Munnar Best for Trekking and Tea is just over a hundred kilometres from Kochi, but a four-hour drive inland. We haven’t had enough of the coast yet, but we’re saving the lazing-on-a-beach for the end. In the meantime, we’re driving through small towns and upward past neatly-ordered tea plantations dotted with slender eucalyptus trees covered in silvery lichen. Walk through sprawling, terraced tea plantations, huff your way up rolling hills, look for a Nilgiri tahr in Eravikulam National Park.
Munnar, thankfully, is still way behind the hill stations of the north in terms of construction and traffic, and it offers the possibility of even greater solitude if you spend some time in the Eravikulam National Park (15 km).
Home to surreally beautiful endemic plants such as the neelakurinji, which flowers every 12 years to stain the hills with blue, Anamudi, the tallest peak south of the Himalayas, and as a protective zone for the endangered Nilgiri tahr, the Eravikulam National Park has a lot to offer. Give yourself at least a day to explore its grasslands and sholas (forests), though you’ll probably find yourself wanting more.
Munnar itself has a number of less strenuous activities to occupy yourself with as well, such as a visit to the Tata Tea Museum in the Nalluthanni Estate, where visitors can watch an interesting short documentary on the history of tea plantations in India and see quaint, now obsolete, machines that were in use in the early 1900s. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the town is by hiring a cycle and rolling down (and huffing up) the roads, as we do, to enjoy the 12,000 hectares of tea bushes. This is, of course, best done in the mornings while the tea pluckers are hard at work. Of course, like every self-respecting hill station in India, Munnar too has a ‘view point’: Top Station, 23km away, which looks out over the plains that border Tamil Nadu.
As we leave Munnar, looking back at the mist-ringed hills, we’re resolving to come back here in 2016 when the neelakurinji blooms next.
Where to Stay
Anaerangal Camp is made up of a row of tents and a gazebo where fireside conversations flow as you gaze at Anaerangal Lake (00-91-484- 2092280; munnarcamps.com, info@munnarcamps. com; Suryanelli, 25km from Munnar; from Rs. 4,500 all-inclusive).
Casa Del Fauno has only three bedrooms and feels more like a private home than a guesthouse (00-91-484- 3126444; casadelfauno.com, info@ casadelfauno.in; Peak Gardens, Chinnakanal PO, Muttukadu; from Rs. 5,250).
Where to Eat
Rapsy Restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall eatery that began as a local favourite, now serves a mix of Indian dishes like paratha and biryani and Middle-Eastern shakshuka (Munnar Bazaar; meal for two about Rs. 150)
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