Situated in an altitude of 6000 ft amidst the Western Ghats at the confluence of three mountain streams, Munnar is a hill station that was once a retreat for Englishmen and their families in South India during colonial rule. A large part of the native flora and fauna of Munnar has vanished due to severe habitat fragmentation caused by the development tea plantations. However, many endemic and threatened species continue to survive and thrive in several protected zones around Munnar. The region around the town is ideal for treks and camping, birding, mountain biking and four wheel drive tours. Set against a backdrop of sprawling tea plantations, picture postcard towns, mist shrouded hills and vast stretches of forests, Munnar will elevate your soul.
History of Munnar
Munnar was once the summer capital of the British administration in South India. In summer when the heat in the plains began to get oppressive entire families and their staff moved to Munnar. Due to the cool climate they named Munnar ‘little England’. It is believed that the earliest European visitor was a Scotsman followed by the Duke of Wellington. Even though documented historical information exists from the 10th century, Munnar’s history is ancient. Prehistoric relics found in the area indicate the existence of a Stone Age civilization. In the early 19th century the chieftain of the villages in the Anchanad area named Kannan Thevar held lands to the north of the high ranges in the territory under the rule of the Raja of Poonjar. JD Munro a British lawyer and tea planter leased close to 600sq km of jungle around Munnar from the Poonjar king. It is believed that the first tea sapling was planted by A.H.Sharp in what is today part of Sevenmullay Estate. He then cleared the forests for tea plantations. This land was then known as Kannan Thevar Concession Land till 1895 when Finlay Muir and Company bought Munro’s land. Today many remanents of the colonial period can still be seen in Munnar town and in the surrounding tea plantations.
From Kochi Airport: Kalady, Perumbavoor, Kothamangalam, Adimali, Munnar.
From Ernakulam Railway Station: Vyttila, Thiruvankulam, Muvattupuzha, Kothamangalam, Adimali, Munnar.
From Coimbatore: Udmalpet, Marayoor, Munnar.
From Madurai: Theni, Bodi, Pooppara, Devikulam, Munnar.
From Thekkady: Vandanmedu, Santhanpara, Pooppara, Devikulam, Munnar.
Distances from various destinations
(Kms & Time)
Kochi international Airport:
115 kms and 3.5 hrs
Ernakulam Railway Station:
132 kms and 4 hrs
165 kms and 4.5 hrs
160 kms and 4.5 hrs
101 kms and 3 hrs
158 kms and 4.5 hrs
Mattupetty located 13 km from Munnar is situated at a height of 1700 m and is a delight for nature lovers. Mattupetty offers many fascinating sights to relish. Besides the lush green tea plantations, and the rolling grasslands, the Shola forests in and around Mattupetty are ideal for trekking and habitat to a fascinating variety of birds. One of the main attractions in Mattupetty is the beautiful lake formed by the reservoir of the Mattupetty Dam , which are ideal picnic spots . Speed launches and motor boats are available on hire.
This scenic place gets its name from the natural echo phenomenon here. Echo Point is on the way to Top Station from Munnar.
Kundale Dam /Lake
Kundale Dam offer one of the most spectacular views in Munnar. The dam has an artificial reservoir and boating facilities for tourists. The surrounding areas are carpeted with lush green tea estates. A narrow path above the dam is a vantage point to take in the scenery. For golfing enthusiasts the course here is picturesque.
The highest point on the Munnar-Kodaikanal road. Travellers to Munnar make it a point to visit Top Station to enjoy the spectacular panoramic view it offers of the plains below in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. It is also one of the spots in Munnar to view the blooming of vast stretches of ‘Neelakurinji’ flowers once every twelve years.
Pothamedu View Point
Pothamedu offers beautiful views of tea, coffee and cardamom plantations. The area is ideal for trekking and long mountain walks.
A great spot for photography, the waterfalls drop near the Vagavurai Estate, on the way to Marayoor from Munnar amidst wilderness. The adjoining Vagavurai valley is named due to the abundance of ‘Vaga’ trees. When the trees are in full bloom the whole of Vagavurai valley is seen covered in bright red.
Scenic views and a beautiful waterfall greet travelers to Nyayamakad. The 1,600-m waterfall and the surrounding landscape are refreshing where one can spend hours frolicking in the cool pool. Trekking to the nearby hills is an exciting affair.
A scenic waterfall and a feast for the senses set amidst hills and jungles between Munnar and Pallivasal. The area is renowned for its scenic views, sparkling waterfalls and rolling hills. Attukadu is also an ideal point to embark on long treks and hikes.
The Lockhart Gap is an ideal place for adventure sport and trekking. The fresh mountain air, mist-clad hills and panoramic views make it worth a visit.
Surrounded by undulating slopes of lush tea plantations and evergreen forests, a trip to the reservoir is an unforgettable experience.
A silver cascade down a steep rock slope, the surroundings offer a splendid view of mountains of the Western Ghats.
Kolukkumalai is about 38 km from Munnar. The hill top is accessible only by jeep and offers superb views of the distant plains below in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. The distant hills slipping in and out of the mist is a captivating sight. Kolukkumalai is also home to what many consider the highest tea plantations in the world. The tea grown here has a special flavour and freshness, thanks to the high altitude. Go on a guided tour through the two-storied tea factor. Built in the 1930s, with wooden interiors and aroma of tea processes tea in the traditional method different from the more popular CTC (crush-tear-curl method). Tea lovers will be pleased to sip different varieties of tea from the tea tasting centre here. Those wanting to take home the flavour, can buy fresh packets from the outlet attached to the factory.
This is the only place in Kerala where sandalwood trees grow naturally. The sandalwood factory of the Forest Department and the children's park spread across a hectare of land under the canopy of a single Banyan tree are of great interest to tourists. The Thoovanam waterfalls and Rajiv Gandhi National Park are also nearby. Set on the slopes of the Western Ghat, the caves here with pre historic murals, Dolmenoid burial chambers, paintings and relics from the New Stone Age civilization also make Marayoor an important pre-historic site in Kerala .
A horticulturists paradisw, at 5000 ft above sea level, Kanthalloor provides the climate for the natural farming of fruits like apple, which are not commonly cultivated elsewhere in Kerala. Along with apples, guava, gooseberry, orange, eggfruits, peach, passion fruit etc are also cultivated here. Vegetables and spices like cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, beans, potato, and garlic grow here aplenty.
A trek to Mannavanchola going past rare beautiful species of orchids is an adventure. From the watch tower here one can enjoy spectacular scenic views of the blue of the deep forests of Kanthalloor, Marayoor, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and Amaravathy lake.
Amaravathi Crocodile Farm
The largest wild breeding population of crocodiles in South India, the broad-snouted Mugger Crocodiles, also known as Marsh Crocodiles and Persian Crocodiles, are the most common and widespread of the three species of crocodiles found in India. The mugger crocodile, once abundant in Amaravathy, Periyar and Chinnar rivers have been threatened to near extinction.
Palivasal : Kerala’s first hydro electric project and a place of immense natural beauty.
Nyayamakad : A place of breathtaking waterfalls between Munnar and Rajamala.
Pothamedu : A point for an excellent view of plantations and ideal for trekking.
Devikulam : Literally means ‘the pond of a goddess, Devikulam is a tiny and beautiful hill station near Munnar.
Guests may opt to visit many of the wildlife parks in the area filled with a fascinating variety of flora and fauna. TnU conducts both day and night safaris to these parks. These protected areas are especially known for several threatened and endemic species including the nilagiri thar, the grizzled giant squirrel, the nilagiri wood pigeon, elephants, gaur, the nilagiri langur and sambar deer.
The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
Periyar National Park is a sanctuary famous for its dense evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist deciduous forests and savanna grass lands. The park is home to herds of elephants, sambar deer, tigers, gaur, lion-tailed macaques and nilagiri langurs. The most attractive feature of Periyar is the herds of wild elephants that gather around the artificial lake formed by the Mullaiperiyar Dam across the Periyar River. The Thekkady region around the park is a heaven for natural spices such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and clove.
Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary
The wildlife sanctuary ensures the long-term protection of the unique biodiversity of the area, especially Strobilanthes Kunthiana (the Nilakurinji flower) and its habitat around Kottakamboor and Vattavada villages.
Eravikulam National Park
The park accommodates almost half of the world’s population of a rare species of mountain goat named the Nilagiri Thar. The highest peak in South India, Anaimudi (2695m) is located in the southern part of the park is an ideal spot for trekking. The Anamalai sub-cluster, including all of Eravikulam National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Annaimudi Shola National Park
This is a protected area composed of Mannavan, Idiyara and Pullardi Shola forests.The Anamudi Shola National Park provides valuable contiguous wildlife habitat connectivity to the other wildlife parks that surround this protected area. This national park forms part of the Anamalai sub-cluster, which was recently nominated for consideration for World Heritage Site status under UNESCO's World Heritage Programme.
Pampadum Shola National Park
The smallest national park in Kerala adjoins the Allinagaram Reserved Forest within the proposed Palani Hills Wildlife Sanctuary and protects a moderate amount of montane evergreen shola forest. The evergreen trees and the water sources are the habitat of various birds and animals. The keystone species here is the highly elusive and endangered, endemic small carnivore the nilagiri marten. Leopards and Indian wild dogs are sometimes sighted at dusk and dawn. Substantial numbers of tigers also live in the park. Species of birds found here include the nilagiri wood pigeon, white bellied short wing, scaly breasted lorikeet, blue rock thrush, blue capped rock thrush, nilagiri flycatcher, black and orange flycatchers. Studies have been made on various rare medicinal plants in the park and the unique richness of uncontaminated ‘ humus’.
Chinar Wildlife Sanctuary
The Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the rain shadow region of Western Ghats and is home to a large number of plants and animals. Due to the significant variation in altitude and rainfall, Chinnar has a wide array of habitat types like deciduous forests, dry thorn scrub,
riparian forests, shoals and grassland containing about 1000 species of flowering plants and a repository of medicinal plants. The sanctuary has recorded the largest number of reptilian fauna in Kerala including the mugger crocodile. With 225 recorded species of birds, it is one of the richest areas of south India in avian diversity. The riverine forests support a healthy population of the endangered grizzled giant squirrel, the pride of Chinnar. The famous and extremely rare white bison has been recently reported. Other important mammals found are elephant, tiger, leopard, guar, sambhar, spotted deer, nilagiri thar, common langur, bonnet macaque. The phenomenon of butterfly migration occurs in the period between the monsoons. A watchtower in the sanctuary offers an unbelievably beautiful view of the sanctuary- vast expanses of green forests extending to the nearby state of Tamil Nadu and far away mountains. The sanctuary, a trekker’s paradise, is situated about 60 km away from Munnar.
Two groups of tribes, Muthuvans and Hill Pulayas, inhabit the sanctuary in 11 hamlets or ‘Kudies’. The sanctuary provides livelihood options for the tribes and helps in maintaining their cultural heritage. Archeologically significant megalithic burial sites consisting of dolmens and cysts are found near some settlements. With the launching of the eco development program, successful efforts have been made for evolving a model of biodiversity conservation in a human dominated landscape.
Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary
The Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary is a birder’s paradise with over 140 species including 11 endemics having been spotted over a visit. The vegetation in the sanctuary best for birding consists of tropical evergreen forest, though the evergreen vegetation can also make spotting difficult.
Elevations around Thattekkad are over 1500 meters lower than in Munnar, the local temperatures are higher and birds became more active. The vegetation changes in this area over relatively short distances and with slight changes in elevation. The sanctuary also contains a large marsh where whiskered tern, bronze-winged jacana and noisy flocks of lesser whistling ducks can be spotted. In the dry season, many of the trees drop their leaves, making it relatively easy to spot the birds. Cuckoos and drongos are the most common species encountered besides green bee-eaters, blue-tailed bee-eaters, mottled wood and Asian darters, little cormorants, shirka, Blyth’s pipit, ashy wood swallow, common iora, black-hooded oriole, greater racket-tailed drongo, black drongo, bronze drongo, rufus treepie, grey-bellied cuckoo, greater coucal, common hawk cuckoo, Asian koel, yellow-billed babbler, thick-billed warbler, lesser yellow nape, Rufus woodpecker, brown-capped pygmy woodpecker, and streak-throated woodpecker, the Malabar grey hornbill and the white-bellied blue flycatcher. Other species often spotted include: collared scops owl, Indian cuckoo, greater flameback, jungle owlet, Malabar woodshrike, crested serpent eagle, rusty-tailed flycatcher, blue-throated flycatcher, brown-breasted flycatcher, orange-headed thrush, black–naped oriole, eurasian golden oriole, large cuckooshirke, white-rumped needle tail, flame-throated bulbul, heart-spotted woodpecker, small minivet, rose-winged parakeet, Asian paradise-flycatcher and the pale-billed flower pecker, India’s smallest bird. A best spot for birding in Kerala
BIRDING IN MUNNAR
Munnar is a destination that avid birders and nature lovers will find great delight in. The Western Ghat mountains of which the Palani Hills of Munnar are a part, contain very distinct flora and fauna and it is the most species-rich eco-region in peninsular India; eighty percent of the flowering plant species of the entire Western Ghats range are found in this region. Above elevations of 1600 m you will find the shola-grassland mosaic, habitats exclusive to the Western Ghats. The cool and moist climate, high rainfall, and variety of microclimates brought about by differences in elevation and exposure support lush and diverse forests. The trees generally form a canopy at 15 to 20 m, and the forests are multistoried and rich in epiphytes, especially orchids and are home to a profusion offascinating avian species.
Most of the native flora and fauna of Munnar have disappeared due to severe habitat fragmentation as a result of the growth of plantations. However, numerous species continue to survive and thrive in many protected zones nearby: Kurinjimala Sanctuary, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Manjampatti Valley, the Amaravati reserve forest, Eravikulam National Park, Anamudi Shola National Park , Pampadum Shola National Park and the proposed Palani Hills National Park.
Popular birding hotspots in Munnar
Rajamalai (Eravikulam National Park)
The terrain in the park consists of high altitude grasslands interspersed with sholas. Tickell's and Tytler’s Leaf Warblers, Large Billed Leaf Warblers, Indian Scimitar Babblers, Black and Orange Flycatchers, Nilgiri Flycatchers, Blue Rock Thrushes, Eurasian Blackbirds, Bonelli & Black Eagles, White Cheeked Barbets, Pacific Swallows, Malabar Whistling Thrushes, Velvet Fronted Nuthatchs, Grey Junglefowl, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon are some of species that have been spotted by birders here.
Bodinayakanur, also called Bodi is a small town located on the foothills of the Western Ghats, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. This town is surrounded by the Western Ghats on three sides, offering spectacular views. Birds found in this region are Yellow Throated Bulbuls, Jungle Prinia, Sirkeer Malkohas, White Cheeked & Crimson Fronted Barbets, Pacific Swallows and Rufouy’s Babblers, Red Spurfowl, Jungle Bush Quail, Grey Junglefowl, Indian Swiftlets, Yellow Eyed Babblers, Purple Rumped and Loten's Sunbirds, Thick Billed Warblers, Green Imperial Pigeons, White Bellied Drongo, Puff Throated Babblers and Black Headed Cuckooshrike.
In the general areas around Munnar birders have reported sightings of over 21 species including the Malabar Parakeet, the Indian Roller, Loten’s Sunbird, Plum-headed Parakeet, Steppe Buzzard, Vernal Hanging Parrot, Scarlet Minivet, Plain Flowerpecker, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Hill Myna, Jungle Myna, Pacific Swallow and the Pompadour Green Pigeon, the Crimson-backed Sunbird, Nilgiri Flycatcher, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon and Black-and-Orange Flycatcher besides Red-rumped Swallow, Greenish Warbler, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Fork-tailed Swift, Common Chiffchaff, Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike, Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Dusky Crag Martin and Tickell’s Leaf Warbler.
The High Range Club Munnar
Exploring the area around the High Range Club, you are most likely to be able to spot the Grey-breasted Laughingthrush. Other species include: White-browed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Tytler’s Leaf Warbler, Little Grebe, Indian Swiflet and House Swift,: Golden–fronted Leafbird, Purple Sunbird, Ashy Drongo, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Orange-breasted Green Pigeon and Common Tailorbird, the White-breasted Water Hen, Red-wattled Lapwing, Common Moorhen, and Brown Shrike, the Nilgiri Pipit, White-bellied Shortwing and Broad-tailed Grassbird. Grey Jungle Fowl, Pied Bushchat; Oriental White Eye, Common Buzzard, Eurasian Blackbird, and Plain Prinia may also be spotted in the area.
Munnar Cycling tours
The best means of getting around Munnar besides walking is to look around for bicycles. Trails lead out of town through undulating tea plantations, past gurgling brooks, past pastures with seemingly indolent bovines. The air is bracing throughout the year except during the monsoon and life here resonates with a different rhythm. As one heads further away from the town, you are wrapped in a stillness within which the little things of everyday life here assume a special significance. Men and women tending to the tea bushes, the joyous orchestration of bird calls, giggling children on the way to school, the peal of a distant church bell, strangers look you in the eye and smile.
The roads that wind through the estates are reasonably good, however the further one goes from Munnar, they tend to get pretty rough. You will need a mountain bike or at the very least a basic multispeed. You will not have assistance in terms of repairs and it is prudent to check on the condition of your bicycle before venturing out.
There are numerous lakes, forests and streams around Munnar that are great picnic spots and it might be a good idea to pack a little hamper as you embark on your ride. Some of the streams are great for fishing
Distance: 42 km.
Some of the destinations have camp sites where one can spend the night, at the others it best to return to Munnar before sunset. Fishing gear can be hired locally.
Forest excursions on a four wheel drive vehicle From hotel to Mannavam shola and drive thru the forest to Marayoor and return to the hotel - estimated time - 6 hours… b: From hotel to Pazhathottam to Vattavada and return to hotel – estimated time - 5 hours. (Drives chargeable in addition to other applicable tariffs and on demand)
Short treks(5hr) – Kolukkumally, Letchmi, Sevemally
Hard trek-(8hr) – Meesapulimally, Chinnar
T & U Leisure Hotel
T and U Leisure Hotel is a destination for luxury vacation, but on a budget. Located, just One Kilometer from the Munnar town , towards the Main sightseeing area like Flower Garden, Madupetty Dam / Lake, Echo Point, Kundale Dam and Top Station.
The hotel is surrounded by lush green valleys and tea plantations and offer picturesque sights and scenes. T and U being a leisure hotel in Munnar town....