11 Offbeat Experiences to be had near Munnar, Kerala - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

11 Offbeat Experiences to be had near Munnar, Kerala

Gorogeous Western Ghats near Pampadum Shola National Park

Usually when someone thinks of a holiday in Munnar, it means driving on winding mountain roads surrounded by tea estates, a visit to Mattupetty dam, boating at Kundala dam, a trip to Top Station for surreal mountain views, an experience of the mighty Attakud waterfalls and the chaotic, yet charming markets in Munnar town to indulge in some local shopping. This is what tourists to Munnar have been experiencing time and time again. But, a Munnar holiday means and offers so much more. This whole region is full of amazingly gorgeous terrain that includes shola forests, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, exotic plantations and farms and so much more. So, why limit ourselves to the usual?

Scenic vegetable farms of Yellapatty, Kerala

As this is the year of the Neelakurinji, I am pretty sure that a lot of you would be headed towards the hill station of Munnar in god’s own country. And which is why I think you will find these hand picked off beat experiences to be super helpful while planning either your Munnar holiday itinerary or a potential Neelakurinji holiday.

1) Trek inside the lush Pampadum Shola National Park

The stunning forest bungalows of Pampadum Shola National Park that is located right in the middle of Shola Forests

Kerala’s smallest national park, Pampadum Shola National Park is one of the most pristine rainforests you will get to experience in the South of India. Elephants, gaurs, leopards, lion tailed macaques, Nilgiri Langurs, Indian Giant Flying Squirrel and many exotic flora and fauna call this place their home. There is no jeep safari here, but can trek inside the heart of this forest to experience its sheer size, density and rich life all around. The trekking route is actually a defunct British highway that once connected Munnar with Kodaikanal. One can still see the milestones that were installed during the British era.

This trek is one of the perfect ways to enjoy nature in its purest forms. One can also stay in the middle of its shola forests to experience nature at very close quarters. Bookings can be made through the Munnar Wildlife website.

Distance from Munnar: 40 km

2) Indulge in some traditionally made strawberry wine at Vattavada

The traditional Strawberry wine of Vattavada, Kerala

Strawberries are quite an exotic fruit in a country such as ours and hence you can imagine my happiness when I heard that a family near Vattavada makes fresh strawberry wine. Not only do they pick their strawberries fresh from their strawberry farm, but they make the wine using a traditional technique where they let it ferment in an earthen pot that is placed underground by the roots of the banana tree. As the wine gets moist and cool surroundings throughout, it ferments slowly and the earthen pot and the surrounding banana plant roots lend to its flavor.

The farmer who grows this wine told me that this traditional technique allowed him to store the wine even for a couple of years. Not only can you taste and buy this strawberry wine, but you can also try his other fruits and his specially pungent garlic.

Distance from Munnar: 45 km

3) Walk with the endangered Nilgiri Tahr at Eravikulam National Park

The stare of a Nilgiri Tahr - Eravikulam National Park, Kerala

The Nilgiri Tahr or the varaiaadu (as it is called locally) is an endangered species that is endemic to the shola forests of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. At Eravikulam National Park, which is just about 9 kms from Munnar, one can see this beautiful animal up close along with stunning views of Kerala’s highest peak, the Neelakurinji when it is in bloom and many other rich flora and fauna that is endemic to this region.

If one is lucky, one can walk along with the endangered Nilgiri Tahr on the trails inside Eravikulam National Park. This beautiful animal is usually docile, though I would exercise caution keeping in mind its strong and sharp horns and powerful body.

Distance from Munnar: 11 km

4) Ride through the highest motorable roads of the Southern Peninsula

One of the highest motorable roads of South India

When we think of the highest motorable roads in India, our thoughts usually go to the Himalayas. The Himalayas have definitely some of the highest roads in India and the world. But, have you given a thought about the highest roads in India that is not a part of the Himalayan mountain range? Well, these roads happen to be in the South of India and are higher than 7,000 feet. Yellapatty, Vattavada, top station, Pazha Thothum, Pampadum Shola National Park and a few other gorgeous villages happen to connect these high altitude roads.

So if you are a motorcycling aficionado, you definitely have to ride here and be mesmerized by its misty terrain, tea estates, forests, mountain panorama and winding roads.

Distance from Munnar: 50 km

5) Buy vegetables and fruits from the farms of Pazha Thottum

The famous vegetable farms of Vattavada

Pazha Thottum, which literally translates into fruit orchard is the vegetable and fruit bowl of this region. The high altitude, the moist environment, the tropical sunshine and the rich soil makes Pazha Thottum one of the best places to grow fruits and vegetables. Passion fruit, strawberry, tamarillo (tree tomato), canistel (egg fruit), black berry, peach, plum, goose berry, potatoes, cabbage, beans, orange, garlic, carrot, radish, turkey berry, night shade and many other exotic fruits, vegetables, greens and herbs grow here.

One can get close to this by living at homestays bordering farm lands or you can also visit the weekly farmers market and sample the produce.

Distance from Munnar: 45 km

6) Enjoy the spectacular views from Yellapatty peak

The Neelakurinji flowers and the gorgeous view of the Western Ghats

One of the view points that is really famous in the Munnar region is Top Station. It overlooks the mighty mountains and provides a sea of green kind of view. While Top Station certainly does offer a spectacular view, I kind of prefer the more wholesome view from Yellapatty peak that is directly opposite to Top Station. From here, you can see the Neelakurinji mountains, the shola forests, the tea estates, the entire mountain range and the plains of Tamil Nadu (Pamban, Theni, etc.).

The only issue is that this requires a short trek unlike Top Station where one can simply get down from their car and climb the stairs to the view point. But, I see even the trek as part of the overall adventurous package.

Distance from Munnar: 28 km

7) Drive through the tall Eucalyptus forests of Vattavada

A monsoon ride through the eucalyptus forests of Vattavada, Kerala

Quite a few years before, the Indian government took a stupid decision to plant Eucalyptus and Eucali trees in the Western Ghats and other regions of India. At that time, it seemed like a great decision, but what they did not take into account is that Eucalyptus trees are an invasive species and dry out the ground water due to their super thirsty nature. Today, they can be seen in many mountainous parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They have grown mighty tall and big and co-exist with the shola forests. The environmentalists do not like it, but as a visitor, these gigantic Eucalyptus trees make for a grand sight.

The scenic motorcycle ride through Vattavada while looking for the Neelakurinji flower

It is a treat to drive through these Eucalyptus forests or even walk or hike through them.

Distance from Munnar: 45 km

8) Opt for a Cardamom Plantation Holiday

Cardamom Pods and Cardamom Plantations - Windermere Estate, Munnar

Munnar is not just about its tea estates, but its spice plantations too. Staying in a cardamom plantation, walking on spice trails and digging into traditional local foods is my kind of holiday. A little away from the hula boo of Munnar town and deeper into the mountains is Pothamedu where is located Windermere Estate, a beautiful plantation property.

The world of tea for the tea connossieur in you

Watching the sunrise and sunset here, taking relaxed strolls in their plantation, learning how green cardamom is turned into the aromatic cardamom as we know it, sipping on plantation coffee and testing locally grown teas and smacking on some delicious Kerala food are few of the perks of a plantation holiday. Lush nature, gorgeous mountains, pure air and waking up to the songs of birds are just icing on the cake.

Distance from Munnar: 5 km

9) Explore the Megalithic Tombs of Marayoor

Lovely green colors of Kerala at Marayoor

A short drive away from Munnar is the beautiful mountain town of Marayoor, which is green and beautiful like the rest of the region, but its true specialty lies in its Neolithic age dolmens or burial chambers. Known locally as Muniyara, these magnificent prehistoric dolmens have been existing here from as long before as 14,000 BC and some of them even belong to the Iron age. A short walk on the Marayoor-Kanthaloor road takes you closer to 14 such ancient stone burial sites. And once you have finished appreciating the history, you can get back to enjoying the nature here, which is full of sandalwood forests, tall mountains and many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.

Distance from Munnar: 40 km

10) Experience Rich Wildlife at Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Waterfall amidst the forests - enroute to Munnar from Marayoor

Contiguous with Tamil Nadu’s Anaimalai Tiger Reserve and Kerala’s Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Eravikulam National Park and Anaimudi Shola National Park, Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary is a treasure trove for wildlife lovers. The best part about this jungle is that one can stay right in the middle of it and watch the movement of the wild from extremely close quarters. And not just that, you can also trek in the company of armed forest guards and guides to experience the rich animal and bird life here. Be prepared from some serious elephant, gaur and primate views here.

Distance from Munnar: 60 km

11) Connect with your inner self at Inchathotty

The Gorgeous Windermere River house property at Neriamangalam

These days, all of us seem to be looking for that place that offers perfect solitude. I found one such place at Inchathotty. Located at the base of the mighty Anaimudi peak, surrounded by the Neriamangalam forest, the Thattekad bird sanctuary and the Periyar river, Inchathotty enjoys some pristine location. There is only one way to drive in and out, which means that there is hardly any people except the few locals who work in the surrounding rubber plantations and in the forest.

This is the kind of place where you practice your yoga, read a book, introspect and simply declutter your head while you enjoy the beauty of mother nature. Windermere River House where I stayed offered me the perfect environment to slow down, recharge and rejuvenate.

If you feel like some action, you can go birding at the nearby Thattekad Bird Sanctuary or in the Neriamangalam forest, fish in the Periyar river, go cycling in the Kerala countryside or feel the shudder on Kerala’s longest suspension bridge, that is located nearby.

Distance from Munnar:
60 km

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