This picturesque hill station was first developed as a summer resort by the British rulers of India. Undulating expanses of tea plantations, pristine valleys and mountains, the aroma of spice scented cool air – Munnar is another sublime face of God’s Own Country. Munnar is such a beautiful place, when some on thought about south India tourism then first came to their mind.
Situated in the Western Ghats range of mountains, the name ‘Munnar’ refers to the “three rivers” at whose confluence the town stands. Munnar still retains its timeless charm and a fascinating diversity of flora and fauna continue flourish in the many wildlife parks and forests that surround the town and several threatened and endemic animal species including the nilgiri tahr, the grizzled giant squirrel, nilgiri wood pigeon, elephants, gaur, the nilgiri langur and sambar thrive as well. And once every twelve years, the fabled Neelakurinji plant blooms, with the flowers turning the hillsides into veritable oceans of blue.
ERAVIKULAM NATIONAL PARK
The Eravikulam is the largest wildlife park in Kerala set atop a plateau composed of clusters of shola grasslands and crisscrossed by perennial streams. Anamudi – at 2695m the tallest peak south of the Himalayas in India – towers over this park that is home to the largest surviving population of about 750 Nilgiri Tahr in addition to Gaurs, Indian muntjacs and sambar deer, golden jackals, jungle cats, wild dogs, dhole, leopards and tigers. Elephants also enter the park occasionally. Still more elusive are the Nilgiri langur, stripe-necked mongoose, Indian porcupines, Nilgiri martens, small clawed otters, the ruddy mongoose and dusky Palm Squirrel. Higher up, in the trees over a hundred species of birds thrive in the park – flycatchers, Nilgiri pipits, wood pigeons and verditer flycatchers, white bellied short wings, laughing thrushes. The Eravikulam National Park is being considered for selection as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The name of this place means ‘where elephants descend’ in the language spoken in the area and accurately describes the attraction that visitors will find – elephants. Visitors will get to watch a herd of elephants coming down and drinking at a large lake that abuts a dam and is surrounded by lush tea plantations and evergreen forests.
Thanks to the availability of clean water in the reservoir behind the Mattupetty dam the area is a magnet that attracts large numbers of wild animals and birds from the surrounding forests. The reservoir is not only a popular destination for tourists, numerous herds of descend to the bottom of the valley to drink and frolic in the water!
MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH MUNNAR
The Munnar Mount Carmel Church is the first Catholic Church to be built in the high-ranges in 1898 by Father Alfonso, a Spanish missionary who is also buried here. A couple of splendid statues of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary re displayed in the church besides a grotto dedicated to ‘Our lady of Lourdes’. Visited mostly by history buffs and those with a religious bent.
TEA MUSEUM MUNNAR
The tea museum and factory conceived and managed by Tata Tea are both situated on an edge of Munnar town. A tour of the museum provides visitors a close up view of tea-making processes in the area, right from its nascent origins in the 18th century to the present.
Sepia-tinted photographs of pioneers in the plantations, machinery new and old, office equipment – a quaint tea roller from1905, an early ‘Pelton Wheel’ that helped produce power at the power plant, a rail engine wheel from the Kundale Valley Light Railway that once shuttled men and material between Munnar and Top Station.
Another section in the museum houses colonial era bungalow furniture – a wooden bathtub, a magneto phone, an iron oven and office mainstays like typewriters, manual calculators and an EPABX from 1909.
Visitors may sample a variety of blends in the factory’s demonstration room. A 30-minute video presentation every hour explains the history of Munnar, its plantations and the social development initiatives put in place for the company’s workers.
CHEEYAPPARA AND VALARA WATER FALLS
A pair of pretty waterfalls, one that cascades down a hill side in seven gigantic stages and another that is actually a series of cataracts that gush as they leap down a tall rock face. Located between Neriamangalam and Adimali about 10 km on the Kochi – Madurai Highway, a midst dense forests and a great spot for trekking and picnicking.
POTHAMEDU VIEW POINT
Pothamedu is a small village about 6km from Munnar town and besides serving as one of the prominent tea plantation hubs in the area the prime attraction here is a panoramic view from a mountain – tea, coffee and cardamom estates tucked away in the valleys, roads snaking through, forest clad mountain slopes and peaks draped in mist. On a clear day visitors can view the great arch of the Idukki dam.