Munnar is a beautiful hill station in Idukki district of Kerala state. It is well known as a picturesque tea town and spread across an area of 557sq.km in the south Western Ghats. Munnar is a land of hills, mist, waterfall, valleys, streams, tea plantations, rare flora and fauna which provides a lot of different experience to the travellers in a single place. It is at a height of 1800Mts above the sea level and is in Devikulam Taluk, the largest Panchayat in Kerala. Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni, and Kundala rivers meet here which is a reason of this place being called as Munnar. ‘Moonu’ means ‘three’ and ‘Aru’ means river in local language. British people used to spend their summer vacation here at the time of their rule in India. Neelakurinji (Strobilanthus), which blossoms once in twelve years, covers the whole valley in violet colour and people from distant lands gather here to capture the amazing sight.
Eravikulam National Park
Eravikulam national park is called as the home of Nilgiri Tahr (mountain goat) and is very famous for the blooming of Neelakurinji flowers. Next bloom is expected in 2018 as the earlier one was in 2006 with a gap of twelve years between each blooming. Nilgiri Marten (endemic), Small clawed Otter, Dusky Striped Squirrel and Ruddy Mangoose are the other species in this park. Rajamala is the main tourism zone in the national park and visitors are taken in forest department vehicles to view the shola – grassland eco system. Private vehicles are not allowed inside. Adventure lovers can do trekking here. Anamudi – the highest peak in India is situated here. Rare terrestrial plants, epiphytic orchids and big wild balsams can be seen on the slopes of Anamudi. Nilgiri Langur, leopard, tiger and Indian bison are found here. The whole area is divided in to three zones – core area, buffer area and tourism area or Rajamala. Visitors are allowed up to tourism area which lies close to the road entry region at Eravikulam. In the early months of the year the park remains closed due to the calving period of the Nilgiri Tahrs.
Mattupetty dam is 13km from Munnar town and near to Anamudi peak. Mattupetty dam and the lake are ideal for picnic. DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council) provides boating facilities in the dam area. Speed launch, slow speed boats and motor boats are available here for rent. The Indo-Swiss Dairy farm is the main attraction of Mattupetty. Many high yielding cattle are reared here. Echo Point is on the way to the Top Station and visitors stop here on their way. The scenic place is famous for the natural echo phenomenon so it is called as Echo point. Top station is the highest point in Munnar and Neelakurinji flowers bloom here in large.
Marayoor is a rain shadow village lying close to the border of Tamil Nadu and on the eastern side of Western Ghats at a distance of 40km from Munnar. It is the only place in Kerala which has a natural growth of plenty of sandal wood trees. Sandal wood trees are also found in Wayanad hills and the reduced amounts of rainfall in these regions boost the growth of these trees. Compared to other states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu the quantity of sandalwood trees is less in Kerala. But quality wise the sandal wood trees in Kerala are much appreciated by the people. Marayoor is a trekker’s paradise also. The road from Rajamala to Marayoor has tea plantations on both sides and waterfalls can be spotted in between. The sugar cane factories in this place are very famous for the tasty Sarkara (solid molasses) they produce. In Marayoor people can see some ancient burial chambers called dolmenoid cists (‘Muniyara’ in local language). These monuments belong to the Neolithic age. These are made of four granite slabs on the edges capped by another slab. ‘Ezhuthupara’ is a prehistoric site inside the Marayoor forest and cave painting can be seen here. Reddish brown soil and White clay soil are mainly used to draw these paintings. Pambar River originating from the Anamudi hills flows through Marayoor and it is one of the only three rivers in Kerala that flow towards east.
Kanthalloor is a beautiful village at a distance of 60km from Munnar. Wide varieties of tropical crops are found here and the pictorial beauty of the hill make this place a tourist spot. The crops include Apple, Orange, Strawberry, Blackberry, Plums, Gooseberry, Egg fruits, Peach and Passion fruits. The cool climate of this place is a reason for these tropical fruits grown here in abundance and not seen in other parts of Kerala. The green forest – Anamudi Sholai National Park (Mannavan Chola) surrounds Kanthalloor. Main attractions of Kantalloor are the Pattisseri Dam, Kulachivayal rocks, Keezhanthoor waterfalls and the cave temple of Sri Rama. Road transportation is the only way to reach Kantalloor.
Kundala is a small town on the way to Top station in Munnar. The extensive tea plantations and Kundala Lake are the main attractions here. Tata Tea Ltd has a golf course located at Kundala. An artificial dam known as Sethuparvathipuram dam or Kundala Dam attracts a lot of visitors. Aruvikkad waterfall is nearby Kundala. The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) in Idukki conducts a Tea Valley Tour which covers Mattupetty Dam, Echo Point, Kundala, Top Station and Rajamala at Eravikulam National Park for visitors.
Tata Tea has opened a Tea museum at Munnar for showcasing the machineries and pictures related to the history of tea production. The museum is situated at Nallathanni Estate and it is a remarkable tribute to the pioneers who took the effort in transforming Munnar as a prominent plantation town in Kerala. From the earlier tea roller (Rotorvane) to the modern fully automated machines are displayed here for tourists. A sundial which was made in 1913 from the Tamil Nadu Art Industrial School, a burial urn belonged to the second century BC found in the Periakanal Estate, ‘Pelton Wheel’ – used in the power generation plant in Kanniamallay estate, a rail engine wheel of the Kundale Valley Light Railway that shuttled people and luggage between Munnar and Top Station are also displayed in the museum. It also houses certain type writers, calculators, a magneto phone, iron oven, wooden bath tub, curios, and furniture’s. A tea tasting room is arranged for tourists to taste the different varieties of tea. People can observe the production stages in a processing unit associated with this museum. The Museum is closed on Monday and Good Friday.