Majestic Munnar – A hill station
Munnar is a town and hill station in the south western state of Kerala situated at the confluence of three mountain streams - Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. Munnar is situated around 1600 m above sea level on the Kannan Devan Hills village in Devikulam taluk and is the largest panchayat in the Idukki district in Kerala. The region in and around Munnar varies in height from 1,450 meters to 2,695 meters above mean sea level. Anamudi is the highest peak in south India with a height of 2,695 meters. The temperature ranges between 5 °C and 25 °C in winter and 15 °C and 25 °C in summer. The nearest major railway stations are at Ernakulam and Aluva (approximately 140 Kms by road). The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, which is 105 Kms away. Munnar is famous for its sprawling tea plantations, picturesque landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, and the exotic flower Neelakurinji.
Initially Lakshadweep was our holiday destination but looking at the available days in hand we added Munnar on our itinerary and eventually decided to complete our full trip through road. We had an amazing and memorable road trip and to read about it in details click here. After an overnight halt in Bangalore at our friends place we started our journey at 8:45 a.m. in the morning. We informed our resort manager about late check-in while departing from Bangalore. We reached the base of the hills at around 4:00 p.m. and started upward journey. Within no time we were on narrow hilly road thereby encountering S curves, U turns, zig-zag roads, landslide affected lanes, and picturesque landscapes. We reached Pooppara @ 6:00 p.m. and were 32 Kms away from Munnar.
We took the turn towards Munnar and got the first glimpse of tea plantations. We were mesmerized by the beauty of the place with tea estates and breathtaking views of valley and lakes on the way. It was a pleasant drive on a good road with thin traffic. We enquired for our resort “Olive Brook” in but got the information that it is 5 Kms further from town in Pothamedu. Initially we got disappointed but headed towards our resort and again it was an adventurous 5 Kms through narrow roads but the moment we reached our destinations we were pleased to see a beautiful resort for our stay. We settled down on our cottage and were already refreshed by the fresh, cool, and soothing climate of Munnar. We gathered all the information about Munnar and finalized our itinerary for the next two days.
We woke up early for a stroll in the morning as we want to enjoy every second of our stay in Munnar. We were greeted by a refreshing misty morning. We came back to our cottage after a walk of half an hour amidst the nature. The rhythmic sound of flowing water along with chirping of birds felt like a soothing music to our soul. We are deprived all such luxuries in our hustling-bustling city. We sat on the verandah of our cottage and sipped the morning tea with a nice view of valley on the backdrop. After a wonderful complimentary breakfast at our resort we commenced our journey towards Top Station which is 32 Kms away from Munnar Town. We hired a guide (Stalin Ashok R) from Munnar to show us the important points in and around Munnar.
Just after 2 kms from Munnar town was a Floriculture Centre, also known as Flower Museum. A lot of tourists were halting there but we decided to move ahead. The guide gave us information about tea plantations and important flora of the areas. Tea plantation in Munnar was started by Britishers in 1880 and now around 1,35,000 acres of land is under tea plantation. The tea plants have a life of around 50 years. The tea plants are 36 cms in height and plucking is done twice in a month. The plucking is done with the help of specially designed scissors and is done by females only. Tata School is also established for the welfare of employee’s children.
On our way ahead the guide showed us a tree on which there were around 25 Honey Bee nests. The honey bees love the smell of the flower of that tree and hence make their nest it. This single tree is popularly known as Honey Bee Tree. We were running through the roads surrounded by vast expanse of tea plantations, forests, oak trees, and eucalyptus trees. We halted at a road side stall offering home grown fruits and tasted all of them. The passion fruit and tea tomato were amazing. They both have jelly like pulp inside which we need to eat. We loved it to the core.
We reached Mattupetty dam and lake which was about 10 kms further from Flower Museum on road to Top Station. This area had lots of visitor who were enjoying walk on lake side, boating, pleasant weather, and last but not the least the picturesque surroundings. We carried on our march towards Top station and in between passed Kundalay lake and Echo Point. The surroundings at the Kundalay Lake make it more beautiful than the Mattupetty lake. Even the types of boating facilities are more at Kundalay Lake. We took a brief halt and saw a wild elephant near the eucalyptus tree. It was an amazing experience of viewing a wild elephant gazing openly in forest. We wanted to capture the scenic beauty of lake with a nice backdrop and our guide helped us in taking us to a place to fulfil our wish. Believe us; it came out as a portrait image. Even it seems that nature has been generous to us. The purple-blue Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) was in bloom in some parts of the hilly grasslands thereby making the hill appear blue. Though Neelakurinji flowers bloom only once in 12 years and it has blossomed in the areas where it flowered in 2002. The Neelakurinji is in flowering mode in Mattupetty and Kundala.
Top Station is about 14 kms drive from Kundalay Lake and is at a height of 1700 m above sea level. Once again we had the beautiful views of the tea plantations spread around the hills and valleys. We reached the Top Station at around 1 p.m. but the climate was cloudy and we were not able to view the panoramic landscape of the Shola forests of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. We waited for some time and then decided to return back to Munnar. On our way back we stopped at one place which has an amazing view of the tea plantations across the hills and the valley. The climate changes within a split of a second, at one moment we had a clear view of the valley and the other moment it was covered with clouds. Every moment was precious and we captured some of them through our lenses and returned back to Munnar.
We reached Munnar by 2:00 p.m. and told our guide that we would like to have authentic south Indian food for our lunch. He took us to Hotel Saravana Bhavan and it was one of the most sumptuous and tasty vegetarian south Indian meal that we have ever had. The meals were served on banana leaves, which added glory to its authenticity. We ordered special thali for lunch and enjoyed every bit of it.
After lunch we went 18 Kms downwards on the Munnar-Kochi road to see the spice plantations. We paid spice plantation entry fee and saw different types of spice plantations and how they are cultivated. The plantation tour guide gave us brief information about all the spices and medicinal plants that they are cultivating. We saw the plantations of various spices and medicinal plants like black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leafs, nutmeg, asafoetida, brahmi, ashwagandha, tulsi, etc. They have their own shop as well where all products are on display and can be bought by visitors. We bought some useful stuffs and left from there. Our guide informed us that 2 Kms further down elephant ride is also available but we decided against it. On our way back to resort we saw the Attukal waterfalls located between Munnar and Pallivasal. The waterfall provides a mystic view of the water cascading down from scintillating heights. We reached our cottage and relaxed under the influence of nature.
Next day again we went for a walk and enjoyed the beautiful morning. After breakfast we checked out from the resort. We enquired regarding the entry to the Eravikulam National Park from the manager as our guide has informed us that it takes at least an hour or so to get the entry ticket at the national park. The resort manager gave us a solution for the same. We went to the forest office in the town and bought the passes for entry to national park. With this pass we do not have to stand in the queue at the national park as we have already paid INR 50/- per person extra for the convenience. Eravikulam National Park is around 14 Kms from Munnar town and took us half an hour to reach there. We immediately got the entry tickets and boarded the mini bus for the tour. We were grateful to the resort manager for the suggestion as it actually saved an hour of waiting in queue.
Eravikulam National Park is famous for its endangered inhabitant - the Nilgiri Tahr. Spread over an area of 97 sq. km., this park is also home to several species of rare butterflies, animals and birds. The park has the largest stretch of undisturbed montane shoal-grassland eco system in Western Ghats. Anamudi Peak is the highest peak in south India standing at a height of over 2695 m located inside the park. The bus journey took around 20 minutes on a 5 Kms winding single lane road. We were amazed with the driving skills of the mini bus drivers especially when they need cross each other on those narrow roads. Visitors are dropped near the park centre with small museum, a sale outlet for spices and local chocolates, souvenirs, a tea stall and rest rooms. From this point visitors have to walk till the viewing point.
While walking towards the view point, once again we had a vast panoramic view of the tea plantations, hills, and valley from the national park. Slowly and steadily we walked towards the top in anticipation of sighting the Nilgiri Tahrs but this day we weren’t lucky enough as the climate was very cloudy and they normally doesn’t come out in such weather. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the cool climate and ambience near the highest peak of southern region. To further go inside the forest for trekking forest department permission is required. At Rajmala also, the hill slopes get covered in a carpet of blue by the flowers Neelakurinji but this will happen in 2018 as the flower blooms once in twelve years. We returned to the park centre but this time we did not have the convenience of pass and waited in queue for an hour before boarding the mini bus.
We reached Munnar @ 3 p.m. and took our lunch in Hotel Saravana Bhavan and left for Kochi for our next destination. We loved every bit of our stay in Munnar. The hill station has virgin forests, rolling hills, scenic valleys, numerous streams, lakes, waterfalls, sprawling tea plantations, panoramic views, south Indian delicacies, and winding walkways which will remain in our memory forever.
This travelogue was first published by Cloud9miles.