“What is the meaning of the name Munnar?”, my inner curious kid asked as our cab turned a hairpin bend on our way to the hill station.
“moonu, aaru. Meaning confluence of three rivers. Nullatanni, Kundale and Kanniar.”, answered Joseph, our cabbie cum guide.
“Oh ok. So how long its going to take?”, I was already getting bored from the 3 hour drive we had started from Kochi.
“A little more”, Joseph replied as he started slowing the car down.
“Why are we stopping? Loo break?”, Stopping before reaching Munnar made no sense as we were loosing day light.
“Waterfall”, Joseph exclaimed while our car screeched to a halt. We were welcomed by a small stream of gushing water cascading down the rocks beside the road. We may be far from Munnar, but the natural beauty of the Wastern ghats had started showing its colors.
The route at a glance:
The total distance between Kochi and Munnar is 125 km, which takes about 4 hours to complete owing to the mountainous road and traffic. There are however multiple places in between the two points that one can cover while on the route.
The main 3 attractions on route are:
- Cheyappara waterfall
- Everest Green Ayurvedic & Spice Farm
- Blossom hydel park
Below is a google map link to all the places:
My trip from Kochi to Munnar:
Once our ride started early ay around 6 AM, from Kochi to Munnar. We covered a lot of distance very quickly. The bylanes of Kochi were still sleepy and roadside eateries hadn’t opened for the day. An hour into the drive we were already on the country side, crossing farms and forest flanking the road.
As we started climbing the hills of western ghats, the farm gave way to large uninterrupted forest, hills upon hills, till the eyes could see. A couple of hours later, we had pulled over to experience a waterfall that stood by the road as if to welcome weary travelers into the lap of Munnar.
The waterfall by the road:
The name is Cheyappara waterfall, and it stands right beside the road. We just parked our car on the road and took off to experience the misty droplets generated from the fall. The waterfall is more or less perennial, with just the volume increasing many folds in the monsoons and decreasing to the levels as seen in the pictures for rest of the year.
People do bath in the waterfall, short poles are installed by the local authorities to hold on to while bathing, ensuring people don’t flow off. It is however not a recommended activity as there is a danger of falling rocks.
The place tends to become quite crowded, as anyone visiting Munnar tends to make a stop here. The crowd however is not stationary and flows along with the vehicular traffic. If you have time to spend, you can easily experience some secluded moments under the fall.
There are a few shops lined up beside the road, selling mostly snacks, and servicing the tea hungry populace of India.
The Spice Garden:
Kerala has been the spice center of the world for a very long time, earliest of whose mention is found in Roman literature from the 77 AD. Within Kerala Munnar, Thekady and Allepey host multiple spice farms, who offer guided tour of their property, for people interested to know the origin of the spices stashed away in their kitchen.
One such farm, Everest Green Spice Garden is located right on the road to Munnar. The whole farm is 20+ acers, however the tour is planned around an acre of model farm, near the entrance. The model farm hosts small quantity of all plants, there by providing a wholesome treat within a short amount of hike.
Our guide, Keshav, led us through the lush farm, pausing from tree to tree, to explain the journey of each spice from Inception to our kitchen shelves.
He gestured toward a vine of green kernels dangling from a jackfruit tree. Clustered together, they looked like strings of tiny green pearls. “This is pepper. In India, we call it the king of spices.”, proclaimed Keshav. Next up was a small round fruit hanging from a nearby tree. He explained that this innocent looking fruit hid in its core the seed called Nutmeg, which is again encased within a layer of another spice Mace. Nature is so dramatic.
Further ahead there were more plans, shrubs, trees of spices and medicinal herbs; some of whose name I knew and some were completely alien to me. Herb enthusiasts will definitely have a gala time here. There is a small outlet here as well, where you can buy the spices and herbs produced in the farm.
First Impressions of Munnar:
As we left the spice farm the landscape started changing. The thick forested hills started to make way for patches of tea gardens. Tea Gardens were introduced in the hills during the British rule, by chopping down indigenous forests. Whether it was a good idea or bad is still up for debate, but one thing no one can dispute is that the tea gardens certainly looked splendid.
Meticulously manicured, uniform colored, there is something magnetic about tea gardens, which has always made me gravitate towards them. Munnar had just made a marvelous first impression on me.
The Blossom Hydel Park:
Technically Blossom Hydel Park is inside Munnar, but this place comes before the main city center which houses most of the hotels, hence I have included it in this list. One can visit it while arriving at the city or throng this place after a busy day of sightseeing, hydel park doesn’t disappoint anyone.
The park is home to various recreational activities like boating, zip lining, roller skating etc. It also hosts a dedicated children’s play area consisting of swings and jungle gyms.
Various flowering plants also call hydel park their home and at times there are flower exhibitions held, to showcase the variety to the general public. The colors and aroma of the flowers alleviate the beauty of the place manifolds.
The park is a part of the Sylvan hill resort of Munnar and is located nearby beautiful Muthirappuzha river and misty Kannan Devam hill Tea Estates. The natural setting along with the landscaped lawns, gardens & artificial waterfalls, makes it a perfect place to relax and refresh.
A Kerala trip warrants time and if some spots happen to pop up on your way from point A to point B, it must be explored. The route from Kochi to Munnar can be further customized, however I feel this itinerary is perfect as it covers the most places, are exactly on the way with least diversion, and provides for ample time to explore each of them; while not tiring one out too much.