Paradise of nature lovers, Munnar was the summer resort of the British government in South India. Surrounded by the Annamalai Hills, this hill station offers spectacular views of the craggy peaks, manicured tea estates, picturesque towns and winding lanes. Munnar in the wee hours of the morning is a dream, covered in mist.
Among the exotic flora found in the forests and grasslands is the flower Neelakurinji, which bathes the hills in blue once every twelve years. It will bloom next in 2006 AD. Tiger, sambhar, bison, spotted deer, leopard, and malabar flying squirrel, stripe-necked Mongoose etc. can also be spotted in the forest.
The crisp mountain air and the serenity of the hills make Munnar an ideal getaway. It may be the commercial centre of the tea growing estates but it still retains its old world charm. Munnar also has the highest peak in South India, Anamudi, which is excellent for trekking.
This small hill town stands at the confluence of three rivers - the Nuthirappuzh, Nallathanni and Kundala. That?s how it gets its name - In Tamil, Moonu is three and aar is river. With Tipu Sultans defeat in the South, the British influence in Travancore increased. Munnar was formerly part of the High Range of Travancore.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Munnar was leased to the pioneer planters, mainly Scots. The Duke of Wellington is reputed to have been the first European visitor to Munnar, in 1790. Tea became the main crop and a couple of companies now own and operate the tea estates at Munnar, Tata Tea being one of them.
With the British settlements, came the culture and lifestyle of the British. However, unlike the hill retreats of the North, Munnar has very little to offer in terms of architecture as there are not many buildings reminiscent of the Raj. Christ Church, built in 1910, is one building worth a mention.
Built in stone, it has fine stained glass work. When you enter the church, brass plaques honoring the memory of tea planters greet the eye. The rosewood pews and the ornate chandeliers are evocative of the Colonial origins. The High Range Club is a place that preserves its British traditions with pride. This colonial style wicker and old-teak club is an elite social hub.
There are early morning food stalls in the bazaar which serve excellent breakfast snacks.
Handicrafts can be bought at the Leo Gift Shop or the DMS Shopping Centre. You can buy spices at the DTPC Stall. If you want to purchase tea packets, go to Sunny Traders , Green Fields and Abbas Tea in the town.
The 37,000 acre tea plantations in Munnar are all owned by the industrial house Tata Tea Ltd. There are 26 tea plantations owned by the Tata's and a couple more owned by private operators. The Tata Tea Regional Headquarters are just beyond the bazaar, which is from where Munnar begins. The Tatas are not too keen to show you around, but a little patience and persistence works wonders. Tea factory visits: Permission to visit any of the 26 factories of Tata Tea Ltd can be had from the Regional Office at Munnar. Tel: 530561 to 530565. The total hectarage currently owned and managed by Tata Tea Ltd in South India is now about 11,440 hectares. With about 18% of this in the Anamallais, the Company is the foremost producer of tea in that planting district as well.
This squat, black stone, weathered and wizened church disappoints, until you step in. Beautiful stained glass, brass plaques in the memory of tea planters and wooden pews darkened by the patina of time. The foundation stone announces: "To the glory of God this stone was laid by Sir A K Muir Bart and with Masonic Honours on the 11th March 1910". It was built for the Scottish tea estate managers and workers, and many of the memorial plaques speak of its past. The last English service was held in 1981; today Tamil and Malayalam services fill up the pews on Sunday. Christ Church is closed on weekdays. Get here for a breather from Munnar's depressing tin-shed face - there are some lovely Red Gum and Acacia trees that form a overhang around the church and helps the 21st century recede into the past. There is a cemetery behind the church, a bit uphill that has tombstones dating to the early 1900s. The tombstones look weary and unloved, there are no fresh flowers and most of the engravings have become indistinct. The undergrowth is thick, look out for snakes.
This is a kilometre from Munnar town and while it is not much of a sight, it at least has the sound. This is where water from the Mattupetty river flows into the Ramaswamy Head Works dam and then through a tunnel to the pipeline that goes to the Pallivasal Hydroelectric Project. The dam was opened by the Dewan of Travancore, C P Ramaswami Aiyer on the '12th day of February 1944'. The Kerala State Electricity Board has plans to develop hydel tourism here.
Pothamedu offers an excellent view of the tea, coffee and cardamom plantations in Munnar. The rolling hills, the lush mountain and the breathtaking scenery here, is ideal for trekking and long mountain walks. Watch the sunsets from here.
This is the venue of the first Hydro Electric Project in Kerala and a place of immense scenic beauty.
Rising 5,000 ft above sea level and at about 130 km from Cochin, Munnar is a small town surrounded by the Annamalai hills. It has the Coimbatore district in the north, Pallivassal Panchayath in the south, Vattavada Panchayath in the east and Kuttampuzha Panchayath in the west.
Daily IA flights to Nedumbassery Airport near Ernakulam from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Goa and four flights from Chennai. Jet has daily flights from Mumbai. Munnar can also be accessed from Madurai (142 km) and Coimbatore (167 km). From here, one must take the road to Munnar by bus or taxi/ car. Airport: The nearest airport to Munnar is at Ernakulam, Kochi, 130 km away.
The nearest railhead is also at Kochi. There are numerous trains that connect Kochi with important cities and tourist destinations in the country. These include the Kerala Express, Nizamuddin-Ernakulam Express, Trivandrum-Chennai Mail and the Trivandrum Rajdhani Express. Railway station: Kochi also serves as the railhead for Munnar.
Buses run by the KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) start from the Central Bus Stand in Ernakulam. There are eight buses daily and the journey takes 41 hours.One can access Munnar by road from Kottayam (147 km), Thekkady (110 km), Madurai (160 km) and Thrissur (158 km). Bus terminus: The KSRTDC (Kerala State Road Tourist Development Corporation) bus stand is on Alwaye Munnar Road.
Summer temperatures range between 15.2?C and 25.8?C. In winters the temperatures vary from 0?C to 10?C.
The 97 Sq.Km Park is situated in the Devikulam Taluk and is home to the Nilgiri Tahr. The Anamudi peak (2695 m) is located in the Southern region of the park. Originally established to protect the Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiri Ibex), the Eravikulam National Park was declared as a sanctuary in 1975. Considering the ecological, faunal, floral, geo-morphological and zoological significance, it was declared as a National park in 1978. It covers an area of 97 sq Km of rolling grasslands and high level shoals (evergreen forests). Breathtakingly beautiful amidst the best mountain ranges, the park is divided into 3 regions and visitors are allowed only to the Rajamala region where the Nilgiri Tahr can be observed at close quarters. A place for adventure tourism, tourists are allowed to go on foot up to Anamudi.
It's a lush green carpet of tea plants. A trip on the splendid reservoir is an unforgettable experience. Tata Tea plantations and evergreen forests surround the Anayirangal dam. It is an ideal picnic spot.
This is the only place in Kerala that has a natural growth of sandalwood trees. The sandalwood factory of the forest department, the caves (muniyaras) with the murals and relics from the new Stone Age civilization and the children's park spread across a hectare of land under the canopy of a single banyan tree, are of great interest to tourists. Thoovanam waterfalls and Rajiv Gandhi National Park are also nearby.
This scenic place gets its name from the natural echo phenomenon here. Echo point is on the way to Top Station from Munnar.
Kundala is a picturesque town on the way to Top Station. The Golf Course, which belongs to Tata Tea Ltd., is located here. The Kundala artificial dam is another attraction. Aruvikkad Waterfall is also near Kundala.
Situated at a height of 1700 m, Mattupetti is famous for its highly specialized dairy farm, the Indo-Swiss live stock project. Over 100 varieties of high yielding cattle are reared here. Visitors are allowed into three of the eleven cattle sheds at the farm. The Mattupetti Lake and dam, just a short distance from the farm, is a very beautiful picnic spot. The sprawling Kundala tea plantations and the Kundala Lake are other attractions in the vicinity. DTPC Idukki provides boating facilities on the Mattupetty Dam. Speed Launch and slow speed motorboats are available on hire.
Lying close to the plantations in the rich jungles of Periyar in Thekkady is one of the world's most fascinating natural wildlife reserves - the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Spread across 777 sq. km, of which 360 sq. km is thick evergreen forest, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978. Noted for its geo-morphological diversity of wildlife and scenic beauty, the Reserve attracts visitors from all over the world. The splendid artificial lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar River adds to the charm of the park. This is the only sanctuary in India where you can have the unique experience of viewing wildlife at close quarters from the safety of a boat on the lake. The greatest attraction of Periyar remains the large herds of wild elephants that come down to the lakes edge.
The natural habitat of the Nilgiri Tahr, Rajamala is 2695 m above sea level. Half the world's population of the rare mountain goat or tahr, which is fast becoming extinct, is now found here. The Nilgiri Tahr in Rajamala is now to be found in small herds found in Eravikulam-Rajamala region. The total number of Nilgiri Tahrs in Rajamala is estimated to be over 1300. Visitors are not allowed during the monsoon.
This idyllic hill station with its velvet lawns, exotic flora and fauna and the cool mountain air offers a rare experience to visitors. The Sita Devi Lake with its mineral waters and picturesque surroundings is a good picnic spot. The lake is also ideal for trout fishing.
ATTUKAL - A panorama of waterfalls and rolling hills, Attukal, located between Munnar and Pallivasal, is a feast for the eyes. The place is also ideal for long treks.
CHINNAKANAL WATERFALLS - Located on the way to Thekkady from Munnar, the Chinnakanal waterfall cascades down a steep rock 2000 m above sea level. The spot is enriched with the scenic Western mountain ranges, and is an ideal place for a break on the way to the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.
CHITHIRAPURAM - With its sleepy little cottages, bungalows, old playgrounds and courts, Chithirapuram still exudes an old world charm. Home of the Pallyvasal Hydel Power Project, this hill town is also famous for its picturesque tea plantations.
LOCK HEART GAP - This is an ideal place for adventure tourism and trekking. The fresh mountain air, the mist-clad hills and panoramic view make it worthy of a visit.