On the drive from Thekkady to Munnar, a good road winds through lofty forests as well as spice and tea plantations. As you make the final climb to Munnar the hillside is richly carpeted with iridescent bushes and bushes of tea. Tea has been grown in Munnar for well over a hundred years, since about 1880. Like so many such areas in India, it reflects a long, virtually unchanged history—groups of workers heading out to pick the the leaves, overstuffed sacks of the leaves heading to the factory, sleepy shacks clustered around a tea factory.

The town of Munnar itself is small and unattractive, though its Christ Church, less than a kilometer above the main town and built of British planters, is worth a quick visit for its atmosphere and the old memorial plaques inside.

Most of the land around Munnar is owned by the tea section of the huge Tata Group, and a few smaller concerns, resulting in a kind of unspoiled hill station, with acres of tea, coffee, and cardamom plantations amid hills, lakes, streams, and waterfalls. During your visit you can tour these plantations; arrange trekking, rock-climbing, paragliding, and river trips; or just sit on your hotel balcony with—what else?—a cup of tea, taking in the scenery. It's quite cool here, so you don't need to find a hotel with air-conditioning.

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