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India’s primary tea growing district of Munnar
Located in the southern state of Kerala, Munnar is one of the highest hill stations in South India and primarily known for its surrounding tea plantations. Whilst tea is the main industry in this area, Munnar is also a hub for tourism, seeing thousands of visitors coming to escape the intense heat and enjoy the picturesque nature. Indeed, the months leading up to monsoon season are the most hectic but even at peak times there are always peaceful spots to be found. Whether it’s tea, trekking or tranquillity, Munnar has it covered.
A gateway to stunning mountain scenery
Kerala is one of the most tourism-reliant states in South India, thanks to its diverse mix of culture and scenery, of which Munnar is a major part. Located high up in the Western Ghats mountain range close to the state border with Tamil Nadu, the temperatures are much more mild and welcoming than coastal Kerala and it was these benefits which initially saw Munnar established by the British in the mid nineteenth century. Due to its remote location, the most common route into the town is by road and there are regular bus connections to the large cities of Cochin and Trivandrum, as well as to Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Buses drop passengers either at the bus depot a few kilometres south of Munnar, or to a stop right in the heart of the town. This ensures visitors can find their way to any of the hotels in Munnar on foot, but there is of a course a plethora of local rickshaw drivers keen to obtain business. The road leading into Munnar from the coast becomes a series of hairpin bends cutting through the steep landscape, but it provides some wonderful views of the surroundings especially once the tea plantations begin.
Also a vibrant and diverse town
Munnar town, although quite small geographically as well as in terms of population, has a bustling little centre full with market stalls and street vendors. As a result, it is ideal for stocking up on essentials before embarking on a greater trip into the encircling countryside. There are also several attractions and points of interest within the town limits, including some excellent examples of local architecture. Munnar Juma Masjid, Subramanya Temple and The Christ Church perfectly demonstrate the religious and cultural diversity of the region and are all worth a visit. The diversity is also reflected in the culinary scene within Munnar; it is home to a variety of local restaurants serving a range of speciality dishes. Kerala is known for its fish curry and although Munnar is reasonably far from the ocean, there indeed are some excellent examples of fish curry to be found. Restaurants vary incredibly around the town, from in-house hotel cuisine to independent family establishments and a range of incredible street food.
Stunning tea plantations and elegant waterfalls
Of course, with any of India’s hill stations, much of the appeal lies beyond the urban limits and Munnar is no exception. Simply wandering a short walk in any direction, it is quickly apparent how much of the economy and landscape is shaped by tea. Heading east of the town centre, the road meanders into a picturesque valley with luscious green tea plantations rolling across the hills in all directions. In this direction, there is also the KDHP Tea Museum which offers visitors the chance to understand the production of tea as well as a historical overview of the area and its development. South of the town centre lies Old Munnar, a less developed area that is home to some of the smaller Munnar hotels and homestays, which are also surrounded by tea plantations. Guests looking for a quieter hotel in Munnar often head to this area and its surrounding villages which are well connected by local bus routes. Heading back in this direction, guests will also find the waterfalls of Valara and Cheeyappara.
Extra attractions further afield
Further afield there are even more points of interest and beautiful nature to be discovered. The road heading west from Munnar towards Tamil Nadu passes by the Top Station, one of the highest lookouts in the area. It is regularly listed as one of the must-do’s for the Munnar area as it has panoramic views of the lush green valley below. Indeed, the journey leading to the Top Station provides a variety of other highlights, such as the Mattupetty Dam and its consequent picturesque lake. Beautiful settings like this with the mountains in the background, or the tight hillsides with a sea of tea plantations, ensure this area is a photographer’s dream. Equally, heading north on the road towards Marayoor there are many more photogenic spots, as well as a series of smaller villages which offer an insightful depiction of everyday life in the rural Indian mountainsides. Continuing on this road leads to the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the largest in Kerala and home to an abundance of wildlife including elephants and deer.