Kashmir of South India
High in The Western Ghats
The best parts of Munnar are on the outskirts of the town and the drive up and down to the hill station.
Munnar is a hill station high in the Western Ghat mountains at around 1,600 meters above sea level, which makes the climate very mild and airy.
The actual town is a bit scruffy and clogged with traffic, so the best things is to try and find a place to stay outside of the main town.
In fact you only need to get a kilometer or two outside of the town to be completely surrounded by a sea of neat, green tea plantations and forests. We stayed at a homestay just a couple of kilometers out of the main town, which had fabulous views across the valleys and hills and was very quiet with fabulous food.
Go for a trek!
After you have seen evrything that the town has to offer, go and find a guided trek – there are lots on offer and they are very cheap.
It’s good to go with a guide, who will tailor the circuit to your needs and fitness level and you will find the out-of-the-way viewpoints with ease.
We took an early morning trek that lasted about 4 hours, which was excellent, the guide had brought along breakfast for us, which we ate on a rock formation jutting out from the hillside with breathtaking views over the tea gardens to The Westen Ghat mountains.
Sometimes you can be lucky and spot a herd of elephants – we saw the signs that elephants had passed in the night, as well as porcupines and buffalo.
What to see and do
I booked a jeep safari with a guy and his jeep to go and spot elephants in the jungle. We trundled along uneven roads and through tribal villages and spice plantations for a bit over an hour, until we reached a river in the middle of the jungle, which was where the elephants come out to drink as the evening falls.
We waited for around an hour and a half – I was a bit sceptical that any elephants would emerge from the jungle as there were a group of men making and selling Ayuvedic medicine shouting for all to hear of how good their potions were, which I was sure would scare any elephant away withing 100 kms.
But suddenly, as the light was fading, a sole bull elephant came out of the jungle to drink in the river, staying for over an hour, searching for minerals in the river bed – it was just fantastic!
Apparently this spot is well-known and everyone appears to talk about it and how many elephants are sighted each day.
Munnar is about 150 km from Aleppey and about 130 kilometers from Kochi which will take about 2 to 3 hours by car – depending how many stops you make at the various viewpoints and waterfalls on the way up.
Getting away from the busy town, the surroundings are very quiet and it is generally pretty clean and free of rubbish, which seems to be something that is now changing in south India. There are buses, but you will need to allow about 4 hours to get here by bus.
Where to stay & eat
We stayed at a fabulous homestayon the side of a mountainside, The Green Tea View, which was both excellent and very cheap. The room is big enough for two people, air-conditioned with a shared balcony that overlooks the forested valley.
The food was delicious, although I missed the apparently (according to my wife who didn’t join me on the elephant trek, but had an Ayuvedic massage and dinner) delicious dinner. If you need beer, the owner can get you some to have with your meal and the owner also arranged by jeep-elephant-safari.
There is a small vegetable market where street food can be had, things like pakoras or paranthas along with fresh fruit juices. We had lunch at Raspy’s Restaurant, which is nothing too luxurious, but the food is good, cheap and copious and supposed to be the best in Munnar, as far as food goes.
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