The summer resort of the erstwhile British colonialists, Munnar is an enchantingly beautiful hill station with a perfect blend of nature and wildlife. It is located in the eastern part of Kerala in the Western Ghats. Expansive green carpets of tea gardens, the un-spoilt air, great trekking and holiday facilities, verdant mountains and hospitable people make Munnar an idyllic holiday destination. The British began tea plantations in India in the beginning of the 19th century, mainly in Darjeeling and Munnar hills.
Among the exotic flora found in the hills here, is the Neelakurinji, a plant that flowers every twelve years. The next blue bloom will take place in 2018. Munnar has the highest peak in South India, Anamudi, ideal for trekking.
The climate of Munnar is pleasant with mild summers and cool winters, and the highest just touching 25C. The best time to visit is between October and March after the monsoons.
Munnar does not fall short on accommodation facilities, from the budget lodges to home-stays to the top-end hotels to boutique resorts. Among them are Holiday Inn, Nature Zone Jungle Park, Bracknell Forest, Tea Meadows, Tea County, The Sienna Village, Mahindra Holidays and Resorts, Tall Trees, The Issacs Residency, Oak fields, Hotel Hill View, Westwood Riverside, Royal Retreat and Hotel Edassery Eastend.
Street food in Munnar is delicious. There are plenty of multi-cuisine restaurants too. All over Kerala, the ‘dosa’ and ‘idli’ reign supreme with the signature coconut chutney.
Munnar is not a shopping destination and local handicrafts may be hard to come by, however you can choose from different varieties of tea, coffee and spices.
The nearest airport and railhead is Kochi (135 kms)
Eravikulam National Park
Located 15 kms northeast of Munnar and covering an area of 100 sq kms, it is home to the mountain goat, Nilgiri Tahr, considered primitive cousins of the goat. The friendly nature of the tahr made them easy prey to hunters and by the time of India’s independence, they were almost extinct. However, due to efforts of conservationists such as American biologist Clifford Rice, they have regained a healthy population. Visitors are allowed to trek inside the park, a great place for adventure tourism.
Tea and Coffee Gardens
Munnar is a popular tea and coffee plantation growing area and big employment and income generators contributing in a huge way to the economy of Kerala. Kerala grows mainly Robusta beans and is unique with the potential of specialty coffees.
Munnar has miles and miles of tea plantations. There are over 30 tea gardens in and around Munnar and the Tata Group owns the majority of these tea gardens. The Tea industry employs about 84,000 labourers. Visit one of the verdant tea gardens to learn about tea processing. However, some tea factories need special permission for visiting.
Munnar’s greenery and cool air has drawn many locals from warmer climes. The spell-binding ride from Periyar across the high ridges and lush tropical forests of Cardamom Hills, and the equally fascinating climb across the Western Ghats from Madurai, are particularly enticing.
Another interesting excursion is the 34 km uphill climb through the highest tea gardens to ‘Top Station’, a tiny village on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border with a panoramic view.