Munnar, probably the most preferred honeymoon destination in South India, does some magic on her visitors. People who visit Munnar cannot help but fly again to see her. Munnar is a part of the Idukki district in the Kerala state, and belong to the mountain chain of the mighty Western Ghats. It is a gorgeous hill station, 1700 m above sea level which makes it extremely cool at times. For the same reason it was a summer retreat for the British who ruled India for decades. Munnar is popularly known as the land of \\\"Neelakurinjis\\\" [purple shrub found in the Nilgiri hills of the Western Ghats], which blossoms once in 12 years. When it does bloom, it decorates the Top station, where it is found, with vibrant purple colour that the person witnessing the beauty of the landscape might be entrapped in its peerless charm and awesomeness. Munnar is also renowned for its world class tea and spice plantations. There are daily presentations conducted for tourists on how the fresh tea leaves are processed to fine tea powder and packed in various quantities ready to be distributed to the markets belonging to different parts of the world. You can taste samples of various tea flavors and buy them if you wish to take home some exquisite taste of Munnar.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu share their border at Top station from where we get an astounding view of the Western Ghats. Access Top Station through bus services available or hire a taxi to travel 32 kms one side. Trekking at Top Station is a great idea as it is the highest trekking route available in the whole South India. Trekking enthusiasts could explore the cardamom hills, pepper plantations, and the shola forests of the Western Ghats which are world famous. This is from where the spices are exported to different parts of the World and is known for the same for centuries. On the way to the Top Station there is the Mattupetty Dam, beautifully built in the middle of a scenic landscape. It is 12 kms from Munnar on the Top Station road. Getting down and spending some time praising the scene is worth it.
With sandal wood growing on its soil, Marayoor has a distinct specialty considering the whole Kerala. En-route you will feel its aroma. It is also well known for its ancient rock paintings at Attalla, Ezhuthuguha, and Kovilkadavu, which is believed to be of Stone Age, ie., before 10,000 BC. Observing those paintings, one will wonder how artistic and creative our long gone forefathers were. As many as 90 paintings are preserved here. Marayoor town is 40 kms from Munnar and is easily accessible by the regular Kerala Government bus service, and independent taxis.
16 kms from Munnar, Eravikulam National Park houses a popular species of Nilgiri Tahr [rare mountain goat] along with other 25 species including gaur, Indian Muntjac, Sambar dear, golden jackal, Jungle cat, leopard and tiger. You can enter the park in a Government bus only, as private vehicles are not allowed inside the park. For 2 months every year, likely February and March, the National Park will be closed since it is the breeding season of these species of endangered Nilgiri Tahr. The park is opened from 08:30 am to 04:30 pm.
It is 60 kms north east of Munnar. After the Marayoor visit, visitors could reach the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary which is nearly 10 kms from there. It hosts many different types of animals starting from dears, elephants and endangered giant squirrel. There are tree houses available inside the sanctuary which could be a thrilling and awesome experience spending time in the midst of thick natural forest. On request many eco tour programs like waterfall trucking, cultural visits and river trekking are arranged. There are buses available from Munnar to Coimbatore, which can drop you off at Chinnar. The sanctuary is open from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm.
In Munnar there are perhaps a whole lot of tea plantations. It is probably the tea capital of India. In case if we are to choose, Kolukkumalai tea plantation should top the list. It is identified as the highest organic tea plantation in the World which is over 7900 ft above the sea level.
To reach Kolukkumalai, there are 2 options, either you can trek for about 4-6 hours, or you can catch a 4 wheel drive jeep from Munnar. If you have the energy, enthusiasm and most importantly time, then trekking could be a great option. The jeep drive will be bumpy, but those who love some adventure at Munnar, the drive to Kolukkumalai will definitely induce an adrenaline rush through the veins as the quick dangerous turns and steep road might make you hold your breath. After reaching the tea plantation, you can attend a brief presentation starting with the history of tea plantations in Munnar followed by how the tea leaves are cultivated, processed and packed. Concluding the presentation, a sample tea is provided to taste. You can buy packed tea leaves or tea powder which are offered for sale. A walk through the verdant tea gardens is delightful and educating as you will be able to witness firsthand how the workers pluck these tea leaves. You can even have a chat with them. The other prominent tea plantation is the Kannan Devan tea plantation which is the more than a century old and a brief history is imprinted on it. The Tata tea plantation is also a must visit spot at Munnar.
Cycling is really a fun and thrilling way to explore Munnar. Many visiting Munnar, especially the foreigners choose cycling rather than sitting inside a taxi or bus to see around. Cycles are available for rent at Munnar town. Those who prefer bikes and long distance, can get bikes for rent and make their way through any of the biking routes recommended. There are many routes for cycling as well as long distance biking –
a. Munnar to Mattupetty cycling [14 kms]
b. Mountain cycling to Silent Valley Tea Estate [25 kms]
c. Munnar to Top Station biking [42 kms]
d. Munnar Kodaikanal route biking[106 kms]
A lot of endemic species of birds reside at the Shola forest of Munnar, which is why many of the bird watching enthusiasts all around the globe visit this hill station to get a glimpse of these rare birds including the Nilgiri flycatcher, Broadtailed grassbird, Greyheaded bulbul, Wood pigeon and many others. Bird watching at Munnar is a worthwhile experience not only for the researchers, but also for all of us who love these fascinating creatures with whom we share our beautiful planet Earth. These birds can be found at Rajamalai, and Bodi Ghats, and trekking activities are available in these areas.
December to February The Winter season commence from December and concludes by February every year, and is recommended as the most apt period to visit Munnar. Better not forget to take along your sweaters and woolens when you trip to Munnar during the winter season, because the temperature often lows down to chilling 10°C. The nighttime get even more cooler which might make you bite your tongue, but it is worth experiencing Munnar in its best shape.
March to May Summer at Munnar starts by March and continues till the end of May. The temperature ranges between 19°C and 35°C. It is also a fair time to visit Munnar as even if it is summer it could still prove to be a cooling and relaxing vacation for the people living at hot lowlands.
June to September Munnar gets muddy during the monsoon [June to September], but it definitely has a different charm even then. A visit to Munnar during the monsoon is not always recommended as it rains heavily all the time and therefore travelling around Munnar gets a bit messy.
By Road - Kerala Government buses are available from all cities in Kerala. The nearest cities are Kochi, Kottayam which are 130 kms and 140 kms away from Munnar respectively. The nearest city in Tamilnadu is Theni, likely 80 kms from Munnar. Private Volvo buses and taxis are available too.
By Air - Kochi International Airport and Madurai international airport are the 2 nearest airports to connect Munnar. After flying down to Kochi or Madurai, grab a taxi and reach Munnar. Flights to Kochi are available from all the cities in India and from many cities from all around the globe.
By Rail - There are Regular trains to Kochi railway station from all the major cities in India. From the station grab a taxi or wait for the Government bus available at specific times to Munnar from the KSRTC [Kerala state road Transport Corporation] bus stand which is just a few metres away from the Kochi South railway station.
Munnar is simply the perfect vacation spot in Kerala. People living at the hot low lands will find this heavenly hill station, a rejuvenating and calming escape. For those adventure- savvy tourists too, Munnar does not fail to entertain. With activities such as mountain cycling, high altitude treks along the beautiful mountains, and rock climbing, Munnar satisfies all the adrenaline and travel addicts. A visit to Munnar is worth all your time. So if you are planning a vacation and doubt Munnar, get your bags packed and head along, give her a try, and you will never regret visiting the \\\"Queen of hills\\\".