My first introduction to Munnar was courtesy various travel magazines that published spectacular photographs of this hill town in Kerala. The pristine beauty of the misty hills and the fresh greenery of the perfectly manicured tea gardens appeared mesmerising. Even the name ‘Munnar’, which I now know means ‘three rivers’, was enticing. The idea to visit and experience this destination myself had germinated in my mind. Over a period of time, little pieces of information trickled in and further piqued my interest in Munnar. No wonder then that a holiday plan of Kerala, a couple of year back, had a trip to Munnar at the centre of the itinerary.
Quick Facts About Munnar
Munnar is located in the Idukki district 5200 feet above sea level in the Western Ghats mountain ranges. The three rivers that give Munnar its name are Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. Munnar was once the summer resort for the Britishers, however; today it is a thriving tourist spot. The nearest railway station to reach Munnar is Aluva while Kochi serves as the closest airport. From Kochi, Munnar is a comfortable five-six hours (approx) drive.
The main town of Munnar is a vibrant and busy. During season, it abounds with visitors. The shops at the market sell everything that is needed in day to day life along with items that are adored by tourists, like tea, spices and homemade chocolates. We gulped down a few varieties of chocolate as we went around enjoying the surroundings.
Over the next two days in our trip to Munnar, we went around exploring and savouring the beauty of Munnar as desired for so long.
Ervikulam National Park
Ervikulam National Park was the first place that presented the panoramic view of the surroundings. The park spreads across an area of 97 sq km and is home to the endangered Niligir Tahr. It is also where the highest peak in south India, Anamudi, is located. Every twelve years, the park wears a blue blanket when Neelakurinji flowers bloom.
At other times, rolling hills covered with tea plantations and other floral species together make for wonderful sights. The greenery these impart to the surrounding is worth all the effort invested in coming to Munnar. Not to forget the misty hills that adds a layer of divine charm around.
Since Ervikulam is extremely popular with both tourists and locals alike, it is a good idea to pre-book tickets to avoid standing in long queues. Private vehicles are not allowed inside; instead a bus drives the visitors uphill till a point. From here, it is a convenient walk up to the vantage point.
At Madupetty, yet another top rated attraction of Munnar, the views of serene lake surrounded by lush greenery and verdant hills is quiet impressive. Boating facilities are available but it is quiet a good idea to sit back at the side and soak in the beauty of nature. The area also has a market place which sells local products and food items.
The Various View Points of Munnar
Munnar further reveals its beauty from its various viewpoints. Pothamedu view point presents a panoramic view of the surrounding area and the valleys. With a hot cup of tea in hand, one can spend a considerable time soaking in the serenity around. Photo point is full of tourists and has a cheerful ambiance around. Tourists get themselves clicked as tea leaves pickers with tea plantations as backdrop.
However, everyone has a favourite point. For me, this came on a visit to the Lockhart Estate. With the car parked by the side, a stroll on the road was simply superb! It felt right out from the images of the travel magazines that had first instilled the thoughts of visiting Munnar. The beauty of Munnar emanated from every corner!
The Cave of a Thief
A little further, there is a cave – Malayil Kallan Guha. It is a small place suitable for a single person only but has an interesting background. It was the abode of a thief who robbed the passer bys but never got caught.
Munnar Tea Factory & Museum
With so much of tea gardens around, there is genuine curiosity about the history of tea in Munnar. Here enters the Munnar Tea Museum and factory located in the Nalluthani Tea Estate. The museum, the first ever tea museum in India, recounts the history of tea in Munnar through its various images and machines. A documentary depicts of journey of tea for the benefit of visitors. There is also a tea factory that demonstrates how tea is processed in a factory. A section for tea tasting and buying is thronged by visitors for warm cup of tea.
Munnar Spice Plantations
The spice plantations of Munnar add another feather to Munnar’s Green cap. These plantations are not just pleasant to walk around but also immensely educational. Here one is amidst the stars of the kitchen; those that add colour, aroma and flavour to our food turning them into delectable dishes. Not only this, these spices and herbs are key ingredients for a number of ayurvedic medicines and also the ones that we use in our home remedies for respite from various ailments.
Walking through these gardens along with a guide and discovering the benefits of these spices and herbs is an eye opener. The variety invariably includes across cardamom, clove, cinnamon, asafoetida, chilli, areca nut, aloe vera, strawberry, nutmeg, brahmi, trifla, asparagus, anjeer, allspice, aswagandha, insulin and pepper – the list goes on and on. Most of the plantations, a small outlet outside sell these spices and products made out of them for those interested in carrying back few items for themselves and friends.
Munnar in Evenings
While the days were spent exploring the beauty of Munnar, the evenings gave us an opportunity to explore the markets and do some shopping. On one such evening we made our way to Punarjani – The Traditional Village to watch some beautiful performances by Kathakali and Kalaripayattu artists.
Our trip to Munnar was thoroughly enjoyable, though we did miss out visiting few places like Kolukkumalai tea estate. This place was not on our list, yet the suggestion of locals had aroused our interest. We keep this for our next trip to Munnar.