A picturesque countryside hill station, Munnar has India’s highest tea gardens, and a unique flora and fauna along the Western Ghats in the southern India state of Kerala. With something for everyone, backpackers and adventure seekers can look forward to conquering South India's highest mountain peak, exploring numerous waterfalls and also paragliding in the misty mountain peaks overlooking the green tea gardens.
This serene hill station was a summer resort of the British who also introduced tea cultivation in this region. Make sure that you indulge into tea tasting sessions and learn about tea making process.
A proof of Munnar’s unique flora and fauna is the rare blue flower called "neelakurinji" which blooms only once in every 12 years in the place. Eravikulam National Park in the locality is where you can find the endangered mountain goat species of Nilgiri Tahr. Adventure loving Backpackers can trek on the highest peak in South India, Anamudi, at 2,695 m.
Munnar is popular among Indian honeymooners, but it surely has a variety of attractions which would suit all kinds of travelers and Backpackers
Best time for Backpackers to visit Munnar - September to March
Text and Images by : Mahip Vyas - An Indian Backpacker
Mahip Vyas is a mobile internet professional who has travelled across three continents including extensive travel across India. While on the road, he loves to learn about the way of life of a place by exploring secret getaways, photographing its fauna-flora and tasting local cuisines. Few of his photographs have been featured in Economic Times Travel as “Picture of the Week”. He is also an avid quizzer since early age and continues to cultivate his passion from his popular business quiz blog – The Daily Grill. He goes by the principle of “One Life, Live It!” and writes about travel destinations around the globe during his free time.
Best time to Visit Munnar
Best season to visit Munnar is between August to May. Munnar has a pleasant climate all throughout the year and can be visited anytime.
How to Reach
Modes of transport and How to reach Munnar :
Munnar By Air
Kochi International Airport is 130 kms from Munnar.
Madurai International Airport is 140kms from Munnar.
Munnar By Train
The nearest railway station is Aluva, 110 kms. Ernakulam is 130 kms and Madurai is 135kms. Direct buses are available from these cities to Munnar all through the day.
Munnar By Car
Munnar is 130 kms from Kochi. Being a hilly region, the roads have lots of bends and sharp turns. It takes 3-4 hours to reach Munnar by a private taxi and may take longer in a bus. Hire a taxi or a driver with local driving experience. There are several scenic waterfalls and spice gardens on the way to Munnar and the drive is very scenic.
Tea gardens are visible on both sides of the road just before 15-20 kms from the main town. Munnar can be reached from nearby cities like Aluva, Madurai, Coimbatore, and Kodaikanal either by hiring a private taxi or boarding a bus.
Munnar By Bus
Munnar bus station is on the main street, city center.
From Kochi it takes 4-5 hours to reach Munnar. Buses leave Kochi between 6AM-6PM. Last bus leaves at 17:30 from KSRTC Interstate Bus Terminus (near Ernakulam Jn. South).
Almost all signage on the public transport are in the local language, Malayalam. However, locals would happily help you in directions if you ask a question with English keywords. Make sure that you catch the right bus by confirming the schedule with the nearest bus office or the bus conductor.
The signage on the roads and highways are English and Malayalam, which makes it easier for a Backpacker to double check on his location and travel directions.
Kerala is famous for its sea food, specially the Fish Curry and Prawn Curry cooked in coconut milk.
Do not miss the local spicy cashew nut and fresh farm vegetables like carrot, radish, etc.
You’ll find all kinds of eating options in Munnar – road-side, mid-range, North Indian, South Indian, Vegetarian, Non-Vegetarian, Chinese and even Continental. Fresh tea, coffee and milk are available at most places. Hard and soft drinks are also available at a fair number of shops.
Saravana Bhavan - City Center, offers South Indian dishes, served on a banana leaf.
Purohit Restaurant - at Chilling Plant Road, Munnar, has a large variety with Jain, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Punjabi and South Indian cuisines.
Copper Castle – Restaurant - Kannan Devan Hills, offers delectable Chinese, Indian and Continental food.
Winter Yard, Clouds Valley Leisure Hotel - is more global with American, Asian, Bakery, European, Chinese, Café, Dessert, English, Indian, Seafood, Thai, and Continental options!
Places to Shop
Places to shop in Munnar
Munnar is not a shoppers paradise and you wont find many big brands/Shopping Malls here.
Munnar main market is the main shopping area.
You may buy Ayurvedic health items, varieties of tea, coffee, spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and pepper, and home made chocolates.
Things to do
Places of Interest in and around Munnar
The various places of interest in Munnar are spread across 15-20 kms, hence it is better to hire a local cab, or book a day tour with a travel agent to explore the place. You can also rent a motorbike or bicycle in Munnar. The temperature ranges between 5 °C (41 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) in winter and 15 °C (59 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) in summer. The tourist season is from September-March. The rainy season lasts from May to August. In any case, rain gear is recommended at most times. Some of the must see places for every Backpacker or Traveller heading to Munnar are :
Atukkad Waterfalls is a scenic one, set amidst hills and jungles, and approximately 8kms from city center.
Floriculture Centre with a beautiful collection of flowers and herbs.
Photo Point where every tourist stops to get a snap with the backdrop of tall trees and tea plantations.
Mattupetti Dam is popular place for boating and horse riding, and a great place for a family day out. Standing atop it, the dam offers some scenic views of the town.
Echo Point is the standard place at every hill station, isn’t it? Your loud call here will be echoed from the surrounding hills while the lake gives a serene look to the place.
Elephant Ride Spots are available on the sharp roads of Munnar. You’ll come across various points where you may hire an elephant for a ride in the forest. These rides are time bound like 30 mins, 1 hour, etc.
Kundala Lake is another lake near the town which is popular for boating.
Top Station is a wonderful tourist attraction and situated close to Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. This place gives a real 'walking in the clouds' experience.
Tata Tea Museum or KDHP Tea Museum is a must see where tourists can see the actual processing and production of tea. There is also a beautiful museum reminding of the British era and has some great collection of artefacts. Tourists can also watch a 20 minute movie about the history of tea plantations in Munnar. They also offer tea tasting in their facility, so do check about this option with the management.
Eravikulam (Rajamalai) National Park is home to the endangered species of the mountain goat Nilgiri Thar and some rare flora and fauna. You may also find lion-tailed macaque, leopards, and tigers in the park. The Neelakurinji Flowers turn the hills of this region blue every 12 years. The next bloom will be in 2018. Please be aware that this park remains closed every year around February-March. Before visiting Munnar please check if the park is open.
Anamudi Peak inside Eravikulam National Park is the highest peak (2,695 m) south of the Himalayas and towers over the sanctuary in majestic pride. An ideal place for trekking, do check with the local authorities of the park about special permissions for a trek.
Punarjani Traditional Village showcases the culture of Kerala by displaying the oldest form of Indian martial art - Kalaripayattu - and also the classic dance form of Kerala – Kathakali. A must do activity indeed.
Spice Gardens - many of which are dotted along the roads, are a must visit. Spare some 30mins here to see the various spice plants, and learn medicinal uses of the spices and herbs of India.