With winding lanes, charming tea plantations, and exotic fauna and flora, one of the first places you must visit in Kerala is Munnar! Munnar is an enchanting hill station that is a popular tourist attraction in Kerala. Standing at an altitude of 5000 feet above sea level, the town is famous all over the country for its never-ending tea estates and its green belt of flora. The lush forests of Munnar are home to many endangered species like Nilgiri Tahr and Neelakurinji that visitors might have the opportunity to see during their visit, depending on the season! Munnar is also a popular camping and trekking site, and its rocky terrains, misty hills, and charming rivers will definitely captivate the visitors during their adventure! Therefore, if you plan to travel to God’s Own Country the next time, make sure that Munnar is a part of your itinerary.
Brief History of Munnar
The earliest history of the region is not really recorded, but the place is believed to have been densely forested, housing many unique flora and fauna. The earliest people that started permanently living in Munnar are believed to be the Muthuvan tribes who had come from the terrains of Madurai during 900 AD because of social or political turmoil in the city. During those years, other tribes like the Kaders, Pallayers, Ooralers, and Kuruvas started settling in Munnar.
The first European that visited Munnar was Colonel Arthur Wellesley in 1790 when the state of Travancore had to be defended from the army of Tipu Sultan in the Kumaly gap region of Munnar. Trades between the region and the Europeans are believed to have been started in 1817, and over the years, more merchants started travelling to the region and settling there. The earliest trades are recorded to have been the betel nuts and cloth, which were taken to the capital of Travancore.
Plantations in Munnar began during the years of 1870s when a dispute between Madras and the state of Travancore had to be settled by John Daniel Munro, a resident of Travancore. He found the region to be extremely beautiful and saw a potential for plantation farming. The area where he wanted to begin the plantation was the “Jenmam land”, which was controlled by the royal family called Poonjar, a subordinate of the Travancore Maharaja. So, John Daniel Munro met with the head of the Poonjar Royal family and took a lease for 2 years between the years 1877 and 1879. the head of the family was Rohini Thirunal Kerala Varma Valiya Raja, and the lease was taken for Rs. 5000.
Over the years, a few other people started joining in on the plantations in Munnar. They started planting many crops like cardamom, coffee, sisal, and cinchona, which were all taken care of by Tamil workers. A society was created by A.W. Turner and H.G. Turner in 1878 after joining Munro, and this was called the North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural society.
Tea was first introduced in the area by A.H. Sharp in 1880, and the land was purchased in 1893 by Finlay Muir and the company to begin the production of tea on a large scale. Tea was officially established in 1897 when they formed the Kannan Devan Hills Company, and by 1915, the area was housing around 16 tea factories. The plantation did take a few setbacks during 1924 because of excessive flooding, landslide, and rainfall, but tea production still stood strong in the region’s economy.
The Tatas then bought a few shares from the Finlays in 1964, but by 1983, the Tatas bought all the shares, becoming the Tata Tea Ltd. This was the time Munnar started seeing an increase in tourism from different parts of the state and South India. However, Munnar has now become a very popular tourist destination expecting visitors from different parts of the country.
Popular Attractions in Munnar
Munnar is a lush hill station with a touch of colonial charm, offering its visitors a lot of captivating attractions worth visiting! A few of the very popular ones include:
Located about 13 kilometres away from the central town of Munnar, the Mattupetty Dam is a famous water reservoir that offers its visitors a lot of aesthetic sights! Because of the constant presence of water in the area, the place is home to an exotic range of fauna and flora that migrate or permanently stay there. Tourists might also get to the Asiatic Elephants in the region when visiting the dam.
The Top Station is a very popular point located about 40 kilometres away from the town that offers its visitors captivating panoramic views of the western ghats. From the Top Station, you will be able to view the gorgeous valleys and the soft horizon with the clear, smooth skies blending into the background.
Have you ever wanted to know more about the tea plantations in Munnar and their history? Then do not miss out on the Tea Museum in Munnar that will educate you on the entire tea culture in South India. Here, you will be able to understand the entire life cycle of the tea leaves- from plucking to packing.
Mattupetty Dairy Farm
The other popular attraction in Mattupetty is the Mattupetty dairy farm that educated its visitors about the livestock and the dairy products in the region. Visitors can take a tour of this Indo-Swiss dairy farm while enjoying the captivating views of Munnar.
Located about 20 kilometres away from Munnar, another great tourist attraction to visit in the region is Kundala Lake. Though the lake was artificially made, people still visit it for its natural charm. Another reason why the lake is so popular is that it is home to “NeelaKurunji”, the beautiful flower species that only blooms once every twelve years.
The Attukad waterfall is a must-visit location in Munnar since it is one of the best waterfalls in the region! Located amongst the lush and beautiful forests of Munnar, the waterfall is a popular destination for trekkers and nature-lovers.
Blossom International Park
Home to some exotic and rare species of flowers, the Blossom International Park is another popular tourist spot worth visiting. Spread across 16 acres, the part of the beauty of Munnar is definitely present there. Another reason why Blossom International Park is so popular amongst tourists is because it offers so many different activities like adventure trails, boating, nature walking, bird watching, and roller skating.
The Best Visiting Time
Munnar is a hill station, and it is beautiful all around the year. However, each season has its pros and cons and depending on exactly what you want to experience during your visit, and you can plan your vacation.
Travelling to Munnar
Since Munnar is a very popular tourist destination, there are many different ways to reach the town.