popular tourist havens of Ootacamund and Coonoor. This beautiful hill station offers visitors sweeping views of the state’s valleys coupled with the stunning Nilgiri mountains, says Rashmi Gopal Rao’
According to history, two British officers discovered Kotagiri back in 1819 while they were exploring the Nilgiris. The hill station has an. ntrinsic connection with John Sullivan, who is credited with discovering the hill station of Ooty. It was in 1819 that this British collector visited Kotagiri and built a two-storeyed house called the Pethakal Bungalow at Kannerimukku village. In that sense, Sullivan was the first European to have his residence here. An ardent supporter of the tribal and the local communities, he was and till day continues to be a highly-revered personality in the entire region. Today, this historic bungalow has been impeccably restored and is called the Sullivan Memorial. The brick red and white facade of the building is replete with colonial style architectural elements that include arches, high ceilings and domes. It is open to visitors and houses a treasure trove of information in the form of rare photographs, newspaper cuttings and artefacts related to John Sullivan as well as the history, growth and development of Kotagiri and the Nilgiri region in general.
Kotagiri, one of the Nilgiri’s oldest hill stations, is surrounded by sprawling tea estates and waterfalls, and paints a mystical picture set against the green walls of the Nilgiris.
The bungalow also houses very valuable information related to the tribes of the region, mainly the Todas, Badagas, Irulas, Kotas and Kurumbas. Many exclusive pictures that are showcased, display the traditions of these tribes including their festivals, dances and other customs. The building is also highly significant as it is home to the Nilgiri Documentation Centre, a premier organisation that works towards preserving the regions’ natural beauty and tribal heritage. Apart from the Sullivan Memorial, St Luke’s Church is another symbol of majestic colonial beauty. Standing tall, this church, with its red brick portico that envelopes the entire exterior, is a landmark structure and a sight not to be missed. Kotagiri, one of the Nilgiri’s oldest hill stations, is surrounded by sprawling tea estates and waterfalls, and paints a mystical picture set against the green walls of the Nilgiris. Nothing is more rejuvenating than a holiday in the hills amidst the crisp mountain air and lush greenery, far away from the urban humdrum and chaos of city life. And, if you’re looking for a destination that is relatively undiscovered by even avid travellers, Kotagiri in the southern state of Tamil Nadu is a good bet. Located close to the more crowded and perhaps more ‘touristy’ hill stations of Ootacamund (popularly called Ooty) and Coonoor, Kotagiri too is nestled in the midst of the blue mountains ranges of the Nilgiris. In fact, Kotagiri is the oldest and third-largest hill station of the Nilgiris and is located 30 and 20 km (approximately) from Ooty and Coonoor, respectively.
The name of this quaint hill station that is perched at an altitude of close to 1,950 m above sea level translates to “the mountains of the Kotas”. Incidentally, the Kotas are one of the main indigenous tribes who inhabit the Nilgiris. Kotagiri is a region of expansive green landscapes and lush tea gardens. It is privy to several spectacular vistas of seemingly unending mountain ranges.Like Kotagiri, Ooty too boasts quaint settings with small huts surrounded by tall trees, meandering streams and green mountains
Surrounded by the evergreen Shola forests, known for their biodiversity, this small hill station is dotted with several waterfalls and pristine meadows. It is little wonder that this striking hill station is a favourite with hikers and trekkers alike. With multiple trekking trails, Kotagiri is an idyllic and rejuvenating retreat.
Kotagiri At a Glance
Just 16 km from Kotagiri is the resplendent Catherine Falls, a popular haunt with tourists. Said to have been named after a British coffee planter’s wife, the falls cascading in all their glory from a height of 250 ft are a sight to behold. Located around eight km from Kotagiri, the falls are accessible by a small trek, and the dense cover of greenery all around makes it a memorable outing. Elk Falls is another picturesque waterfall near Kotagiri.
Catherine Falls is one of the highest of its kind in the state.
Located about 18 km from Kotagiri, the expansive Kodanad Estate, known to produce some of the premium quality tea in the region, is another point of interest. The drive to Kodanad is as thrilling as it is splendid, with cloud-kissed tea estates dominating the landscape and the prettiest of flowers lining the streets. Close to the estate is a vantage point, which offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding natural beauty. Rangaswamy Hill, home to the holy temple of Lord Rangaswamy, is also a frequentlyvisited spot about 20 km from Kotagiri. The hill has high religious and spiritual significance, and is revered by the Irula tribal community.
Although Kotagiri is small in area, there are a handful of scenic trekking trails that are much loved by novice and seasoned adventurers alike. The panoramic hike to the Catherine Falls is one of the most sought-after one here. The road to the falls passes through a peak resembling adolphin’s nose, pine forests and aromatic tea gardens. From the base of the towering falls emerge a number of hiking trails that lead to the nearby Longwood shola forest. Another trail leading to Kodanad goes through a lush green meadow, tea estates and the Moyar river. There are a few travel companies that curate such trekking experiences but if you wish, you can explore these tracks on your own, with a little help from the friendly locals.John Sullivan’s memorial
Local Flavours & Retail Therapy
The city centre of Kotagiri is quite eclectic with a mix of interesting experiences. Do visit the Kotagiri Women’s Co-operative Cottage Industrial Society at Ramachand Square for your fix of local artefacts including Toda embroidered shawls, table cloths, cushion covers etc. Toda silver jewellery is very famous in the region too. The Khadi Bhandar store also has several local specialties like Nilgiri oil and some interesting spices. The Green Shop in the city centre offers souvenirs like bespoke pottery, handmade soap, artisanal cheese and a host of exclusive handicrafts.Handloom products such as Toda embroidered shawls can be bought from the Women’s Co-operative Cottage Industrial Society
The Green Shop in the city centre offers souvenirs like bespoke pottery, handmade soap, artisanal cheese and a host of exclusive handicrafts. There are severalsmall bakeries apart from gourmet cafОs .where you can sample locally-baked cakes, pastries, varkey (a type of biscuit food, made with wheat flour) and special teas.
The sprawling tea gardens are one of the prime attractions of this serene hill station. Some of these estates have cottages that can be booked by visitors for an immersive experience
A lovely hill station with a sanguine vibe, a whole host of activities to keep you occupied, and astounding views of Tamil Nadu’s natural heritage, Kotagiri is a must-visit for visitors who are always on the lookout for offbeat destinations.Women pick tea leaves at one of the tea estates in Kotagiri