A part of Western Ghats and located very close to Tamil Nadu border, Munnar lies at an average height of more than 5200 feet above sea level. It was once the summer resort of British Raj who were also responsible for the tea plantations which took its root in late 19th century. Presently, the tea plantations are under KDHP (Kannan Devan Hills Plantations), the company which looks after all the plantations and is employee owned with most of the employees being share holders. Munnar gets its name from the confluence of three rivers (Moonnu- aaru) here- Nallathanni, Kundala and Muthirapuzha. Munnar is home to Anaimudi, the highest peak in India south of Himalayas, and is also known for Nilgiri Tahr and Neelakurniji flower which blooms once in 12 years (next one is scheduled for 2018).
The crisp air hit me as I had a glimpse of the first of the innumerable tea plantations. Along with that came a waft of the aroma of tea and swaying eucalyptus trees. When in tea country, an ideal way to start is to know more about tea and I headed straight to the tea museum and factory which gave a firsthand experience of tea processing. Apart from the lovely display of artifacts, the museum also gives the visitors an insight into the history of tea plantations of Munnar through a video.
|At the tea museum
Head out in any direction from the town and it leads through meandering roads winding through endless tea plantations and viewpoints overlooking more sprawling estates. The blue sky and the green gardens blend so beautifully into each other to form a picturesque landscape. Amidst the greenery, tea factories make their presence felt and in the late evenings, one can spot many plantation workers taking that long walk back home. After riding through the lovely serpentine roads, I took a detour on the highway to Kochi. The road that leads to Idukki offers magnificent views of more tea gardens with the sun going down the horizon in the background. With pink sky and green gardens, this is one of the best view points to enjoy sunset in Munnar.
|Sunset over the tea gardens
|Enroute Eravikulam national park
|The walk up to Rajamala
|View from Eravikulam national park
|More tea estates
|Enroute Lakkom falls
|Sandalwood forests of Marayoor
|View from the dolmens
Madupetty dam is probably the second most popular place of interest in Munnar after Eravikulam national park. I was there early in the morning and the azure waters of the dam gleamed as the sun rose higher. The clouds floated quite low and the hill in the background accentuated the beauty of the expansive dam. Went past the numerous stalls selling a plethora of items and strolled along the periphery of the dam. As you walk around, the views change. A lone foreign visitor sitting under a eucalyptus tree exclaimed, “It’s so beautiful here”. “It is absolutely serene”, I responded with a smile. I sat next to him for a while and we gazed at the unparalleled natural landscape. There are boating facilities here which the visitors can explore.
|Enroute Madupetty dam
|A view point enroute Top station
|Views from Top station watch tower
|More views of the craggy hills and shola forests
|Pambadum Shola forest
Places such as Marayoor (40 Kms), Top station (35 Kms) and Koviloor (45 Kms) are far from Munnar town.
Idukki district, Kerala
130 Kms from Cochin
Nearest airport is at Cochin (110 Kms), nearest rail head is at Ernakulam/ Cochin (130 Kms). There are numerous buses plying between Munnar and other places such as Cochin, Pollachi, Coimbatore etc.
Food and Accommodation:
Being a popular tourist destination, Munnar has numerous restaurants and small eateries. Almost all the hotels and resorts have their own restaurants which serve Kerala cuisine and other cuisines too. Munnar offers a wide range of stay options from budget hotels to luxurious resorts. I stayed at Noah's Ark, a good budget option near KSRTC bus stand.