Munnar: Kerala India's Plantation Paradise
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Tea, Spices and MoreAlthough it lies at the confluence of 3 mountain streams (Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala), Munnar remains essentially a "tea" town, with most of the plantations taken over by Tata Tea.
Besides the tea bush, Munnar is known for the Neelakurinji, an exotic flowering plant which bathes the hills in blue when it flowers - once in 12 years. between July and December. The peak season will be between August and September. Local variations are possible. Munnar is also renowned for its spices. Several varieties of spice are cultivated in Munnar and its neighboring villages; pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, garlic, cloves and vanilla.
Landmarks SightsThe High Range club has a charming colonial style. The club house is built of wicker and teak and is the social hub for the tea "Planters" of the region. Members enjoy lounging in the bar over Planter's Punch followed by a good meal, a game of billiards or reading a book in the library.
Set up in 1900 the Munnar Supply Association (MSA for short) is another nostalgic landmark worth visiting in Munnar. It is the oldest department store in the area and has been re-inventing itself to stay relevant and popular after almost 102 years. The store was run by "planters" who still manage its affairs. The MSA is a red brick red tiled building with gables, buttresses and a porch and is now a heritage site.
Activities to EnjoyThere are some interesting things to do in the area. Thirteen kilometers (8 miles) away is Mathupetty with its Indo Swiss dairy farm, picturesque Kundala lake, and Kundala tea plantation. Speedboats and motorboats can be hired for boating in the Mathupethy reservoir.
Long walks and trekking in the mountains are possible in Pothamedu (6 km/4 miles from Munnar) with its rolling hills, lush mountains and a wonderful view of tea, coffee, and cardamom plantations of Munnar. Devikulam (7 km/5 miles away) is home to the Sita Devi Lake with its mineral waters. The lake is also ideal for trout fishing. Chithirapuram (10 km/7 away) exudes an old world charm with sleepy little cottages, old playgrounds and of course picturesque tea plantations.
Eravikulam National Park (15 km/9 miles away) is home to the Nilgiri Thar (Nilgiri Ibex or mountain goat). Those wishing to trek can climb Anamudi (2695 metre/8758 feet) the highest peak in the South of India. Marayoor (40 km/25 miles away) is the only place in Kerala with a natural forest of sandalwood trees. It has caves (muniyaras) with murals and relics from the new Stone Age.
Top station (32 km/20 miles away) is 1700 metres/5525 feet and the rare Neelakurinji (the blue rarely flowering bush) is native to this region. Top station affords some spectacular views of the ghats and the plains.
Because of its altitude of 1600 meters (5000 to 8000 ft) Munnar has the distinction of growing very high quality aromatic teas and after the trekking and mountain walks are done there is no better way to relax than over a nice hot cup of tea!
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