Munnar is situated near the Anaimudi Peak, the highest peak in the Western Ghats at an altitude of 2,695 meters (8,842 feet) from the sea level. Munnar's sprawling tea gardens with tall trees jutting out of sharp cliffs, and a plethora of wildflowers in a riot of colors, make it look like a painter's canvas. Drive around and explore the points of sightsee. Watch little wisps of clouds drift past you and shroud the tea estate that was conspicuous only a while ago. All along you will be serenaded by the sound of gurgling brooks or waterfalls seeping through narrow rocks. Pause on the way, maybe to buy farm fresh carrots from a hawker or small souvenir shops selling wooden artifacts and a range of authentic spices. Photographic opportunities abound here.
- Munnar's history goes back to the period of British rule in India. The hill station was developed to cultivate tea plants by British planters. It all began in the 1870s when J.D Munro, a European, realized on a hunting safari the agriculture potential of the land. He then leased about 580 sq. kilometers of the land in 1877 from the Maharaja of Poonjar who owned the area. At that time the tract was stark wild, greatly unexplored and covered with thick forest full of wild animals. The efforts of Munro in conjunction with that of the H.G Turner of the Madras Civil Service led to the foundation of the North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural Society, whose members developed their estates in various parts of the high ranges.
The first cultivation was taken up in 1877 by A.W Turner near Devikulam Lake. An array of crops such as coffee, cinchona, sisal and cardamom were tried out on this ground before settling for tea - a crop best suited to the region. The first tea plantation was started by A.H Sharp on a 50 acre clearing in a dense jungle at Parvathi, now a part of Sevenmullay estate. The concession area that was bought from the local maharaja went into the hands of Muir and Co. in 1893-95, which later became James Finlay & Co. In a few years, the Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company was formed to manage the estate of Finlay & Co. Many years later, much after India attained independence, the Tata Group - an Indian business conglomerate - collaborated with the Finlay's to form the Tata-Finlay group. However, in April 2005, the tea estates owned by the Tatas were transferred to a new company called Kannan Devan Hills Produce Co. Pvt. Ltd. Today the same group looks after 16 estates spread across 8600 hectares.
For a long time in the 1900s, tea produced in Munnar was transported to Top Station by a 24-inch railway line and further shipped from there by ropeway to Bottom Station. And the tea leaves would subsequently be sent to Bodinayakanur for shipping across the world. Though, the ropeway linking Top Station with Bottom Station between 1900 and 1969 is no longer functional. For much of the time, the locals of Munnar were engaged as laborers on the plantations. Though the trend continues, over the past few years tourism-related occupations have also found a way into Munnar's economy. Adimali or Adivaaram is the closest relatively big neighboring city to Munnar on the Kerala side of NH 49.
Today Munnar is home to two prominent educational institutes; the Government Arts & Science College and College of Engineering Munnar. The hill station also has its share of hospitals; this includes Tata General Hospital, Matha Hospital and Arun Hospital, outside of clinics such as John's Clinic in Kunchithanny.