Munnar

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Munnar (Malayalam: മൂന്നാര്‍) is one of the most popular hill-resort towns in Kerala and in southern India. Munnar is located on the Western Ghats, situated in the Idukki district. The name Munnar is believed to be derived from the Malayalam words Munu (three) and aaru (river), referring to the town’s strategic location at the confluence of the Muthirappuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers.

The Munnar panchayat in the Devikulam block is the largest panchayat in the Idukki district having an area measuring nearly 557 km².

The nearest major railway stations are at Ernakulam and Aluva (formerly spelt as Alwaye),(approximately 110 km by road). The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, which is 105 km away.

Geography and climate

The region in and around Munnar varies in height from 1,450 meters (4,760 ft) to 2,695 meters (8,842 ft) above mean sea level. Munnar enjoys a salubrious climate. The temperature ranges between 10 °C (50 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) in winter and 15 °C (59 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) in summer.[1] Temperatures as low as −2 °C (28 °F) have been recorded in the Sevenmallay region of Munnar.[2]The mean maximum daily temperature is at its lowest during the monsoon months with the highest temperature being 19 C.

A drive from Udumalpet to Munnar gives one unforgettable views of the Western Ghats. Chinnar is 25 km from Udumalpet and is home to the Indra Gandhi wildlife sanctuary which is famous for known for the elephants that inhabit the area. Chinnar is also the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. As you cross the Tamil Nadu border and enter Kerala, you can see a distinct change in the vegetation. While the Tamil Nadu areas have vegetation dominated by shrubs and thorny trees, the vegetation in Kerala is lush green with tall trees. Marayur is 20 km from Chinnar, famous for its sandalwood forests which often fall prey to poachers.

As you drive past Marayur towards Munnar, you can see Anamudi, the highest mountain peak in south part of India to your right. This area also houses the Eravikulam National Park famous for its population of the Nilgiri Tahr, a mountain goat. This area offers abundant scope for mountain trekking. On the trekking route to the Anamudi peak, you can see a Trout farm. The rest of the drive towards Munnar is through neatly manicured tea estates owned by Tata Tea Ltd and Waterfall Estate. The landscape is also dotted by tea factories and labour lines.

Economy

Most residents of Munnar are employed in the tea industry, or are involved in the tourism business. In 2000, the Government of Kerala declared Munnar as a tourist spot. This has helped in attracting more tourists to this beautiful hill resort. Several protected wildlife areas and the regions attractive climate area attract many tourists who support the many hotels, restaurants and transport businesses in Munnar and constitute an important, if seasonal, mainstay for its economy. Besides hotels, Munnar also has fantastic options for alternative non-hotel stays like homestays, guest houses and independent villas.

Tourism

Munnar Tea plantations and hills

Munnar Top Station

Mattupetty Dam reservoir, near Munnar

Way to Munnar

Echo Point

Eravikulam National Park

Located about 12 km from Munnar, The Park holds the largest viable population of the endangered (IUCN) Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius). Spread over an area of 97 km2., this park is also home to several species of rare butterflies, animals and birds. A great place for trekking, the park offers a magnificent view of the tea plantations and also the rolling hills caressed by blankets of mists. The park becomes a hot destination when the hill slopes here get covered in a carpet of blue, resulting from the flowering of Neelakurinji. It is a plant endemic to this part of the Western Ghats which blooms once in twelve years. The last time it bloomed was in 2006.

Anamudi Peak

Situated about 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from Munnar town, Anamudi (2,695 metres (8,842 ft)) is Kerala’s highest mountain and the highest Indian mountain south of the Himalayan range. Treks to the peak are allowed with permission from Forest and Wildlife authorities at Eravikulam.

Mattupetty

Another place of interest, located about 13 km from Munnar Town, is Mattupetty. Lying at a height of 1700 m above sea level, Mattupetty is known for its storage masonry dam and the lake, which offers boat rides, enabling one to enjoy the surrounding hills and landscape. Mattupetty’s fame is also attributed to the dairy farm run by the Indo-Swiss Livestock Project, where one would come across different high yielding breeds of cows. Mattupetty with its lush green tea plantations, rolling grasslands and the Shola forests is also ideal for trekking and is home to a variety of birds.

Munnar tea gardens

Pallivasal

Pallivasal, located at about 3 km from Chithirapuram in Munnar is the venue of the first hydro-electric project in Kerala. It is a place of immense scenic beauty and is often favoured by visitors as a picnic spot.

Chinnakanal

Near the town of Munnar is Chinnakanal and the waterfalls here, popularly known as Power House Waterfalls, cascade down a steep rock 2000 m above sea level. The spot is enriched with the scenic view of the Western Ghat ranges.

Anayirangal

When you have traveled about seven kilometers from Chinnakanal, you reach Anayirangal. Anayirangal, 22 km from Munnar, is a lush green carpet of tea plants. A trip on the splendid reservoir is an unforgettable experience. The Anayirangal dam is surrounded by tea plantations and evergreen forests.

Rajamalai

Rajamala is a wildlife sanctuary located about 15 kms from Munnar. It is the natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahr, a rare Mountain goat. Half the world population of this rare species is concentrated in this region. The animal is fast becoming extinct. The total number of Nilgiri Tahrs in Rajamala is estimated at 1317. This sanctuary is part of the Eravikulam Wildlife Sanctuary, and visitors are allowed to certain tourism areas in the Rajamala region.

Echo Point

Echo Point is another scenic place which is located 15 km from Munnar. It is on the way to Top Station. This place gets its name from the natural echo phenomenon here. It is an excellent tourism spot with panoramic views.

Top Station

Top station

Top Station, which is about 27 km from Munnar is at a height of 1900 m above sea level. Travelers to Munnar make it a point to visit Top Station to enjoy the panoramic view it offers of the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the spots in Munnar to enjoy the Neelakurunji flowers blooming over a vast area.

Tea Museum

Munnar has a legacy of its own when to comes to the origins and evolution of tea plantations. Taking account of this legacy and to preserve and showcase some of the exquisite and interesting aspects on the genesis and growth of tea plantations in Kerala’s high ranges, a museum exclusively for tea was opened some years ago by Tata Tea in Munnar. This Tea Museum houses curios, photographs and machineries; all of which have a story to tell on the origins and growth of tea plantation in Munnar. The museum is located at the Nallathanni Estate of KDHP Co(P) Ltd in Munnar and is worth a visit.

Flora and fauna

Most of the native flora and fauna of Munnar have disappeared due to severe habitat fragmentation resultant from the creation of the plantations. However, some species continue to survive and thrive in several protected areas nearby, including the new Kurinjimala Sanctuary to the east, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Manjampatti Valley and the Amaravati reserve forest of Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary to the north east, the Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park to the north, the Pampadum Shola National Park to the south and the proposed Palani Hills National Park to the east. These protected areas are especially known for several threatened and endemic species including Nilgiri Thar, the Grizzled Giant Squirrel, the Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, Elephant, the Gaur, the Sambar, and the Neelakurinji (that flowers once in twelve years).


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