There are so many places to visit in Kerala, but a trip to God’s own country is never complete without a visit to Kochi. This is probably the most cosmopolitan of all cities in the Kerala thanks to the huge influence of colonial rulers like the Dutch, the English, and the Portuguese.
Although Cochin is a great place to visit any time of the year, October to February are the best months. The heat is comparatively mild and the weather is pleasant. Cochin has a tropical climate; hence temperatures don’t fall below 17 degree Celsius even during the winter months. But the weather is pleasant enough to stroll on the streets in the afternoon sun.
Summer starts by the end of February and lasts until June. Temperatures soar up to 35-38 degree Celsius although it averages around 31 degree Celsius. If you are traveling on a budget and don’t mind the heat, this is the best time to visit Cochin. Not many tourists visit during the summer; hotels and tour operators are more than willing to offer you discount. Humidity is also a problem in summer, hence remember to stay hydrated and avoid long outdoor stays.
June to September is monsoon and not ideally considered a tourist season. But this is also the season for peak discounts. Some hotels slash as much as 50% of their normal rate. Such luck extends for houseboat rides as well. This is also the season when Onam takes place. This is a season to mark the harvest season and welcome Mahabali, the mythical and benevolent king of Kerala. Tourists not only get to take part in the festivities, but they also get to dig in to the special and elaborate Onam sadhya or the Onam lunch.
Munnar is a hill station with as hundreds of attractions that promise to offer an experience of a lifetime. Besides enjoying the waterfalls and the forest area, you can visit sanctuaries, dairy farms, and dams.
The Eravikulam wildlife sanctuary houses rare varieties of animal species, NilgriTahr(mountain goat), especially Atlas Moth. This is located at a distance of 16 kms from Munnar and was declared a national sanctuary to save the rare Nilgiri tahr. This park is the combination of the grasslands and hills. The famous Rajamala hill is adjacent to the sanctuary and offers a vantage point to view the Anaimudi Peak. This is one of the highest peaks of the Western Ghats and located within the area of the park.
The Mattupetty dam is another attraction close to the park. It is located 13kms from Munnar. Don’t miss to watch the Indo-Swiss dairy farm with over 100 varieties of cattle breeding here. A wonderful boat ride in the lake near Mattupetty dam gives a great time to enjoy the landscapes.
Kundala tea plantations and the Kundala Lake are close to Mattupetty. The Kundala Lake offers Shikara styled boat ride. Another nearby waterfall attraction is Aruvikkad. The Kundala dam on the lake is constructed in the form of an arc and is the first of its kind in Asia. There is also a golf club for the golf lovers. This place is located on the way to Top station.
Top station is the highest point located at 32 kms from Munnar. This is situated in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. The view of the Western Ghats view from Top Station is considered the best. The clouds here can be touched with bare hands. The rare Neelakurunji flower that blossoms once in twelve years is yet another highlight of the Top Station.
There’s so much to see and experience in Munnar. We present to you a list of the most important places that you shouldn’t miss:
Devikulam: This is one of the must-see places at a driving distance of approximately 6kms from Munnar. It is believed that Goddess Sita Devi along with Lord Rama took bath in the lake in Devikulam. Tourists visit this place not only because of the holy connection, but also because the water is believed to have curative powers. Trekking is a popular activity around the area. Apart from the scenic view of the emerald green water, it is also famous for trout fishing for which permission is required.
CSI Church: A burial site of one of the British plantation owners is now turned into a foundation stone of a famous church. Painted stained glass, rosewood benches, and decorative chandelier of the pre-independence era are a treat to the eyes. Now, locals and tourists come here to offer prayers.
Pallivasal: The Pallivasal waterfalls are close to the Devikulam Lake. The first hydro-electric project in Kerala was set up here.
Attukkal: Situated at 10 kms from Munnar, this is an ideal place for long trekking. Tourists are sure to enjoy the scenery formed by the misty mountains and the waterfalls that flow like a milky foam. Attukal is on the way to Cochin, but closer to Pallivasal.
Lakkam: This is the closest waterfall from Munnar and on the way to the Marayoor forests. A perfect place for photography as the place is amidst the dense forests.
Marayoor sandalwood forests: The Marayoor Sandalwood Forest is the only place in India where natural sandalwood trees grow in abundance. Located near the Munnar- Udumalpetu route, a major part of the forest area includes bamboo and sandalwood trees. Tourists can observe and understand about sandalwood processing through a depot Stone age paintings and dolmens are also found here.
Thekkady is one of those rare success stories that dot the Indian wildlife conservation saga. It was not until 1934 when the Late Maharaja of Travancore, Shri Chithira Thirunaal Balarama Varma declared the area to be protected as a game reserve that people began to notice the place.
Much of the sanctuary is around the Periyar Lake, an artificial lake formed by the Mullai Periyar Dam. The forest around the lake has a rich and diverse flora and fauna. It hosts some of the rarest and most vulnerable species in the plant and animal kingdom. Naturally grown sandalwood, teakwood, rosewood, plumerias, and wild bamboos are found aplenty here. Should you choose to stay here, Aranya Nivas and the Lake Palace Hotel are a good choice. The later was once the summer guesthouse of the Maharaja and is accessible only by boat. Activities include elephant rides through the jungle, trekking and boat rides across the lake.
Getting to Thekkady is easy; Kumily is the base point and is 4 km from Thekkady. This place is a tourist attraction in itself thanks to the tea plantations here. It is also a great place to find medium range accommodations.
The Periyar Sanctuary is within the Cardamom Hills range; don’t miss out the tea and spice plantations and the beautiful glimpses of the flora and fauna here. Some of the places close to the Sanctuary include, the Mangala Devi Temple, Vandiperiyar and Murikkady.
At Kerala Hop On and Hop Off, our tour package to Thekkady includes the best that this place has to offer.
Kerala has an important place is shaping the history of India. The various spices that grow here have attracted people from faraway lands. Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and later the English set foot here only due to the spice trade. Most spices including cardamom and pepper grew naturally as wild plants amongst other indigenous trees. Not much was known about the origin of spices as the trade was monopolized by the Arabs who managed to hoodwink Europeans by keeping the source of the spices a secret.
But things changed with the discovery of the sea route by the Portuguese who collected ginger, cardamom, pepper and other spices to sell in the European market. Some of the spices that grow here include:
Cardamom: Cultivation of cardamom wasn’t popular until the 19th century when plantations were established and the formation of the Cardamom Hills. Cardamom plants often grow in the deep shades of the forest trees and resemble the turmeric plant. They grow up to a height of 6 to 10 feet with long shoots that bear cardamom pods. Cardamom is a labor intensive crop because pods have to be picked individually before they become ripe.
Pepper: This was once so valuable that its worth was measured in gold! Pepper grows in vines amongst the shade of forest plants. Common varieties of pepper grown here include Karimunda, Kalluvally and Kuthirivally among others.
Cloves: Cloves are the unopened buds of the clove trees. They are picked when they turn from green to pink, dried until they turn black and stored carefully.
Today, Munnar is a major producer of spices like ginger, cinchona and cardamom. Join us for a tour of the spice garden to understand how they are grown.
Kolukkumalai isn’t really in the general tourist map, but the area has immense importance. Not only is this place home to the highest tea garden in the world (one that’s soon to be certified organic), but also to some rare and endemic flora and fauna including the Nilgiri tahr, the lion tailed macaque, and the kusuma tree.
How to Get There: There’s a reason why Kolukkumalai isn’t popular with tourists. The journey starts from Suryanelli which is the base camp by hiring a jeep with an experienced driver. To say that the journey is arduous is probably a gross understatement! No wonder, the jeep drive from Suryanelli to Kolukkumalai costs a bomb. For most part of the 10km drive, there’s no road in sight.
What to See: But once you get there, the sight that meets you at the destination makes the journey worth the effort. At 7000 ft above sea level, Kolukkumalai offers a different perspective every time you view it. The scenery keeps changing by the minute; sometimes it’s the sky that breaks into different shades of red and sometimes it’s the mountains.
A tour around the Kolukkumalai Tea Factory is a must. This tea factory still processes tea in the old and orthodox manner using centuries old British machinery. A guided tour of the factory helps to understand the history of the place and offers interesting details about the people working here.
A trek to Meeshapulimalai is also recommended, but one is forewarned- this is not for the fainthearted.