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Munroe Island in Kollam, South Kerala - A Complete Travel Guide

Munroe Island is a network of 8 islets located at the confluence of the Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River in the Kollam district of South Kerala, India. The 8 islets of Munroe are separated by small canals and lakes, forming an extensive and beautiful network of waterway. The main island, also called Mundrothuruthu, Munroturuttu and Mundro island, still remains unheard of to many Indians even today. While Alleppey is famous as the Venice of India, Munroe Island is rightly known as the 'Hidden Venice of India'.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Watching sunset during a canoe tour at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

After Munroe Island gained some popularity through social media, the residents started opening their houses to welcome visitors. Munroe Island has been quite popular with foreign backpackers for a while who visit Kovalam, Varkala and Munroe for a laidback and budget-friendly beach and backwater experience, respectively. Some of the island's main attraction is cruising through the narrow canals, passing under the naturally formed mangrove arches and low-lying bridges, experiencing the village life and witnessing the famous Kallada Boat race up-close (held during the Onam festival). We would, in fact, recommend Munroe Island over its more popular counterpart Allepey (Alappuzha), due to lesser crowds, more serene landscape and lower costs. Read on to know more about Munroe Island.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Silhouette pic of our boatsman during canoe tour at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

Location of Munroe Island

Munroe Island is located barely 20 kilometres away from Kollam town in South Kerala. In contrast to Kollam's bustling business centre, Munroe Island is laid-back, peaceful and calm.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala

On two sides, Munroe Island is surrounded by the Kallada River and its tributary, and on the other two sides, it's surrounded by the vast Ashtamudi Lake. Have a look at the below Google map to get a better idea about the island's location.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala

How to reach Munroe Island

Wondering how to reach Munroe Island? The island is accessible by rail, road and waterways. However, to reach the Peringalam ward in Munroe Island, locals and visitors have to take government-run boat services.


Nearest railway station: Munroturuttu

Nearest airport: Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum)


Rail:

The cheapest way to reach Munroe Island is through railways. The island has got its own railway station called Munroturuttu.


Munroturuttu railway station can be reached by train in 20 mins from Kollam railway station, 2 hours from Trivandrum railway station and 3 hours from Kochi railway station. You can hire auto-rickshaws from Munroturuttu railway station to get to your resort/ homestay/ area of interest.


Note: Please cross-check the train timings and make your rail ticket bookings at the IRCTC website.


Road:

From Kollam railway station (26 kilometres away from Munroe Island) or Trivandrum airport (80 kilometres away from Munroe Island), you can hire a taxi to reach Munroe Island. You can also inquire with the hosts you are staying with on the island, and they can arrange a pick-up. If you are driving yourself, turn towards the Adoor-Kollam road from Highway no. 744 at Kundara. Go straight until you take a left on the Munroe-Chittumala road to reach Munroe Island.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala


Waterways:

You can hire a motorboat, houseboat or shikara from DTPC Kollam to take you for a tour of Munroe Island. Usually, the trip to Munroe Island from Kollam starts at 9 AM and 2 PM, from where you ride leisurely for 3 hours in the lake/ canals. However, we highly recommend that you reach the island either by train or by road and then do the canal cruise in a country boat rather than hiring a boat from Kollam.


Best time to visit Munroe Island

Though Munroe Island can be visited throughout the year, it's best to visit between October and February. From March it starts becoming extremely hot and humid till May. By the start of June, the monsoon arrives, often flooding the low-lying areas of the island.


If you want to be a spectator of the Kallada boat race held in the Kallada River at Munroe Island, visit the island 28 days after the Onam festival. You can google and find out the Onam festival dates and add 28 days to it or simply google the date for the Kallada boat race. Depending on the Malayalam calendar, it mostly happens by the end of September or the start of October. Munroe Island is the best place to view the Kallada boat race conveniently.


History of Munroe Island

British started governing the State of Travancore (Modern day southern Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu) in 1795 and started appointing administrative heads. Colonel John Munroe was nominated for this position in 1810. He was a very popular administrator as he introduced many reforms in the region. He played an important role in improving revenue and the judicial system as well as decreasing corruption in the state.


As you might have guessed, Munroe Island is named in honour of Colonel John Munroe. He is said to have integrated several backwater regions by digging canals. John Munroe presented a deserted island to a missionary church society to set up a religious, academic centre for training priests. The members of the Church society, in turn, expressed their gratitude to the head of Travancore by naming the island after him.


Things to do at Munroe Island OR Places to visit in Munroe Island

1. Canoe tour to the Mangrove Arch

If you have limited time and decide to do one thing while visiting Munroe Island, it has to be a 2-hour canoe ride through the backwaters surrounding the island. The canoe tour was the highlight of our trip and is one of the best things to do at Munroe Island. Such a tour takes place in a local country boat where a boatsman rows the boat manually with the help of a thick wooden pole. The backwaters are shallow in most areas, and hence the boat can be sailed without engines.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Canoe tour in the backwaters around Munroe Island, Kerala - India

We sailed in narrow canals surrounded by divine nature during our 2-hour canoe boat ride in the backwaters around Munroe Island. We went past villages and observed the daily village life that involved coir-making, prawn farming, fish farming and country boat construction. At most places, the water was so still that it replicated a mirror, and we were able to see perfect reflections of the stooping palm and coconut trees surrounding the canals.


The canoe ride was adventurous as well, as we had to bend down while passing below the low-lying concrete bridges and constantly watch out for the tree branches that bent precariously over the water, ready to hit our faces. We sailed through several zig-zag tiny canals that finally opened up to the vast Ashtamudi Lake.

Network of narrow canals open to vast Ashtamudi Lake in Munroe Island

The most surreal part of our canoe tour was towards the end when our boatmen rowed the boat towards thick mangrove plantations and sailed the canoe beneath a naturally formed mangrove arch. We experienced the canoe tour twice – once early in the morning and once in the evening. It was incredible to watch both the sunrise and the sunset through the mangrove arch while on the canoe. This mangrove arch is one of the most instagrammable spots in South Kerala.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
The naturally formed mangrove arch in the backwaters around Munroe Island, Kerala - India

Tip: We recommend that you take a canoe tour early in the morning for three reasons – one because the water is still in the morning and hence you can see great reflections, two because the surroundings are peaceful in the morning when all you can hear are just the sounds of nature, and three because the canals become crowded with several other canoes in the evening.


Cost of a canoe tour: In 2021, we were charged INR 1200 for a 2-hour ride canoe ride. Generally, a single canoe can accommodate a maximum of 4 people.


2. S-curve viewpoint or Munroe viewpoint

As the name suggests, the S-curve viewpoint provides a beautiful view of Ashtamudi Lake. This is the place to visit in Munroe Island, from where you can find boatmen for a canoe tour. They offer several packages for different time durations depending on the different types of boats. There's a straight road that leads to the backwaters. On our visit, this road was partly submerged due to high tide.


So, we parked our two-wheeler on the main street and walked through ankle-deep water to reach the end of the road. From here, we watched the beautiful sun setting behind the mangrove plantation. There's also a tiny restaurant and a 2-star hotel on the S-curve where you could spend some quality time sipping on a cup of coffee while munching snacks.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Way to the S-curve view-point (parts of road tends to be submerged under water) at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

3. AD 1878 Dutch Church

The Dutch church, located on the banks of the Ashtamudi lake, was constructed in the year 1878. The church is isolated, and hardly anyone visits it. In fact, there's no direct route to the Dutch church. You will have to park your vehicle on the main road, walk a bit, cross the railway line, and walk some more through the fields to reach the church. The structure of the church is still intact and bears a colonial look. No regular services are held at the church, and it was closed on our visit.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
The AD 1878 Dutch Church at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

We walked past the church towards the Ashtamudi lake, and after crossing a few coconut tree plantations and a statue of Mother Mary, we reached a shed at the end. It seemed like an old boating dock. Here, we had the entire place to ourselves, and we saw one of the most incredible sunsets of our trip from this spot. The lake seemed so enormous from here that it almost looked like an ocean. It is an excellent place for photography that the visitors are hardly aware of. Undoubtedly one of the best places to visit on Munroe Island.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Sunset view from the backside of the 1878 AD Dutch Church at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

Tip: The Dutch Church is best visited during the evening time during sunset.


4. John Munroe Bungalow or Museum

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala

John Munroe Bungalow is where the resident colonel, John Munroe, carried out his administrative work. The bungalow dates back more than 200 years old and is now converted into museum sorts. The house is colonial-styled with a vast veranda in the front. Inside, there are photographs of John Munroe and his family and descendants.


The main highlight of the bungalow is the Indian style toilet seat that is covered with a glass casing. It is believed that it was shipped especially for John Munroe from Europe and the locals say it could be one of the first toilets in India. The bungalow is converted into a rehabilitation centre today.


Tip: Look out for the caretaker of the bungalow, who will be happy to show you around.


5. Munroe mocktail

Munroe mocktail is a small shop run by a local who mixes up unique ingredients to prepare a mocktail. The guy does his job so effortlessly that you will be really amazed to see him prepare the drinks. One of our favourite things to do at Munroe Island was riding to Munroe mocktail and sipping on a glass of freshly made mocktail every day. Do not miss out on his milk plus ice cream plus fruits mocktail/ shake. The guy is even lovely to chat to.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
The Munroe Mocktail shop owner mixing different ingredients to prepare unique mocktails at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

6. Perumon railway bridge

Another great place to view sunset at Munroe Island is the Perumon railway bridge. This bridge is a short ride away from the Dutch church. This is the place where a major train accident took place in the year 1988. A memorial for the victims is installed at an edge near the bridge. There are, in fact, two rail bridges now – one for incoming trains and the other for outgoing ones. There's also a ferry point nearby where large government ferries ship passengers and vehicles to the other side of the island. All in all, it is an excellent place to visit in Munroe Island.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Sunset over the backwaters as seen from the Perumon Railway bridge, Munroe Island - Kerala, India

7. Raghu Munroe Art Gallery:

This is a small shop run by a very deserving artist, Raghu Munroe, who paints beautiful paintings of Munroe Island's landscapes. He is a very down-to-earth person who identifies stunning places in Munroe, clicks photographs on his mobile phone, comes back and starts painting the replica on canvas in bright colours that he imports from Germany. He sells his paintings at a very nominal price which you could get framed or gift to your loved ones.


8. Others

If you are interested, you can participate in fishing – either in Ashtamudi Lake or in the Kallada River. You can even hire a canoe, bring in your own fishing gear and go on a sail for your catch of the day. Munroe Island's water bodies are rich in fishes like green chromide, tilapia, murrel, pear spot, and lobsters, crabs, clams, oysters, and prawns.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
A fisherman in a lookout for his catch of the day at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

Bird watching is amongst the other things to do in Munroe Island. Apart from the local birds like egrets, herons and water ducks, you can also spot storks, kingfishers, kites and African love birds.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Water birds of Munroe Island, Kerala - India

Munroe Island Hotels/ Resorts:

Due to Munroe Island's recent popularity with foreign travellers coming here for extended stays, several local families have opened up their houses that double up as homestays. A few private resorts/ hotels have also popped up on the island, although the real charm lies in staying with a localite in their homestay and understanding the tradition and culture of the region.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Munroe Island main market - Kerala, India

We stayed at two completely different accommodations on our trip to Munroe Island, and each had its own charm.


Green Chromide homestays –

A simple yet super-comfortable waterfront chalet located right on the banks of the Kallada River and run by a caring and welcoming family. It is ideal for those who prefer to stay in serene settings with friendly hosts. It is also suitable for a workcation with good wi-fi connectivity and wholesome meals. Apart from the private chalet, they also have budget-friendly rooms in their bungalows that are nicely furnished.

Read our review and experience of staying at Green Chromide Homestay.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Private chalet at the Gren Chromide homestay at Munroe Island, Kerala - India

Vini's Farm –

A luxurious stay on a tiny island where we had the entire island to ourselves. There was no one else except the staff members, and there were several activities to indulge in like kayaking, a canoe tour, swimming, a few outdoor sports and a bonfire. Though a bit on the expensive side, staying at Vini's Farm is a one-of-a-kind experience. It is ideal for honeymooners or couples looking for privacy and a peaceful stay.

Read our review and experience of staying at Vini's Farm.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Vini's Farm, Munroe Island - Kerala, India

The future of Munroe Island

Researchers believe that Munroe Island is slowly sinking. Even we came across several abandoned villas that were underwater. While some believe that the sinking of Munroe Island is due to the 2004 tsunami, many others think it is because of global warming. Another reason for the island's slow sinking could be the construction of the Kallada dam in Thenmala.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Sinking of parts of Munroe Island - Kerala, India

The water from the Kallada River used to bring clay-rich soil that used to sediment at the island's periphery giving it support and fertility. With the dam's construction and the salinity brought in by the high tides from the sea, Munroe Island's so-called support has alleviated, causing it to sink bit by bit. Destruction of thick mangroves and the continuous vibrations caused by the trains passing the island could be the other reasons researchers attribute to the island's sinking. In recent years, studies also say that it is not the land that is sinking but heavy structures such as big concrete houses that have subsided. Hence, many new properties or accommodations for travellers are wooden or built on raised platforms.

Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Sinking of parts of Munroe Island - Kerala, India

While the government continues to study and take measures to tackle the sinking situation, Munroe Island definitely has huge potential in terms of tourism. We feel that it could match Allepey's popularity as a backwaters destination over the years. Along with other beachside and hillside destinations of Southern Kerala, this area seems to edge out for us compared to Central Kerala's more popular destinations.

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Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala
Munroe Island, Kollam - Kerala


Sightseeing hungry tourists often look for places to visit in Munroe Island. However, the island is a place to relax, live amongst nature and understand the long-lost Keralan culture. If you keep an open mind, there are plenty of things at Munroe Island to maze you. Do let us know if you liked this travel guide to Munroe Island, South Kerala. Also, follow our Instagram and Facebook handles to see the beautiful pictures of Munroe island and other such new destinations.


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