The Munnar region of Kerala offers so very much to see and to do.
We enjoyed a weeks stay last May, which would rate as one of our best trips ever.
Broadly, there are several 'areas' of Munnar - the actual town which is cramped and a bit grotty but good for purchasing tea [the local leaf tea is good] and spices, or for enjoying a meal at several excellent small restaurants.
Then there are the tea estates, vast acres surrounding the town on all sides, some covering entire mountain sides. We enjoyed several quiet walks through the pathways of the Chokkanadu estates along the Munnar Devikulam road. The general rule is, if it is unfenced you can walk through, if fenced, keep away. The adventurous can hire a jeep to visit the high altitude Kollukumalai tea estate at the end of the Munnar Chinnakanal Suryanelli road. Kollukumalai is also famous for its unique orthodox process leaf tea.
Likewise there are several patches of endemic shola forest, many adjoining the tea estates. Nature lovers will enjoy walking through these to see the unique flora and if lucky, fauna. Watch out for leeches here especially in warm weather. If you fancy an unusual guided walk through a dense shola forest, go on a short trek into the Pambadum Shola sanctuary at Top Station view point. These can be booked at site or through the DTPC office at Munnar town.
The lakes: Madupetty and Kundala lakes are along the Top Station road, these are popular for their boating facilities. Those who prefer a bit of quiet can go further beyond the boating areas, nip through the light forest to the lake shore and relax in solitude. Top Station has the highest tea estates at around 1900+m. Those who dare can attempt to walk through the almost vertical tea paths here! It offers superb views and overlooks the Bodinayakannur district of Tamil Nadu. A bad road leads from Top Station to Kodaikanal, barely 50km away, however prior permission of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu Forest Departments are required to use this route which is also a popular trek path circumventing the Berijam lake. There is another pristine lake at Devikulam however it is the private propert of Tata Tea and permission is required to visit it. The less visited but equally pretty Anaierankal [elephants descent] Lake on the Munnar Thekkady road is also worth a visit, elephants, sambars and bisons can be sighted at the lakeshores here early mornings and late evenings.
The wildlife reserves: Eravikulam National Park - entry point at Rajamala just outside Munnar town on the Maraiyur Udumalpet road, is the home of the Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain goat. It is also has protected endemic grasslands interspersed with shola forests, which also offer spectacular mass blooming kurinji flowers once in 12 years [last in 2006]. Anaimudi the tallest mountain in peninsular India at just under 2700m, lies within this sanctuary. It is an easy climb to the peak but permission from the Forest Department is a must. As there are always long queues to enter Rajamala, it is wise to go as early in the morning as possible. The protected but fenced off endemic sandalwood forests of Maraiyur lie further along the same Udumalpet road. After Maraiyur comes the deciduous Chinnar sanctuary, the home of the star tortoise and grizzled giant squirrel. As the road passes through the forest, it is common to sight deer, elephants, langur, bisons, etc early mornings and evenings. At the Alampetty checkpost en route, you can engage a tribal guide for a short trek to the Thoovanam waterfalls or to the prehistoric cave paintings.
Just off Maraiyur on the Kovilkadavu road, lie the prehistoric Muniyara dolmens. A good place to see them is at St Pious Nagar where the entire rock face of the hillside is covered in dolmens. The road goes further to Kanthaloor, a scenic rural vegetable and fruit growing area. For anyone wanting to explore this under rated region in depth, there are a few hotels available at Maraiyur. Coimbatore is a more convenient airport and rail head than Cochin for those intending to stay at Maraiyur.
The Munnar Udumalpet route has the most spectacular scenery, ringed by high mountains all around with deep valleys, waterfalls, tea estates, shola forests, streams and colourful roadside trees of red spathodea, orange flame of the forest and purple jacaranda, changing to yellow Indian laburnum and bright red Gulmohr after Maraiyur.
The waterfalls: There are several all over the place but the big and famous ones are in the Pothamedu / Cochin road area. Athukad falls is the popular face of Munnar tourism posters. Further down are the Cheeyapara and Vallara falls. These are best just after the monsoons but usually flow throughout the year.
Hotels and home stays in all budget ranges are located in the Pothamedu area, the Chinnakanal area - most scenic, and the town area. Several tea estates offer their heritage bungalows for stays - at the higher end of the spectrum. As the sights are all spread out, it is convenient to hire a car with driver for the duration of the stay.
Overall, Munnar is the most perfect holiday destination with so very much to see. Even at the height of peak season, there are always places where you can be by yourself. We enjoyed our stay immensely and look forward to a longer stay on the next visit.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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