The tea-and-spice-plantation-laden hills of Munnar have long attracted tourists. This year, the rolling slopes will transform from emerald to purple. In a phenomenon that occurs every 12 years, neelakurunji flowers will be in full bloom come late July. In 2006, the event drew lakhs of tourists to Munnar and this year as well, about 10 lakh people are expected to visit the hill-station.
Scientifically known as strobilanthes kunthianus, the purple-blue flowers, which give the Nilgiri hills their name, are expected lend their hue to the Nilgiri and Anamalai hills until October according to the Kerala Forest Deparment. Of the 146 Indian species of the 60-centimetre-tall plants, over 40 grow in Kerala and while they are spread over 3,000 hectares of the hills, their highest concentration is in Munnar. A 12-year reproduction cycle culminates in a full bloom, and the shrub dies after. The impact however, remains—people aside, bees and numerous species of butterflies are attracted to the blooms and once in over a decade the tourism department gears up for the productions of neelakurunji-imbibed sweeter honey.
The hills carpeted in purple are a site to behold, but responsibly. After the tourist outburst in 2006, in a bid to protect the plants, the 32-square-kilometre Kurinjimala Sanctuary was set up within the core area Munnar’s Eravikulam National Park. So head to Eravikulam to be part of the spectacle, but remember, these blooms 12 years in the making can only survive at an altitude of 1,500 metres.
For more information on how to get there and where to stay, go here: keralatourism.org/neelakurinji/
Lubna Amir travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.