Known as the Kashmir of South India, the town of Munnar in the state of Kerala is a true feast for the eyes. A hill station nestled roughly 5,200 feet above sea level, Munnar is located at the meeting point of the Nallathanni, Kundaly, and Mudhirapuzha Rivers. With gorgeous, untamed nature in abundance in the area, it’s no wonder several of the top things to do in Munnar, India take full advantage of it.
A popular honeymoon destination whose romantic setting is bolstered by the majestic mountains, vibrant sunrises and sunsets, and green tea plantations of the Western Ghats, Munnar is about as picturesque as it gets. Of course, Munnar is much more than that, as its south Indian culture is thoroughly intertwined with its delicious cuisine. Even its accommodations are positively dreamy and offer both maximum comfort and minimalism at the same time. Together, it all makes Munnar one of my favorite destinations in southern India. These are the 5 things you must do in Munnar, Kerala, India.
Stay at the Dream Catcher Resort
Located on an awe-inspiring plantation along Bisonvalley Road, about an hour outside of Munnar Town, is the Dream Catcher Resort. Usually, I recommend staying close to city centers to make getting around easy. But in this case, I’ll make an exception. Tea is king in this part of Kerala. Staying at the Dream Catcher Resort puts you right in the middle of it while offering the area’s best accommodations.
Getting there takes some time, as you’ll have to follow lots of winding roads through the mountains. But once you’re there, prepare for your jaw to drop. You’ll find interconnected two-bedroom options and Deluxe and Superior rooms in the main building. The resort also offers four treehouses and an on-site cottage that serve as a honeymoon suite. I stayed in one of the treehouses!
I stayed in one of the resort’s treehouses, which stand up to sixty feet off the ground. Mine boasted a private entrance at the top of a set of stairs behind a locked gate, a comfortable king-sized bed, and a small but modern bathroom. But the best part was the balcony that wrapped around the house and offered breathtaking views of the vibrant, green plantations below.
When you stay at the resort, there are many on-site activities to keep you occupied when you’re not out exploring. There is a restaurant, as well as a game room with foosball and ping pong. I recommend spending 2,000 rupees (roughly $25.77 USD) on a full-body massage in their steam room. Traveling always puts lots of stress on my body, especially my head, back, and neck. My expert masseur worked out all the tension with his hands and I felt completely refreshed afterward! Booking one is, for sure, one of the best things you can do for yourself in Munnar, India.
Late Nights on the Sun Deck
After dark, I also recommend grabbing a bite to eat on the resort’s sun deck. There, you can try both mild and spicy quail, which they roast over an open fire, along with chicken, salad, mayonnaise, and mint chutney. While I can’t recommend the mayonnaise (I’m just not a fan of it), the fresh poultry paired extremely well with the chutney.
Keep in mind that the quail is quite bony and delicate, but the flavor is phenomenal. If you still have room, try the chewy and tender beef fry with curry leaves. It had just the right amount of spice on it and tasted like it had been slow-cooked!
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Cook and Eat Spicy Indian Jungle Food
Before visiting Kerala, I hadn’t had the pleasure of enjoying a traditional meal in the Indian wilderness. I’m glad to say I had the opportunity not once, but twice, on this trip. The second time was up in the mountains, in a clearing where we had a spectacular view of the second-highest peak in southern India.
There, the cooks prepared a sumptuous feast that included beef liver roast, kanthari chili prawns, mutton soup, beef fry, mutton leg, and pumpkin payasam. Not only did they use traditional cooking techniques, but they also used local ingredients like coconut oil and highland spices and vegetables like star anise, garlic, ginger, bird’s eye chilies, curry leaves, turmeric, cumin, tomatoes, shallots, fennel, green chilies, basil leaves, lemon juice, mead masala, coriander powder, and black pepper.
I sipped my gingery and herbal mutton soup with a cleverly folded jackfruit leaf instead of a spoon. Between the chunks of fresh meat, the curry leaves, the cardamom, and the peppercorns, it was one of the healthiest-tasting soups I’d ever eaten!
As for the main meal, I ate it off a curved piece of wood that came from an areca nut tree. The prawns were succulent and buttery, and the bird’s eye chilies gave them a potent and spicy kick! They were so tender that they melted the moment they touched my tongue, which was completely numb by the end of my meal!
Main Course & Dessert
A major highlight of the meal was the mutton leg, which was so tender it evaporated in my mouth. The masala had a tingle to it but wasn’t too spicy. Combined with the tomatoes and onions and the tender, juicy meat, it was the best mutton I’d ever eaten in my life. I also thoroughly enjoyed the dense, velvety beef liver roast and ghee rice. The pumpkin payasam we had for dessert was like a creamy pumpkin pudding and helped cool down the heat that had numbed my entire mouth!
When you stay in Munnar, I highly recommend arranging this traditional cooking and eating experience. There’s nothing quite like eating fresh, tasty, locally sourced food outdoors with locals. It was one of my favorite things to do in Munnar, India, for sure.
Explore Munnar Town
Of course, even with amazing accommodations and meal activities in the nearby mountains, you’ll want to take some time to venture into Munnar Town. Located roughly an hour away from the Dream Catcher Resort, Munnar is very well-connected, and can be reached via rural roads and national and state highways.
I recommend visiting in the evening so your visit can coincide with dinner—there’s some fantastic street food available there—but there are also quite a few interesting sites to see among the hustle and bustle. As with most Indian cities, the streets are quite chaotic, so you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for speeding tuk tuks and other pedestrians. I particularly enjoyed seeing the houses of worship there, which included a very small Hindu temple and a massive Christian church.
At the time I visited, the locals were in the middle of celebrating a Tamil festival called Pongal. I got to see locals carrying around stalks of sugarcane, which serve as offerings. As you continue to explore, you’ll find a labyrinthine market. There, throngs of people crowd around fruit, vegetable, and spice vendors, and booths selling religious items like rosaries.
If you’d like to buy a head scarf like I did, there are also a few shops that have some options. I was looking for a traditional white one like the locals wear, but didn’t have any luck inside the city—I found one at a small shop on my way back to the resort. But these aren’t the only things to do in Munnar, India. There’s still tons of street food to try!
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Eat Street Food in Munnar Town
No nighttime adventure in Munnar is complete without a taste of the local street food! It’s one of the top things to do in Munnar, and is one of my favorite things to do anywhere in India.
I recommend heading over to a stall called Ebin Bani Poori to try some pani puri, my all-time favorite Indian street food. This snack consists of hollow, fried dough balls called puris, which are filled with a mix of aloo (potatoes), chutneys, and pani, which is the watery soup that’s added. The variety here isn’t very spicy and is full of pani. It only cost 30 rupees ($0.39 USD) for three, and reminded me of the floating pani puri I’d enjoyed at VV Puram Road in Bangalore.
Further along the main street are vendors selling dishes like string hoppers, parottas, quail fry, chicken fry, tapioca, and dosas. Because over 70% of Munnar’s population is from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu, they make their dosas the Tamil way: crispier and fluffier than the more pancake-like ones more popular in Kerala.
Chicken Fry with Tapioca, Parottas, and Appam
I recommend trying the chicken fry and tapioca, which is a tasty and interesting combination. The crunchy chicken skin, combined with the tender meat and the dense tapioca went really well together. The curry leaves and masala in the chicken really tied everything together. You should also try the chicken with a flaky parotta and appam, a pancake-like dish made from fermented rice and lentils.
It’s not as crispy as a dosa and is a bit doughy, so it really soaked up all of the masala from the chicken. It was my personal favorite thing to pair the chicken with. Having some is one of the things you have to do in Munnar when you come to India!
I’m a big chocolate-lover, so when I learned that I could try homemade chocolate in Munnar, I knew I had to find it. For some truly tasty chocolate, hit up M.S.P. & Sons Homemade Chocolate, a shop that sells 21 kinds of rich, creamy chocolate. One of my favorites was a darker, milky chocolate that also contained vanilla inside, and I also loved the dark chocolate with crisp rice inside. It reminded me of a Crunch bar!
Another one I really enjoyed was a white chocolate bar with crisp rice inside. I actually love white chocolate as well as super dark chocolate. But the best I tried at M.S.P. & Sons Homemade Chocolate was their pure dark chocolate. It was everything I love about dark chocolate and tasted like it was about 85% cacao. It was heaven on my palate!
Trying homemade chocolate is one of my favorite things to do in Munnar, India. It’s the perfect dessert after trying lots of yummy and savory street foods!
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Visit Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation
When you travel to Munnar, something you must do is visit Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation, the highest-elevated organic tea plantation in the world. But before you go straight to the plantation, you should make an early-morning journey up to Kolukkumalai to witness one of its epic, world-renowned sunsets. To make the trip, I suggest waking up at three in the morning and making the one-hour drive to Surianalle Estate. There, you’ll take a Jeep up the rough, winding roads for 45 minutes until you reach the mountaintop.
Sunrise at Kolukkumalai
It wasn’t hard to understand why people travel from all over the world to witness the sunrises at Kolukkumalai. A thick layer of clouds blanketed the mountainsides far below us so that we couldn’t see the ground. The skies and clouds were ablaze with purples, reds, oranges, and golds for several minutes. Then, the clouds started to melt away right in front of our eyes.
Depending on the time of the year, the location of the sunrise will shift. Make sure you’re in the right position beforehand so you don’t miss the epic show! If you arrive at the right time of the year, you can watch the sunrise from a natural rock formation called the Leopard’s Mouth!
Kolukkumalai Tea Plantation – Arrival
From your position atop the mountain, you can peer down and view the rolling hills and labyrinth-like lanes of the plantation far below. It will take another 45-minute drive to get down there. Once you reach it, you’ll have to pay 100 rupees ($1.32 USD) to enter the factory.
Though it costs to enter the factory, the tea they serve you there is free. You’ll be greeted with black tea and lemon tea soon after you arrive. The black tea I had was some of the best I’ve ever had. It was quite sweet and paired nicely with the cone-shaped appam they served with it. It was like a sweet, steamed cookie made of rice, jaggery, and warming spices.
As you head toward the factory, you’ll walk along one of the many lanes that you saw criss-crossing the plantation from the mountain. Try a tea leaf straight from a plant if you wish, and then enter the 150-year-old estate’s 100-year-old factory. There, you’ll get to see the entire process the tea leaves go through, from the initial drying to the grinding to the fermentation to the firing room. You’ll also get to see how the dried leaves are ground into powder.
Outside, you’ll check out the punching machine, which is a bell that’s rung to alert the employees that it’s time to get to work. Before you leave, I recommend buying some Kolukkumalai south India tea. They sell varieties meant to be made with or without milk. You can buy a large bag for just 130 rupees ($1.72 USD). Even though I’m more of a coffee guy, buying tea here is one of the once-in-a-lifetime things you must do in Munnar, India!
With my day starting so early, I didn’t have time to eat a proper meal until after our plantation tour. My friends and I headed to a nearby stream just outside the estate, where we had dried and fried chilies, dried fish, and a fermented rice soup with wild gooseberry pickles and yogurt. The chilies are earthy and crumbly and tasty without a real kick of heat, while the fish is dense, salty, dry, and peppery. I liked that it was chewy but chewable.
But the main attraction is the soupy fermented rice, which is pretty sour by itself. Trying it with the other components, like the fish, gives you a burst of spice and salt. The yogurt adds a creamy component and the gooseberry pickle gives it a bit of sweetness and sourness. When you enjoy them all together, it gives you a wonderful contrast. And the fried dried chili works as a nice palate cleanser!
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Whether you’re a solo traveler or a couple looking for a honeymoon spot, Munnar is the perfect south Indian travel destination. With its rolling tea plantations and magical sunrises, it’s not hard to understand why couples flock there after saying “I do.” Those activities, and many more, appeal to travelers of all types. The fantastic street food and the opportunity to experience traditional cooking in the mountains are great ways to better familiarize yourself with the cuisine. Together, they all make Munnar, deservedly, one of the most popular destinations in southern India. Book a trip to Kerala today to experience it for yourself!
I have to thank my friend and guide Ebbin Jose for showing me the beauty and wonders of Munnar. He helped organize the majority of my Kerala itinerary. My Kerala blogs and episodes would not have been possible without him. Follow him on Instagram and subscribe to his food and travel channel on YouTube!
I also have to thank my friends at the Dream Catcher Resort. I enjoyed every moment of my stay there. The friendly staff made sure my time in Munnar was one for the books. Check out their website to book a stay with them!
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