The state of Kerala in Southern India is pretty well known for its waterways however Kerala is not just the Coast, inland Kerala is full of lush green Jungle and Forests and one of the most popular places to visit in Kerala to see this is Munnar! Munnar is probably most known for its tea plantations and the hiking that Munnar offers, or at least that’s what I knew it for after seeing a photo on Instagram so I knew I had to visit too!
Munnar is pretty unique and it’s not that easy to get to if I’m honest. There’s no train station in Munnar and no major bus station meaning that tourist buses like Red Bus don’t go there. Local bus or taxi is the answer!
To SEE my Hike in Munnar, have a watch of my YouTube video here!
Hiking in Munnar
SIM CARD FOR INDIA
I really recommend having a sim card in India as it makes travel in India so much easier! You may have heard that it’s hard to get a sim card in India but you can get a sim card in Delhi Airport, read this post to see how to buy a sim card in Delhi Airport or if you fly in elsewhere 3 ways to buy a sim card in India and you’ll be connected in just a few hours!
WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIA
If you are a woman, here’s what I recommend you pack and wear in India. Technically you can wear what you like in India in most places but to get fewer stares and feel more comfortable, read my post!
DON’T GET SCAMMED IN DELHI
How to Get to Munnar by Bus?
I took a local bus from Kochi / Cochin City which seems to be the best place to get to Munnar from, and many travellers go from Kochi to Munnar or Munnar to Kochi. Alternatively, Thekkady National Park is close by which is where I went to after Munnar and it’s possible to get a bus there too.
From Kochi’s main bus station which is KSRTC Central Bus Station Ernakulam Kochi, close to Ernakulam Junction Train Station, there is a direct bus to Munnar and I was told it runs at 9:20 am and 10:20 am by my hotel owner in Kochi (I stayed at Bastian Homestay which is a great low price place to stay in Fort Kochi), but I turned up at just before 9:00 am by tuk-tuk to be told there was no direct bus until 1:00 pm! However there was a bus I could get on and change, which is what I did, and then I ended up changing again!
All 3 buses were serious local buses but the locals and bus drivers saw my backpack and my white skin and knew that myself and a few other backpackers that were also on the bus needed to go to Munnar, I’m sure they are used to travellers travelling from Kochi to Munnar by bus so they helped us with where to get off and which bus to get next.
My first 2 bus tickets to Munnar cost 43Rs and the second just 16Rs… bargain! And it took me 4.5 hours from Cochin to Munnar by bus.
Another way to get to Munnar is via a Private Driver or Taxi. I was quoted 4000Rs from Cochin to Munnar via Taxi.
Where to Stay in Munnar?
The other thing is that Munnar is a town but it’s not advised to stay there and base yourself there as it’s not a very nice town. The accommodation is cheaper yes but from what I read and then from what I experienced, the best part of staying in the area of Munnar is to stay in the Countryside.
Alternatively, my friend Sam stayed at Gruenberg Tea Plantation Haus which she really liked, but there are also plenty more hotels in Munnar and resorts in Munnar on Booking.com which you can view here and this is what I use to book my accommodation thanks to how many hotels are on offer and their great flexible booking options.
Staying at The Wayside Cottage in Munnar
As soon as I booked the owner Sanil contacted me asking if I needed assistance and I did because I needed to know how to get there from Kochi by bus! He advised to get the bus to Munnar as normal but get off at Anachal ideally or Iruttukanam stop, so I showed these the bus ticket man and not long after getting on the third bus I was being dropped off at the side of the road at Iruttukanam as it turns out the bus wasn’t going past Anachal.
This is my favourite kind of travel though I realised, after spending a few weeks on the coast of Goa and Kerala after a full-on 2 months in Northern India I was happy to be back adventuring – getting local buses, getting dropped off in random places and not sure what was ahead of me as I hadn’t looked into Munnar that much!
Sanil picked me up quickly and we drove to The Wayside Cottage. I had opted for a Deluxe Room which was essentially a really nice treehouse with a nice balcony overlooking the lush greenness of his garden and the mountains in front, and as soon as I arrived I was offered a meal as they prepare food for guests there due to the location being more remote.
The food was all Indian and it wasn’t the best food I’ve had I’ll be honest, but it was nice. I feel like the food may be better if you are not vegetarian as actually 70% of Kerala is non-veg, which is crazy considering so much of India is vegetarian!
Hiking in Munnar
Turns out one of the most popular activities in Munnar and most popular day trips around Munnar is to go hiking because there are some seriously great hills with incredible scenery, not to mention the tea plantations that can be seen whilst hiking too!
Sanil arranges hikes for his guests and after I was all checked in he told me that there were a few guests who wanted to go out hiking tomorrow so that’s what we did and it was such a great day!
At 10:00 am the following say Sanil drove me, 2 friends from China and a couple from the UK to his Uncles house in the middle of the hills where we parked the car.
I was up for a hike sure, but I soon realised I hadn’t hiked for a long time and we started on an incline that inclined for quite some time, I won’t lie, I found it hard!
We were essentially walking along little roads that people live along before walking along tracks that took us between cardamom trees and jungle. We saw huge spiders in their webs, huge huge wasps nests in the distance and even an electrocuted bat on some wires.. poor thing.
After a good hour or so of walking uphill we reached the tea plantations and a pretty impressive viewpoint! The tea plantations stretched far ahead and below us in the valley, it was a contrast to what we had just walked through as we’d been in the jungle, now we were seeing neat and polished plantations ahead of us.
Sanil brought banana’s with him for us which were well needed and then we headed into the tea plantations for a stunning walk between the rows of tea leaves.
I’ve been to a tea plantation once before in Malaysia in the Cameron Highlands and it was incredible there too. Although it was warm I remember it being quite grey and muggy and I wasn’t on a hike, just on a bus tour, so it was so good to walk through them properly this time and although the sun was hot in January and this was around 12:00, seeing them with bright blue skies above was so postcard-like.
The next part of the hike all happened pretty quickly and felt like we were in 3 worlds within such a short space of time. We left the tea plantations and walked a normal track, then climbed a really steep mud and gravel track up to the top of a hill and when we emerged we were surrounded by high grass.. nothing like we had seen up until now. A walk through the grass took us to a totally unexpected viewpoint overlooking all of the hills and mountains in the distance and the river and valley below. It was breathtaking!
BOOKING TRAINS IN INDIA
India is best travelled by train because its the quickest, cheapest and best way of getting to know the country. For an EASY option of booking trains in India use 12GO to search and book trains really easily. If you’ll be in India for awhile, you can use the local booking system, it’s a bit tricker but possible, here’s my post on how to book trains in India as a tourist.
BEST ACCOMMODATION IN INDIA
I always use Booking.com to book my hotels in India and Hostelworld to book my hostels. India has a great range of accommodation with brilliant hostel chains like Moustache, Zostel and Backpacker Panda as well as homestays to luxury hotels.
GUIDED TOURS IN INDIA
Many cities in India are best seen with a guide, even if it’s just a half day tour on your first day. Cities in India are chaotic and complex and what better way to taste the food and get to know the city than with a local. I recommend Get Your Guide & Viator for the best tours in India!
Talking of breath, this view, of course, made the hike in Munnar totally worthwhile, view’s always do that don’t they but it was tough I won’t lie and I needed the 20-30 minute break that we had at the top for sure!
After this we headed back to the car, we didn’t see anything more that was a highlight and the terrain down the jungle past cardamom trees and people’s houses were pretty similar to what we had seen on the way up, however although I thought we might have been close to the car, we were not and it still took a good 1 hour to get back. This time it was mostly downhill with a few uphill inclines but these were steep declines and our knees all hurt from walking down!
Our next and final stop on our hiking day trip around Munnar was Power House Waterfalls in Munnar. From the way we got to the waterfalls which was essentially down a steep hill down the side of the forestry that goes down to the waterfall, there was no way that a visitor to Munnar could find it, you definitely need a local guide!
I didn’t have many expectations for this waterfall, in fact I didn’t even know we were going to one, but it was really incredible and after sitting on the rocks for a bit seeing the fast and strong flowing falls we went to some rocks with a big pool where we could swim and it was nice and calm.. although very cold so I didn’t swim!
We got back to The Wayside Cottage in Munnar at about 16:30. My legs ached and continued to do so the following day but my heart felt very happy.
What a unique place Munnar is, so so different from anywhere I had seen in Northern India and since I had only seen the West Coast of Southern India so far it was so so different to this too!
HELP WITH YOUR INDIA ITINERARY
I’ve spent many months travelling India in the last few years visiting over 50 places around the country, here are my recommended itinerary posts for India to help you plan your trip!
How Long Do You Need in Munnar?
I stayed in Munnar for 3 Nights and 2 Full Days, I just caught up with work on my balcony overlooking the jungle on my second day. To be honest, if I had left after 2 Nights and 1 Day in Munnar I would have felt like I had seen enough and got a good feel for the area as enough places to visit in one day in Munnar.
However, with a second day in Munnar, you could go out on a second day tour. Hiring mopeds in Munnar is also a popular activity as the roads are pretty good, although they are not as good following the Kerala Flooding in 2018 as now many of the roads have big potholes but the area seems to be having a lot of work done to recover what happened during the flooding and including the damage from the many landslides which is good to see.
If you are not confident in driving a moped you can hire a driver for a few hours and see more of the area, there is a botanical garden and a tea museum plus lots more incredible views to be seen! And if you keep your eyes open you may even see some wild elephants! I met many people whilst I was in Thekkady who saw Wild Elephants in Munnar. (Luckily I saw them in Thekkady afterwards!)
As I have said, I loved The Wayside Cottage and would fully recommend them to you, they have 2 different types of rooms, the Deluxe Rooms which are the tree huts and Budget Rooms in the main building. It feels more like a homestay actually and the family are so so nice. You can check availability here.
Overall, I’d really recommend visiting Munnar on your South India trip. It offers a whole other side to Kerala which you do not see on the coast and this is the place that made me realise why Kerala is said to be ‘Gods Own Country’.
To SEE my Hike in Munnar, have a watch of my YouTube video here!
For more of my posts on India see: