Mountains always evoke nostalgia as I am from the hills. Growing up amidst the verdant rolling hills and the mist has never been a deterrent for me to visit the hill stations, anywhere in India. If anyone were to ask me whether I prefer the beaches or the mountains; it will be both. I can spend hours just staring at the misty mountains or simply gaze at the sea beyond the horizon, never tiring.
Getting Started: Munnar, Kerala
Munnar in the Anaimalai Range of Kerala has been in my list of must-visit places. It was only last October that the travel plans materialised. This hill station covered by lush-green tea gardens, trimmed to perfection, is just a delight to the dreary eyes. The stretches of long-winding roads lead you to several plantations after the other. Each turn in the curve leads you to another magnificent vista; the thick blanket of damp, cold mist obscuring the view of the mountaintop every now and then.
Considered to be southern India’s largest tea-growing region, Munnar is a part of the Idduki district. Today, it is home to one of the world’s highest tea growing estates; mostly run by the Kanan Devan Hill Plantation Company. The Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers come together in Munnar, thus getting its name Munnar, meaning “three rivers” in Malayalam. And, indeed glistering rivers, beautiful waterfalls and lakes abound in this hill station.
Find your way through the town:
Make the best use of the beautiful weather and explore it either on foot or in your own vehicle, a hired cab or hop into a bus that provides a tour of the town. You can start your day with a walk to the Sandalwood Forest, which is just 850 metres away from the bus stand. The Kanan Devan Hill Plantation, (2.5 km) can be next. Wander around the seven massive tea estates that cover an area of 2,4000 hectares and soak in the clean fresh air. A visit to the Tea Museum (3 km) will give you a clear idea of how we get our brew from the garden. There is a souvenir shop at the museum from where you can pick up gifts for your family and friends. Just at the entrance of the museum, there is a bakery where you can relish some fresh home-made muffins, pastries and puffs with a hot cup of tea. And, do not forget to buy the different flavours of tea leaves that are available at the counter.
The Mattupetty Dam (13 km) is a place which will not fail to impress you. Little ahead of the dam there is a boating facility, where you can enjoy a boat ride. As you move on further ahead towards Echo Point (19 km), you will pass through a reserve forest where you can spot numerous elephants grazing. The pristine lake at Echo Point and its peaceful surroundings is a favourite picnic spot among the locals.
Kundala Lake (20 km) is another scenic place where you can bathe yourself in the serene ambience. If you love chasing the clouds, then head to Top Station (36 km), nestled at 1,880 meters above sea level. The view from there is simply breathtaking. I just wanted to immerse myself amidst the clouds and stay there forever. Do not forget to buy the freshly-picked carrots or different fruits that the locals sell on the way.
For those of you with an adventurous streak, you can visit the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (50 km) and Rajamalai National Park. The Attukad and Lakkom Waterfalls are other places where you can be amidst nature.
Wondering about the cuisine?
Food is a part and parcel of any journey. Before I travel anywhere I do my research about the local cuisines and where to sample the best delicacies. I read a lot about Rapsy Restaurant, located in the main market. It was a little crowded, but the food was worth the money. The fish fry was mouth-watering. Another place worth giving a try is the Silver Spoon Restaurant, where you can try the seafood. Besides there are several local restaurants to enjoy your cuppa!
The best time to visit Munnar is during Vishu in April and Onam in September, where you can taste the elaborate Vishu or Onam sadya (meaning feast). The all-vegetarian fare is worth trying. In some places you will get non-vegetarian meals as well.
Where to Stay:
There are several homestays in this hill station in case you want to try out one. For those of you who want a luxurious holiday, there are several luxury hotels as well. Budget hotels are also available in plenty. Some of the hotels worth trying are Aryanka Resort (Tariff – Rs. 1,500), The Silver Tips (Tariff – Rs. 3,900) and Holiday Heaven (Tariff – Rs. 4,800).
Munnar might not be a shopper’s paradise, but you can pick up souvenirs from Kerala from the local market. Yes, you can buy tea leaves to your heart’s content, as you will get garden fresh tea leaves at reasonable rates.
Air – For tourists taking a flight to Munnar, the nearest airport is in Cochin (106 km) away.
Rail – Those taking the train can come to Aluva (107 km) and take a bus to the hill station.
Road – There are state-run as well as private operators plying their buses to Munnar from several places in South India.
If you want a quick break from the bustling city life, head to this peaceful hill station and soak in the tranquility of nature. Whether you are travelling for the weekend or a short holiday from Bangalore or Chennai, you can also book your tickets to Munnar at www.ticketgoose.com.