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♦ Kerala State Tourism Award for ‘Most Innovative use of Information Technology’

♦ 'Best Inbound Tour Operator Award' from Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India

♦ Approved by Ministry of Tourism & Accredited by Kerala Tourism

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Munnar Diaries: Treat Your 5 Senses to an Unforgettable Journey
02 Sep 2019

Think sea green hills, azure skies and amber dawns. That’s Munnar at first glance. Scratch the surface and you’ll find this rustic little hill station in ‘God’s Own Country’ to be more than what meets the eye.

When it comes to the things you can see and do here, Munnar offers an exotic variety of experiences for everyone. From honeymooners to backpackers to those seeking a spiritual cleanse, absolutely everyone has something to do in Munnar.  The best thing about this quaint vacation spot is that it engages each of your senses when you’re here.

So, what is it that you can expect from this emerald gem of a place? Well, let’s find out:

 

The Darjeeling of Kerala

What is the one thing that is synonymous with Munnar? The rolling hills? Sure. The exotic animals? Yup, that’s right too. The tea? Wait…what?

Munnar has a long legacy of tea growing. In fact, it joins the ranks of iconic Indian tea plantation regions like Darjeeling, Assam, Annamalai and Wayanad in the amount of premium-quality tea it grows.

Munnar is situated at an elevation between 950 meters and 2600 meters. This altitude, the (almost) 700 centimetres of rainfall it receives each year and the resultant cool temperature it provides, makes the region a haven for tea cultivation. In the 2017-2018 period, Southern India collectively produced over 233.65 million kilograms of tea. Of this, a large part of tea leaves, buds and powder came from Kerala and Munnar in particular.

The city of Munnar has been steeped in tea since 1857, when British soldier John Daniel Munro came to settle border disputes between the city and her neighbours. Falling in love with the serene and atmospheric place, he decided to put down roots and subsequently introduced his lifelong passion to the masses – tea.

But it wasn’t Munro who set-up the first tea plantation here. A.H. Sharp, a European planter visited the region and finding the environment extremely conducive for tea cultivation, set up the first plantation at Parvathy. The rest, as they say is history and today Munnar is one of the world’s top cultivators of premium Indian tea.

One of the most magical experiences that any visitor to Munnar must absolutely immerse themselves in, is tea. We don’t just mean drinking tea. We mean visiting the plantation, picking the tea leaves, steeping your own tea and then enjoying a refreshing cup whilst enjoying the stupendous backdrop of green hills and valleys.

Many tea plantations in Munnar offer tourists a drive-through of their plantations. You’ll get into jeeps, travel over bumpy, undulating terrain and make your way to the heartland of South Indian tea. You’ll meet many friendly faces behind the delicious morning cup of chai you drink every day and you may even get a lesson or two from them about picking delicate tea leaves.

Once you’ve had your fill of the great outdoors, you’ll be driven to the factory, where you’ll see how the tea leaves are processed and what quality checks they’re put through. Then, you’re ushered into a comfortable tasting room, where you’ll be taken through a series of tastings by a senior tea sommelier and you’ll then have the option of purchasing packs of tea for yourself and your loved ones.

So, which tea plantations should you visit when in Munnar? Experienced tour operators in Munnar recommend these as the top 5 picks:

  • Kolukkumalai Tea Estate
  • Sevenmallay Tea Estate
  • Tata Tea KDHP Museum
  • Photo Point
  • Pallivasal Tea Garden

 

Marari Beach

The Sights: Monsoon's playground

Once you’ve had your cuppa, it’s time to grab your gear and head out to see the wild (and some not-so-wild) sights that this little piece of Kerala has to offer.

Munnar is one of the most picturesque places in India. Its rolling hills, gentle undulating plantations, deep valleys and calm lakes make for the most beautiful sights…and are some of the most Instagram-ready places in the world. These Munnar tour places are that beautiful.

The best time to visit Munnar is between September & November and January & March.

One of the first places to visit is Attukal waterfalls - an adventure lover’s haven. There is a small, rickety (but safe) wooden bridge that you need to cross, to reach the base of the waterfall. There are many dirt track and wooded trails that lead you to the top of the waterfall, from where you can get panoramic views of the canopy below. During monsoon season, Attukal’s white waters double in size and thrash and foam, as though in excitement. Chinnakanal waterfalls and Lakkom waterfalls are two other magnificent water bodies that mimic Attukal’s beauty. They’re must-visits too.

Then there are the Eravikulum National Park and Carmelagiri Park. The former is home to the exotic Neelakurinji flowers, aka Strobilanthes kunthiana, which grows only once in every 12 years. Visit at the right time and you may actually see them in bloom. Even if you’re not in time to see the Neelakurinji, don’t worry. A whole host of exotic, seasonal flowers bloom here, which make this place a paradise.

The Carmelagiri Park is home to India’s best-loved animal - the Asian elephant. Here, you can ride these gentle giants, take pictures with them, feed them during meal times and enjoy their lush, wooded home with them. If you enjoyed your visit to this Park, you’ll definitely love Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Home to beautiful animals like leopards, crocodiles and gaur, and endangered animals like the grizzled giant squirrel; it is the perfect place to see animals in their natural habitat.

If what you’re looking for is relaxation, then maybe a serene boat ride across Kundale lake will do you some good. Located at the iconic Kannan Devan Hills, Kundale lake is a large and calm waterbody, which offers charming views of Munnar’s lush forests. The banks are dotted with cherry blossom trees, which bloom twice every year and are a treat for the eyes. The contrast between the dark green hills, the sky blue water and the light pink flowers make Kundale lake a veritable heaven.

Another very unique place that tourists absolutely must-visit when in Munnar – Echo Point. Millions of years old rock formations surround you, as you cross a bridge that’s suspended between two large rock faces. This spot – a confluence of three major peaks (Nallathanni, Mudrapuzha, and Kundala) - lies 600 feet above sea level and offers majestic views of the Western Ghats. Stand anywhere you like and shout out to the world. Listen to your echo rippling and bouncing off the rock faces around you, loud, clear and supremely realistic.

Apart from Echo Point, Marayoor (Muniyara) Dolmens is another tourist destination that you absolutely must visit, if you love rock-based architecture. Believed to have been put-together during the Neolithic age, there are 15 Dolmens here of all shapes and sizes, beautifully preserved and adorned by tropical flora. The location is accessible by trek and this is a climb that can be made by people of all ages. From ancient burial chambers to centuries old sandalwood trees, you can see them all here. So, gather your loved ones and make a visit here via one of the many Munnar family tour packages. If you’re okay with a long drive, you can always go from Munnar to Thekkady.

 

The Sounds: Activate Zen mode

Not all places of visit in Munnar are about the adventure and the adrenaline. Truth be told, Munnar is more of a place where people come to rejuvenate and rediscover themselves. There are a plethora of options for travellers who want to immerse themselves in the beauty and serenity of nature, meditate and relax.

One of the defining characteristics of this little Kerala city, is that it is home to many resorts, homestays and inns which are tucked away in the forest or deep inside tea plantations and which offer guests privacy, peace and tranquillity. There are no raging parties here. Just a home for people who delight in silence and seclusion.

In addition to this are the world famous yoga and meditation retreats of Kerala. After Mysore and Rishikesh, Kerala is home to some of the oldest and most experienced yoga centers in the world. From traditional hatha yoga to various regional and international variants, the many yoga retreats in Munnar teach multiple forms of yoga to visitors who come here on a spiritual quest. Start your day with a cleansing glass of warm water. Head out to the open forest-facing yoga deck and welcome the sun with 108 surya namaskar. Practice pranayama and then end your session with a soul-cleansing period of meditation.

These quaint yoga retreats are designed to give you the solitude you crave. Many allow you to set aside your phones and laptops and disconnect from the outside world for the duration of your retreat. You also have the option of learning local, traditional dance forms like Kathakali, Kummi and Kerala Natanam from extremely trained and talented teachers, in addition to yoga.

If you’re looking to go beyond yoga, then the globally reputed ayurvedic retreats and traditional healing centers in Munnar will help you reach your Zen. Here, you will be provided deep healing and cleansing treatments, using completely organic, local, age-old home remedies to help you heal your body, spirit and mind. These ayurvedic centres too are no-noise zones and they offer complete silence and tranquillity to those who want an escape from their noisy, everyday lives. Some of the famous ayurvedic centres you can visit include:

  • Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort
  • Kalari Kovilakom
  • Perumbayil Ayurveda Mana
  • Carnoustie Ayurveda And Wellness Resort
  • Nattika Beach Ayurveda Resort

Apart from these traditional experiences, tourists to Munnar can also take up the Meesapulimala Trek, which is a globally renowned wellness expedition; one of the best trekking tours in Munnar. The second highest peak in Kerala and having a UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the Meesapulimala peak is a rocky, wooded and extremely secluded hill, which provides visitors the most rejuvenating escape. The trek is an overnight climb amidst some of the most beautiful tropical environs in the world and the shimmering silence which is only broken by twittering birds, chirping squirrels and rustling leaves, allows climbers to go into a meditative trance, as they walk. In fact, man climbers claim that the Meesapulimala Trek to be a very healing and soulful experience. Very Zen.

 

Marari Beach

The Smells: Nature’s own supermarket

Munnar in Kerala isn’t just a great place for families to create memories. It's also an excellent hunting ground for the most fragrant flowers & wood and the most aromatic spices & oils. From sweet smelling rose essence to spicy smelling herbal oil, you can find everything here. So, if you’re interested in carrying home a few tantalizing fragrances and aromatic objects with you, you should definitely read this.

Let’s start with spices. As with the rest of India, Munnar has a long legacy of growing an extensive variety of spices. Pepper, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, tamarind and curry leaves are some of the most widely cultivated spices in Munnar. In fact, after tea and tourism, spice cultivation makes up for the third biggest employer in Munnar. But this isn’t all. This little hill station is also a haven for spice lovers, who love to shop at bazaars.

Just take a walk down any Munnar road and you’ll find small shops with multiple baskets of spices laid out in front of them. Their various colours and brilliant aromas make for a heady experience. Apart from the spices we’ve mentioned above, you can also find star anise and vanilla pods inside spice stalls and grocery stores in Munnar. Spices of various grade qualities, processing and prices are available, making them extremely affordable for all types of travellers.

Apart from spices, you’ll encounter other delightful smells; like the one from the 100% original and pure sandalwood paste that niche shops stock. Marayoor, located near Munnar, is home to an expansive and dense sandalwood forest. The authorities provide a small percentage of the trees for commercial sale. Walk into any specialty sandalwood store in Munnar and you’ll find an entire host of things which include sandalwood powder, sandalwood soap, sandalwood incense, sandalwood clothes fragrance, sandalwood figurines and more. In some places, you can purchase blocks of actual sandalwood tree bark, which you can use to make your own paste at home.

In addition to these, are the blankets of freshly plucked flowers. As you know, we Indians love to use flowers for religious rites. So, it’s no surprise that you find flowers of all varieties, shapes, sizes, colours and fragrances, in Munnar’s markets. Come early in the morning, preferably before dawn breaks and you will be able to see and smell the heady concoction of sweet smelling, exotic flowers from across the subcontinent. If the next leg of your journey is a short one and you want to carry some flowers with you, the vendors will know just how to pack it for you. From Ixora to chethi to hibiscus to jasmine to marigold, you’ll find everything here.

Topping the list of fragrant and aromatic buys that you can fill your bags with, are Kerala’s aromatherapy oils. With their earthy, musky and spicy tones, essential oils and ayurvedic essences are very widely available across Munnar; courtesy of the many ayurvedic retreats in and around the city.

Usually spice shops in the city stock these aromatic oils. Both cooking and non-cooking variants are available. These oils are not only great to smell, but they’re also one of the best natural remedies to physical ailments like joint pain, asthma, skin rashes and more. The most common oil is coconut oil. But you can also get lavender oil, rose oil, sandalwood oil and other types of oil here.

If you want fragrant oil for rituals and rites, you can find them in Munnar too. Remember to check out the traditional Malayali prayer lamp – the Nilavilakku – if you’re planning on buying one of these beautiful smelling oils for your puja room at home.

 

The Tastes: God’s own platter

If these exotic fragrances have got you excited about visiting Munnar, we’re sure our list of must-eat foods will give you the push you need to book your Munnar local sightseeing packages today.

Munnar might be a small hill station nestled in the south of Kerala, but it still boasts of a cosmopolitan culture. One of the most defining ways in which the city celebrates its global culture, is through its food. From the smallest roadside vendors to 7-star hotels & resorts, absolutely everyone in Munnar can cook mouth-watering delicacies that range from Indian to continental.

The best thing about Munnar is that it is a food haven for both plant and meat eaters. On the vegetarian front, you can find absolutely lip-smacking dishes like appam & stew (of course, this is available in a meat variant too), puttu (rice steamed cake) and kadala curry (black chana curry), idlis & dosa with chutney, mixed vegetable thoran, avial and more. If you prefer North Indian, you can always visit one of the local paratha joints for a meal.

Then there’s non-vegetarian cuisine.

Munnar is a goldmine for meat lovers. Duck curry, paratha with chicken curry, Kerala fish fry, Beef fry with Malabar parotta, prawn curry and idiyappam with egg curry are just some of the authentic Kerala dishes you can find in Munnar. Since Munnar is located in close proximity to Tamil Nadu (the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border is just 183 kilometres away), you’ll find the food influenced by Tamilian cuisine to some extent. Premier tour guides in Munnar can organize family-friendly Munnar tour packages from Madurai for you. So, all you need to do is contact them and you’ll soon be tucking into delicious Kerala food.

Apart from these foods, Munnar’s eateries also specialize in continental food like boiled eggs, omelettes, toast, hash browns, steak and more; because of the presence of a vast number of foreign tourists.

Meals and street food aside, Munnar’s palate also includes a large number of tropical fruits. At the helm is the banana – Kerala’s most favourite fruit. Apart from bananas, you can also find vendors who sell fruits like Ambarella (Indian hog plum), jungle jalebi (Camachile), mangustaan (Mangosteen), Bael (Wood apple), Chakotra (Pamelo), Bilimbi (Tree sorel) and Taal (Sugar palm fruit).

Then there are Munnar’s famed fried foods – banana chips, tapioca chips, Pazham pori (fried plantain fritters), Unnakaya (a jaggery, coconut, banana and egg-filled delicacy) and Neyyappam (stuffed pancake) to name a few. Each of these delicacies are finger-licking delicious and available at extremely pocket-friendly prices absolutely everywhere in the city. As for desserts, you’ll find South Indian classics like payasam, banana halwa, coconut pudding, semolina laddoos and more.

If you aren’t already stuffed reading this list of things to eat, here is the list of beverages you can drink when you’re in Munnar – Kulukki sherbet, spiced buttermilk, tender coconut, aam panna, panakam and good old chai and kapi.

 

The Touch: Goosebumps at every corner

One of the best things about visiting Munnar is that the city isn’t just a goldmine of sights, sounds, smells and tastes. You can expect a truly kinaesthetic experience when you’re here. Wherever you look, whichever direction you turn, you can expect something beautiful and memorable right at your fingertips.

Munnar is home to some of the state’s most famous handicraft and indigenous clothing stores. You can find original and beautifully crafted handicrafts, sarees, mundum neriyathum and other authentic Kerala items here.

Crafted lovingly by extremely talented local artisans and tribal populations, handicrafts like pottery items, coconut baskets, mugs & fans, colourful lacquer ware, banana fibre crafts and woodwork are so beautiful; just looking at them gives you goosebumps. The materials used are so premium, a single touch can tell you how great the quality of the product is. You can take them home as souvenirs and gifts for your friends and families.

Sarees and mundus are soft and available both in muted natural dyes and a kaleidoscope of colours. Their stitches, designs and prints just perfectly done. The same goes for jute bags, beautiful shoes and other accessories that Kerala is famous for. Visit any of the local shops like Aranya Naturals, Neelakurinji Chocolate Hub & Saree Centre or Krishna’s Shopping Mall; and you’ll find store staff who are more than happy to help you drape a saree you wish to purchase or try on a piece of jewellery that you’ve had your sight on for days. Gently caress the weaves of the saree, feel the soft, tightly spun thread. Feel the intricate stitches that hold everything in place. Admire the elegant way in which it falls over your body. You don’t need to see the beauty of Munnar to know it exists, you can feel it too.

It is this very feeling, based on touch, that adds another dimension to your visit to this hillside city.

An Anglican church, the CSI Church in Munnar has a long and inspiring history. Part tragic and part happy. A visit to this church can be very healing. Run your hands over the walls of the church and feel the heartbeat of Munnar and by extension Kerala pulsating in them. Light a candle and pray for your loved ones. Sit down on one of the benches and feel the cool church air and warm church light touching your face. Trust us, you’ll leave transformed. There’s just something so powerful here. Something so sublime.

 

Want to book your Munnar tour packages?

Inspired after reading this post? If yes, visit Munnar today. At Kerala Tour Packages, we can plan and organize Munnar tour packages from Coimbatore, Bangalore and more. Our Munnar tour guides are looking forward to making your trip a success. Contact us for more information.

 

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