Update (30-October-2017) – The ‘Gap Road’ near Munnar has been closed for widening work. If you are coming via Dindigal-Theni-Bodi-Pooppara route, you would need to take a diversion at Pooppara and go via Rajakumari-Rajakkad-Kunchithanni-Aadit-Chithirapuram-Munnar.
So you have decided to take a break from work and go for a vacation. And yeah, this time you are heading to Munnar and for various reasons you decided to drive down. But which route? There are many different routes you can take when driving from Bangalore to Munnar. Each of the routes has their own merits and demerits. Some routes are lengthy but you will be able to maintain slightly higher average speed. Some routes will allow you to save few miles but give you a low average speed. No matter which route you take, the last leg of your driving will involve ghat roads, lots of hairpin bends, and steep climbs. That’s because your destination is situated approximately 1800 meters above the sea level in the Western Ghats.
I have been trying different routes to Munnar and prefer the route via Kangeyam – Udumalaipetai over the other routes because I think it gives you the best of both worlds.
Distance – 465 km from Silk Board, Bangalore.
Driving Time – Approximately 10 hours.
Though there is no hard and fast rule regarding whether it is better to drive in the night or day time, I prefer driving in day light due to various reasons. My suggestion would be to plan your journey such that you reach Munnar in the day time before 4PM in the evening. This way you could enjoy the scenic beauty of the lavish greenery en route to Munnar.
If you have toddlers or young children coming with you it would help if you carry their favorite toys/puzzles/games/books to make them engaged during the drive.
Silk Board – Salem (195 km)
Driving time – 3hrs approx.
Bangalore to Salem via Hosur, Krishnagiri is an excellent highway and you would take approximately 3 hours to reach Salem. There are 3 or 4 tolls en route and you would be paying approximately Rs 300 one way (as of 10th Sep 2013). Near to Salem there are some decent vegetarian restaurants on either side of the highway.
Salem to Perundurai. (80 Km)
Good road. NH7
Driving time – 1 hour 20 minutes
From Salem you need to continue on NH47 towards Coimbatore direction. Once you drive approximately 75km from Salem watch out for a sign board indicating the direction to Perundurai.
Once you see the sign board Perundurai is within a mile. (At this point you will exit NH-47 and enter SH-96 towards Kangeyam)
Perundurai to Kangeyam. (33km)
Good Roads – (State Highway 96)
Driving time – 40 minutes
Once you enter Perundurai town watch out for the signs indicating the direction to Kangeyam. Perundurai to Kangeyam is approximately 33km. The roads are good and traffic will be very minimal. The roads are two lanes with no divider. You will pass by a small town by name Chennimalai on the way to Kangeyam.
Kangeyam to Dharapuram (33km)
Driving Time 45 minutes
The road is of the same characteristics as in the Perundurai – Kangeyam stretch. You would take about 45 minutes to reach Dharapuram. You can see few wind mills along this route.
Dharapuram to Udumalaipettai (40km)
Driving Time 1 hour.
Again single lane road with no divider. Minimal traffic. At the time of writing this article, there were lots of road works going on in the town and many places the traffic was diverted. Hence please look for the signboards indicating the directions to Munnar.
Udumalaipettai to Marayoor. (48km)
Ghat section and Bad Roads
Driving Time 1:30 hrs.
Most of the mobile service providers don’t have coverage until you reach Munnar. So if you want to make a final check with your travel agent better do that before leaving Udumalaipettai.
After leaving Udumalaipettai town you will be driving through the country side for the next 15 to 20 minutes. After that you will be entering the ghat section. There are no villages/shops for the next 45 km (1:30 hours) and obviously no petrol bunks either. Hence make sure that you have enough fuel to cover the next 45 km. Also, from now you are going to enter a totally different terrain. The road keeps going uphill with hairpin bends and the condition of the road is not that great either. Hence your car is going to gulp more fuel per mile.
There are few check posts in this stretch and at each check post you will have to pull over and go to the guard room and write Driver Name, car registration number, number of passengers in the car, from where you are coming, your destination in the register kept at the guard room. The duty officer may come and inspect the car as well.
WARNING! It is illegal to carry liquor across state borders.
Once you reach the Tamil Nadu Kerala boarder, you will see a series of check posts. One check post in Tamil Nadu side and 2 in the Kerala side after crossing the small bridge in the boarder. You will need to pull over and go to the guard room to sign on the register. You need to write the car Reg number, number of passengers, starting point, destination, purpose of visit etc.
Here you will see a lot of monkeys on the road and the moment you stop the car they all jump on top of your car. Keep all your windows rolled up before stopping the car. The monkeys are searching for eatables and if you have kept something on the dash board and the windows are down they will take that and runaway in the fraction of a second. Imagine a monkey snatching that fancy handbag from your wife and escaping into the woods :-). I had been a victim once but what I lost was packet of snacks.
After driving about 10 km you can see a signboard indicating “Thoovanam water falls”. The waterfall is actually away from the road but you could stop the car and have a glimpse of the silver folds of the waterfall. The view of Thoovanam waterfalls in the winter season will be breathtaking.
Another couple of miles and you will reach Marayoor village. Pull over and have a cup of hot tea. Marayoor is a small village town. You can see few coffee houses and small restaurants.
Marayoor to Munnar (42 km)
Narrow road through the Ghats.
Driving Time – 1:30 hrs.
After leaving Marayoor town, within a couple of miles you will enter into the famous natural sandalwood forests of Marayoor. You could identify this by the miles long metal fencing on either side of the road. Sometimes you may see wild animals as well near the fencing. The roads are a mix of good and bad stretches.
There is one check post by the forest department in the Marayoor Munnar route. You will have to park the car and go to the guard room to sign on the register. They may come and inspect your car as well.
You will see the “Lakkam water falls” on the way. It is not completely visible from the road. Pull over and enjoy the view.
The road is going downhill to the valley and will start going uphill again onto another mountain. Once the road reaches the top of the mountain you could stop there and enjoy the scenic view of the Munnar valley. If the time is past 4PM in the evening the dense fog would have already engulfed the region.
WARNING! You are in the last leg of your drive and you may be already tired. Drive very carefully. You are driving on a narrow mountain road with many sharp curves and little or no shoulders.
Once road starts going downhill after about 5km you will see the entry for the “Eravikulam National Park”. And few more miles further you will enter Munnar town.
Welcome to Munnar! Have a pleasant stay here!