Among the hundred hill stations in India, Munnar is one of the most popular. Munnar comes from the Tamil word “moon-aar” which means three rivers. It is believed to be referring to the confluence of Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala Rivers.
Munnar is sitting in the Idukki district, Kerala, India. Munnar is approximately three hours away from Kochi. Munnar is a must-visit in India since it boasts the highest tea plantation in the world. It also has several sanctuaries that protect a wide variety of flora and fauna.
In this article, I’d like to share the places and activities you can do in when in Munnar, a short list of accommodation, and something about a side trip to the Windermere Riverhouse, Neriamangalam. But, first, here’s how to get to Munnar.
- 1 How to go to from Cochin to Munnar
- 2 What to do in Munnar
- 3 Best Place to Stay in Munnar
- 4 Ideal Itinerary in Munnar with Windermere Retreats
- 5 Side Trip to Windermere River House, Neriamangalam
How to go to from Cochin to Munnar
There are buses from Kochi going to Munnar but then it’s quite hard. Travel time from Kochi going to Munnar via bus may take more or less 5 hours. Bus ride may cost around INR 181 (Php 143.77). You may find them at KSRTC Bus Station, Ernakulam.
It’s best to hire a taxi or a car. We hired a car through Suburban Travels & Holidays Cochin, Kerala. Recognized by Ministry of Tourism, India, the Suburban Travels is a go-to travel agency who knows the ins and out of India. They can assist you with car rentals, local and overseas transportation services booking, hotel reservations, and tour packages. You may also check other places that they cover through their website http://suburban.travel/.
Car rental from Cochi going to Munnar costs us more or less INR 3,750 (Php 2,978.75). It was a hassle-free drive. The road to Munnar is scenic but very winding. Good thing our driver, Vishnu, drove safely. He had ample stops for tea and what not that ease the motion sickness. For those sensitive to motion sickness might as well take meds before this four hour-drive.
What to do in Munnar
Ride the jeep Safari
The best way to explore the uphill greenery of Munnar is by riding jeep, especially when going in a group. You can expect a bumpy ride through tea and spice plantations of Kolukkumalai, winding roads, Lock heart gap and scenic view.
Our road trip in Munnar was made happened by Route 49 Adventures. It is a travel and tour company which specializes in nature tripping around Munnar. You may contact them through their Facebook page.
Being the adventurous girl that I am, asked if I could sit on top of the jeep and they said yes. The ride was very bumpu and I had to hold on tight but I loved the unobstructed view from up there so I’m glad I asked .
For a breathtaking view of the valley of tea plantation, you can go for a short or long trek at Lockhart Gap Viewpoint. Lockhart Gap, sometimes spelled as Lock heart Gap, got its name from the gap between two mountains that appears like a locked heart. No entrance fee is required in Lockhart Gap.
3.Tea Factory KTDC
The Lockhart tea factory is among the first tea factories in India and is first built by British British East India Company. Every year, the Lockhart tea factory produces approximately 20 million kilograms of tea. Portions of these are exported to countries like England and China.
When you arrive at the Lockhart tea factory, you’ll learn some facts about the tea like its history and its health benefits. You can find some old machinery which was first used to make tea. You can personally see how they manufacture their products. They still use orthodox or traditional process.
There’s a tea tasting section so you can try out their flavored teas. Then, you can also buy at their factory outlet.
About 20 minutes away from the Lockhart tea factory, you can also visit the first tea museum in India which is the Kannan Devan Hill Plantation (KDHP), Nallathanni Estate.
Hotels and resorts in Munnar, like KTDC Tea County, offers tea plantations tour. Further below are services offered by KTDC Tea County and three other hotels.
There are a lot of beautiful hikes in Munnar. Unfortunately, there was a trek ban when we were there. We really enjoyed the tea plantations though.
A list of the best trails in Munnar includes Kannan Devan Hills which is a difficult 5-hour trek through tea and spice plantations and rocky slopes; and Chokramudi which is an easy trek from the first level but difficult at the third up to its highest peak.
5. See the Jacaranda trees
6. Eravikulam National Park
Eravikulam National Park is an hour away from the Lockhart Tea Estate, Munnar. It was first declared as a wildlife sanctuary to protect the Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered goat antelope, and its habitat as well. The place was then upgraded into a National Park.
From 5th Mile, you will be picked up by a shuttle service to take you to Rajamala, the tourism site of Eravikulam National Park. It will only be about 2 km uphill. And, then, you’ll walk for about another 3 km to go sightseeing at the top. You can get a breathtaking view of Anamudi Peak, the highest peak in South India. It is a restricted area so it is pretty much the closest you can get.
I’ve already mentioned that you’ll find Nilgiri Tahr or a goat-antelope. Other animals you can watch out for are birds of different species, butterflies, geckos and frogs of different colors and more. Watch out also for wild animals like elephants and snakes.
Best time to visit is early in the morning. It is open from 7:30 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. It is closed during calving season which is every February until March. This 2018, they extended the ban until April 24. Admission fee to Rajamala for Foreign National is INR 360 (Php 285.96).
For a different fee, you can also visit other zones inside Eravikulam National Park like the Lakkom Water Falls, a source of an east-flowing river in Kerala, Pambar river. Eravikulam National Park also has a soft trekking trail, Kurinji Trail. This is one of the green hills of Munnar that turn into violet once every 12 years. Best time to visit this zone is this year, August to October.
Best Place to Stay in Munnar
The Fog Hotel
The Fog Hotel is a luxury and an award-winning hotel located in Chithirapuram, Munnar. It is about 30 to 40 minutes away from Munnar Bus Station and Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation. Behind it is a spice plantation you can go visit. The Fog Hotel can also help arrange your tour activities within Munnar.
Basic room amenities of their room includes aircon, ceiling fan, tea and coffee maker, minibar, bathroom with rain shower head, separate living room space and balcony with valley view. Its hotel amenities include barbecue and picnic area, fitness center, spa treatment service, billiard table, swimming pool, and kiddie pool.
KTDC Tea County
Tea County is a Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) controlled premium hotel. It is near Munnar Tea Museum and 32 minutes away from Eravikulam National Park.
Basic room amenities include flat screen TV, living room, bathroom with shower. Its hotel amenities include Ayurveda treatment center, multicuisine restaurant, and beer and wine parlor.
Blanket Hotel & Spa
View from the rooftop of Blanket Hotel Munnar
Blanket Hotel & Spa is also a luxury hotel. It is at least 20 minutes away from Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation, Munnar. On the east side of the hotel, you can get a great view of Attukad falls.
Most of the rooms may have that relaxing view of the Attukad falls as well as a tea plantation. Aside from the view, each suite basically has aircon, flat screen TV, and bathroom with bathtub. Its hotel facilities include an infinity pool, fitness gym, recreational center, mountain garden facing the Attukad waterfalls, spa treatment center, and more.
The Windermere Estate – Plantation & Retreat
The Windermere Estate covers approximately 55 acres of tea, coffee, and cardamom plantations. 5 acres of the Windermere Estate is a strategic retreat house at a walking distance away from Pothamedu Viewpoint.
The ambiance of the Windermere Estate is very homey, feels like a log cabin. The rooms are spacious with balconies, I loved the view. The bathrooms are huge.
This property felt super homey. Like you can just sit in your porch and chill while admiring the view. At night, there are fireflies, so that’s lovely too. This was my favorite among all the places I’ve seen just because it felt so homey and family oriented. It felt more chill.
The owner, John and his workers are so lovely. They try to make everyone’s visit special. Because it’s not that big a resort, the whole atmosphere is very welcoming. Over lunch or over dinner, you will see families mingling with each other. John said that his motto is “Come as guests and leave as friends” which I pretty much felt like what he is doing. They make time to talk to all the guests and make conversations with them.
There is no buffet but they serve good homemade food in the on-site restaurants they call the Barn and the Hut. They use handed down family recipe of Syrian Christian Malayali. To ensure the quality of the meals, they have different fruits and vegetables on the estates like bananas, passion fruit, guava, and tree tomatoes. I seriously loved the tomato soup. Of course, the others were really good too but then the tomato soup surprised me. I seriously wanted to ask for more but then more food was served that’s quite enough for everyone cause we were all so full.
Alongside the homemade food, they also serve Continental, Oriental and Indian cuisines for breakfast. And in the Hut, they served homegrown tea from 3:30 PM until 6 PM. No alcoholic drinks but mocktails only. You may bring your own alcoholic drinks and can consume them inside your rooms.
In the Hut, they have cooking demonstrations. We learned how to do fish curry and fried vegetables when we were there.
Other hotel amenities of Windermere are the swimming pool near the Barn. This swimming pool overl looks the tea plantation so it has a calming effect. Pool with an awesome view. This would be good for the afternoon, it is not heated so it can be cold in the morning but it’s perfect in the afternoon. They also have a Library on the second floor of the Barn. The Library mostly has books and magazines about different plant and animals, the culture of Kerala, and so on. There are hammocks around the estate where you can unwind, soul search or read a good book. They call this area as the Glenn.
Twice a week, they invite all the guests to gather for a bonfire in the Boulder area of the Estate. Barbecue and vegetarian kebab are served and shared plus good talk, laughter or singing among the group. This is one of the visions of the Windermere Estate which is to allow all the guests to get together and befriend each other. Thus, making the experience at the retreat house even more memorable and meaningful.
The Windermere Estate offers optional outdoor activities for guests like yoga classes, two-hour walk along cardamom plantation and bird watching tour. The Estate is also an ideal place for bicycling. So, they also offer bike rentals.
Ideal Itinerary in Munnar with Windermere Retreats
On day one, you can arrive and check-in between 1:00 PM and 10:30 PM. Then, in the early afternoon, do the two-hour walk along the cardamom plantation. By 3:30 PM until 6 PM, the homegrown tea is served on the Hut. After that, you can schedule your cooking class or cooking demonstration. Then, chill for a while. Don’t forget your dinner.
Wake up and watch the sunrise. Go out for bird watching around the estate. Then, explore the other destinations in Munnar through Jeep safari. Jeep safari tour can cover some of the most important places in Munnar like tea factory, spice plantations, and museums. You may book via Route 49.
You can opt to go to a 4 hour guided trek or to a 7 to 8-hour difficult trek through the second highest peak in the Western Ghats. You can also opt to visit the town, villages or the school for specially-abled children, Srishti Trust.
Chill, relax, enjoy the view or go trekking or go to the national parks. Then, take a road trip to see jacaranda trees.
Side Trip to Windermere River House, Neriamangalam
Roughly two hours away, the Windermere Estates has another property in Neriamangalam. Neriamangalam is a small town located on the borders of Ernakulam and Idukki districts and along the Periyar River.
They named the property as the Windermere River House. This is relatively new but worth the visit as well. It is open as an accommodation. Just like the Windermere Estate in Munnar, it’s very homey. This one only has 5 rooms but I loved it. It has all the basic facilities the guests will need. Four of these rooms has the view of the river.
The Windermere River House has an al fresco dining area. They use all organic and homegrown ingredients. It has the pool similar to that we saw on Windermere Estates, Munnar. Yoga class is conducted behind the main building and near the riverbank.
The Windermere River House offers many outdoor activities within and near its vicinity. At the Periyar River behind the retreat house, you can go out for canoeing. This is definitely something you should try. I loved the calmness of the water. Although you shouldn’t move too much so the canoe won’t tip over— but the likelihood of that is slim. I mean, I kept moving to adjust my view ( you know by now that I get restless) but the guide was good that we didn’t tip. Perhaps no big movements like jumping or what not.
You can also go for a nature walk or cycling across a hanging bridge, nearby village and into the forest temple. We went here during sunset and the view was awesome. Children were swimming under the bridge, others were canoeing— felt like a very local area. We talked to people passing the bridge, they kept asking where I am from but a lot of them seem to know about or a lot of Filipinos and the Philippines so whenever I mention I am from the Philippines, they talk about people they know.
We saw the biggest moth, Atlas, and the rhino ladybug in the property so that could be interesting too. For those up for bird watching, you can visit the first bird sanctuary in Kerala, the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary.
You can then drop by a nearby Toddy shop. A toddy shop is their local tavern whose specialty is a mild alcoholic drink. They call this local drink as Kallu. Basically, it is a palm wine. In the Philippines, it is called tuba.