Since childhood, I always wondered what is so special about Kerala (a state in southwest India) that it is being referred to God’s own country. Though I travelled a lot in India, somehow my plans to visit Kerala could not get materialized until this summer when I with my husband and my parents finally set foot in Munnar-breathtakingly beautiful – a haven of peace and tranquillity – the idyllic tourist destination in God’s own country.
Munnar is a town and hill station located in the Idukki district of the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. It is situated at around 1,600 meters (5,200 ft) above mean sea level, in the Western Ghats range of mountains and is well known for its unending expanse of tea plantations, pristine valleys, majestic mountains and exotic species of flora and fauna in its wild sanctuaries and forests.
Top tourist places in Munnar are – Forest Flower Garden, Photo Point, Mattupatty Dam, Echo Point, Kundala Lake, Top Station viewpoint, Pothamedu Viewpoint, Athukadu waterfalls, karadipara viewpoint, spice garden, kallar waterfalls, Lakkam Waterfalls, Thoovanam waterfalls, Hydel Park, Tea Museum, Eravikulam National Park, ChinnarWildlife Sanctuary; these are the must visit places in Munnar, I used VisitIn App to find the best and shortest sequence to visit all these places, which significantly saved my time.
It was a 3 day trip from Bengaluru. Distance from Bengaluru to Munnar is approx 450 km via Udumalpet – Munnar Rd. On Friday night at 10:00 PM, we started from Bengaluru via Royal Travels AC sleeper bus and it was quite comfortable. It took around 12 hours to reach Munnar. We reached around 10 in the morning at Munnar bus stand. Auto and cabs are easily available from here. If you want you can also book them for a sightseeing tour of Munnar. We had already booked our hotel “GreenSpaces B&B” through booking.com. We checked the distance on Google maps and it was showing just 4 km from there but when we confirmed it with few auto drivers they told us it is around 10 km from here. They were right as our hotel was quite far from the main town, situated inside the forest area of Devikulam, a panoramic hillside near Munnar, google map was not able to show the complete route till the hotel. In Munnar instead of depending on Google maps, you can trust local cab drivers. They are quite honest and charge genuinely.
It was a cloudy day, the mist had covered the mountain peaks.We could feel the cool misty breeze on our faces. Our resort was 6 km inside from main Pallivasal Road. As we took a cut from the main road towards the hotel, the road became very narrow, covered with lush green forests from both the sides. There were very few homestay and resorts on the way. It was a perfect area for those, who want the peaceful location to stay, in a completely natural surroundings away from the town. Riding up and down on mountainous jungle trails, as we reached the hotel we were amazed to see this nature-themed accommodation. It was a beautiful small place comprising of only 5 rooms, in the middle of cardamon plantation. The walls and roofs were completely covered with creepers, it was like a hidden cottage of some fairy tale. The wooden decor of the room was giving off the natural vibe. As we opened the balcony doors, the cool misty breeze filled our room. We had an ultimate experience of living in the forest, in the close proximity to nature, so peaceful and wild.
After getting ready we started for sightseeing tour of the town.We booked the cab for sightseeing tour for 3 days in 4000 Rs from the same person who drove us to our hotel in the morning. There are lots of tourist attractions in Munnar and they are scattered in 4 different directions – Mattupetty direction, Coimbatore direction, Cochin direction and Thekkady Direction. You require at least 1 day for each direction.
On the first day as we had less time to travel, we started for Cochin direction as it could be easily covered in 5-6 hours. On our way, At first, we stopped at Pothamedu View Point which offers a good view of the valley, though not the best. What makes it perfect is a glass of masala tea from a tea stall just in front of the viewpoint. Next, we stopped to get the view of Athukadu waterfalls from a distance as our driver told us that due to some accidental slipping of some foreigner in the fall last year, the trekking to the waterfall is not permitted. Next, we halted for some refreshment at Karadippara viewpoint. The view from this point at Karadipara was simply awesome, you could see the vast and sprawling mountain as far as gaze can go and it was a nice perch to get some great photographs. After enjoying the beautiful view with dosa and a cup of tea, we headed towards Kallar waterfalls. It was a medium height fall located in a dense forest area. We had to walk almost half km to reach here, it was more like a small trekking. After having some fun in cold and fresh water of the fall we moved ahead for Spice Garden visit at Kerala Farm. There was an entry fee of 100 rupees which include a short jeep ride down to the farm (you could walk down to the farm if you wanted to) and a guided tour. It was quite exciting to see the various spices plants like Black Pepper, cloves, cardamom and other medicinal plants like Brahmi, Sathavari, Neela Amari, Insulin etc. Our guide also explained about traditional and medicinal uses of all the plants. It was a beautiful farm to walk around. After the tour of the garden, you are taken to the shop where you can purchase the products that you have just learnt about. The products are expensive, do not feel compelled to buy so many products as it will cost you huge. You can get all those products everywhere in Kerala. Overall the visit was good and knowledgeable. After this we reached the last spot of our day1 trip- Hydel Park which is about 3 km away from Munnar town, is situated towards the old Munnar nearby the banks of River Muthirappuzha and the misty Kannan Devan Hill Tea Estates.It had a vast stretch of landscaped mounts, gardens, artificial waterfalls & lawns, that offer a wide range of facilities to make visitors feel relaxed and rejuvenated. You can also enjoy fish spa there.
On next day we got ready early and started for Mattupetty Direction. Many of the most beautiful spots of Munnar are in this direction. Main attractions include Flower Garden, Photo Point, Jungle Honey Bee Nest, Elephant Ride at Carmelagiri Elephant Park, Botanical Garden, Mattupetty Dam, Echo Point, Tribal village view, Kundala Lake, Vegetable Farm and Top Station viewpoint.
Flower Garden: It is a beautiful garden with hundreds of rare varieties of flowers and herbal plants with large tea plantations in the background.
Jungle Honey Bee Nest– Honey Bee Nest is located at 4 Km away from Munnar on the way to Mattupetty. You can see around 20-25 honeybee nest occupied in a single tree.
Carmelagiri Elephant Park- It offers a ride on the back of an elephant through the rugged terrain and deep valleys of the Misty Munnar forests. The ticket for per person is 400 Rs for 45 min ride. As we were short of time so we skipped it.
Mattupetty Dam– Located 13 km away from Munnar the dam of Mattupetty is a storage concrete gravity dam constructed in late 1940. It is a vital source of electricity generation in Munnar and also a haven for many wild animals and birds due to its constant water availability.The most attractive part of Mattupetty dam is its still water which reflects the tea garden around. You can also enjoy water sports activities like speed boating organized by District Tourism Promotion Council of Idukki (Munnar) or do the horse riding in the pretty natural surroundings of this beautiful dam.
Mattupetty Indo-Swiss Farm- on the way to Mattupatty dam, It is the dairy farm, run by the Indo-Swiss Livestock Project for the development of new high-quality cattle breed suitable for Indian environment. The Tourists are allowed to visit the farm with an entry fee of Rs. 5 per head from 9 am to 11 and 2 pm to 3.30 pm. It was not included in our itinerary but we could see plenty of those cattle grazing in the pastures on both sides of the roads.
Echo Point- Situated on the way to Top Station from Munnar, this scenic place gets its name from the natural echo phenomenon here.
Kundala Dam – Located approximately 20 km from Munnar on the way to Top Station, Kundala Dam is Asia’s first Arch Dam. The picturesque Kundala lake is surrounded by green valleys and majestic landscapes.The boating experience at this dam is a wonderful experience beyond words. Boating facilities namely pedal boats, Kashmiri shikhara boats, and row boats are available on rent to make your trip more enjoyable.
Top Station- Situated 32 km from Munnar, the highest point (1700m) on the Munnar-Kodaikanal road, Top Station offers a panoramic view of the majestic Western Ghats. The rare Neelakurinji (Strobilanthus), for which the destination is popular, blooms once in twelve years.
While returning we got down 1 km before our resort and decided to walk to the resort.While walking on ups and downs on mountain slopes with eucalyptus and oak tree forests on both sides, Fresh air filled with the aroma of spices was so refreshing. It rejuvenated us completely. Half km from our resort there was tea plantation. We went to the top of the slopes of the plantation, from there we could see thick forest down the slopes, and heard some voices of wild animals. As time passed, more and more clouds started coming and covered the forest completely. We got down fast and rushed towards the hotel so that we can reach the hotel before darkness as the path leading from there to our hotel passes through forest and there were no street lights on the way. It becomes completely dark as night falls. Only the resort street had some lights. The views from those streets were better than any of the sightseeing destinations. we enjoyed that wilderness near our resort.
It was the last day of our trip, we had our bus at 4 o’clock in the evening for Bengaluru. We had half day to visit, we decided to go for Eravikulam National Park, a sanctuary for the endangered mountain goat of South India, the Nilgiri Tahr. We checked out from the hotel in the morning and left for National Park. It is the most sought after destination in Munnar and lies 10 km away in Coimbatore direction from Munnar bus stand. It is UNESCO World Heritage Site.The sanctuary is divided into three regions – the core area, the buffer area and the tourism area. Visitors are allowed only to the tourism area – Rajamalai – the region lying beyond the road entry into Eravikulam. Our cab driver left us outside the Rajamalai as Private vehicles are not allowed inside. From there we were taken in forest dept mini buses to 4 KM long hill. As there is a huge rush, you need to wait in ques to get into the bus. Avoid going on weekends. We went on Monday still we had to wait for 45 minutes but the wait was worth.That Bus ride was charismatic experience offering a magnificent view of the tea plantations and rolling hill plateau caressed by blankets of mist.
The terrain was completely covered with grasslands interspersed with shola forests.Many perennial streams criss-cross the park. After 4 km ride, the bus dropped at a point from where we could walk 1 Km inside the park. In this 1 km walk, we got to see many Nilgiri Tahrs from very close quarters. From here you also get a mesmerizing view of Anamudi, the highest peak (2695 m) south of Himalayas, standing majestically in the core area of the national park.
The park becomes a hot destination when the hill slopes get covered in a carpet of blue, resulting from the flowering of Neelakurinji. It is a plant endemic to this part of the Western Ghats which blooms once in twelve years. In 2018 it is going to bloom again :). We hope to visit again next year.
This was by far the best place to see in Munnar. We returned from there around 2 o’clock. Still, we had 2 hours left. So we decided to visit the C.S.I Christ Church, an old British era stone church on the way to bus stand. Standing in a tranquil location, it had charming interiors which still retained stained-glass windows, brass plaques, rows of rosewood pews and an ornate chandelier. After this short visit to the church, we went for some shopping in the town like famous Munnar Tea, spices, essential oils, and some wooden handicrafts.
At 3:45 we reached the bus stand and boarded our bus SRS travels. The bus route was very scenic. As the bus crosses through Chinnar wildlife area it offers a beautiful view of dense forest valleys and rivers passing through it. Now I know the beauty of Kerala and its forest is incomparable and it is truly God’s own country.