Munnar is a lush hill station, located in the the south of India. In keeping with most of Kerala, Munnar is incredibly green, and a lovely place to explore. The landscape is predominately tea plantations, and due to its elevation of 1,700m, it’s a fair bit cooler than other areas in India.
Before arriving in Munnar I’d heard good things about trekking in the area. However it wasn’t until I got there that I realised this might be trickier than originally planned.
It’s impossible to find information about the treks, either maps or suggested routes. And there doesn’t appear to be a real tourist information centre in Munnar. It’s generally accepted that if you want to trek, you hire a local guide.
The problem goes deeper than a lack of information around for trekkers. There is a rumour that independent trekkers will get fined 3,000 rupees. So basically you’re forced into hiring one.
Now I’m not a massive fan of being guided on treks, and was slightly miffed at the state of affairs in Munnar. I’d been allowed to trek for 15 days in the Everest region unguided, but couldn’t potter around some tea plantations for half a day alone.
Anyway, I succumbed to the fact that I must be guided, and set about trying to find a reputable company. In the end I settled on Greenview who charge 650 rupees for a “soft trekking” and 800 rupees for “mountain trekking”.
I went for the mountain trek, which turned out to be extremely leisurely, with a slight ascent up a small hill. The descent is via a different route, and slightly more tricky, but nothing to worry about. If you have hill walking experience you will be absolutely fine.
On top of the hill we stopped for breakfast, which is provided by the guide and is included in the price. It was a nice place to take in the view, while enjoying some fresh pineapple.
Despite my initial reservations, it was a pleasant experience. And I’d say the opportunity to have an explore was probably worth the 800 rupees (which isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things). Plus I met some nice people, some of whom I later met for lunch, and went sight-seeing with the following day.
I’d say if you’re after some serious hiking, Munnar is not the best place for you. It’s beautiful, and there some nice walks, but it’s trekking infrastructure is very much in its infancy. I think this is partially because the people of India appear completely perplexed as to why westerners would choose to walk anywhere. The number of times I was asked ‘why are you walking when you can afford a driver?!’ was incredibly amusing. As was the look I got when I responded saying that I actually enjoy walking.
But the times are changing. There was a middle aged Indian couple in our trekking group. The man looked dressed for a business meeting, but persevered and made it through. And the woman was very keen to try this ‘hiking thing’ that westerners are in to.
As domestic tourists make up a large percentage of those visiting the area, it’s hopeful an increase in such tourists taking part in trekking will help to make it more established in Munnar.