Ooty and Darjeeling are the two prominent places that come to mind when someone mentions tea gardens in India. It’s easy to find your minds engulfed by a haze of green impeded only by laces of white fog, seasoned with the sound of rain and the scent of a hot cup of chai (Indian tea) to go with it. Both these places, however, offer more than their tea gardens, toy trains and the lush greenery of their hills.
So here’s the low down for all you vacationers who can’t decide which of these two destinations to visit this summer!
Climate and Location
Ooty: Located in southern state of Tamil Nadu, Ooty is a quaint town nestled in the Nilgiri district. While it is blessed with mild and pleasant conditions through most of the year, January and February experience cold and windy nights. Ooty gets ample rainfall through the year, except in its winter months, i.e. from December to March. The flora mainly consists of pine trees, eucalyptus trees, and many fruit trees, like pears and peaches.
Darjeeling: Located in the state of West Bengal, in the region under the Lesser Himalayas, Darjeeling harbours a temperate climate. The summers are long and wet due to the heavy monsoon rains. The area is covered with oak trees, sal trees, and orchids.
Ooty: Ooty offers some of India’s most interesting tourist attractions. The Government Rose Garden is the largest rose garden in the country and houses a vast variety of exotic roses. The garden is one of only 35 gardens in the world to have received the ‘Garden Of Excellence Award’.
Another lovely attraction is Ooty Lake, created by damming the rivers flowing from the mountains around it. It is bordered by beautiful trees and a picturesque railway line.
Darjeeling: UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tiger Hill is breathtaking hill located in Darjeeling that it offers a collective view of the Kangchenjunga and Mount Everest mountains at the same time. This is one of the most beautiful attractions in Darjeeling. Another beautiful attraction is the Barbotey Rock Garden that boasts scenic picnic spots encompassed by rare flowering plants. The town has many artistic churches and temples that date back decades.
Ooty: Ooty is famous for it's South Indian dishes such as rich meaty Chettinad Chicken and Aviyal, which is made only with vegetables. Ooty is crowded with local restaurants and cute cafes. The café culture in Ooty is vibrant and worth exploring. Known restaurants include Kebab Corner, Earl’s Secret (Italian), Willy’s Cafe and Nahar Restaurant that serves authentic South Indian food.
Darjeeling: The abundant Tibetian and Nepali influence are clearly visible in the food found in Darjeeling. The staple food is rice and it is also known for its potato dishes, such as ‘dum aloo’. Other popular foods of the place include noodles, momos, and thupka (among other Nepali and Tibetian delicacies). Darjeeling is tourist friendly with lots of restaurants and cafes, including vegan-friendly Sonam’s Kitchen and Kunga Restaurant that serves the local cuisine.
Ooty: Famous for silver, spices, gourmet cheese, paintings, and handicrafts. Different markets across Ooty have their own specialty. Charing Cross Junction is famous for clothes and seeds, Commercial Road is known for its aromatic oils, chocolates, and leather items and Hill Bunk Road is famous for honey. Jai’s Kingstar on Commercial Road is a culinary shop reputed for chocolate.
Darjeeling: Darjeeling’s busy markets are reputed for their wide variety of items, loved by residents and tourists alike. Mall Road is best known for its selection of local jewelry, woolen clothes, silk, paintings, and woodcraft. Bhuta Market is famous for clothes. And while Chowrarasta is famous for its fashion and décor items, Dragon Market is known for its fashion accessories, including shoes and precious stones.
Ooty: Tea Tourism is an important part of Ooty’s culture, and it is easily accessible, convenient and fun for a tourist to experience it in one of the many lovely tea estates around the town. Ooty also hosts a 3-day Tea and Tourism Festival annually in January/February, where varieties of tea are displayed and sold. The tea gardens are elaborately decorated and some cultural performances organized. Tea Nest Resorts offers homestay and guest house accommodations based on tea plantations and the Doabetta Tea Factory and Museum tours a tea factory.
Darjeeling: Darjeeling is globally renowned for tea tourism. As of today, there are around 80 working tea gardens in the town. Some of these, like the Makaibari Tea Estate, offer home stays. However, most of these estates, like the Fagu Tea Estate or the Singtom Tea Estate, are luxury expensive experiences, which include visiting tea gardens, staying in British-era vintage bungalows on the estate itself, tasting local delicacies and enjoying cultural performances.
So, what’s your cup of tea?