Munnar is a place in Kerala known for growing tea. It's 130 km east of Kochi and 110 km north of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. It has small houses and tea factories. The town itself is not as impressive as they say, but the mountains around it are exciting. The High Range has great hiking paths with beautiful views. You can do these hikes in one day. However, the highest peak in this area, Ana Mudi, is currently not open to tourists.
The best travel tips for visiting Munnar
It’s easy to see why the pioneering Scottish planters who developed this hidden valley in the 1870s and 1880s felt so at home here.
At an altitude of around 1600m, Munnar enjoys a refreshing climate, with crisp mornings and sunny blue skies in the winter – though as with all of Kerala, torrential rains descend during the monsoons.
Munnar’s greenery and cool air draw streams of well-heeled honeymooners and weekenders from south India’s cities. However, increasing numbers of foreign visitors are stopping for a few days too.
Many are enticed by the superbly scenic bus ride from Periyar, which takes you across the high ridges and lush tropical forests of the Cardamom Hills. The climb across the Ghats from Madurai is equally spectacular.
Clustered around the confluence of three mountain streams, Munnar town is a typical hill bazaar of haphazard buildings and congested market streets. The vegetable market in the main bazaar is a good place for a wander (closed Wed).
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Best things to do in Munnar
From the Kanan Devan Hills Tea Museum to the Eravikulam National Park, here are the best things to do in Munnar.
#1 Kanan Devan Hills Tea Museum
Although it doesn’t physically demonstrate how tea is made, the Kanan Devan Hills Tea Museum, 2 km northwest of the centre, is worth a visit for its collection of antique machinery and exhibition of photos of the area’s tea industry. The displays range from 1880s pioneers to the modern Tata tea conglomerate.
The highlight of the visit is a short audio-visual presentation outlining how tea was introduced to the region and how it is processed today, rounded off with a tasting session. Its shop sells various KDH products.
#2 Head to Top Station on the bus
Buses wind their way up to the aptly named Top Station, a hamlet famed for its views and meadows of Neelakurunji plants.
They also head to the more distant nature sanctuaries of Eravikulam and Chinnar, where you can spot Nilgiri tahr, elephants and many other wild animals.
To reach the most remote attractions, however, you might want to hire a taxi for the day.
#3 Spot the world’s rarest mountain goats at Eravikulam National Park
Encompassing 100 square kilometres of moist evergreen forest and grassy hilltops in the Western Ghats, Eravikulam National Park is the last stronghold of one of the world’s rarest mountain goats, the Nilgiri tahr.
Its innate friendliness made the tahr pathetically easy prey during the hunting frenzy of the colonial era.
Today, however, numbers are healthy, and the animals have regained their tameness. Largely thanks to the efforts of the American biologist Clifford Rice, who studied them here in the early 1980s.
Unable to get close enough to observe the creatures properly, Rice followed the advice of locals and attracted them using salt. Soon entire herds were congregating around his camp.
The tahrs’ salt addiction also explains why so many hang around the park gates at Vaguvarai, where visitors – despite advice from rangers – slip them salty snacks.
You’re almost guaranteed sightings of tahr from the minute you enter.
#4 Look for the white bison of Manjampatti in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary
Although it borders Eravikulam, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary is far less visited, not least because its entrance lies a two-hour drive from Munnar along winding mountain roads.
The reserve, in the rain shadow of the High Range and thus much drier than its neighbour, is one of the best spots in the state for birdwatching, with 225 species recorded to date.
But the real star attractions are the resident grizzled giant squirrels. They scamper in healthy numbers around the thorny scrub here, and the near-mythical “white bison of Manjampatti”, thought to be an albino Indian gaur.
Members of local tribal communities (who won’t be fluent in English) act as guides for popular day-treks. Those might take in prehistoric rock art, dolmen sites or a waterfall – all of which can be arranged on spec at a counter next to the Chinnar Forest Check Post.
#5 Go hiking around Munnar
Although south India’s highest peak, Ana Mudi, is off-limits due to the Nilgiri tahr conservation programme, several other summits towering above Munnar can be reached on day treks.
The hiking scene is surprisingly undeveloped and it makes sense to use the services of a guide, particularly for Meesapulimalai Peak (2640m), which can be accessed from Silent Valley or Kolukkumalai estates and could easily be incorporated into a multi-day excursion.
Always check whether transport to and from the trailhead is included.
Best areas to stay in Munnar
Munnar’s accommodation costs significantly more than elsewhere in the High Range region, reflecting the high demand for beds from middle-class tourists from the big cities.
Rooms at the low end of the scale are in particularly short supply; the few that exist are blighted by racket from the bus stand and bazaar.
There are some options outside town that would suit travellers with their own transport.
Hostels and cheap guesthouses are clustered along Munnar Colony Rd and near the start of Tea Station Rd.
There are more upmarket hotels and resorts near the oil railway station.
A few kilometres away from Munnar itself, the small town of Devikulam has hotels and a couple of resorts.
Chithirapuram is around 10 km from Munnar and whose homestays have comfortable rooms and mountain views.
Browse the best hotels in Munnar.
Best restaurants and bars
Munnar is primarily known for its natural beauty and tea plantations, so the options for restaurants are somewhat limited to your hotel or guesthouse.
The food market called the "thattukada" is located just south of the main bazaar, across from the taxi stand. It starts getting busy around 7:30 pm and stays open all night. They serve yummy and hot dishes from the Kerala region, like dosas, parathas, iddiappam, green-bean curry, and egg masala.
You can enjoy the food by eating it on tin plates at simple wooden tables right on the street.
Top Station Road
Situated near the famous Top Station viewpoint, Top Station Rd has a few restaurants that offer panoramic vistas of the valleys
How to get around
From buses to tuk-tuks, it is easy to get around Munnar. Here’s how to do it.
Tuk-tuks are available throughout Munnar and are a great way to get around.
There are several stands where you can pick up taxis. They are a good option for sightseeing trips.
Several places hire out scooters and motorbikes and can be good for exploring the hills.
What is the best time to visit Munnar?
The best time to visit Munnar is in the cooler winter months (December to February) when temperatures range from 10–25°C (50–77°F). This time is popular with tourists because the climate is cool and ideal for exploring the tea plantations and hiking through the beauty of the region.
Planning your visit in December? Make sure to read our article about the weather in Kerala in December
It's generally advisable to avoid visiting Munnar during the summer months (March to May) as the weather can be quite hot and humid, though the region may also experience occasional showers.
Visiting Munnar during the monsoon season (June to September) means the beauty of the lush green landscapes and waterfalls are enhanced, but the heavy rains can lead to landslides on hiking routes and road closures.
Find out more about the best time to visit India.
How many days do you need in Munnar?
Visitors only tend to stay in Munnar for 2 to 3 days unless undertaking a multi-day trek. That’s enough time to explore the tea plantations, visit Eravikulam National Park or Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, and take a trek.
How to get here
State-run and private buses pull into the town bus stand in the modern main bazaar, near the river confluence and Tata headquarters.
State buses continue through town, terminating nearly 3 km south.
For most hotels, you should ask to be dropped off at Old Munnar, 2km south of the centre, near the TPC tourist office.
Find out the best ways to get to India.