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Destination Guide – Kerala – Hill Districts

The ‘Twin Attractions:

Beyond the surreal charm of the ‘Backwaters’ Kerala has more to offer. It has hill stations and forest preserves that are comparable to the best inIndia.


Munnar, once the summer capital of the British in southernIndia, is a picture-postcard destination for tourists. Ensconced high-up (1800 - 2600 m above MSL) on theWestern Ghatsand at the confluence of three rivers, Munnar is a tea-planters paradise. The tea-bushes that wrap around entire hillsides offer a scenic panorama that is one of the most memorable inIndia. The first plantations in Munnar were started by Scottish planters but eventually the British gained control of the region. Munnar town itself is a commercial town dealing mostly in tea, spices, and fruits, but these days the largest revenue earner is tourism.


A couple of hours journey from Munnar is Thekkady (700 – 1900 metres above MSL), the other most visited area in the Hill districts of Kerala. The Thekkady section is a hill tract right it the middle of which is the massiveMullaperiyarLakecreated by damming thePeriyarRiver. The adjoining wildlife sanctuary (777 sq km of the Cardamom Hills) is very famous and one of the most popular reserves inIndia. It is home to the Tiger, Wild Elephants, Wild Boar, Sambar, Giant Squirrel, Gaur, and the Stripe -necked Mongoose. This place is also home to over three hundred bird species: important ones being the Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Purple-headed Parakeet, Tree Pie, and the Flycatcher. The scent of cardamom and other spices beckon you to this preserve and a day visit is a tranquil experience that one should not miss.

The Region and Weather:

Both Munnar and Thekkady enjoy a salubrious climate that is responsible for year-round tourism. The best time to visit Munnar and Thekkady is September to March.

The temperatures in Munnar ranges between 5 °C (41 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) in winter to 15 °C (59 °F) and 25 °C (77 °F) in summer.

Thekkady has a moderate climate all through the year. The summer season is quite hot with maximum temperatures rising to a bearable 36°C but the winters are very pleasant with temperatures going down as low as 11°C. The Monsoons brings torrential rainfall and the region is plagued by landslides sometimes.

Connections and Hotspots:

Munnar is well connected by road fromCoimbatorein Tamil Nadu. It can also be accessed fromMadurai(Tamil Nadu) as well asKochi(Kerala).From Kerala it is an idyllic climb by road from Kottayam through the Thekkady area. There are neither rail stations nor airports in the region; the closest small rail head is Kottayam.

There is a host of sanctuaries in the areas all-around Munnar. Several threatened and endemic species find refuge in these sanctuaries: Nilgiri Tahr, the Grizzled Giant Squirrel, the Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, Elephant, the Gaur, the Nilgiri Langur, the Sambar, and the Neelakurinji (a plant that blossoms only once in twelve years).

  • West: The Eravikulam National Park

  • East: Kurinjimala Sanctuary and Palani Hills National Park

  • North-East: Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary

  • North: Anamudi Shola National Park

  • South: Pampadum Shola National Park

Thekkady can be accessed by road from Munnar as well as Kottayam. FromKochione can also take the train to Kottayam and then drive the rest of the way to Thekkady. It can also be accessed fromMadurai.

There are a lot of places near Thekkady for excursions and sightseeing.

  • ThePeriyarLakeand Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Kottayam, an important point of the Kerala Backwaters experience is only an hour’s drive away.

  • The famous temple town ofMaduraiis only 120 kms away

  • The plantation towns of Kumily, Murikkady, and Pandikuzhi are nearby and they are renowned centres of cardamom, coffee and pepper.

Must Sees:


Tea Gardens: The tea gardens in Munnar are one of the most scenic vistas in the country and one is not likely to forget the sight of tea-plantation covered green hill-tops encircled by low-lying clouds. Drive around the hills, catch the mist, and enjoy the sunshine: the stuff of dreams.

Eravikulam National Park: The Park is located about 12 km from Munnar. It is home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahrs (Deer), myriad Butterflies, and a large number of Birds. It is a great trekking destination. Anamudi, south India’s highest peak at 2695 meters is located inside this park.

Kurinjimala Sanctuary: The famous Neelakurinji, a plant which flowers once in twelve years, is a great tourist attraction when in bloom. The last time it bloomed was in 2006!

The Tata Tea Museum:  A visit to the Tata Tea Museum, located at the Nallathanni Estate, is the perfect way to capture the history of Tea in southernIndia. This museum houses rare photographs, machineries, and curios exclusively related to tea. A guide can also take you through the tea-production process which is as fascinating as it is educative


The Periyar Lake and Wildlife Sanctuary: The Lake is man-made, created by a barrage across thePeriyarRiver. Boating on the calm waters of the lake, amidst submerged tree-trunks of yesteryear forests, with a view of the Cardamom hills in the distance is enchanting. The sanctuary was designated as a Tiger Preserve in 1978 and is home to a host of animals and birds. Trekking and sightseeing are popular in the area. The sight of elephants frolicking near the waters of the Lake near the Mullaperiyar Dam is a quintessential tourist must do. Bamboo rafting on theLakeis also a thrilling experience. The region also has variety of flora which attracts thousands of birds, and is birdwatcher’s delight. If you trek to the forest interior you can get a panoramic view of the park from the Sanctuary WatchTower.

Ecotours: There are a few Eco-tourism initiatives in the area. Tours such as Border Hiking, Tiger Trail and Jungle Patrol require visitors to accompany tribal wardens on their beats - these programmes promote community welfare and generate income for forest conservation. You can also hire locals to act as guides for forest walks; bullock-cart rentals are also available!

Anakkara: Anakkara is an upcoming spice tourism destination and the government is mulling setting up an airport in the area. You can visit spice plantations, and also buy spices such as cardamom, cloves, pepper, and a host of others.

Mangala Devi Temple: Situated only 15 km from Thekkady, and at a height of 1337 m above sea level, it is said that you can see both the Eastern andWestern Ghatsfrom the temple premises! It is only open once a year during the Chitra Pournami festival in the month of March.

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