Munnar had been beckoning me for some time.
I did a lot of legwork on the web to plan my trip. I came across Ghumakkar site as part of this research and has since been hooked to it. “By the Traveller for the Traveller” is really a great concept initiated by Ghumakkar. Some of the tips provided in the site by early trailblazers of Munnar were helpful.
I was making the trip with my family and wanted the kids to have a memorable trip. We eventually decided to make the trip during the Christmas holidays of 2010.
Getting to Munnar
We were travelling by train from Pune to Coimbatore. The plan was to reach Munnar via Coimbatore after halting at Palani to visit the famous Murugan Temple.
The train from Pune covered a distance of approximately 1343 kms and nearly took us 28 hours to reach Coimbatore. From Coimbatore, we got a bus and it took us about 3 hours to reach Palani. The journey – Coimbatore-Pollachi-Udumalapettai-Palani is picturesque – the horizon lined with rows and rows of Windmills.
Palani – The temple is on a 450 feet high hill – one can reach the temple either by climbing the 690 steps or by Winch. We decided to take the easier way.
We tried few restaurants for dinner and breakfast on the Dindigul road – the food was inexpensive and was authentic.
We hired an Ambassador car to take us to Munnar. The private cars and taxis drivers parked on the Dindigul road adjoining the Bus depot can give you some real whacky numbers. I finally got my Hotel manager to arrange a car for me. Mr. Rajan the owner/driver of the car was a amiable chap who agreed to take me to Munnar for Rs 3000. If you travel this route, do take a private vehicle instead of going by a bus, as the road will take you through the Chinnar wild sanctuary.
After an early breakfast, we left Palani at 7 AM. The Udumalpet-Munnar drive through the Chinnar forest is spectacular. Mr. Rajan, a keen traveller himself, used to halt the car every now and then to spot hidden animals in the thick forest. If you are lucky, you might catch sight of wild animals strolling leisurely across the forest.
We did come across spotted deer and some exotic birds. Beware of the monkeys though as they can be quite aggressive. The Thuvanam falls is majestic. The drive through the sanctuary could be a bit lonely as you hardly come across anybody. You need to keeps your eyes peeled for spotting those elusive animals.
The drive to Munnar was spectacular. The December fog brought down the visibility to almost zero at some of the treacherous bends. The scenery is picture perfect but because of the fog the chances of the pictures getting etched in one’s memory is more than in one’s camera!
Around 40 Kms to Munnar you would come across Marayoor where there are numerous sandalwood trees. As one winds down to Munnar through the rolling hills with miles of tea planation, it feels as though nature has laid a thick green carpet welcoming you! As with many other hill stations in India, the approach is dramatic but the place itself is an anti-climax. Munnar town is cacophonous after the stillness of the hills and the forest.
Place to stay in Munnar
Having reached Munnar closer to noon, we had lunch at a Rajasthani restaurant before proceeding to Devikulam, around 7 Kms from Munnar.Instead of staying in a hotel in the hustle bustle of the town we decided to try out homestay. The place – Pavithram Homestay at Devikulam – is a wonderful place on the bottom of the hills. Advocate Rajesh and his wife has tastefully decorated the place.
A large bedroom with a living cum dining room is a welcome change to the conventional hotel rooms. As part of the package, we were offered excellent breakfast on different days. The drive from Devikulam to Munnar is pretty scenic with the tea plantation on the hills on either side making them round and symmetric.
If you plan to travel during December you may want to carry some warm clothes as the temperature dips down during this time of the year.
Places to see around Munnar
There are lot of places to see around Munnar. Since we had only three days at our disposal, we were selective. I recommend Rajamala. It is the Eravikulam National Park. We have to wait close to 45 minutes in the queue to take the forest jeep up the mountain. The trek from the point where they drop you to the top is really tranquil and the sight from top is spectacular. You get to see Thar (or the mountain goat) in abundance.
Mattupetty dam is another beautiful spot . It’s not be missed. You have lot of snack stalls around the dam selling from corn to vadas. The dal vada sold here is delicious!
The Tata tea museum is another spot I would recommend. I got to know that the staff are stock holders …you can observe the difference in their approach. They take pride in their operations and are eager to show you around. If you are interested in how Munnar came to being then do watch the video on the history of Tea estates around Munnar.
Visitors to Munnar generally miss the Flower garden which is run by the floriculture division of Kerala. Though it is not a big place, we got immersed in the magical and colourful world and missed out on at least couple of other attractions. It has numerous species of flowers, cactus and variety of medicinal plans at display.
If you are visiting Munnar with your kids, you should go to Munnar Carmalagiri Elephant park. The elephant safary takes you through the wooded forest and rough terrain. This is on the way to Mattupetty dam.
Munnar – Shopping & Places to Eat
The best things to buy are spices, cardamom, handmade soaps. We purchased tea and coffee at the Tata factory itself. Home made chocolates are available at various outlets in Munnar town and are highly recommended.
Finding good places to eat in Munnar town was not difficult. There are many eating places to satisfy different taste buds. There are good restaurants in the Devikulam area that serves north Indian cuisine. For South Indian, I recommend Saravana Bhavan right in the heart of the town, though I am not sure whether they are part of the original chain.
As we were heading back to Coimbatore, we decided to take a bus that touched almost all the points we visited during our stay at Munnar. It helped us relive our memory. Munnar is an excellent place to rejuvenate and get back to work all energised!