The name Munnar refers to three rivers namely Madupetti, Periavaru & Nallathanni that flow past the hill station. A cool climate makes it a coveted destination for tourists who are scared of the extreme heat in other parts of Southern India. While it is known to be one of the best places for the honeymoon, Munnar has something to offer for all kinds of tourists regardless of their age and interests.
A leisurely trip through the large tea and coffee plantations can help the visitors expand their knowledge about their favourite beverage while camping in the lush green forests and trekking up the mountain happen to be popular with the young and adventurous people. Staying atop a tree house is thrilling indeed although there is no dearth of luxurious hotels in the area.
Nature lovers certainly have an exciting time on finding a number of endemic species being protected in the reserve forests that are found all around. The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Manjampatti Valley, and Amaravati reserve forest belonging to the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary should definitely be on the Itinerary of all tourists. The Eravikulam National Park & Anamudi Shola National Park also deserves a special mention. The Pampadum Shola National Park makes the botanists, nature enthusiasts and photographers most eager to view it. Munnar is also home to the Nilgiri Tahr, the Nilgiri wood-pigeon, the grizzled giant squirrel, the Nilgiri langur as well as numerous Sambars. The flower fanatics are excited to discover the rare Neelakurinji (blooming once every 12 years) growing in the wild here as well.
A visit to the Munnar Tea Museum is an absolute must where it is possible to pluck tea leaves and brew one’s own cup of tea. Climbing the Anamudi Peak and looking down at the panoramic view of the plantations from the Pothamedu Viewpoint are activities that almost all visitors enjoy. That does not mean that the kids would have to fend for themselves though. In fact, Munnar provides them with multiple adventure related activities including taking part in a scavenger hunt and going rope climbing in the jungle.
Taking a boat ride on the Devikulam Lake is for the more conventional tourists who are up for a pleasant surprise on visiting a ‘model livestock village’ at Mattupetty. Cascading waterfalls are commonplace in Munnar with Attukal, Nyayamakad, Lakkam, Chinnakkal, Valara, Thoovanam, Kuthumkal and Cheeyapara enhancing the beauty of the hill station.
No tourist leaves the place without buying souvenirs from Munnar either. Picking up a few choicest spices and tea leaves along with coffee straight from the plantations is an activity that few would want to miss. However, a number of aromatic oils such as lemongrass, eucalyptus oil, citriodora and others are sold in tiny bottles for the tourists too.
History of Munnar
The Muthuvan tribe is believed to be the original inhabitants of the modern Munnar. This area had been untouched for centuries with the local communities leading a peaceful existence. However, everything changed in the 19th century with John Daniel Munro, the British Resident of the Travancore Kingdom setting foot in the area. He leased the land and began transforming it into plantations. Thus cardamom, sisal, coffee, and cinchona cultivation was started in earnest across the entire region. However, tea plantations began to flourish from 1895, and many of the preceding crops began to be replaced by tea which turned into a lucrative business for the planters.
The going was not smooth henceforth as the monsoon of 1924 wreck havoc in the region killing thousands of animals as well as humans and eradicating the plantations. Tea and coffee had to be replanted bit by bit. The British companies left India after its Independence, and the management was handled by the Indian Companies thereafter. However, it was only in the latter part of the 20th century that Munnar came to be recognized as a hot tourist spot courtesy of its abundance of flora and fauna and scenic beauty plus the verdant plantations.
Culture of Munnar
Madhuvans (Muthuvan) are simple, honest and down to earth people who have lived in this area predominantly. It is their only home, and they are not averse to sharing it with others either. Their everyday living attracts many people who are eager to do business in Munnar. Unfortunately, this has not proved to be an, and they continue trusting people. However, their culture has not remained stagnant and is now an eclectic mix of British culture along with the traditions of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in addition to the tribal lifestyle.
Almost all inhabitant of Munnar speaks Malayalam as it is a part of Kerala. Yet many others prefer to converse in Tamil. Religion knows no bounds in Munnar though. One can find Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and even Jews coexisting peacefully here.
What you will like
- The tea plantations and vibrant greenery of Munnar
- Boating in the lakes as well as the sumptuous food of the region
- Trekking and all kinds of adventure related activities
- Wildlife and beautiful gardens
- Natural beauty
What you might not like
- Heavy downpours during the monsoon that often causes landslides and road blockages
- Some of the roads are not well lit in the evening and poses a danger when the fog comes up
How to Reach Munnar
By Air- Nearest airport from Munnar is Cochin International airport located at a distance of 125 kilometers away. One can hire taxi or cab to reach the destination. Cochin airport is well-linked to all the major cities in the country as well as many cities abroad.
By Rail- The nearest railway station from is Kochi or Ernakulum, well-connected to the major cities of the country including Delhi, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Mangalore, Bangalore and many others.
By Road- Munnar is connected to other cities of Kerala, state government buses are provided to traverse around the city
Festivals of Munnar
The festivals here are celebrated with pomp and grandeur. Onam happens to be the main festival of this region that is held for 10 days. It is by no means the only one though. Pongal is celebrated enthusiastically too while the practising Hindus of the State cherish the Pooram Festival.
Art & Music
The performing arts of Kuttiyatam, Kalaripayattuand Kathakali are highly prevalent in Munnar with people crowding the shows.Mohiniattam,the famous classical dance form of Kerala is one of the leading dances of Munnar too with only the women folk allowed to take part in it.
Local Food at Munnar
The local food at Munnar is predominantly Kairali, i.e. from Kerala. There are umpteen eateries in the hill station to suit every taste and budget. It would be wise to opt for a vegetarian thali served according to tradition though. The dishes are likely to be a mix and match of vegetable Pachadi (salad), Mezhukkupurattai ( mixed vegetable stir fry), Rice with Sambar and Rasam plus Elaneer Payasam, a delicious Kheer made from tender coconut. The cooking medium is coconut oil too while the dishes contain crushed or grounded coconut as well. Munnar is also a paradise for meat eaters unlike many other parts of South India. The Kerala Parotta (layered, fried flat bread) served with beef, or fish masala is particularly famous. Fried cashew nuts are the most coveted snacks in this place while the Fish Curry here is to die for.
Shopping in Munnar
Fresh tea straight from the gardens is available within many plantations and is a must buy here. People also buy coffee and whole, aromatic spices when visiting Munnar. It is also possible to get homemade chocolates from the chocolate mall as well as the local manufacturers.
The rate of authentic spices happens to be quite affordable at the Spices Supermarket. The health-conscious make sure to obtain a selection of aromatic oil from the connoisseurs of Ayurvedic messages at Munnar as well.
Munnar 3 Days Itinerary
Day 1- Arrive at Ernakulam Railway station or Cochin International Airport and head for Munnar by hiring a cab or boarding a bus. Begin sightseeing almost immediately by stopping at the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary en route. Revel on seeing the spectacular Thoovanam waterfalls and take a trek through the sandalwood forest before taking a tour of the Talayar Tea Garden. Have fun trying to catch sight of the protected Nilgiri Tahr, endemic to this region at the Rajamalai/ Eravikulam National Park. Try to scale up the Anamudi Peak (the highest in Kerala) if permitted. Grab some well-deserved rest by checking into the hotel and sampling the delicious food that is part and parcel of the multiple attractions at Munnar.
Day 2- Start early in the morning and depart at once for the picturesque Rose Garden that lies 13 km away. It is located near the Mattupetty dam and is extremely popular for its wide variety of roses that bloom beautifully turning the garden into a riot of colours. Wait awhile trying to watch some of the spectacular birds that fly by and trek through the forest discovering the small brooks and waterfalls in the way. A must-visit in this area is the dam along with the lake of Mattuppetty. The vast concrete storage of water is famous for electricity generation while the still waters of the lake reflect the lush green tea gardens are making the tourists gaze at it admiringly.
Go for a speedboat trip if you so wish and catch the full view from the centre of the lake. It is indeed mesmerizing. Do not miss the Honey Bee Tree, known for its collection of beehives. Surprisingly there are no hives in the adjoining trees. Enjoy an elephant safari through the greenery and do make sure to stop at the Tea Garden Photo Point at a distance of 4 km from the central bus station of Munnar. The cascading rows of tea trees surrounded by mountains are a photographer’s paradise.
Try drifting on the Gundala Lake in a rowboat or paddle furiously in the waters to get a glimpse of the thick timber trees lining the area. You are welcome to return to your hotel for a nap before venturing out again in the evening. Enjoy the evening by visiting Kalari Kshethra for a spectacular show comprising of Kathakali dance program and a Kalaripayattu performance.
Day 3- Start the last day at Munnar with a bang by driving straight to the Spice Gardens. The aroma will be your guide once you enter the green valley full of exotic spices that Kerala is known for. Look at the best spices of India such as cardamom, curcuma, cinnamon, pepper, and cloves growing on trees. Recollect the splendour of Munnar by making a visit to the Karadippara View point and watch the Attukad Waterfalls in its full glory. Take the rest of the day easy by visiting the Blossom Park at the heart of the city. Watch the attractive garden and beautiful flowers there and try some of the fun activities offered at the park. End your lovely outing with an educational tour of the Tata Tea Museum.
Best Time to Visit
September to May are ideal for visiting Munnar.
Nearest Railway Station
Aluva Station that is at a distance of 100 km