- Benjamin John
How to plan your sightseeing tour of Munnar
If you are heading to Munnar for the very first time, going through this guide would be a great help. Munnar is a hill station nestled within the Western Ghats of Kerala some 100 kilometres East of the Cochin International Airport. The hill station has a slowly become a preferred weekend destination for many travellers from Chennai and Bangalore. It is the weather, the scenic weather and the places of interest that makes Munnar a dream destination for many.
A quick history of Munnar
Munnar was identified by the British as the Kannan Devan hills and Munnar was a junction from where one could travel to other places like Cochin, Thekkady and Coimbatore and hence the junction became a town centre. European planters arrived in these hills as early as 1850, it was in 1865 that the plan to utilise the Kannan Devan hills for planting cash crops. Rubber, coffee and tea were experimented and eventually tea was found to be a viable crop considering the demand back in the UK. Then, these hills were surrounded by dense forests where tigers and elephants used to roam around. The Great Trigonometrical Survey of India did their survey and identified these high ranges as Kannan Devan Hills. The hills were taken up on lease from the Travancore Kingdom, the then princely Kingdom of Central and South Kerala. The plantations thrived and slowly Munnar became a known plantation county in South India. It was known as the Kannan Devan Hill produce company and all mechanisms to build up infrastructure to support planters and processing of tea were installed, including a railway line to transport Tea. The great floods of 1924 destroyed most of the hill town including the railway line. Post independence, in 1947 these plantations were taken over by The Tata Global beverages. Today Tata Tea controls most of the tea plantations in the region, including the Tea Museum that you will visit in Munnar. The Eravikulam National Park was also set up to preserve the Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain goat which was at the verge of extinction by then. A few dams like that of Mattupetty and Kundala dams were also built for irrigation and power production.
The below Map would give you an idea as to what is where, and what can be done while on your Munnar trip. If you are looking for destination guide, you can check out the Munnar Destination Guide as well. If you have not yet planned for your Munnar holiday or your Kerala holiday plan, you can check out Green Earth Trails - who can offer you some interesting tour programs across Kerala.
The blog is designed to give you an idea based on different routes from Munnar town and the different places you could visit on the respective routes. in case if you are looking out for a beautiful speciality lodging option like a Tree House in Munnar - Check out Ela Ecoland Nature Retreat Munnar.
Eravikulam National Park
Eravikulam National Park is a national park that was formed as a reserve for the Nilgiri Tahr which is a mountain goat in the Western of Kerala. The National Park is where most people come to visit the Neelakurinji that blooms once in 12 years. The highest peak in South India, the Anamudi is also located inside the National Park, earlier there were treks available to Anamudi, however now entry is prohibited. Eravikualam National Park tends to be busy specially during long weekends and tourist season, we suggest you to book the tickets online for a smooth comfortable visit, they take you in a bus form the entrance to the prime area of the Park. The park mostly consist of the Shola Grasslands. The visit would take you from 1 hour to 2 hours in general.
Tea was panted in Munnar during the late 1800s and has a tradition of more than 150 years. It was the Europeans and the Britishers who were primarily arrived here and started with plantations, initially Rubber, then coffee and finally Tea got popular due to its viability and commercial value. Today the Kannan Devan Hill Produce Company, part of the Tata Global Beverages owns most of the tea plantations in Munnar and they have set up a Tea Museum (just 2 Kilometres from the City centre), it is a miniature form of a tea factory and you could see the tea manufacturing process. There is an entrance ticket and a guide will take you in groups. The programs start with a 20 minute video presentation about the history of Tea Plantations in Munnar, further you can see those old items like telephones and other machinery used during the old plantation days by the British officers. Finally you reach a shop where you get to purchase farm fresh tea. Entrance ticket is INR 100 per person.
The road to Top Station
The road to top station is one of the most scenic and the most tourist route for sightseeing, if you are looking for something least touristy, avoid this route, specially if you are visiting Munnar during the tourist season. The below would be a brief detail about the places of interest based on order while traveling to Top Station. This could be done consuming a half day or could be extended upto a day's time. If it is a group with a larger vehicle, it could take almost a day's time.
Rose Garden - A botanical park where you get to see wide varieties of plants both fruit and flower bearing plants.
Photo point - A photogenic point at a confluence of two hills of tea plantations. You can take a beautiful photograph of your with the tea gardens in the backdrop. There are some photographers here who can get you a print right at the spot.
Mattupetty Tea Factory - This is a tea factory of the Kannan Devan Hill produce company, where you can visit a live functioning tea factory. They follow the commercial CTC (crush tear and curl) process which is entirely a mechanized process from drying the leaves to packing.
Mattupetty Dam - A Dam and a vast reservoir, a click from the dam would be similar to a picturesque postcard. It is more of a tourist point where there is a boating service available in the dam reservoir. There are shopkeepers selling juices and short eats.
Kundala Lake - Further when you drive from Mattupetty towards Top Station, you will find the Kundala dam. This is very similar to that of Mattupetty dam. Just that the name is different, it is the same reservoir that extends to Kundala. There are boating options available here as well.
Echo point - After Mattupetty and Kundala dam you can find many scenic spots on route. There are many Grandis (a variety of Eucalyptus Tree) grown for paper production. You can see men sawing timber here and there on route. Echo Point is a point where you get to hear back your Echo, so is its name.
Top Station - An elevated point in the whole of the Western Ghats on the Eastern side. Earlier there was this Kundala Valley Railway line from Munnar town centre to Top station. This was destroyed in the floods of 1924, later they did not bother to rebuild it. Instead they built a ropeway from Top Station to the Kurangini Valley, from where tea was transported to Bodinaikannur and by railroad to Tutricon in Tamil Nadu. Today the ropeway does not exist, but this is a super amazing view point.
The road to Top station was actually a road between Munnar and Kodaikanal (another hill station in Tamil Nadu atop the Palani hills) due to it larger concentration of wildlife and frequent head ons with animals, this road was closed some twenty five years back. Top station would be the last point of interest, further there is the Pambadan Shola National Park which comes under the forest department of Kerala. The Britishers feared a Japanese invation of South India during the second World War. So the planters and officers of Kodai and Tamil Nadu built a road from Kodaikanal to Munnar through which they can reach Kochi and take a sail to the UK. The road was called the "Escape Route"
The road to Thekkady
There are many resorts in Chinnakanal, where the Anayirangal dam is located. This place is around 25 Kilometres from Munnar town and for the time being there is a road construction happening in this route which is supposed to end by April of 2019. The prime attraction towards the Thekkady direction is The Kolukkumalai Sunrise View point and the Kolukkumalai tea estate and factory.
Kolukkumalai Tea Estate and factory was built in the 1930 and follows an orthodox tea method of tea production. An elaborate seven stage process, which would keep the flavour and the essence of the tea intact. The estate grows organic tea which enhances the flavour of the tea. The Kolukkumalai tea factory is world'd highest grown organic tea estate and the world's highest tea factory following the orthodox method of tea production. Normal Vehicles do not reach Kolukkumalai, hence you will have to hire one of those Jeeps at Suryanelli, and you will have to park your vehicles there at Suryanelli near Chinnakanal. Early mornings have a great scope of beautiful photographs with the first rays of the sun and the crisp heavy mist that stays around the tea leaves. Boating is a common activity here.
The Road to Coimbatore (Marayoor and Chinnar)
The road to Coimbatore is has a few interesting places to see. The Eravikulam National Park fall on the Coimbatore direction, after the national park there is this Lakkam water falls which is a beautiful waterfall where you can get into the water. Further when you drive (40 kilometers from Munnar) is Marayoor, a quiant agrarian village where you can find a lot of Sugarcane farms. They produce top quality Jaggery from these sugarcane. Even before reaching Marayoor, you start to see sandal wood plantations on both sides of the road, they are fenced and entry is prohibited. Marayoor is said to have a lot of dolmens, there are people telling that they were shelters, and some say they are tombs of ancient monks. Since the travel time and distance is too much towards Marayoor and the limitation of the places to see, makes this a very less visited route.
Further when we drive we reach the Chinnar wildlife sanctuary. Due to its distance from Munnar, many people visit the Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary who has very special interest for wildlife, flora and fauna. There are treks organized in Chinnar by the forest department of Kerala, these treks are very interesting ones that take you into the forest and there are every possibility of wildlife sighting.
Close to the Town Centre
There is a Hydel Park close to the town centre, it s garden with a small fountains here and there, more kind of evening leisure spot.
Srishti is an initiative by the Tata Group for women and differently abled children. There is this DARE School (Developmental activities in Rehabilitative Education) Here they have a confectionary unit, a natural dye unit, and a hand made paper making unit. Visiting them would be a great eyeopener to the kind developmental activities that are happening for the differently abled.
Ideal 2 day Itinerary
Most people arrive Munnar post noon, because traveling from the nearest destination itself will take a minimum of 3.5 to 4 hours.On the day of arrival you could use all your time to enjoy the place, the ambiance, the nature around, and the weather. Getting to know around should be your agenda this day and of course relax and rest after the journey you had. I would be making a 3 day itinerary, this is to give you a general idea about the routing and I think you should be able to decide as to what to do and where to go on your Munnar trip.
Day 1 - Arrive Munnar - Rest and get used to Munnar.
Day 2 - Start the day by around 8 in the morning, as soon as you had your breakfast. Take a drive to Eravikulam National Park and while returning back to Munnar town, visit the Tea Museum, by then the time it would be time for Lunch. There is a Saravana Bhavan for some vegetarian South Indian food, Sujatha Inn for some Gujarati meal, Some restaurant here and here. In general what we felt was, Munnar town does not have good restaurants in general. There are some hotels as well, that might turn out to be a bit expensive.
Further proceed to Top Station, where you get to see the Mattupetty dam, Kundala Lake, Echo point and Top Station. Return back to your place of stay.
Day 3 - Visit the Kolukkumalai Tea Factory at Chinnakkanal.
Day 4 - Proceed to the next destination.
Trek Options - Munnar has a lot of Trek and Camping Options available from 2 days up to a week. These treks would take you to great heights and expose you to grasslands, evergreen forests, the plantations and some of the most biodiverse hotspots. Probably we will build up a detailed one next time.
Relying on someone who has been to a destination could be one of the best ways to see and understand how effectively you could plan to see around Munnar within the available time. Rely on the experts to plan your Kerala Tour, contact us at email@example.com