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Tamil Nadu is a gem in Southern India. The place is blessed with serene locations some of which are highly popular around the world. Chennai, Mahabalipuram is a few of the many exotic places Tamil Nadu has to offer. From lush green valleys, waterfalls to the foggy mornings I can’t describe how beautiful Tamil Nadu is. One such uniqueness to Tamil Nadu is its Tea estates.
The tea estates in Tamil Nadu offer a unique rawness to nature. These tea estates are not only very economical to Tamil Nadu but also are highly touristy here. The lovely greenery which is spread all around makes one feel happy. These tea estates have seen a lot of visitors in the past and still are one of the most popular destinations in Tamil Nadu.
One such unique place here in Tamil Nadu is the stunning Kolukkumalai. The breathtaking views of this organic tea estates are so popular that people from all over the world visit here. At an altitude of more than 8000 ft Kolukkumalai holds the feat of being the highest organic tea estate in the world. With this height comes the splendid view of the valley.
The far-stretching valley of Kolukkumalai which looks absolutely stunning and breathtaking. Kolukkumalai looks even more dazzling in the morning and evening. The blanket of fog all over the valley and you at the top the view is very scenic.
Kolukkumalai Location and History
In the eastern ghat hills of the Theni district of Tamil Nadu is this exotic location known as Kolukkumalai. While we can say that this serene place lies in Tamil Nadu but it is also not very far from Munnar of Kerala. The Kolukkumalai remains in the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala’s Idukki district.
Kolukkumalai tea estate is not only popular among us but like many other hill stations of India, this place was very popular among Britishers. This organic tea estate was first started in the 1920s and since then it has been running very efficiently. The tea grown here is one of the most exotic tea you will ever have. It is so popular that it has been given the prestigious Gold leaf award.
To reach Kolukkumalai from Munnar
While it would seem that Kolukkumalai is in Tamil Nadu so our journey will start in Tamil Nadu. But the case is a little different here. Kolukkumalai ride starts preferably from Munnar only. Not only it is very near to Munnar but also it becomes a whole package for tourists. The 1-hour jeep ride is one of the bumpiest rides you will ever experience but is also very exciting at the same time.
So we started our exciting journey to this beautiful tea estate from Munnar. These exotic places are not very far from each other. Kolullumalai is only around 35 km from Munnar. The distance can be covered in as short as 2 hours from car and around 1 hour 40 minutes by bike.
You will reach the gate of Suryanelli if you follow the right path. Please do ask locals while coming to this way as it is very easy to get lost here.
Jeep ride in Kolukkumalai
We got into a jeep at about 6 am to be bumped up, down, and around the steep dirt roads for hours in each direction. The jeep took us off-road on a treacherously bumpy one hour ride uphill, not advisable for elders/young children. If you enjoy adventure, the jeep ride will be fun
We did struggle with communicating with our driver, but he was very kind and really went out of his way to be helpful and by the end of the trip. The turns are so sharp that some times driver had to reverse the jeep and turn it again before climbing up.
We stopped along the way to have a coffee, as well as photo stops. The beauty of the Kolukkumalai drive is these rough paths and sharp turns and the risks it offers on the way It was so incredible winding around the tea fields with ladies working in them. And due to the bumps and lower speed we had to go to drive it, it actually was not sickening to continually drive the hairpin turns.
We got to the top, being blessed with perfect weather. , the view of the sunrise from the top made every single bump worth it. The morning rays on a bed of clouds made for a surreal scene. This is one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever experienced in my travels so far. There was slight cloud cover with the gorgeous bare mountain peaks rising above them to the height we were at.
I say we had perfect weather because on the way back this was all covered over in mist. We drove on to the tea factory where we were shown this charmingly old factory with the processes and machines for making the tea. The majestic sights and sounds just didn’t end. We were also given free tea to drink.
Tour of the plantation company
This place takes you back to the past. Since its inception in 1920, the place still remains fairly the same. The factory itself looks charming and undoubtedly it is very scenic. The place is a live example of how things were in the 1920s. While roaming around the tea factory you will see the rugged wooden stairs, creaky doors, rust, and some cracks. But I think these all flaws further enhance your tour.
You would see people workers working hard to make sure that you get the best product. They use the old-style organic way of making the tea which is in the practice since the colonial era The level of cleanliness speaks for itself as I earlier mentioned that they have been awarded some very prestigious prizes.
Where to stay
While there are thousands of rooms available up there and also near Suryanelli but being a adventure enthusiast I wouldsuggest you to camp near the tea estate. IF you want to feel that surreal experience of cloud cover over the valley which is usually not possible than camping is the best idea to do so. The raw beauty Kolukkumalai offers you in the morning is absoulutley fantastic and worth staying.
The camping experience can be booked online as it is provided by various companies. The camp is located 8 km inside the Harrison estate which is perfect place. The campsite offers you bbq, bonfire and many other fun activities. While you are with your friends activites like this remains in our memory for a very long time. Bed’s, blankets, tent everything is provoded by these companies so you don;’t need to carry anything by your side.
While the night ofcourse remains magical with friends but the real magic is the sunrise. It is not one of the sunrise which is highly hyped. The clouds stretched over the valley and sun floating above all of this will make you go crazy. The sunrise is one of the most glorious sunrises you will ever see in your life.
Few companies which I found trust worthy are
Black eagle Camp site
Kolukkumalai Mountain Hut.
Best Time To visit Kolukkumalai
The Best time to Visit Kolukkumalai is from Late Septemeber to March.
Kolukkumalai in Summers
Summers remain a fairly popular season to visit Kolukkumalai. The weather is very pleasant which generally ranges from 23 to 28 degrees in the day and around 14 to 18 degrees in night. Summers are best for those who are in city and want to escape the pricking heat of these citites. While many hill stations would be filled in Summers but Kolukkumalai will be less crowded and the views will be epic.
Kolukkumalai in Monsoon
I generally never suggest to go anywhere during Monsoon. But Kolukkumaali is unique place where these monsoon adds the charm rather thancreating any problem. In monsoon generally the temperature ranges from 25 to 30 degrees in the day and at night it hovers around a good 20 dgrees. While you must know that during monsoon also your camping trip would not be possible. Generally camping is not done at this time.
Kolukkumalai in Winters
Winters is another great season to explore Kolukkumalai. Not only the place is cold and breezy but also camping and bonfire is best enjoyed at this time. The temperature at day hovers around 18 to 22 degrees and at night it can go upto a good 10 degree Celsius. This beautiful weather makes Kolukkumalai a hot romantic destination for couples.
Monthly Weather in Kolukkumalai
Things to carry for the trip and Camp
While at camp most of the things like blanket, food, bedsheets etc would be provided but few things which you should carry on this trip are.
- Warm clothes
- Good shoes that can withstand moisture and rain.
- A torch for the camp
- Bottled water
- snacks (There are no shops at the top)
- Few medicines
Read about other Tamil Nadu trips here.
Read about Munnar here.