The word 'Nilgiri' means blue mountains. The average height of the peaks in the Nilgiri hills is around 2,290 metres (7,500 feet), the highest peak being Doddabetta, at a height of 2,623 metres (8,605 feet). Most hill stations in the Nilgiri hills are at around the same altitude as their Himalayan counterparts - Manali and Darjeeling - and higher than Nainital or Shimla. More important, they are equally cool in summer.
Coonoor gained popularity as a hill-station way back in the 19th century when it was established by the British. In 1819 a wealthy British businessman built a sprawling bungalow 'Silverdale', thus attracting other British settlers, who developed the tea plantations and a railway line. Coonoor is also an ideal locale for filmmakers, both from India and abroad. It formed the backdrop for David Lean's movie A Passage to India (1984) based on E. M. Foster's novel and the train top dance "Chaya Chaya" in a Shah Rukh film.
Coonoor has some great scenic places to visit. Sim's Park, located in the midst of a ravine, covers an area of 12 hectares and exhibits over 1000 species of plants, trees and flowers. For some of the finest views around visit the Lamb's Rock, 6km away, where you can feast your eyes on the captivating view of the Burliyar ravine and the plains of Mettupalayam. Lady Canning's Seat, a little further ahead, is a point said to have been frequented by the Viceroy's wife. Dolphin's Nose, is a rocky projection in the hill-side from where you can catch more panoramic views of the hills and plains.
There are three spectacular waterfalls cascading down the hill-side: St. Catherine falls, 250 feet high, Law's falls and Kateri falls. You can climb up to the ruins of the Droog fortress and explore the area or even do some excellent bird-watching.
For excursions outside, you could visit the neighbouring hill station of Ooty; a trip on the Ooty- Mettupalayam mountain railway, which goes via Coonoor, providing some breathtaking views of the Nilgiri hills which truly is a memorable experience.
Coonoor is also a trekkers' paradise. Beginners can hire the services of guides who have a sound knowledge of the tracks around. It's a great place for some trekking and hiking; you can start from Lamb's Rock and actually trek to all the major sight-seeing spots instead of driving. A visit to a tea-plantation is also an educative and interesting experience.
Surrounded by small hills, it is also perfect for bird watching. The area boasts a large variety of bird species like cormorants, pipits, thrushes, parakeets, skylarks, the Nilgiri verditer, bulbuls, thrushes, babblers, larks, cuckoos and robins, in addition to raptors like vultures, eagles and owls.
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