Four of the best hideaways in Kerala

Switch off in style in these quiet, palm-fringed escapes, rooted in traditional south Indian culture.

Houseboat touring Kerala's backwaters.

Photograph by AFP Getty Images
By Isabella Noble
Published 26 Dec 2022, 11:00 GMT

Antiques and contemporary art combine in this 17-room, 18th-century mansion. Overlooking the pool, the candlelit Malabar Junction restaurant is one of Kochi’s most fabulous dining spots, specialising in inventive Keralan-Mediterranean cuisine. Don’t miss the rooftop wine bar, where you can get a taste for South India’s burgeoning wine scene. From 17,966 rupees (£191), B&B. 

Thali plates at Malabar House.

Thali plates at Malabar House.

Photograph by AFP via Getty Images

In Kerala’s misty Western Ghats, this hotel is centred around an original cardamom plantation. Book one of the Planters Rooms, which come with private balconies. The granite-tiled infinity pool is the spot to unwind after a birdwatching hike, while Keralan meals round off each evening. From 12,980 rupees (£138). 

3. Marari Villas

In the mellow beach town of Marari, this clutch of villas marries traditional Keralan architecture with private pools, bold colour palettes and semi-outdoor bathrooms. There are cooking and yoga classes and hammocks waiting on the sand. The Hibiscus villa is a highlight with a private pool shaded by bougainvillea. From 9,000 rupees (£95). 

A Neeleshwar Hermitage cottage.

A Neeleshwar Hermitage cottage.

Photograph by AFP Getty Images

Hidden away on Kerala’s Malabar Coast, getting to this Ayurveda-focused retreat is part of the fun usually involving a flight to Mangaluru or Kannur, or a six-hour train ride from Kochi. But what rewards await: with just 18 stylish, sunrise-facing cottages under thatched roofs and gardens brimming with frangipanis, leading down to a golden-sand beach. Rooms come with Keralan antiques and indoor-outdoor bathrooms; go for the Prema or Bhakti cottages, which have their own pools and open-air bathtubs. Mornings here start with mugs of Karnataka coffee at tables right on the sand, or a spot of yoga in a flower fringed pavilion.

Specialised yoga retreats are on offer, as well as meditation and consultations with the resident Ayurvedic doctor. You might opt for one of the hotel’s Keralan cooking classes, hiring one of the bikes and exploring nearby villages or Bekal’s 17th-century fort. Neeleshwar also has its own laid-back-luxe houseboat perfect for enjoying the Valiyaparamba backwaters.

A hotel highlight is Annapurna, the open-sided restaurant, where Malabar cooking meets Ayurvedic influences in fresh crab curries, coconut-laced vegetable stews, spiced fish and deliciously fluff y appam (rice flour pancakes). The hotel also aims to have a positive impact on the environment and community: making use of solar and biogas energy, it works with the region’s artisans and employs most staff from surrounding towns. From 12,563 rupees (£133), B&B. 

Published in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of  National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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