The town of Munnar situated at an altitude of 1524m in the Western Ghats does not have much to recommend it, but its attraction lies in its access to miles of slopes swathed in tea and panoramic views from the hill tops. Before giving up on the town, the little Tea Museum is worth popping in for the fading photographs and stories of the original colonial planters. Until the late 19th century the area was deeply forested and inhabited mainly by tribal people before it was discovered to be suitable for the cultivation of tea. A road from Cochin on the coast didn’t open until 1931. For a scenic drive to the remains of the old ropeway used to take tea to the valley floor and spectacular views head to Top Station. It’s only 34km (21 miles) from Munnar but you’ll need four or five hours for the return journey along narrow winding roads.
Not far from the town is Eravikulum National Park, the last sanctuary of a rare mountain goat, the Nilgiri thar. Admittedly it’s not always easy to get excited about seeing what is, essentially, a goat, but the tahr is as endangered as the tiger. Its friendly nature made it easy prey to hunters and its population was decimated during the colonial era. The park gates also mark the start of a challenging steep trek to Anamudi (2695m), south India’s highest peak.
There are plenty of other less strenuous walks in the area and the fresher air makes a welcome break from the heat of the plains. Munnar is easily accessible from both Cochin and Periyar as well as Madurai in Tamil Nadu and a stay here is recommended as part of a tour of Kerala.