Most of you will have heard about Venice of Kerala which is another name of Alleppey, but what you may not know, is that “God’s Own Country” has another hidden Venice known as Munroe Island in Kollam District around 87 KMs from Alleppey. Munroe Island is a group of eight small islands, with a rich laden history named after John Munroe who abolished slavery and rooted out corruption in the state.
Munroe Island, also known as Mundrothuruthu, has a maximum overall stretch of merely 14-kilometer square and is located at the confluence of Kollada river and Ashtamudi lake, in Kollam. Tourists from around the world come here allured by the serenity, however, this beauty remains unknown to most Indians.
Things to Do in Munroe Island
Munroe Island is known for its laidback prices and its heavenly experience. And if you too want to experience this exceptional location, here’s your guide to Munroe Island tourism.
1. Enjoy a Canoe Canal Cruise in the Lap of Nature
Canal cruises ensure you receive a once in a lifetime experience of gliding through the heart of nature while taking in the peaceful waters of a network of canals and gazing upon the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. These cruises typically last for a duration that is long enough to provide a perfect opportunity to relax and unwind and rejuvenate your city’s eyes and spirit while marveling at the lush greenery and wildlife that can be seen along the way.
Many canal cruises offer various amenities such as onboard refreshments and snacks, as well as a local boatsman cum guide to provide commentary about the history and culture of the area.
Munroe Island is that hidden gem situated in the backwaters that will be your next perfect cruising destination. Cruising in a small canoe if one of the best things to do in Munroe Island owing to its composition of a cluster of 8 islands and immense natural beauty. Each of the islands is separated by small water channels and lakes perfect for a cruising opportunity. Thus, being located about 27 km from Kollam it becomes an ideal spot for canal cruises.
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A bit of history to the island will throw more light on its pleasant cruises.
The place is named after Resident Colonel John Munroe, of the former princely state of Travancore. It is said that he had integrated several backwater regions by digging canals, hence its the perfect cruise destination. The island’s main attractions are the famous Kallada Boat Race during Onam, narrow waterways and canal cruises.
Even if you are not considering staying on Munroe Island for a staycation, the canal trip is one of the most well-liked activities to do there. The 2-hour canal tour involves paddling a canoe through constrained canals surrounded by palm and coconut trees. You can get glimpses of the Mundrothuruthu people going about their daily lives in the tucked-away environment.
After navigating a number of narrow canals, you’ll arrive at the enormous Ashtamudi lake, where the scene is a complete contrast. The mangrove plantation you pass through as you paddle through this lake is the highlight of the canoe trip. The ideal time to take the canoe excursion is at sunrise or sunset when the weather is nice and the colors are spectacular.
2. Pay a Visit to the Munroe Museum Bungalow
The colonel who lived there and is the famous person the island is named after, John Munroe, did all of his years of administrative work at the Bungalow. The home, which is more than 200 years old, has been transformed into a sort of museum.
Maharaja Balaram Varma of Travancore died in 1810. He was succeeded by Gowri Lakshmi Bai, the daughter of his adopted sister. She, not being a blood relative, had to face several conspirators including her own deewan Ummini Thampi who had begun to act independently on occasions at the time. Being alerted by all this unrest, within a year of coming to power, the Rani one day sacked Thampi and appointed the British resident Col John Munroe as her new deewan.
This was a political masterstroke from a newborn child. Munroe managed to ward off the conspirators due to his support from the East India Company and also managed to balance the treasury for years, thus being able to come up with a fitting profit for the company. It was a win-win situation for everyone and everyone was happy. So this was how Col. Munroe became an important part of the history of Kollam and Kerala.
The front veranda of the colonial-style house is very large and is a sight for sore eyes. There are pictures of John Munroe, his family, and his ancestors that you can find inside. The Indian-style toilet seat with the glass cover is the bungalow’s primary attraction. It is thought to have been transported from Europe specifically for John Munroe. The locals claim it may be one of the first toilets in India. Today, the bungalow has been transformed into a rehabilitation facility.
3. Take a Trip to the Kollam Beach
The Kollam beach which is open from 10 AM to 5 PM is exceptional in its beauty. It is the perfect place to unwind and relish its picturesque landscape and get away from the usual din and bustle. The mysterious and unending view of the natural blue waters of the Arabian which blends with the infinite sky on the horizon keeps the sightseers forever amazed. The beach was visited by Mahatma Gandhi during his time and you can do the same to experience the beauty he did because nature is eternal.
Kollam Beach in Kerala, India is a picturesque beach situated in the coastal city of Kollam. Tourists from all over the nation and the world come to this place to rejuvenate and get away from urban life to relax in the heart of nature. The long sandy coastline, exceptional amenities of the beach, and the mesmerizing views of the Arabian Sea keep attracting tourists. Activities such as sunbathing, fishing, and swimming with the waves among others are there to keep the visitors entertained.
There are a number of restaurants and cafes nearby, as well as a few hotels and resorts for tourists. The beach is home to a few temples and churches that visitors can visit and marvel at their exquisite architecture. The Kollam lighthouse, which is situated at the beach, is also a popular attraction.
The gorgeous Kollam Beach draws throngs of people all year long with a variety of beach activities. Kollam beach is Kerala’s pride and delight and is renowned as the first beach wedding location in the state. You can have enjoyable activities like boat rides, and canal cruises or you might go to Mahatma Gandhi Park or Marine Aquarium at Kollam Beach, which is decorated with a stunning view of the Arabian Sea, tempting azure color sea, and a glittering sky. The expansive views of the Arabian Sea are beautiful. Visit the port city, which previously had a thriving harbor, and you’ll never forget this journey through culture and spirituality.
Thus, a visit to Kollam beach is a great way to spend a day or two, with lots of fun activities to enjoy and sights to explore.
4. A Bicycle Tour Around the Island
A bicycle tour across the countryside is the most private and singular experience one has on this island. Your eyes will be drawn to the villages’ nooks and crannies while you’re cycling since many of the homes there have fields where they grow things like fish, papaya, bananas, and cinnamon. If you’re fortunate, you might also come across locals working on coir.
On this island, you can choose to go birdwatching and see flocks of kingfishers, cranes, egrets, and other birds. While exploring, refresh yourself with a lime drink or coconut water from one of the nearby businesses.
The countryside people are very friendly and also know their hospitality. You will have fun getting to know their side of life. Blend in with the locals as they will tell you stories about their island’s history which you cannot find in any textbook or online. Unity in diversity is one of the unique things you can find in a huge country like India which provides for people from numerous cultures. See how the cultures fuse as you might find something which even you can relate to.
5. Watch Sunrise at Ashtamudi Lake and Sunset at Perumon Railway Bridge
There’s nothing like grabbing an early morning boat to the Ashtamudhi lake and enjoying the cool weather, as the sun goes up slowly behind the green. It is truly a blissful and surreal experience that is a must when visiting this island. As is watching the sunset from the Perumon.
Railway bridge, where the sun sets slowly into the Keralan backwaters. In the year 1988, a significant railway accident occurred here. At a ledge next to the bridge, there is a monument for the victims. In reality, there are now two rail bridges, one for approaching trains and the other for departing ones. Additionally, there is a ferry terminal nearby from which big government ships transport vehicles and passengers to the opposite side of the island. Overall, it is a great destination to travel to.
Ashtamudi Lake is the most visited backwater and lake in the state. Its wetland ecosystem is unique. It also has an interesting shape of a large palm-shaped (also sometimes described as octopus-shaped) water body. In the local Malayalam language, ‘Ashtamudi’ means ‘eight braids’. You will find coconut groves and palm trees along both the banks of the lake and also along its backwaters. There are also small towns and villages interspersed between these vast expanses of trees.
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You are sure not to miss the local fisherman too who commonly come to this site to set up their nets.
The major river discharging into the lake is the Kallada river. It also forms Kerala’s deepest estuary and gives its origin to the Ashtamudi lake.
6. Embrace the Island’s Rich History by Paying a Visit to the 1878 Dutch Church
There’s an isolated 1878 built Dutch church located on this island, which has been closed down. However, the architecture still stands intact, bearing the very colonial style details of the Dutch. There are great photography locations here, especially an old boating dock which is also a great sunset point.
The church is remote, and not many people go there. In actuality, there is no easy way to reach the Dutch church. To get to the church, you’ll need to park your car on the main road, walk across some fields, and over a railroad track. The church’s colonial-style building is still standing today. The church does not have weekly services.
7. Try Out a Unique Munroe Mocktail
Nothing screams Kerala, more than a solo walk or cycle around the island under the afternoon sun and a cool glass of Munroe mocktail. Soothe yourself with these unique concoctions that are not only a pleasure but a necessity under the warm tropical sun.
8. Taste the Fingerlicking Local Cuisine
If you’re planning a proper small staycation here, make sure you try out the local authentic cuisine at your homestay. Freshly caught and prepared fish, and authentic Keralan delicacies are something that you cannot miss out on when staying here. It is not surprising that Kollam is one of the best places to eat seafood because it is a coastal region with the famed backwaters of Kerala, a maze of waterways. As the Chinese fishing nets or fishing rods seize the delicacy to be presented in the most Keralan style imaginable, observe your unusual supper being freshly caught off the lake.
The traditional cuisines of Kerala include Appam, Stew, Fish Moilee, Chilli Garlic Prawns, and Fish in Shredded Coconut. All of these are made with fragrant indigenous spices that give the food its distinctive flavor. All sumptuous treats are cooked in coconut oil. Since ancient times, residents have used coconut for delectable culinary dishes since it is readily available and has a wealth of health advantages.
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9. Go Fishing in the Lake or the River
Among the top activities to do here, if you want to truly enjoy and immerse yourself in the local rural life, you should definitely go fishing in the Kallada River or the Ashtamudi lake. Book a canoe and get fishing. If you’re lucky, you can hook in tilapias, Murrells, pear spots, prawns, oysters, clams, crabs, green chromides, and more. The waters are a rich ecology packed with life, unlike the land above.
You will meet local fishermen who set their nets in these places. These areas have been found to provide sumptuous catches. The fishermen will be pleased to share their experience with you and make your time there more enjoyable.
There are various species of delicious fishes all around Kerala, most of which reap huge profits. You can get your hands on sardines, mackerels, pomfret, tunas and what not. Try out your luck because you are sure to catch something in these bountiful and rewarding backwaters.
10. Replenish Your Soul at the Palaruvi Waterfalls
The Palaruvi waterfalls is a 300 ft beauty nestled in a dense green forest. The cool breeze, the earthy scent in the wind, and the humming of the waterfalls will altogether elevate you and rejuvenate your soul. In fact, the locals claim that the waters have medicinal properties which it acquires while passing through farms and plantations. The rugged terrain one has to go through to get there might be challenging.
However, all forms of exhaustion vanishes the moment one sees these magnificent waterfalls. People who want to cool down in the cold water frequently visit it, and it frequently draws big crowds of people. The water’s purity at this place is indescribable. This waterfall is unique in that it is exceptionally clean. The time spent here with family and children is wonderful.
Following the 2018 flood, numerous rocks in the bathing area were relocated. As a result, taking a bath in the main falls is a little risky. Little falls and locations further downstream, however, are open and secure.
Sadly, this hidden Venice is slowly sinking. You’ll find plenty of abandoned villas that were/are underwater to some extent. The exact reason for this is unknown, however, it is assumed that the island will be completely under the water by 2050. For now, it is truly an obscure beauty and one must pay a visit if and when planning a trip to Kerala.