Have you ever compared the same piece of land before and after the rains?? Surely there must be some magic in those little tiny droplets that turns even a barren land to lush green carpet, and you could understand what would be the after effects of that nectar showering in form of rains, to already mesmerizing beautiful place in the God’s Own Country. Yes I’m talking about such a heaven in Kerala, better known as Munnar.
Kerala is described as God’s Own Country. You have to be there to understand it’s reason. It is a small, beautiful state having highest literacy percentage among all the states in India. In the mid June of 2018, we were in Kerala for a vacation. Monsoon season was a little delyed. We took a flight from New Delhi to Thiruvanantpuram, the capital city of Kerala. We had a long itinerary of 9 days. We commenced our journey from Thiruvanantpuram and concluded it at Kochi. (To further read our experiances of Kochi, click Jew Town Kochi: A Journey reminiscing the Past and Fort Kochi: The Legacy).
Our penultimate destination was the very charming, the queen of the southren western ghat hills, the ‘Darjeeling of South India’, the Munnar. Munnar is a very photogenic place having alluring vistas, lush green landscapes, less crowded as compared to other hill stations like Ooty and Coorg. It is a treat to eyes and a place to find peace and solace. Many small and big gushing waterfalls further inhance its aesthetic beauty.
Munnar is a very scenic place in Idukki District. Plenty of tourists spots are spread all over in Munnar. Actually these spots are situated mainly in four main directions. At the top and the most popular route among the tourists is the one leading to Mattupetty Dam. Many places of tourist’s attractions like Rose Garden, Forest Honey Bee Hive, Photo Point, Elephant Park, Mattupetti Dam, Elephant arrival spot, Echo Point, Kundala Lake, Top Station are situated in this direction.
The next one is Coimbatore direction, where you can visit Tea museum, Nyamakad waterfalls, Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Peak View (the highest peak in south India at 8842 ft), Luckom waterfalls, Sandalwood forest and the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Two more routes are towards Kochi direction where you can visit Blossom Park, Pothamedu View Point, Spice plantation, Attukad waterfalls and Dream Land Fun Park while the last route goes to Thekkady where you can view Lockhart Gap and Rock Cave, tea plantations, Chinnakal Waterfalls, Anayirangal Dam and Spice plantations.
Exactly on this day, two years ago, ie. on 12th June, 2018, we were in Munnar. We chose Whispering Meadows as our abode for our stay at Munnar. The resort is poised at an impressive height of 6000 feet, away from the town, and in my opinion, is the best place to indulge in the beauty and freshness, Munnar is famous for.
We were travelling all the way from Thekkady to Munnar. Thanks to our misfortune, the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve was inaccessible because of heavy rains. Because of the same reason, it took us more than normal time to reach Munnar. So, we decided to stay in our cozy beds, sipping hot tea rather than going out in somewhat cold twilight.
Next day, we started our excursion by heading to Mattupetty Dam, after a heavy breakfast. Mattupetty Dam is located approximately 13 km from Munnar on Top Station Road. It is a storage Concrete Gravity dam, built to conserve water and create hydroelectricity. It is one of the major dam of Kerala, operating since 1953. It has scenic surrounds, it’s lake is nestled in thick forests which draws elephants and other wild animals to quench their thirst. You will surely enjoy it’s pollution free, clean atmosphere. Many waterborne sport activities can also be enjoyed here between 9 AM to 5:30 PM. Like several corn lovers, we too enjoyed very yummy, boiled and roasted corn near dam.
Our next destination was the Echo Point. As the name suggests, it is a point at which the natural echo phenomenon occures. This captivating beauty is the junction of three well-known mountain ranges namely Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. Yelling with your full strength and then hearing your own voice returning to you from all over, was a very funny experience. You can find here, many shops selling chocolates, different varieties of tea and eatables. Hot ginger and cardamom tea is a must try. Boating is available here too.
Our next halt was Kundala lake. There is a lot to be said about the dam built here. The name of the dam is Sethuparvati dam, which is the first arch dam of Asia and was built in as early as 1946. A nearby waterfall named as Aurivikkad is also a tourist attraction. A flower known as Neelakurinji, which blossoms once in 12 years, can also be seen in nearby hills. You can hire a pedal boat or Shikara (a type of boat mainly found in Kashmir) to have a great time in lake.
Here follows a very interesting story. I’ll narrate it in two parts. Here goes the first part. While enjoying the vistas from the dam, I spotted a very strange creature at a tree, at a distance, in the jungle down there. Since I had neither any idea nor hope of such an pleasant encounter, I was carrying only 18-55 mm lens for clicking the landscapes. Seeing that mammal, I almost ran towards our cab to grab my 55-250 mm lens. In the mean time that creature had moved in some denser branches. I tried my best to take a shot. In fact I clicked several but not to my satisfaction. I became very disappointed but couldn’t do much about it, so returned to our cab and started towards the Top Point, our last point of visit of the day.
Although the entire munnar is very scenic itself but in my opinion, the Top Point is the most picturesque spot near Munnar (at a distance of 32 km). Actually it is situated in Theni district of Tamil Nadu. Yet the only road that connects it with the rest of the world goes through Kerala. It is simply heavenly and the panoramic views from here are just breathtaking. This place has it’s own history too.
The Top Point derived it’s name from its being the upper terminus of the Kottagudi Aerial Rope-way. It was the terminus railway station on the Kundala Valley Railway, built in as early as 1902 between Munnar and up to this point. Tea from Kannan Devan Tea Estate was brought here from Munnar by a monorail goods carriage system and then down by rope-way to Kottagudi and from there to rest of the world. This saved a lot of time and effort. If you visit this place you will be astonished and surely appreciate that how clever and optimal this solution was.
There is also a view point down the hill for which you have to buy a ticket and descend about 1500 ft. Me and my brother-in-law Abhijeet, started descending but returned mid way as the weather was getting heavy and downpour would have started any time.
It was our last point of visit for the day. Later in the evening, we went for a leisure walk and dinner in the city. At Saravana Bhawan in Munnar market MG Road, obeying an old proverb, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’, we ordered mouth watering and delicious Dosa of various types.
The morning of the next day was very beautiful. Just imagine, sitting on the terrace in the luke warmth of sun, the cold breeze, the rain-drenched greenery, a cup of hot cardamom tea, twittering of birds, dense jungle in the valley in front of you, rising clouds, splashing sound of water in a nearby waterfall..!! I bet, the morning can’t be better than this.
And here starts the next part of the story… I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I saw the same animal right in front of me. As if it came just to give me a second chance to shoot it. It was the height of co-incidence. The mammel was on the trunk of a tree just in front of our resort. And there was I, overwhelmed and exhilarated. This time I was fully equipped. I took dozens of shots. It was the Malabar giant squirrel in full stretch.
Later in the day, we visited Tea Museum (A property of Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company Pvt. Ltd, owned by Tata Tea), popularly known as Tata Tea Museum. It remains open from 9 AM to 4 PM, Monday being the holiday. In a hall, they explained every aspect of tea processing right from sorting to the final product. The museum has some interesting artifacts from the time of the British era. A part of the tea factory has been converted to an outlet where you can buy different varieties of tea as well as coffee, honey and jam. A short documentary film of about 30 min duration was also part of the visit which was worth watching and was a great introduction to the history of the Munnar and surrounding tea plantations.
It took almost two hours to visit the tea museum completely. After that, we visited a very beautiful and well kept flower garden. One can purchase flowering plants and samplings from here. I too purchased a Sandal plant but it couldn’t survive much.. 😦
We kept on roaming all the evening on the rain drenched roads of this beautiful town. Later in the evening, we had a quality time in a pizzeria over dinner. That marked the end of our last day in Munnar. Next morning, post breakfast, with a heavy heart, we said a bid adieu to Munnar and left for Kochi.
What We Missed
Infact we missed many things. We missed many wild life sanctuaries like Eravikulam National Park, Annamudi Shola National Park, Cave Paintings, night safari, Sandalwood forest, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Photo Point, Elephant Park, Elephant arrival spot, Kolukkumalai Tea Estate etc. But the most precious thing that we missed was the blooming of Neelakurinji flower, which was scheduled to be in 2018 but we were a little too early. Next time it will blossom again in 2030. But I think, we had covered the maximum possible destinations in two day time.
How to Reach
Munnar being a hill station, doesn’t has any railway station of it’s own. Ernaulam (the railway station of Kochi) is the nearest prominent railhead at 130 km. Other railway stations are at Madurai at 135 km and Coimbatore at 155 km. These citites are well connected to the rest of the country by rail, road and air. One can easily get public or private transportation from there.
All the three cities namely Kochi, Madurai and Coimbatore are connected to the rest of the country by aerial routes too. You can take flights from other cities of India to either Kochi or to Madurai and from there public or private transportation to Munnar.
Munnar is well connected to all the major cities of south India by all weather roads. Bus services ply on regular basis from the major cities.
When to Visit
Munnar can be visited throughout the year. However, you may face some problems in rainy season as the area receives heavy rainfall. You must carry heavy woolens in December – January. October to May is the best time to visit.
Where to Stay
Munnar has plenty of options to stay. Whispering Meadows, where we stayed is a good option. Misty Mountain Resort, The Sienna Village, Tea County is a premium hill resort of Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, Bell Mount Resort are some other good options.
What to Purchase
Munnar is mainly famous for it’s tea. It is a good place for buying your favourite long leaf black tea or flavored green tea or aromatic cardamom tea and coffee, home-made chocolates, spices like cardamom, clove, cinnamon and natural aromatic oils. Aromatic essential oils like eucalyptus oil, lemongrass, and citriodora are very good for treating body and joint pains and for nasal congestion etc. The best quality tea could be bought directly from the outlets of Tata Tea Museum and Kolukkumalai Tea Estate. Kumily is famous spice market to buy spices. Apart from spices, you can also shop for some traditional Kerala items, like Nilavilakku (a traditional lamp), which is considered auspicious on any festival or occasion or hand-made model of snake boat etc .