Quiet Alternatives to Munnar, Kerala

The most visited destinations in Kerala, such as Cochin, Alleppey, Kovalam and Munnar are popular for a reason, but they do get crowded with other tourists. If you are feeling adventurous and would like to see another side of Kerala, this new series Quiet Alternatives highlights off the beaten track places to visit in Kerala. The first in the series looks at alternatives to Munnar, Kerala a beautiful but often crowded hill station.

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A Guide to Munnar, Kerala

Top Station, Munnar Kerala. Photo by kcbimal

Top Station, Munnar Kerala. Photo by kcbimal

Munnar, Kerala is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the state, with both Indian honeymooners and foreign tourists. People don’t visit Munnar for the small scruffy town, but for the stunning green hills that surround it, and most of all for the tea. Munnar is the centre of Kerala tea production, and visitors can enjoy the breathtaking views of the tea plantation covered mountains, as well as sample the quality tea itself.

The climate in Munnar at 1600m is much cooler than other parts of Kerala, with temperatures falling to 10 degrees celsius during the winter months. This makes it an ideal place for hiking, with plenty of beautiful walks to explore.It’s always a good idea to take warm clothes and rain gear.

What to do

Take a Tour – You’ll need transportation to visit the tea planations and hills surrounding Munnar. Your hotel, any rickshaw driver or the Tourist Information Service (run by legendary Munnar-expert Joseph Iype) will be able to arrange a days sightseeing for you.

Tata Tea Museum – The museum shows the basic process of making tea as well as old photos and machinery from the tea growing colonial era.

Trek – Walking is the best way to explore the tea plantations and hills up close. The Tourist Information Service can advise on routes, and the Green View Guesthouse runs a team of guides.

Waterfalls – There are many beautiful waterfalls around Munnar. Attukal is one of the the most spectacular amongst jungle and hills.

Top Station – This is the most popular excursion from Munnar. Top Station has spectacular views of the highest tea estates in India (see photo above). For the best views visit early in the morning before the mist builds ups.

Kolukkumulai Estate – Top Station can get crowded with tourists so Kolukkumlai is a great alternative with even more incredible scenery. It is officially India’s highest tea plantation at 2400m, and can only be reached by jeep.

Where to stay

It’s best to stay outside of Munnar town in the beautiful hills, although prices are higher and you’ll spend more on transport. Here are some good options:

Budget: Kappallil Resort has a range of rooms on offer, close to Munnar town but set in lovely gardens away from the hustle and bustle.

Midrange: Rose Gardens Homestay is set in a peaceful cardamon plantation 10km from Munnar. The friendly family can arrange treks and cooking lessons.

Luxury: Windermere Estate is a boutique country retreat set amongst cardamon and coffee plantations 4km outside of Munnar. The cottages are huge with spectacular views from the picture windows.

For more options read our How to Find Great Kerala Accommodation post.

How to get here

Munnar can be reached by bus or car from Kochi (5.5 hours), Kottayam (5 hours) and Kumily (4.5 hours). If you are coming from Alleppey you can change buses in Kottayam. These times are for buses, but you should always allow extra time as there can be delays on the winding mountain roads. The views on the way are beautiful though. If you hire a car and driver the journey time can be reduced, and you can stop to take photos along the way.

You can also reach Munnar by bus from Madurai (6 hours) or Coimbatore (6 hours) in Tamil Nadu. The journeys can be long but the views are stunning.

The next Kerala India Travel post looks at quiet alternatives to Munnar, where you can enjoy hill station scenery without the crowds. It is part of a new series looking at off the beaten track places to visit in Kerala.

How to Find Great Kerala Accommodation (Part 2)

In Part 1 of How to Find Great Kerala Accommodation I featured some useful websites for finding places to stay in Kerala, including i-escape for special and stylish hotel reviews, TripAdvisor for extensive hotel reviews and a number of forums where you can ask advice from experienced travellers. Here are some more helpful resources for finding your perfect place to stay in Kerala.

Mahindra Homestays

Mahindra Homestays is a booking service for homestays throughout India. It isn’t independent, but it is a useful way to find homestays, with plenty listed in Kerala. The photos and descriptions for each homestay are quite detailed and some have reviews by guests.

Each homestay is inspected to ensure that it complies with the high standards of Mahindra Homestays, including comfort, cleanliness, safety and originality. You can book your stay on the website or by phone.

Recommended for those looking for a homestay who would like the security of an advance booking.


This is an interesting and cheap option for adventurous travellers. Couchsurfing is a huge hospitality network where hosts from around the world allow travellers to stay on their couches or in their spare rooms for free.

There are  hundreds of hosts registered in Kerala, and this is an amazing way to get to know local people and see the ‘real’ Kerala.  Even if you don’t want to stay with the hosts you can arrange to meet them while you are in Kerala for a chance to meet locals and make new friends.

Many people are worried about the security of couchsurfing, but over 4 million positive experiences have been registered, which is an incredible 99.794% success rate. If you are still worried you can choose to only stay with hosts that have been verified and have positive references from other couchsurfers.

There are some amazing couchsurfing hosts in Kerala, including the chance to stay in an eco-friendly hut on a coffee plantation  in Wayanad, or with an Ayurvedic doctor on the beach in Kannur.

Recommended for adventurous travellers and those on a budget looking for a unique Keralan experience.


Twitter is a social networking site where members post short (140 character) messages. There is a great travel community on Twitter who you can ask for hotel recommendations, or you can  search to find out what people are saying about a particular hotel.

Almost Fearless has published a useful ebook called Twitter for Travellers which features great advice on using Twitter to find travel tips. There’s even a cheat sheet on how to set up a Twitter account for those just starting out.

I posted a question on Twitter asking how people found great accommodation. @Monica530 pointed me to her Travel Secrets article where she recommends not booking hotels in advance so that you can negotiate cheaper prices.

Recommended for travellers who already use Twitter, or those who’d like to learn.


The most traditional way to find accommodation is with a guidebook. You’ll have plenty of reliable listings in one portable package. The downside is that thousands of other travellers will be using the same guide, so these options can get crowded.

For pros and cons of each of the major Kerala and India guidebooks you can read my reviews of The Rough Guide to Kerala , Lonely Planet India and Lonely Planet South India.

Recommended for everyone (it’s always useful to have a guidebook on hand), especially travellers who won’t be booking in advance.

How to Find Great Kerala Accommodation (Part 1)

Great accommodation can really make your stay in Kerala, and there is a fantastic range on offer. Here are some useful resources for finding accommodation in Kerala, whether you are looking for a budget homestay or luxurious resort.


I-escape is a wonderful website that focuses on hip hideaways and boutique places to stay. If you are looking for somewhere stylish and special to stay in Kerala then this is the website for you. The Kerala section has lots of practical travel information (when to go, activities, places to visit, travel tips) and lists over 30 places to stay sorted by area and budget. Everywhere from homestays to palaces are covered, and there’s even an eco-friendly houseboat run by electric motor.

The best feature of i-escape is the detailed reviews of every place to stay. These are the most comprehensive accommodation reviews I have seen on the web, and give you a complete picture of the hotel. They include an unbiased breakdown of the pros and cons of each hotel; photos and detailed descriptions of the rooms, food and activities; links to other reviews and of course prices. You can even book your stay through i-escape.

There are some amazing places to stay in Kerala reviewed on i-escape. The only downside is that prices are high for India.

Recommended for honeymooners, and travellers with a larger budget looking for a unique and stylish place to stay.


TripAdvisor is the most popular accommodation review site on the web. It currently lists over 1000 accommodation options in Kerala from family-run homestays to huge resorts and international chains. The reviews are submitted by readers so are unbiased, although it can get confusing when people have vastly different views on the same place. Each listing is rated out of five, so you can sort by the top rated hotels.

I prefer looking in the B&Bs/Inns and Specialty Lodging sections to find smaller and cheaper places to stay in Kerala. The Hotels section is where you’ll find the bigger and more expensive resorts and hotels.

TripAdvisor also features a forum where you can ask questions.

Recommended for everyone. It covers all accommodation options.

India Mike

India Mike is a very helpful India travel forum where you can read or post questions on all aspects of travel in India. To find accommodation in Kerala you can search the forum, post a question on the Kerala branch of the forum, or read reviews of over 300 hotels listed in the Kerala Hotels section.

Recommended for everyone, especially travellers looking for budget accommodation.

Lonely Planet

The Lonely Planet website features the useful Thorn Tree forum where you can search and read old posts, and ask questions on the India branch.

You can also search for accommodation in the Hotels section on the website. Not all of the listings have been reviewed by Lonely Planet writers, and you need to search by city,  so you can’t browse all Kerala listings.

Recommended for budget travellers.

If you use one or more of these websites you’ll be able to find some great places to stay in Kerala. In Part 2 of How to Find Great Kerala Accommodation I’ll be recommending more useful resources for finding Kerala homestays and hotels, including an interesting option for free accommodation.

Kerala India Travel Most Popular Posts of 2009

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s a round up of this year’s most popular posts on Kerala India Travel. If you are planning your first trip to Kerala these articles are a good place to start.

1) Kerala Houseboats -The Essential Guide
This guide to Kerala Houseboats was the most popular post of the year. The five part series takes you through everything you need to know to plan your houseboat trip including what to expect, how much it costs and how to book.

2) The Best Ways to Experience the Kerala Backwaters
The backwaters are one of the most beautiful and unique areas of Kerala. This article explores the best ways to experience them including houseboat, canoe, homestay and local ferry.

3) Top 10 Places to Visit in Kerala
A concise run down of the most popular and interesting places to visit in Kerala.

4) Kerala Suggested Itineraries – 1 week
It can be difficult deciding where to visit if you have limited time in Kerala. This helpful post suggests four possible routes for one week trips.

5) The Best Homestay in Kerala – Community Greenpalm Homes Review
It took me three posts to review my favourite homestay in the backwaters of Kerala. Here you’ll find out why I love Community Greenpalm Homes so much, what activities are on offer, and the practical details of how to book and how to get there.

6) Top 10 Reasons to Visit Kerala
This is a great place to start if you are considering a trip to Kerala. Hopefully I’ll convince you as I talk about the range of attractions, the beautiful backwaters, fantastic homestays, delicious food and more.

7) Which Kerala Beach is Right for You?
This three part guide details the pros and cons of beaches in South, Central and North Kerala. You can decide whether you’d prefer the more popular beaches such as Kovalam or Varkala, or want to retreat to quiet and unspoilt Cherai or Kannur.

8) Travel the Backwaters by Canoe

A canoe trip is one of my favourite ways to experience the Kerala backwaters up close. Read about my experiences on the DTPC canoe trip to Munroe Island.

9) Kerala Suggested Itineraries – 2 weeks
Three possible itineraries for a longer trip to Kerala. With two weeks you’ll have time to see many of the most popular destinations or get off the beaten track.

10) Kerala India Travel – Tips to Plan your Trip
Answers to commonly asked questions such as when to visit Kerala, what to take and what to wear. Part 2 of this guide covers visas and whether to book in advance, while Part 3 looks at transport, money and malaria.

Thanks to everyone for reading the Kerala India Travel blog this year. Let me know if you have any suggestions for improvements in 2010.

Remember you can subscribe for free by RSS, email or facebook to make sure you don’t miss out on any new posts.

Christmas in Kerala

Kerala Christmas Tree

Kerala Christmas Tree

Kerala is one of the best places in India to celebrate Christmas. About 20% of the state’s population is Christian, and people of other religions may also join in with the celebrations. Signs of the festive season are evident in Kerala for weeks leading up to Christmas Day.

One of the loveliest Keralan Christmas traditions (also found in Goa) is hanging a Christmas star outside homes and shops. They come in a range of colours and patterns, and a lighted lamp is placed inside at night for a magical effect. The beautiful stars are found everywhere in Kerala, even outside the homes of non-Christian families.

Most Christian families will also have a crib and a Christmas tree outside their homes. The photo above is taken of the amazing and unique Christmas tree and crib display created by the family at Community Greenpalm Homes, a homestay in the Keralan backwaters. We had never seen such a magnificient and inventive Christmas display, using the local palms and plenty of colourful decorations.

As everywhere in the world,  Christmas  in Kerala is celebrated with mass on Christmas Eve in the churches, and lots of delicious food on the day itself.

I’ll be taking a blogging break next week to focus on my own festive celebrations and to work on my upcoming Guide to Kerala Houseboats ebook, which I’m hoping to release early next year. Merry Christmas everyone!

Kerala Guidebook Review: Lonely Planet India

Lonely Planet IndiaThis is the final part of our Kerala Guidebook Review series. I have recommended The Rough Guide to Kerala and Lonely Planet South India, but if you are touring the whole of India then the newly released Lonely Planet India is a great choice.


The Lonely Planet India is a brick of a book. Its 1244 pages weigh in at 1kg/2 pounds, but are packed full of practical information covering every region in the country.

The structure and layout is the same as the Lonely Planet South India, so see my review of this for more details. As in the other guide the Highlights, Getting Started and Itineraries sections provide a great overview of India and help to plan a trip to this huge country. The main differences are the lack of colour food section (although the food section is quite detailed), and language phrases are only listed in Hindi and Tamil.

Each state is covered in its own chapter. The Lonely Planet South India guide has slightly more info on the Southern states, but not a great deal more. As usual the Lonely Planet guides are very strong on budget accommodation listings, transport information and maps.


  • The guide covers the whole of India
  • It was recently released in September 2009 so is the most up to date India guidebook on the market
  • Lots of accurate and easy to use maps
  • The suggested itineraries section is very useful for planning a trip
  • Helpful transport information. I believe Lonely Planet provide the best advice on how to get from A to B.
  • Activities section is great for planning a trip around an interest such as bird-watching, kayaking or yoga.


  • This is a huge and heavy book. I recommend doing what we did and cut out the chapters of the states you won’t be visiting. We also cut out the state we were in so that we didn’t have to carry around the whole book for daytrips.
  • Only Hindi and Tamil are included in the languages section
  • Lonely Planet is the most popular guide with travellers in India, so you could end up following the crowds, especially with the accommodation recommendations.

So which guidebook is right for your trip to Kerala and India? If you are just visiting Kerala go for the Rough Guide to Kerala for the most specific cultural and practical information in a very compact book. The Lonely Planet South India is a great choice if you are travelling further afield, and if you are venturing all over the country then you won’t go wrong with the Lonely Planet India. Just do your back a favour and cut out the pages you don’t need!

Buy the Lonely Planet India Now