The tall and towering Nilgris, colonial houses, verdant tea estates and a laid-back vibe, that’s Coonoor for you! A picture speaks a thousand words. But, no picture can do justice to the beauty of this place. You really have to see it to experience the charm of this quaint hill station. So what should you do when in this dreamy little gorgeous town? Here’s my guide to exploring Coonoor the non-touristy way!
1.Paint amidst the lush green mountains
Stay in a beautiful French country style home with a lovely couple and immerse yourself in an unforgettable art experience. A former photographer, Mukesh Munim, moved to Coonoor a couple of years ago along with his wife Anjali, and pursued his passion for art. His love for art is reflected in every corner of the house which is done up very tastefully. Imagine going to bed looking at Van Gogh’s starry night! From the living room to the bathroom, there are photographs and paintings dotting the walls- each has a unique story to tell from his travels across the world. This was our first experience with Air BnB and we couldn’t have been happier with our stay.
The spectacular view from the house
Our wonderful hosts- Mukesh and Anjali
One of my favourite paintings in the house
Our cozy room with a Van Gogh painting
Upon request, Mukesh does guided art sessions where he takes you through some basic techniques. He encourages you to go with the flow and give the painting your own interpretation. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience of painting Monet’s water lilies. My colour blind husband on the other hand was struggling and required Mukesh’s guidance all through. But, it was an awesome experience!
2. Go tea-tasting
When surrounded by tea estates, how can you leave Coonoor without sipping on some delicately flavoured Nilgiri tea? Tranquilitea offers an exquisite gourmet tea-tasting experience. Sandeep from Tranquilitea took us through his tea estate explaining about the tea bushes, tea plucking and how Nilgiri tea has not got its due- getting completely overshadowed by the overtly marketed Darjeeling tea.
The stage at which the tea leaves are plucked
We tasted 6 types of tea, right from the exotic Silver tips tea to a machine brewed black tea to understand the difference between flavour and body of the tea. It was informative and fun and we took back some hand-rolled black tea with us. Sandeep’s passion for tea really shines through when he speaks about it. In fact, he dispelled quite a few doubts and myths for us. (So turns out that Orange Pekoe tea has nothing to do with oranges. It refers to the size of the tea)
PS: We just did a half-day visit (prior reservations required) but Tranquilitea is also a homestay overlooking the lovely tea estates.
Silver Tips Tea
Hand-rolled Black Tea
3. Have lunch with a stunning view at La Belle Vie
With gorgeous views of the Nilgri hills and impeccably manicured lawns, La Belle Vie offers Continental and Indian fare. Service is slow and the food is average, but the views more than make up for it. You can sit for hours at end gazing at the beauty around you with the silence only broken by the sound of chirping birds. This is also where the Bollywood movie Kapoor & Sons was shot, putting Coonoor on the map. This place also has accommodation, so if you want to stay in this colonial style house, check out 180 Mc Iver!
4. Learn how to make organic cheese
Visit former film maker Mansoor Khan’s organic cheese farmstay, Acres Wild for a homemade gourmet cheese making experience. We unfortunately couldn’t do this on our trip, since it requires two complete days (excluding Sundays). But, we’re keen on doing this the next time we visit Coonoor. Check this link for all the deets, in case this interests you.
Photo courtesy- http://www.acres-wild.com
5. Shop all things organic at The Green Shop
Organic and sustainable farming is catching up in Coonoor and The Green Shop works with farmers in the Nilgris to make available local produce. From honey to bees wax to spices to body care products, you can shop for a variety of things here; and also feel good about the fact that you’re doing your bit to empower local communities. Psst! The famous Nilgris chocolate coated biscuits and Moddy’s Dark Chocolates are also available here.
PS: The shop is shut on Sundays
6. Enjoy a Nilgri Tea Macaroon at Culinarium
With splendid views of the Ketti Hills and the smell of fresh bread wafting through, what more can you ask for? Choose from their range of croissants and quiches and satisfy your sweet tooth with a delectable Nilgri Tea Macaroon or a Strawberry tart. Shopaholics can browse through Sue London shoes or accessories or visit the Pony Industries’ quaint and colourful knitting and crochet store.
7. Gaze at the picturesque view of the Welington Golf Course
Of course, the Welington club is only reserved for members, but that shouldn’t prevent you from driving by the golf course and stopping by to take in the great views. It is right out of a postcard- just so surreal.
8. Eat delicious pizzas at The Open Kitchen
This hole in the wall place in Bedford whips up some great pizzas. I had an interesting pizza with wasabi hung curd on it. Coonoor’s culture of fresh and sustainable living continued to impress us; since here too the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced and the owner ensures this. The day we went, the place wasn’t serving sandwiches because the owner hadn’t managed to procure fresh bread 🙂 We finished off our meal with some yummy homemade mango ice cream.
So what would you like to do on your visit to Coonoor?
This post is a part of the series- #12TravelTales wherein I plan to explore 12 new places in 2017- one every month and share my experiences on the blog.