Munnar, probably the most preferred honeymoon destination in South India, does some magic on her visitors. People who visit Munnar cannot help but fly again to see her. Munnar is a part of the Idukki district in the Kerala state, and belong to the mountain chain of the mighty Western Ghats. It is a gorgeous hill station, 1700 m above sea level which makes it extremely cool at times. For the same reason it was a summer retreat for the British who ruled India for decades. Munnar is popularly known as the land of \"Neelakurinjis\" [purple shrub found in the Nilgiri hills of the Western Ghats], which blossoms once in 12 years. When it does bloom, it decorates the Top station, where it is found, with vibrant purple colour that the person witnessing the beauty of the landscape might be entrapped in its peerless charm and awesomeness. Munnar is also renowned for its world class tea and spice plantations. There are daily presentations conducted for tourists on how the fresh tea leaves are processed to fine tea powder and packed in various quantities ready to be distributed to the markets belonging to different parts of the world. You can taste samples of various tea flavors and buy them if you wish to take home some exquisite taste of Munnar.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu share their border at Top station from where we get an astounding view of the Western Ghats. Access Top Station through bus services available or hire a taxi to travel 32 kms one side. Trekking at Top Station is a great idea as it is the highest trekking route available in the whole South India. Trekking enthusiasts could explore the cardamom hills, pepper plantations, and the shola forests of the Western Ghats which are world famous. This is from where the spices are exported to different parts of the World and is known for the same for centuries. On the way to the Top Station there is the Mattupetty Dam, beautifully built in the middle of a scenic landscape. It is 12 kms from Munnar on the Top Station road. Getting down and spending some time praising the scene is worth it.
With sandal wood growing on its soil, Marayoor has a distinct specialty considering the whole Kerala. En-route you will feel its aroma. It is also well known for its ancient rock paintings at Attalla, Ezhuthuguha, and Kovilkadavu, which is believed to be of Stone Age, ie., before 10,000 BC. Observing those paintings, one will wonder how artistic and creative our long gone forefathers were. As many as 90 paintings are preserved here. Marayoor town is 40 kms from Munnar and is easily accessible by the regular Kerala Government bus service, and independent taxis.
16 kms from Munnar, Eravikulam National Park houses a popular species of Nilgiri Tahr [rare mountain goat] along with other 25 species including gaur, Indian Muntjac, Sambar dear, golden jackal, Jungle cat, leopard and tiger. You can enter the park in a Government bus only, as private vehicles are not allowed inside the park. For 2 months every year, likely February and March, the National Park will be closed since it is the breeding season of these species of endangered Nilgiri Tahr. The park is opened from 08:30 am to 04:30 pm.
It is 60 kms north east of Munnar. After the Marayoor visit, visitors could reach the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary which is nearly 10 kms from there. It hosts many different types of animals starting from dears, elephants and endangered giant squirrel. There are tree houses available inside the sanctuary which could be a thrilling and awesome experience spending time in the midst of thick natural forest. On request many eco tour programs like waterfall trucking, cultural visits and river trekking are arranged. There are buses available from Munnar to Coimbatore, which can drop you off at Chinnar. The sanctuary is open from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm.
In Munnar there are perhaps a whole lot of tea plantations. It is probably the tea capital of India. In case if we are to choose, Kolukkumalai tea plantation should top the list. It is identified as the highest organic tea plantation in the World which is over 7900 ft above the sea level.
To reach Kolukkumalai, there are 2 options, either you can trek for about 4-6 hours, or you can catch a 4 wheel drive jeep from Munnar. If you have the energy, enthusiasm and most importantly time, then trekking could be a great option. The jeep drive will be bumpy, but those who love some adventure at Munnar, the drive to Kolukkumalai will definitely induce an adrenaline rush through the veins as the quick dangerous turns and steep road might make you hold your breath. After reaching the tea plantation, you can attend a brief presentation starting with the history of tea plantations in Munnar followed by how the tea leaves are cultivated, processed and packed. Concluding the presentation, a sample tea is provided to taste. You can buy packed tea leaves or tea powder which are offered for sale. A walk through the verdant tea gardens is delightful and educating as you will be able to witness firsthand how the workers pluck these tea leaves. You can even have a chat with them. The other prominent tea plantation is the Kannan Devan tea plantation which is the more than a century old and a brief history is imprinted on it. The Tata tea plantation is also a must visit spot at Munnar.
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