Kerala: Authentic Travel Experiences

Most of International outbound travellers in India are stuck at home, not able to continue to explore and discover the world due to COVID-19 global travel lockdowns, restrictions, border closures, quarantine measures and most importantly an possible threat of another lock-down with risk of getting stuck in a foreign country.

Back at home in India, we have hidden gems which not only offer similar Luxuries (like overseas destinations), in terms of Hotels, services and safety, but also immersive experiences, which in most part exceed expectations in terms of authenticity and deeper engagements with our people, culture, nature and places in India.

Below I present locations and experiences incorporating accommodation options in Kerala, which are unique, off-beat, off-the grid, exclusive and high on the authenticity quotient.

You can choose to Visit Kerala as an itinerary visiting multiple locations or decide to visit and stay only at a single location or Hotel for a longer stay experience.

I have also suggested a few route circuits to explore and discover as a Private Journey visiting Kerala, to help you plan in case you prefer to go the all-hog.

Suggestive Routes and Itineraries for Kerala:

Route 1: Cochin – Allepy – Thekaddy (Periyar) – Munnar – Vellinezhi in Palakkad District – Kannur – Neeleshwar – Mangalore

This itinerary highlights Kerala’s diversity by taking you into different communities and environments – from a beautifully restored Syrian Catholic home in the backwaters, to a Hindu property built according to the principles of Vaasthu Shastra (the ancient Hindu science of architecture) located in the rice growing region of central Kerala, to a Muslim home on the Arabian Sea in North Kerala which features traditional Mapalla cuisine (a specialty of some Muslim families in the area).

A heritage hotel in Cochin, boutique guest house in the mountains and simple yet luxurious resort to finish (including a night on a houseboat in the rarely visited northern backwaters) round out the trip.

Route 2: Cochin – Munnar – Thekkady (Periyar) – Alleppey – Kovalam – Trivandrum

This tour of Kerala is aimed at first-time visitors to the state who have limited time but still want to sample a wide range of experiences that Kerala has become famous for – the charms of Fort Kochi, the picturesque tea plantations of Munnar, Periyar National Park, the renowned backwaters (and the luxurious houseboats that ply them) and the lively Kovalam beach area of south Kerala.

Route 3: Cochin – Athirapally – Wayanad – Thalassery (or Tellicherry) – Neeleshwaram – Calicut

This itinerary focuses on the northern part of the state rather than the more touristy south, taking you away from the crowds to discover Kerala’s distinct charms. There is just as much to see and enjoy up there, if not more: but far fewer tourists.

Route 4: Cochin – Alleppey – Munnar – Periyar – Cochin – Thalassery (Malabar Coast) – Wayanad – Nagarhole National Park – Neeleswaram – Calicut

Gain a great insight into the variety Kerala has to offer as you travel south to north over three weeks. You’ll have the opportunity to stay in different types and styles of accommodation, ranging from tea bungalows to a plantation mansion, houseboat, treehouse and tents, to name a few.

Spend your days amongst tea and spice plantations, relaxing in rural settings, spotting wildlife, cruising along the Alleppey backwaters, visiting local markets and getting to know the towns that make Kerala tick. Finish on a remote beach to top off your journey through ‘God’s Own Country’.

Route 5: Cochin – Munnar – Madurai – Thekkady (Periyar National Park) – Backwaters – Marari

This route takes you through the finest highlights of this beautiful south Indian state. A state known for its laid-back atmosphere and rich culture, this itinerary follows suit, offering both a relaxing and culturally rewarding experience. Starting in the cosmopolitan port city of Cochin, venture up into the rolling hills of the Western Ghats to explore stunning rural scenery and stroll through tea plantations. Then, enjoy another slice of rural life at Paradisa Plantation Retreat after a night in the colourful temple town of Madurai. The itinerary comes to a relaxing end with a night on Kerala’s famed backwaters and a beachside retreat on the golden sands of Marari Beach.

Route 6: (All Cruise) Cochin – Kanjippadom – Kainakari – Champakkulam – Kumarakom

Delve into Kerala’s enchanting backwaters on this pioneering cruise aboard a traditional 9-cabin wooden rice barge.

On this itinerary, you’ll navigate Kerala’s emerald waterways travelling between the region’s villages, you’ll stop to visit ornate temples, hidden beaches and lively market places, and get a fascinating insight into the vibrant culture of the region from displays of coir handloom weaving, martial arts and toddy tapping.

Route 7: Calicut – Wayanad – Thalassery (or Tellicherry) – Cochin – Alleppey-House Boat – Periyar – Kumarakom (Backwaters) – Kovalam – Trivandrum

An all-encompassing tour of Kerala which combines the best of the South and North Kerala. The tour includes: staying in a vibrant port town, a rainforest, a backwater resort, a wildlife resort, and a beach resort.

Signature Hotel Collection:

Kerala:

Neeleshwar, North Kerala:

Neeleshwar Hermitage:

Neeleshwar Hermitage is a gorgeous beach hotel located in a quiet, unspoilt corner of Northern Kerala. With a glorious peaceful atmosphere, Neeleshwar is a perfect destination for relaxation or a base to explore this wonderful part of India.

Neeleshwar Hermitage was built in accordance with the architectural principles of Kerala Vastu and has a number of thatched cottages, with either sea or garden views. Each room has its own private courtyard, balcony and outdoor bathroom. They are furnished with contemporary colour schemes with a slick, modern finish. To the front of the cottages you will find a pleasant verandah.

It offers 16 Cottages set back from a stunning long and deep Keralan beach. All the cottages are rustic in style, designed on traditional fisherman’s huts and have en-suite outdoor bathrooms. Cottages are spacious, light and airy featuring teak floors, high ceilings and locally handmade furniture and both antique and contemporary works of art from Kerala.

Wayanad, North Kerala:

Tranquil Resort:

Tranquil is located in Sultans Battery in Northern Kerala, a stunning property set in a 400 acre coffee and vanilla plantation, a home stay experience like none other with just 8 rooms and 2 luxury tree houses.

Tranquil is set in Wayanad, in northern Kerala and offers the chance to get away from it all and relax in a wonderful natural setting. Here the hotel’s owners are always on hand to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible. The main bungalow dates from the 1930s and has been restored and updated to a very comfortable standard, yet keeping the ambience of a plantation retreat.

The standard rooms are large, and offer modern amenities. Each features gorgeous wooden floors, ceilings and panelling and feature all the modern conveniences you’d expect of a luxury hotel. Suites have their own private garden but for the ultimate in peace and tranquility book yourself into one of the Tree villas which sit suspended high above the coffee plantation.

Wayanad Wild:

Located close to Lakkidi, Wayanad Wild is an oasis of calm in the heart of Northern Kerala. Surrounded by dense green forest, it’s a perfect escape from it all. Enjoy getting back to nature at this quaint and luxurious hotel.

Wayanad Wild is a perfect escape from it all in the southernmost tip of the Deccan Plateau. Known as the spice garden of the south, it is filled with paddy fields, misty peaks and lush green forests.

The resort itself has just 32 rooms, making it a peaceful retreat for couples or guests wanting a little more privacy. Each room has a balcony to sit and enjoy the wilderness that surrounds you. Similarly the restaurant opens up to the forest and there’s even a stream that runs through the resort for a truly wild experience.

Pepper Trail:

Pepper Trails is a charming, secluded hideaway that is set amongst 200-acres of tea, coffee and spice gardens that make up the Mangalam Carp Estate and is an excellent base to discover the Wayanad.

At the heart of this intimate plantation retreat is the thoughtfully restored 140-year old colonial bungalow that was once the private residence of Scottish planter Colin Auley Mackenzie and has been brought up to date to meet the needs of modern day traveller.

Accommodation at Pepper Trails comprises of 2 spacious suites within the main bungalow and 2 rustic-style luxury tree houses tucked amongst tall jackfruit trees. All 4 rooms are tastefully decorated using period style furniture and antiques and designed to offer sublime views of the surrounding estate.

Luxury tree houses, built on ancient jackfruit trees, include spacious bedrooms, four poster beds, luxurious bathrooms, large indoor & outdoor living spaces and unlimited privacy.

Periyar (Thekkady):

Aanavilasam:

Aanavilsasam is a luxury plantation retreat located in Thekkady close to Periyar Wildlife Reserve in Kerala and has just 6 elegant rooms, fantastic cuisine and is the perfect base from which to explore this corner of India.

The property is located in the hills above Thekkady, surrounded by verdant forests and spice plantations, making it an idyllic stay.

The design of the rooms is a blend of Keralan and Western decor. Choose from either a deluxe room or suite, the luxury pool suites have superb views over the valley.

The suites offer a leather-suite lounge and open-sided dining area along with a cosy fireplace which is ideal during the winter months. It also has a private veranda. Expect king-size four posters and are designed to reflect local design with modern comforts.

Paradisa Plantation Retreat:

Paradisa Plantation Retreat is just 90-minutes from Periyar National Park and set on terraces carved into the beautiful Cardamom Hills, it is a haven of wildlife and relaxation.

Paradisa Plantation Retreat comprises individual wooden villas each built in the traditional Kerala-style and embellished with handpicked antique columns. The retreat sits comfortably in its surroundings and allows the guest to enjoy not only the beautiful view of the Cardamom Hills, but also Paradisa’s very own organically grown coffee and spice plantations. Seeing where the spices grow and then tasting them in your dinner is its own sort of farm-to-table experience.

Each of the villas has its own private location and personal view of the hills. The locally sourced food is delicious and the hopsitality you’ll receive from the friendly team at Paradisa is second to none.

There are two room types at Paradisa Plantation Retreat. Choose from the Two Bedroom Cardamom Cottage or the One Bedroom Deluxe Room. All are built in traditional Keralan style and furnished with hand-picked antiques to reflect the rich culture and peacefulness of the retreat.

Shalimar Spice Garden:

Shalimar Spice Garden is located in Thekkady, with 18 guest suites dotted around the gardens. It is located in the middle of a lush jungle rolling away from cardamom-covered hills and next to the flora and fauna of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The property is accessed by a series of steps leading to the wooden walkway which brings you to the hotel.

It comprises 19 rooms and villas. There are 11 elegant cottages and 2 pool villas which are great for families. They are all dotted around the garden and are very picturesque with their thatched roofs, colourful lamps and cushions, white walls, terracotta tiled floors and wood panelling. Please note that neither the rooms or the cottages are air-conditioned because the mountain climate ensures cool nights.

Spice Village:

Ideally located close to the Periyar National Park, Spice Village is a laid back and homely place, with the protection of nature and the environment as one of its core values. Spice Village is located just 190 kms from Cochin airport.

It is set in 15 acres of spice gardens at an elevation of 3000ft above sea level. This is a region a few hours inland from the Keralan coast with silent valleys, vast plantations of teak, cardamom, tea, rubber and coffee and wildlife sanctuaries boasting astonishing biodiversities.

It offers 52 individual, tribal-styled thatch-roof cottages with verandas, modern plumbing, solar-powered hot water and contemporary furnishings.

Munnar:

Talayar Valley Bungalow:

Talayar Bungalow is an old tea planter bungalow, converted into a delightful boutique hotel. The property is situated 18km outside Munnar in the midst of tea plantations, with beautiful views of the mountains on all sides.

Talayar Tea Bungalow, also known as green bungalow by locals is situated just beyond eravikulam national park. The journey from Munnar takes you along a valley with a winding road leading into the Talayar Village, up to the top of the hill is where the bungalow is situated. Beautiful gardens surround the bungalow as do the mountains giving you a fantastic panoramic view.

There are 4 rooms in the bungalow, all named after a color motif such as Rose or Blue and all are made up of impressive proportions. Remembering that these 4 rooms were a home to the original plantation owner gives the place a really homely feel. The Bungalow is also made up of the original great room, lounge dining room, cigar room and outside terrace.

Windermere Estate:

Located in the Western Ghats, Windermere Estate is a perfect retreat to explore the beautiful green tea hills of Munnar. This 18-room boutique hotel is well positioned for fabulous views of the surrounding countryside.

Sitting on Observatory Hill, high in the Palni Hills, Windermere Estate is perched on a hilltop, surrounded by a cardamom estate. The 360 degree views from this wonderful little retreat are truly awe-inspiring and you often find yourself looking down on the clouds below you, but when the clouds disperse, the Western Ghats open up before you.

It offers guests 18 rooms including three cottages. There are four Garden rooms set in verdant gardens with a typical plantation home interior and a spacious verandah offering stunning views of the Chithirapuram valley below. The Estate Rooms accommodate a further 6 rooms with king size beds and spacious bathrooms. Finally the Planter’s Villa Rooms with their gorgeous French windows feature private balconies, sitting and dining areas, and a bathroom which opens into a courtyard.

Marari Beach:

Carnoustie Beach Resort & Ayurveda Spa:

Carnoustie Resort & Spa is located on Marari Beach and offers 40 superb thatched villas, many with private pools. It is ideal for those wanting a beach retreat that truly reflects international standards of comfort and service.

It is set within spacious gardens which are beautifully landscaped and open out on to the beach beyond.

The large villas blend old and new, with traditional thatched roofs and exteriors, but with striking modern interiors complete with sunken bathtubs, rainforest showers and ample space. The villas provide a superb standard that is relatively unmatched by other like for like resorts on the coast of India. For those wanting the best of both worlds, Carnoustie is an ideal luxury retreat for a climax to a Keralan itinerary, or a longer beach stay in its own right.

Marari Beach Resort:

Built in the style of a local fishing village with its 62 thatched cottages. Set in 36 acres of parkland, Marari Beach Resort is set on the golden shores of the Spice Coast and is the perfect place to relax and unwind following a tour of Kerala.

It is located only 60km from Cochin, offering an ideal alternative to Kovalam if you are visiting the backwaters around Alleppey. Its eco-friendly outlook and beautiful thatched cottage villas blend subtly into the natural palm-lined surroundings.

It offers guests 62 villas set in lush gardens some with private pools which offer a suitable deluxe stay. In-room amenities include air conditioning, minibar, tea/coffee facilities and a wide range of natural bath products.

Marari Villas:

Located on a secluded beach at Mararikulam in Alleppey district of Kerala, Marari Villas is a concept developed by Rupert and Olga a British-Russian couple. The property offers boutique serviced villa type accommodation.

The villas are a blend of modern design and traditional vernacular styles creating inspiring indoor-outdoor living spaces ideally suited to the tropical environment of Kerala.

They currently offer three serviced villas here. The first, Orchid Pool Villa, is a contemporary recreation of an existing thatched bungalow, set beneath the shady palms, within a few minutes’ walk of the dreamy beach.

The second, Hibiscus Pool Villa, sits alongside Orchid – this they designed and built themselves (Rupert is a trained architect) using the reclaimed framework of a traditional Keralan wooden house.

The latest addition is the Frangipani – the third villa, it is a 2bedroom unit.

Each villa offers a secluded haven – your own living space and garden with a pool – which is intimate, close to nature and local culture, and great value.

A Beach Symphony:

A Beach Symphony is a small boutique hotel run by husband and wife team Jan and Christel Arynn. An intimate property that blends interesting design with a traditional Keralan feel and ideal for those not wanting a larger resort style experience.

A Beach Symphony is a labour of love. Once four neglected traditional fisherman’s cottages, the property showcases the owners’ passion for design. A Beach Symphony is perfect for guests wanting a small, intimate hideaway on Marari’s golden sandy stretch of beach.

It is made up of four cottages each built in a similar Keralan style. Khombhu and Nagaswaram are closest to the sea. Violin also boasts its own pool, whilst Sitar is located in the natural gardens. Each cottage has been decorated in a bright but tasteful style.

Kovalam:

Niraamaya Surya Samudra:

Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra overlooks the Arabian Sea. Its cottages, nestled amongst the coconut trees and caressed by the sea breeze, offer the best in Kerala Heritage architecture.

A path wends its way to the ‘Chandra’ beach – an idyllic beach with intensely private vibes. Ayurvedic massages and Thai relaxation therapies take you on exhilarating sensory journeys, while Yoga sessions on a platform at the cliff’s edge make for an absolutely enlivening experience.

Starting with the Rock Garden Rooms, the cottages get progressively bigger and closer to the sea until you reach the cliff-front Octagon (built from traditional stone) and the Banyan Tree Bungalow (tailored for honeymooners, with an outdoor tub in the garden). All are beautifully designed with traditional Keralan wood and blend in seamlessly with the gardens.

Harmonious lines and raised ceilings give a wonderful feeling of space. Beds are kingsize and doors and shutters feature solid ornate brass bolts. Each room has cleverly hidden air-conditioning and soundproofing; other pampering touches include organic cotton bathrobes and top-of-the-range Forest Essentials toiletries.

Kadavu:

The Raviz Kadavu Resort:

A short drive away from Calicut city, The Raviz Kadavu is nestled on the banks of the legendary Chaliyar River. Inspired by the Nallukettu style of architecture, the 9-acre spread of The Raviz Kadavu celebrates the art and ethnicity of Kerala.

It offers 67 elegantly styled rooms, suites and 17 independent cottages. Equipped with the best of modern comforts, the rooms have large balconies with stunning views overlooking the beautiful backwaters. The independent cottages facing the backwaters are ideal for a romantic getaway.

Backwaters:

Houseboat by Lakes and Lagoons:

Spending a night on a private houseboat is a tranquil way to explore the magical backwaters of Kerala and is a must on any Keralan adventure with your very own crew to cook traditional Keralan meals and to ensure you have the most enjoyable stay on board.

The backwaters of Kerala are a fascinating and integral part of this tropical state and the best way to discover this expansive area is on a converted rice barge.

Within the fleet there are one, two or three-bedroom private houseboats. The bedrooms are cosy and provide a small en-suite shower room. The rooms have decent sized windows with views out of one side of the boat. Each bedroom has air-conditioning and a fan.

The Lotus, Neeleshwar near Bekal:

The Lotus is undoubtedly the most beautiful boat in the unexploited backwaters (a network of canals and rivers) of North Kerala.

This glorious 2 bedroomed rice-barge has all the outward traditional looks of a ricebarge but the interiors have been done up exquisitely well, in a bright, fresh, colourful, contemporary style.

The owners of Neeleshwar Hermitage have created a boat that has more space and light than any other on the backwaters. 2 large bedrooms with floor to ceiling windows, a small balcony and state of the art, granite bathrooms lie at one end of the boat, whilst a large, light-filled sitting / dining room occupies the other. Upstairs is home to a large, teak sundeck where guests each have their own sunbathing and dining area.

Spice Coast Cruises:

Spice Coast Cruises is an authentic houseboat journey through the very soul of Kerala: along its spectacular backwaters. Kettuvallam rice barges turned private floating boutique hotels, the vessels of Spice Coast Cruises divulge the secret beauty of this water world in its totality.

The are private houseboats, adapted from the old Kettuvallams, are floating hotels designed to take care of your every need. An experience that is both indulgent and memorable.

The one and two bedroom cabins are comfortable spaces to relax or rest deeply. They provide both privacy and protection from insects and the elements while keeping you intimately connected to nature around.

The Oberoi Motor Vessel Vrinda:

The Oberoi Motor Vessel Vrinda is a luxury boat that cruises the Keralan backwaters on two or three night itineraries from October through to April. The boat departs from Vembanad jetty, located south of Cochin in the heart of the beautiful backwaters.

Discover the backwaters in true comfort on board The Oberoi Motor Vessel Vrinda. Oberoi staff will look after you from the moment you embark onboard. Narrow palm-fringed waterways wind inland from the coast towards Vembanad lake, cutting through fertile paddy fields and lush farmland.

The Oberoi Motor Vessel Vrinda has just 8 well appointed cabins and guest are guaranteed quality Oberoi service not matched by any other boats in the backwaters area. Each cabin has its own en suite bathroom with shower and the bedrooms have comfortable furniture, a TV and DVD player.

RV Vaikundam:

Cruise the waterways through the villages along the banks of the lakes, lagoons, rivers and canals of the Kerala Backwaters.

RV Vaikundam has nine well-appointed cabins with attached bathrooms on the lower deck and, a well-functional kitchen, air-conditioned and exquisitely set dining hall and open lounge on its upper deck.

Vaikundam is a boat whose hull was modelled on the traditional Kettuvallom or rice barges of the past. The rooms are made using wooden panels with wall papering, wood panelling, sparkling wooden flooring and the upper deck has some bamboo matting with bamboo poles for roof, following some of the traditional practices but contain all modern amenities.

It offers below choice and duration of cruising itineraries:

  • 7 Nights 8 Days North – South
    Kochi – Alleppey or vive versa
  • 5 Nights 6 Days North-South
    Kochi – Changankari or vice versa
  • 2 Nights 3 Days North-South
    Thottappalli – Alleppey or vice versa

On these itineraries you will travel between the villages, you’ll stop to visit ornate temples, hidden beaches and lively market places, and get a fascinating insight into the vibrant culture of the region from displays of coir handloom weaving, martial arts and toddy tapping.

Philip Kutty’s Farm:

Philip Kutty’s Farm is a delightful and refreshing home-stay located on Vembanad Lake oozing with charm and run with a strong sense of professionalism and attention to detail. It is an excellent opportunity to enjoy the real Keralan experience.

Set on a private island in the heart of the backwaters, Philip Kutty’s is run by a local family who have opened their 750-acre estate to visitors wanting to experience the ways of local Indian life.

Philip Kutty’s Farm offers 5 en suite villas named after popular local flower plants, trees and birds. They are all air conditioned and are very comfortable. Each room is filled with antiques, including some beautifully carved and crafted doors and windows, which were meticulously collected over a period of time. All the villas are spacious, independent and located on the outer dyke facing the peaceful backwaters all featuring small verandahs.

Purity:

Overlooking the beautiful Lake Vembanad, Purity is a peaceful retreat 50km from Cochin. This boutique, luxury style, home stay has the perfect waterfront setting for a backwater experience with all of it’s rooms looking over the lake.

Purity is hidden away amongst the lush green vegetation that grows throughout the Backwaters and is a great place to watch everyday Keralan life pass by on the waters. This delightful villa has recently been refurbished to a high standard and has a minimalist style.

Purity is home to 14 different rooms and suites. The garden suites are not only comfortable and well decorated but they all have their own outdoor space, with terraces and verandas overlooking the Lake.

Vismaya Lake Heritage:

Sitting on the edge of a peninsula, surrounded by three sides of pristine vembanad lake, Vismaya let’s you experience a perfect Sunrise and Sunset.

The 400 year old royal house has found mention in the Fables of Kerala; and has been completely restored and renovated by the legendary Swiss German architect, Karl Damschen.

Vismaya offers a sublime slice of traditional Travancore Kerala’s minimalist architecture, with an emphasis on elegant simplicity, refined detail, and first-rate food.

An airy refuge, this boutique 2-room hideaway is a place where guests rediscover peace and tranquility of a forgotten rhythms of long, drawn-out days and easy, lingering evenings.

You can either book an individual room or take the whole house on an exclusive basis. A popular choice for honeymooners and couples is the ‘private for 2’ option, which gives you sole use of the property when only taking one bedroom.

Coconut Lagoon:

The perfect place to relax on the shore of Lake Vembenad in Kerala within easy access of Cochin. Coconut Lagoon is a charming hotel with heritage styled rooms, tropical gardens and fantastic local cuisine ideal for a final stop on a Keralan adventure.

Coconut Lagoon is accessible only by boat and nestles along the shore of Lake Vembanad, a 175-square kilometre expanse of water stretching between the backwaters of Kerala and the sea. The resort’s heritage rooms and pool villas are scattered throughout the tropical gardens of the resort, many with outdoor garden bathrooms and views of the canals.

The Heritage Bungalows are compact independent cottages set in lush lawns along the canals. The Heritage Mansions are larger with an upper storey defined by distinctive wooden ribs that resemble the sides of a boat with fine views of the lake. On their own quiet section of lake front, are the Pool Villas. Peace and privacy combine here, with private pools, distinctive interiors and your own little hammock.

Kumarakom Lake Resort:

Kumarakom Lake Resort is a charming hotel found in the backwaters of Kerala. The resort is set in 25 acres of lush greenery over-looking Vembanad Lake. Perfect at the end of a trip, there’s a lovely pool with lake views and an Ayurveda Spa to help unwind.

Kumarakom Lake Resort is a charming resort with a superb location overlooking Lake Vembanad. The tranquil atmosphere here will allow you to relax and soak up the charming scenery of Kerala.

Situated on the banks of Lake Vembanad and surrounded by palm trees you will feel totally immersed in the backwaters upon arrival at the hotel. The resort celebrates its beautiful location and is set up in a U shape facing the lake.

The rooms, villas and suites at the Kumarakom Lake Resort are a perfect blend of Kerala’s traditional architecture and luxurious, modern amenities. Kumarakom Lake Resort offers guests 22 shared pool villas, 15 Lake View Villas with Private pool and 2 luxury suites. Each room has a traditionally styled, open roofed bathroom.

Thalassery (or Tellicherry), North Kerala:

Ayesha Manzil:

The Ayesha Manzil is a majestic colonial style mansion overlooking the Arabian Sea. Built in 1862 by Murdoch Brown, an English trader of the East India Company, this historic structure still offers the grandeur of the past.

Set overlooking the Arabian Sea, Ayesha Manzil offers warmth and hospitality, a taste of traditional cuisine and local culture in a historic setting. The property is also renowned for cookery classes in the local Mapillah cuisine.

The home stay is made up of 6 quirky bedrooms featuring a fine collection of period furniture and family heirlooms, which are well-maintained by the welcoming host and hostess, Moosa and Faiza.

Athirapally, North Kerala:

Rainforest Resort Athirapally Falls:

Rainforest is located on the edge of the luxurious wilderness of the Sholayar forest ranges overlooking the majestic Athirapally waterfalls. The resort is uniquely designed to give each room a breathtaking view of the falls.

The 9 rooms are spread over three floors built on terraces supported by beams and columns. Each room is elegantly furnished in minimalist style and combines simple décor with colour to create a warm ambience.

All rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows allowing guests to take in the glorious views of the waterfalls. The aesthetically designed air-cooled rustic tree house offers a spectacular bird’s eye-view of the roaring waterfalls (between September and February) and the surrounding forests, while the 2 bedroom cottage is set away from the main building and offers greater privacy but restricted views of the waterfall.

Neriamangalam:

The Windermere River House:

The Windermere River House is a small boutique-style hotel that enjoys a tranquil, rural setting on the banks of the River Periyar.

This thoughtfully designed hotel is set amongst two acres of swaying coconut palms and is a convenient base to visit the Thattekad Bird Sanctuary (a 40-minute drive). The architecture and décor of Windermere River House are influenced by traditional Keralan designs and colonial-period plantation homes.

Accommodation comprises of five individually decorated rooms that have been tastefully furnished using antique reproductions and designed to overlook the inviting pool. While rooms on the ground floor open out on to the lush gardens; the rooms on the upper floor open out on to a private balcony.

While the property is quite isolated, it is a great option for those seeking a relaxing stay. It is also an ideal place to begin or end your holiday as it is 2 hrs drive from Cochin Airport.

Kochi (Cochin) and near-by:

Malabar House:

Malabar House is a charming small boutique hotel located in the heart of Fort Cochin, an ideal place from which to explore this fascinating city. It is also a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux hotel collection.

It is set in lush tropical gardens with a swimming pool, just a five minute walk from the harbour and the lines of Chinese fishing nets. The building dates back to 1755 and was previously owned by spice traders, tea traders and bankers. It became Fort Cochin’s first boutique heritage hotel in 1996.

It offers 11 Deluxe Rooms which are stylish, cosy and surround the main courtyard with their own private gardens with seating. The 5 Roof Garden Suites provide a spacious outdoor private terrace with a sitting area. The Malabar Suite is the largest room category and is ideal for families, it is spread over two floors with a downstairs sitting room, upstairs bedroom and bathroom and large private terrace with swing seat.

Brunton Boatyard:

The Brunton Boatyard is situated at the mouth of Fort Cochin’s harbour resurrected from the remains of a Victorian shipbuilding yard and has magnificent views of the sea and Delta. The hotel overlooks the large pool, garden and the sea.

Brunton Boatyard is located at the northern edge of Fort Cochin and within easy walking distance of all the major sights in the heart of the old city.

Although a new building, commissioned in 1999, the Brunton Boatyard is built in the style of early Dutch and Portuguese architecture and resembles the old colonial buildings of Cochin. With punkah fans hanging in the public areas, it is rather easy to be taken back in time. Run by CGH Earth who operate a number of Keralan hotels, Brunton Boatyard promotes an eco-friendly approach to tourism.

At Brunton Boatyard there are 26 Rooms in total, all sea facing with 4 deluxe suites and 22 standard rooms, with high ceilings and traditional furnishings such four poster beds and teak furniture, you get a wonderfully colonial feel. The bathrooms are state of the art and offer walk in power showers.

Le Colonial:

Le Colonial is India’s oldest hotel in Fort Cochin dating back to 1506 and offers a historical and art-filled experience whilst staying in Fort Cochin. After 150 years as the Portuguese Governor’s home, it was one of the rare houses not to be destroyed when the Dutch took Fort Cochin.

The house is steeped in history – with black and white photographs and historic paintings adorning the walls as well as historic artifacts on display. Not only will you be treated to excellent service and quality furnishings, you’ll enjoy your stay in this treasure trove of history.

With only seven rooms, Le Colonial feels more like a private villa with a homely feel. Rooms are reminiscent of the Portuguese days, with wood panelling, wide window sills and thick walls. The Viceroy room on the second floor has art deco furniture in teak and has classic charm. Also, it benefits from a large verandah

Chittoor Kottaram: (30 kms from Cochin Airport)

Chittoor Kottaram is a simple 3-bedroom private villa Palace, constructed in the local Keralan style of cool whitewash walls, timber frames and tiled roofing, situated in the lush backwaters on the outskirts of Cochin.

Chittoor Kottaram is surrounded by backwaters. Immerse yourself in this natural habitat, and glimpse some rare flora and fauna.

CGH Earth has leased the palace directly from descendants of the royal family of Cochin, offering it as a private villa residence, which can accommodate up to 6 people at a time.

Quiet by the River: (33 Kms. from Kochi International Airport)

Located in the Malayattoor forest on an island in the Periyar River, life at Quiet by the River offers opportunities to explore the surrounding wilderness and its flora and fauna, as well as time to relax and enjoy the river.

Accommodation at Quiet by the River consists of four independent cottages and all of them offer spectacular views of nature in all its splendour.

The sights and sounds of the flowing Periyar river are a balm that have to be experienced to be believed. The lodges have been modeled on the traditional homes that you will find in Kerala. Each lodge has a verandah. In traditional homes, the verandah is a place where people sit and have long conversations and even at Quiet by the River, it’s the perfect place to sit and have conversations, catch up on reading or grab a pair of binoculars to get a better view of the forest.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable and in order to give you a truly immersive experience, none of the rooms are equipped with television sets.

NOTE: (Exclusive Buy-Outs)

I must also mention that some of above listed properties become a great choice for exclusive buy-outs just for your family or your private group of family and friends, primarily because of their intimate boutique size.

This works very well when you are planning getaways for your family reunions, celebrations like birthdays or anniversaries or simply because you prefer to book the entire fort or palace or haveli to yourself to ensure complete privacy, comfort and exclusivity.

How to Book:

You can book any of above listed hotels, resorts, cruises, mansions, and bungalows using services of a boutique travel design company, based out of New Delhi, who enjoy long established connections and are experts in destination Kerala at Experiential Travel Journeys Pvt. Ltd.

– Amit Kalsi, Private Travel Designer

Published by experientialtraveljourneys

A Private Travel Designer specialising in private, luxury, experiential, transformational, off-beat, off-the-grid, bespoke, tailor-made, bespoke, authentic, sustainable journeys to destinations worldwide.

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