What makes Munnar the perfect weekend getaway? It is a part of most Kerala itineraries these days along with Alappuzha and Kochi. It is also an ideal destination for group trips – in fact I’ve been to Munnar twice and both have been group trips from my colleges. Here’s all you need to know to plan your perfect weekend in this beautiful hill station.
Munnar is located in the Idukki district in Kerala. The most convenient railway stations are Ernakulam and Aluva. The closest airport is in Kochi. You will easily get buses or cabs to Munnar from these cities. You can also drive down from Bangalore via Erode and Avinashi (takes about 10-11 hours). The first time, I was travelling from Mangalore – the best option is to take the Malabar Express which leaves Mangalore Central at 6:15 pm and reaches Aluva at 3:45 am. From Aluva, you can take a bus or taxi to Munnar which takes about 3-4 hours. The second time, we hired a van from Kozhikode and drove all the way (took about 9 hours including the breaks for food and answering nature’s calls).
Things to Do (in no particular order)
Mattupetty Dam – definitely a must-visit when in Munnar! This is where I went speed boating for the first time in my life. It looks dangerous and scary, but it is really thrilling when you are on-board the boat. Within minutes, you reach the other end of the lake. The scenery here is just amazing – the hills, tea gardens, crystal clear water of the lake, chopping through the waters on the speed boat, the cool air and the gentle sunshine really made the day. If you’re lucky, you might get a daredevil boatman who will rock to the boat to some crazy angles and take a group pic!
Tea Gardens – as soon as you enter Munnar, you are surrounded by tea estates. You can pick one of the gardens which looks accessible to go for a mini-trek (just make sure you are not trespassing). There are usually small paths which go around the hill which are taken by the tea pickers. Or you can decide to be adventurous and cut through the shrubs. A few things you should know about trekking a tea garden. One, tea shrubs are strong – you can use them for support while climbing. Two, the soil is loose, and the terrain can get really steep really fast. So, make sure you have a firm footing. Three, keep going till you reach the top – the view would most certainly be amazing. Greenery all around, streams flowing in the distance, the gushing of water from the nearby dam, vehicles looking like toys on the road far away. And four, carry water – it can get really tiring and it would be a good idea to carry water. The tea gardens are really good photography locations – make sure you stop your vehicle for a few minutes and get those snaps!
Top Station – The perfect weather that you can get on Top Station is when the clouds are hanging low (which you would typically see right after the monsoon). The place was covered with clouds and you couldn’t see a few feet ahead of you! In fact, you could actually feel the moisture of the clouds. Standing at the edge, the sight was just amazing. Tea gardens all around, at steep angles along the hill, the clouds climbing along the hills at great speed and the small droplets of water accumulating on your face from them. Beware of leeches if you are going after the rains!
Echo Point – This point has a hill on the other side of a lake which acted as the echo wall. You have to be lucky that the trees help out in generating the echo. If you don’t hear the echo, you might as well have some good hot tea and pakodas at one of the stalls nearby.
Kundala Dam Lake – a good place to relax. The entire lakeside is covered with really tall trees (and I mean really tall). The place is perfect for photography.
Star Gazing – The night sky can get really clear here and you can see the constellations and stars up close. I remember spotting some shooting stars on my first trip. This again depends on the weather and the ideal time would be around Feb-Mar when the skies would typically be clear.
Tea Museum – Curious to know how the fresh green tea leaves turn into the black powder which goes into our teapot? You’ll get all your answers here.
Others – On the road to Munnar, there are a couple of beautiful waterfalls where you can stop and enjoy for some time. You can also visit the church near the market – it is a welcome change as the silence can be striking after the hustle and bustle outside.
Blooming Neelakurunji – every 12 years, the hills of Munnar are covered in blue with the blooming of the Neelakurunji flowers. You might even spot the Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain goat found only in this region. The flowers are scheduled to bloom between August to October 2018. This is a spectacle that should not be missed!
Things to Eat
Kerala food – you cannot miss the foods of Kerala – puttu, appam, banana fritters (pazham pori), the amazing non-veg dishes and of course, the Munnar tea. I remember the first time I went, I had a huge craving for puttu. For the uninitiated, puttu is steamed rice flour with grated coconut and is typically cylindrical in shape. It is eaten with kadala curry (chickpeas), chicken curry or sugar and banana. You can try out the thattukadas (small corner shops) for the authentic local flavour and sample some of the appam and chicken fry.
With the flocks of tourists coming in from everywhere, there are many options for north Indian food as well – but I would warn anyone who orders chapati or roti in any restaurant in Kerala – we are known for dosas and idlis and not for chapatis.
You can visit the local markets and pick up some fresh fruits – passion fruit, little red carrots and bananas. You can also try out the homemade chocolate available at many stores in the main market area. And last but not the least, you will always find the quintessential maggi and bread-omelette stalls which have now become a staple in every hill station.
For a Keralite who has only lived in the coastal region, it can be quite surprising to discover a cold hill station just a few hours away. For any person living the city life anywhere in the south, Munnar offers the perfect weekend getaway. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and enjoy some hot tea in the cool hills of Munnar!
Do leave a comment with your thoughts and experience if you have visited Munnar already! And subscribe for updates on the latest posts!