In continuation of my earlier post – Kerala Solved http://wp.me/p29z7S-4h, I am now writing about my personal experiences and recommendations for the region/route 3 i.e. Cochin (Kochi) – Munnar – Thekkady – Sabarimala . Beware – its one long post. 🙂
We started our Kerala trip with Kochi. In case you have time you should spend at least 2 days here as it has some beautiful temples, churches, palaces and ecotourism villages to see. The sight of the fishing nets hung in the sea here is also a must photograph scene.
I however left Kochi for another trip (we had limited time) and hence proceeded directly towards Munnar. The drive from Kochi to Munnar takes about 4 – 5 hours but it’s one scenic drive. It’s completely hilly, green and filled with numerous waterfalls that come one after the other. You can also stop at one of them and take a quick shower 🙂
Near all these waterfalls you also get pickled and spiced raw mangoes and raw peppers, which is a must try.
Munnar is a beautiful hill station and in the good old days it used to be a British summer resort due to the favorable weather and the tea plantations. We stayed in Munnar for 2 days and loved every minute of it.
Please note that in Munnar, all the viewing points, lakes and trekking areas are at a drive from the main city. So it is advisable to keep your own car.
We started the visit with a trip to the Kanan Devan tea centre and museum.
The tea centre allows visitors for a small fee. The guide then provides you with a brief history of tea in the area, a visit to the tea museum, then takes you through the entire tea making process and at the end there is a shop to buy all kinds of tea. And there is a world of tea here from normal tea to chocolate tea to orange tea. It even has options of iced tea to the rarer white tea.
We then visited the Mattupetty Lake and Dam and generally drove around Munnar (went to a couple of points and lakes) to get a flavor of the place.
We finally decided to end the day with another round of shopping and this time with spices. Munnar is famous for its spices and has a full lane selling only all kinds of spices . We found this lane easily with the fragrant smells of cardamom, peppers, bay leaves, cinnamon acting as our guide. The spices here are really fresh and a must buy. There are some other interesting things as well, like we found a bottle full of all kinds of herbs. You need to fill this with oil and keep it for 7 days, post that you need to massage it in your hair before a wash. There are also numerous souvenir shops here that you can pick up gifts at.
In Munnar we stayed at The High Range Club, which is an old world club house built of wicker and teak, and has a charming colonial aura. It has beautiful views of tea plantations, grounds and a small river flowing at one side of the property. It was also very conveniently located near the Munnar market.
We started the second day with a trip to Eravikulam National Park to meet the Nilgiri Thar (a rare mountain goat).
Eravikulam is one of Kerala’s finest wildlife reserves across Rajamalai Hills. The Anamudi Peak inside Eravikulam National Park is the highest peak (2695 m) in peninsular India and has all kinds of rare flora and fauna. It is best known for the endangered Nilgiri tahr and also has the Atlas moth (the largest of its kind in the world), Nilgiri langurs, lion-tailed macaques, leopards and tigers. It is also an ideal place for trekking.
In this place, you need to leave your car at the base and then go upwards in a bus (depending on the day that you go, be prepared for a long queue) and beyond the bus stop be prepared for a walk upwards to see the Nilgiri Thar. The views are amazing but alas, we didn’t see the Niligiri Thar.
We then proceeded for a trek up to the Top Station.
This is a tourist destination that falls on the border between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The ride is beautiful but the roads are quite bumpy. However the views are worth it. There is an echo point here where you can hear your own voice back and you can also trek around here amidst the tea plantations along with the clouds.
On our way back, we decided to quickly visit the sandalwood forests here in Munnar. Though it’s not a tourist destination, but if you request the forest officials they show you around and educate you on the farming and prices of sandalwood. Its pretty interesting.
On the third day, we left Munnar for Thekkady. This drive is very interesting. First the roads are extremely narrow and two cars cannot pass by next to each other. Hence its interesting to see how the local drivers drive. Secondly, initially when you leave Munnar the view is of hills, lakes and tea plantations and then its starts changing to jungles and spice trails.
We stopped at one spice garden (you can randomly stop at any one as they are all pretty much the same). We saw how all spices are actually grown and its fun. We saw peppers, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, lemon grass etc and for a change all on trees and not on shop shelves. 🙂
We then reached Thekkady and checked in, in our homestay, Koshy’s Homestay. We found this homestay on the Kerala tourism website and were super happy with it. The owners (a christian couple) stay on the ground floor and rent out the first floor. They took us around, told us about a lot of local things that we could see and also booked us on the Jungle safari for the next day.
We started the visit with a fun-filled elephant ride. Everyone must do this at least once as it is only then that you realise how tall an elephant actually is and how much fun the ride is. We then fed some elephants and took blessings from them.
We then went for a Kathakali performance and a Kalarippayattu performance. If you reach much before the show time of a Kathakali performance you can also see actors doing their intricate make-up (which by the way takes hours).
Post this, we decided to end this day with a wonderful Kerala Ayurvedic massage. This is completely refreshing and relaxing, and so recommended after long car rides. 🙂
For our second day in Thekkady, we went for a jungle safari in the Periyaar Tiger Reserve. Here you can opt for day treks, night treks, camp outs or bamboo rafting.
We took a day trip which included travel (be prepared for an extremely early morning start) to the national park, breakfast, nature walk / trek around the park (please carry your own leech guards), lunch and a boat ride in the Periyaar lake. Though we didn’t see any tigers, we saw elephants, deer, giant squirrels and some birds. Overall it was fun.
We then left Thekkady the next day and headed towards Alleppey.
However you can head towards Sabarimala. We couldn’t go to Sabarimala as it is a beautiful temple but only for men.
En-route to Alleppey, we visited a rubber plantation. This is a must visit as you don’t see this anywhere else.
All rubber trees are cut in the centre and there is a small cup or a coconut fixed next to it where rubber sap keeps collecting. It is quite a unique sight.
This completes one long post on this region and keep following this space for the next instalment on region 4 i.e. Cochin – Alleppey (Alappuzha)- Kumarakom.
To summarise, the must see and do things on this route are –
- Kochi – Chinese Fishing Nets (Cheenavala) – These fishing nets (off Chinese origin and still surviving) give the harbour it’s very unique identity.These are huge nets hung on teak posts and still used for fishing.
- Kochi- Fort Kochi and the Fort Kochi beach.
- En-route to Munnar- Take a shower in a waterfall. It is the most refreshing thing after a long drive.
- En-route to Munnar – Try the pickled & spiced raw mangoes and raw pepper. Its super tasty.
- Sample some unusual varieties of tea and pick them up as gifts for friends and family back at home.
- Munnar – Shop for Spice and beautiful local souvenirs.
- Munnar – For the adventure seekers – you can try Mountain Climbing, Trekking in the clouds and Para-gliding.
- Enroute to Thekkady – Spice Trail – Tour a spice plantation and see and learn all about various spices and medicinal plants.
- Thekkady – Try an elephant ride and take an elephant blessings.
- Thekkady – Stay in a tree – house in the wildlife sanctuary.
- Thekkady – Go for an adventure trek in Periyar Tiger Reserve where you can opt for day treks, night treks, camp outs or bamboo rafting.
- Enroute to Alleppey – Visit a rubber plantation.
- Thekkady – Enjoy local art performances of Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Theyyam (dances) and Kalarippayattu (Martial art).