South India has a number of scenic hill stations. I was asked to choose my favorite today. My response was one of a die-hard fan. “Where is the choice – it has to be Munnar.”
Ooty and Kodaikanal, the other two options, have lost some of their charm due to over-development and poor upkeep. Munnar is also facing severe development pressure – in fact the issue led to a full scale political crisis in Kerala recently. So all ye travelers, revel till the party lasts!
The highlight of the place is the picture post-card perfect Munnar river and the tea gardens. These young tea gardens are so perfectly ‘manicured’ that they seem to have been developed for enhancing the natural beauty and not for any commercial reasons. Rajamala National Park, the natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahr, can be reached by trekking or by local transport. All the ‘points’ on the way are nothing more than a racket of the nascent tourist industry – at each turn, you will get to see cute scenes of well-mannered, properly combed and dressed hills.
Another advantage for a time-challenged tourist with Munnar is that the trip can be combined with Thekkady or any other back-water destination of Kerala. It is almost a buy-one-get-one deal. The contrast between the two is so much that it gives a feel of two holidays packed into one.