In the past few months I’ve been so busy with the blog and everything else that I’ve barely had time to breathe. My work is almost 24×7 and it’s tough to find time to unwind. Travel has always been the perfect antidote for me. So when Sterling Resorts Ooty contacted me for a 2-day stay with them, I was grateful for the much-needed break. Read on to know more about everything we experienced at Sterling Ooty Fern Hill.
How to get there: Ooty is a small hill station in Tamil Nadu, about 277 km from Bangalore. If you drive, it might take you 5-6 hours. Watch for the hairpin bends you’d come across on the route through the ghat section, especially if you take the Bangalore – Mysore – Nanjangudu – Gundlupet – Bandipur – Mudumalai – Masinagudi – Kalhatti – Ooty route. We travelled by overnight sleeper buses to Ooty. Make sure to carry a comfortable neck pillow, a power bank and plenty of snacks.
The property: Back in the 70s, it so happens that my parents stayed at Fern Hill too on holiday. So that made me more eager to see what the property would be like. As you pull into the driveway, you see what looks like a welcoming cottage, with sloping tiled roofs. A courteous staff that greets you with a smile and a warm welcome. The interiors of Sterling Ooty Fern Hill are done tastefully, keeping in mind the clientele which is mostly families and couples.
My favourite part was the towering bookshelf near the restaurant with lots of fiction if you want to read. Free wifi is available but may be slightly out of range when you’re in your rooms. But that’s ok, because the point of being in the hills is to disconnect and unwind! The only thing I wish they had was a swimming pool, possibly heated. But everything else was just perfect. The sprawling grounds with a beautiful lawn and so many pretty flowering plants, the absolutely breathtaking view from the restaurant.
The stay: I stayed in the Classic Room, and shared it with another blogger friend, Raman. Spacious, with a queen-sized bed, a desk, chair and side table and a large window overlooking the hills with a gorgeous view. The bathroom was slightly small but well stocked up on amenities and running water.
The food: Sterling Ooty Fern Hill has a multi-cuisine restaurant attached, where they have a good variety of South Indian and continental food.
They also had traditional Badaga and Toda dishes to get a taste of the local flavour. Breakfast was my favourite part, where we could stock up on cereal, fruits, omelettes and toast for the long day ahead. Everything was fresh, and service was brisk when you needed to order for the table.
Day 1: We reached Ooty bright and early, though a little exhausted by the journey. We walked into our rooms, and once the curtains were pulled back, it was like WOW.
Shades of green that made the nerd in me think of Pantone because of how many shades there were. A fine, gentle mist just lazily moving over the hills and across the sky. No concrete other than our hotel for miles around. It was bliss.
We took a small tour around Sterling Ooty Fern Hill to check out everything they had to offer. So many beautiful flowers, all over the property, from daisies to hydrangeas and more.
We also peeked into the in-house spa which has vegan, cruelty-free beauty products and offers a lot of different packages.
The resort also offers activities like indoor games, wall climbing and bonfire nights. So if your workplace is planning a fun offsite event, you may want to look into that here! They also help with activities and explorations into the town for a small extra fee.
Our first activity was to visit a nearby Toda village. The Todas, as many indigenous people all over the world, are rare now due to losing their land to agriculture and other activities by outsiders that came to their lands. The village we visited is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We got to see a traditional Toda temple and learn about their customs. They weave these beautiful hand-embroidered shawls to keep warm. Most of them sell bags, and other small handcrafted items made in this style. Aren’t they just beautiful?
We then went to a tea factory to directly see how the famous Nilgiri tea gets made. We also tried it fresh from the source. There was also a chocolate factory preparing the famous Ooty chocolates. There are so many varieties, and the dark chocolate fudge as well as the blueberry chocolates are worth a try. You can buy tea, chocolates and pure essential oils/natural beauty products at this place.
Back at Sterling Ooty Fern Hill, it was time to get the tea, in more ways than one. High tea consisted of light snacks and some great selections of lemon tea, green tea and other varieties. The garden has both a small gazebo-like covered space that offers a lovely view, and chairs set out near the viewing point. Perfect to relax and enjoy that cuppa!
Come evening, the area surrounding the resort was silent and still. It was pitch dark and the sky was dotted with millions of stars. Sterling Ooty Fern Hill organizes bonfire nights for guests, so we got a taste of their lovely hospitality with these. They invited people from the Toda and Badaga tribes to spend time with us and showcase their traditional dances. Nights in Ooty tend to be rather chilly at this time of the year by Bangalore standards so make sure you stock up on warm pants and jackets.
I never thought I’d dance with the headman of the Badagas. So when he handed me the staff and asked me to lead I was like well of course!
It may look simple but the moves get faster and faster with their singing! We all had a blast with them and it was the perfect way to end our first day. Dinner was served at the Sterling Ooty Fern Hill restaurant, it included a mix of North & South Indian food with a bit of Chinese as well.
We were up bright and early on Day 2. After a sumptuous breakfast, we left for a tour around another beautiful Sterling Holidays property – Sterling Ooty Elk Hill. It’s not too far from Sterling Ooty Fern Hill. This property has its own organic kitchen garden, and a type of room with its own kitchenette as well.
We took a walk through the property and had fresh and delicious snacks made from their organic harvests. Beetroot juice, cutlets, carrot cake and more were presented in a fun way.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway experience was one of the highlights of our trip. It started way back in 1889 from Mettupalayam to Coonoor. It’s the only heritage train in India that starts at the most elevated place in South India. Train rides are always so much fun so we were naturally excited to take a ride and get some fun pics too.
The little blue and cream train wound its way through the hills, going through a few tunnels and picturesque places. We arrived in Coonoor, known for its tea plantations.
Coonoor was easily the most magical place from our trip. It was unreal. Mist covered vast expanses of lush green tea gardens, as far as the eye could see. Sterling Ooty Fern Hill’s team had arranged a picnic for us at this scenic spot.
We came back to Sterling Ooty Fern Hill with a lovely surprise waiting for us! Our bed was made specially, and there were these little gifts left for us. Was definitely the icing on the cake for the amazing hospitality from the team throughout the trip.
So if you ever plan a roadtrip down to Ooty, definitely book through Sterling Ooty Fern Hill. You won’t be disappointed! They’ll help you with every aspect of your stay and you’ll have a relaxing and fun time.
Photography by me and by Joshua