Munnar, one of the top 10 hill stations in India, and one of the top places to visit tea gardens in India, is understandably one of Kerala's most popular tourist destinations as well. It's only about four hours drive from Kochi, which makes it a great weekend getaway, side trip, or next stop on a more extensive Kerala itinerary.
The real picturesque beauty of the area lies in the Munnar hills that surround Munnar town. While it may be convenient to stay in town, you'll be missing out on the sprawling tea gardens and spice plantations. Closest to town but just far enough away (about 15 minutes south), you'll find a cluster of accommodations amid the plantations just beyond Pothenmedu Viewpoint on Bison Valley Road. Pallivasal, in the vicinity of Pipeline Viewpoint about 20 minutes before Munnar, has more accommodations. There are other hotels and homestays further out beyond the Chithirapuram Viewpoint, about 30 minutes from town. They cater to all types of tourists,... from luxury to budget, and many offer substantial discounts during the monsoon season.
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For a truly exceptional stay, look no further than Windermere Estate. This elegant yet homely heritage property started out as a cardamom estate, purchased by Ophthalmic surgeon Doctor Simon John in 1987. His foray into farming turned into tourism, when he opened up five rooms to guests. The property has evolved over the years, with the addition of more accommodations and amenities. There are now 18 cottages scattered around the original Planter's bungalow, a barn that serves as a dining room, a thatched tea hut where guests can relax and mingle, library, yoga space, and stunning infinity swimming pool. What really makes the property unique though is that it has its own private lookout, atop a gigantic boulder that extends 70 feet above the ground, with unfettered views over the valley. Communal bonfires and barbecues are held underneath the boulder twice a week. Other experiences include 2-hour plantation treks every evening, bird watching, and cooking lessons. Or, simply relax in... a hammock and do nothing. The photos really don't do it justice! From around 8,500 rupees per night, for a double. The largest Planters Room is a very spacious 1,200 square feet and costs from around 17,800 rupees per night. Breakfast is included. Do not that alcohol isn't served due to licensing restrictions but you can bring your own.
If you really want to get away from it all, spend some time at the magical Windermere River House as well. It sits in serenity on two acres alongside the Periyar River, about half way between Kochi and Munnar.
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The ultimate paradise for nature-lovers, The Tall Trees is situated on 66 acres of land that's rich in biodiversity. There are more than 600 trees, cardamom plantations, streams, rock formations, moss, wildflowers, orchids, birds, butterflies, and wild animals. Guests can trek through the forest, as well sit around a campfire and soak up the serenity. However, the mesmerizing sunsets are the real highlight. Traditional Ayurvedic treatments are also offered. Guest accommodations consist of 26 independent rustic cottages on stilts. The largest one is a villa with two bedrooms. Rates start from 9,000 rupees per night for a standard cottage, including breakfast. Expect to pay 20,000 rupees per night for the villa.
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Green Magic Home fits the bill for a value-for-money stay, especially for families. This enchanting bed and breakfast is perched on a hill overlooking the tea fields and has five simply furnished guest rooms. It's an intimate place with outstanding personalized service from the hosts. This includes delicious fresh home-cooked meals featuring local cuisine. The rooms all face the valley and have balconies with views so good that you'll want to sit there all day! However, it's worth taking a walk through the tea plantations and to a nearby village. Expect to pay 3,500 rupees per night for a double room, including breakfast.
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The dream of a retired physics teacher, Olive Brook is an ancestral plantation house converted into a hotel with nature as its backdrop. The property is ideal for honeymooners or couples wanting a romantic getaway. There are less than 10 cottages, it's been kept this way to ensure personalized service and a quiet environment. You'll be surrounded by birds, butterflies, and plants. Guests can tour the coffee and cardamom plantations, learn about organic farming, take cooking classes, do yoga, go trekking, and have a candlelit dinner. There's even a honeymoon cave! (Bet you're curious about that). Rates range from 4,800-6,650 rupees per night, including breakfast. Various packages are also offered, including Ayurveda, adventure, retreat, and relaxation.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Intimate and idyllic, Green Spaces has just five guest rooms facing either the garden or cardamom plantation, about 30 minutes south of Munnar town. The ones upstairs have a shared deck, while the others have private balconies. There's jungle everywhere, and the soothing sound of birdsong. There's no set menu, although barbecues are a specialty. Guests can discuss what they wish to eat with the caretaker and cook. Rates start around 5,000 rupees per night for a double. Breakfast is included.
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Feeling in need of rest and rejuvenation? What better place than to get it than enveloped by forest and spice plantations. Kaivalyam is a harmonious holistic health retreat that promotes living a yogic lifestyle with daily yoga, meditation, organic vegetarian food, and a farm setup. The property's main attraction is its extensive 11-acre farmyard where there are spice plantations, a plant nursery, fruit and vegetable garden, rose garden, view points, and campfire area. The guest diverse accommodations consist of eight rooms in a stone building, a separate luxury stone cottage with four bedrooms, and tree houses. The hosts conduct a weekly programs of complimentary yoga (for both beginners and advanced). Rates start from around 5,000 rupees per night and go up to 8,000 rupees for a deluxe tree house. Breakfast is included. Yoga packages are available.
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Namasthe Munnar is ideal for those who don't want to spend to much. It's part of the new Namaste hotel group, which also has popular budget properties in Fort Kochi, Marari beach, and Alleppey. The group is known for its quality hospitality, and the Munnar property is no exception. It's situated about 200 meters off the main road and jeep transport is provided for those who don't want to walk down the hill. Plenty of buses run into town from the main road, which is convenient. Most rooms have incredible views and there are some peaceful walks to go on in the area. Rates start from 1,499 rupees per night for a budget double room and go up to 2,499 rupees per night for rooms with the best valley views. Breakfast is additional. Also, do note, the cheapest rooms have facilities for bucket baths only. No showers.
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Royal Mist is the most popular homestay in the Munnar area and consistently gets five-star reviews from its guests. It's a modern house with three guest rooms, nestled into the hills about 30 minutes south of Munnar town, just off the Munnar Bypass. There's a network of short walking trails through the surrounding plantation and woody landscape that opens out onto magnificent viewpoints. Welcoming hosts (a family with two children), home-cooked food, and a wide range of activities make it a winner! Rates start from around 4,000 rupees per night for a double, including welcome drink, cookies, or fruit basket. Royal Mist also offers a three night "Splendors of Munnar" sightseeing package for two, including accommodations and transport from Kochi airport, for 19,860 rupees.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Fond of tea? Don't miss the opportunity to stay right in the middle of a tea plantation. The Gruenberg Tea Plantation House is a gorgeous modern architecturally designed boutique property with accommodations spread over three levels. There are only five guest rooms, and all have balconies. However, the rooms on the upper two floors have more expansive views. There's also a rooftop Tea Haus restaurant, and library. Expect to pay around 4,000 rupees per night upwards for a double. Rates include breakfast, guided plantation treks, village visit, and cycling.
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Luxurious Swiss County aims to enable guests to "experience a bit of Switzerland in India". It's a breathtaking small property with spacious contemporary rooms and views, views, views. If you feel like splurging, the Alpine Suite is regarded as one of the largest and best designed suites around -- and it's surprisingly affordable. The food served at the hotel is excellent too. The only drawback is that it's not on a tea estate, although there are tea gardens within walking distance. Rates start from 6,500 rupees per night for a double including breakfast. The Alpine Suite is 8,500 rupees. Discounts are often available from booking engines.
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Soulful Ambady Estate is nestled into 70 acres of cardamom plantation near Karadipara Viewpoint, about 30 minutes south of Munnar town. The owners want to bring guests who care about the environment closer to nature. They've devoted themselves to sustainability and responsible tourism. Meals are freshly prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. Attractions include trekking, cooking classes, bird watching and butterfly spotting. There's wildlife all around. Guests are accommodated in a cluster of four twin split-level cottages, each with their own living rooms and private garden seating, plus a three-bedroom colonial villa. Expect to pay about 8,500 rupees per night for a double room.
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This quaint family homestay occupies an atmospheric stone building that's almost a century old. The property has two acres of land filled with spice crops, fruit trees, roses, and a plant nursery. It's glorious! Some of the delights are fresh homegrown vegetables, seasonal fruits, honey straight from the hive, spring water, and farm-grown coffee. Kerala cooking lessons are available. If you're feeling energetic, you can also go for lengthy guided treks in the area around the property. Of course, the property won't appeal to everyone though. There's no rooms service, air-conditioning, or TVs. Expect to pay 5,000-7,000 rupees per night for a double, including breakfast. Trekking costs 1,600 rupees for two, with a guide.