Kolukkumalai is not a familiar name, even to those who have toured Munnar before.
If you are a fan of nature, this is one of those heavens you are looking for. No need to think twice to include it among the charming locations of the planet.
Then why isn’t it popular?
This hill station is not for everyone. The journey up the hill is spine breaking.
The real climb starts past Suryanelli, a small town 23 kms east of Munnar. You need a jeep or a sturdy SUV. Have to be a really good driver too.
Almost all travellers hire a jeep from Sooraynelli. It costs a fair bit of money considering the distance is less than 10 kms.
The hardship of the journey justifies the cost.
Getting disillusioned about the humble Maheendra (jeep) is normal. There is no love at first sight. The experienced driver gets the job done, period.
For several kms there is no road. The ride through the rocks is bumpy is an understatement. It takes about one and a half hours to reach the destination. That is 5 kms an hour!
If you have spine problems or backaches keep away from this ride. Pregnant women, people with heart and other health issues, minors and senior citizens should not risk it as well.
If the ride gets too bumpy, better to get out of the jeep and walk. You can easily beat the jeep.
This mountain path is still a private road. They charge a fee for road maintenance.
I talked about the hardships, now let me tell you about the silver lining.
The travel is through some of the most scenic places ever to see. Up on reaching the top, the experience is so awesome that the shaky ride is a memory.
Wander in the realm of clouds, and look down at them if you like. Feel the moist touch of mist. Find Tamil Nadu on one side and Kerala on the other end of your deep glance. Smile at the greens because you may feel they are smiling at you.Kolukkumalai Tea Factory tour
About 7130 ft from sea level, Kolukkumali is the highest organic tea farm in the world. The tea factory is old, still keeps machinery from the British rule times and is mostly a showpiece for visitors.
Factory staff takes you around, shows the machinery and explains the process of making organic tea.
Sip a cuppa. Well deserved after the bone shaking ride.
The tea factory has an entry fee.
Seeing sun rise from Kolukkumalai is quite an experience. You will have to arrange the jeep and the driver early. If you are staying at Munnar, have to start by 4 A.M. The journey takes 2 hours roughly.
Another plus is the clear view of the valleys in morning sparkle. Clouds set in later on.
Have a flask with some hot drinks and some snacks / food. Thought of having a memorable breakfast at the summit? Bear in mind that the factory opens only at 10 A.M.
If the weather is bad, the mornings are going to be misty. So sun rise tours are not a good choice during rainy season.
The only place to stay at Kolukkumalai is the three bed room Guest House run by the Tea Estate. Need to book in advance.
Suryanelli, Chinnakkanal and Devikulam are beautiful locations, with resorts and home stays. Suryanelli has the added advantage of being in the base of the hill.
The positive for Munnar is that it has the most number of resorts, hotels and home stays to choose from.
How to reach
From Munnar, take Devikulam Road. After Devikulam, continue along Kochi - Dhanushkodi Rd (Munnar – Kumily Hwy) and deviate left to Chinnakanal – Suryanelli Rd.
Suryanelli is the base town, where jeeps are available for hire.