Kumarakom Lake Resort

Kottayam, Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from IRs13,000

Reviewed by Yasmin Boland
Dreamy bungalows set amidst swaying palm groves and silvery canals beside Lake Vembanad
When the serene, blue-green beauty of Kerala’s ‘backwaters’ began to attract Western travellers a decade or so ago, a rash of new resorts sprang up in the south exploiting the successful ‘wooden-cottage-in-palm-grove’ formula. But this addition on the quieter shores of Lake Vembanad is a cut above the rest.

You feel it immediately on entering the spacious, open-sided reception foyer, where uniformed staff greet you with a smile. Look around and you'll see a carefully-tended patchwork of ‘lotus’ canals lined by palm trees and red-tiled, wood-walled bungalows - 50 of them in all, though you would never guess. Head away from the cottages and you reach the infinity pool, whose invisible lip makes you feel as if you are swimming in Lake Vembanad itself. Although there is a slightly ‘resorty’ feel, the attention to aesthetics and quality make you feel cosseted and privileged. Rice boats, fishing trips and farm visits are also available, but chances are you won’t want to leave the resort.

Highs

    • The careful architectural mix of old and new has been very tastefully done
    • Banquet-style meals are served each night
    • The open-sided reception and dining areas are spacious and airy
    • There's a gorgeous play of colours - blues and greens reflected in silvery waters, with all turning yellow at sunset

Lows

  • This is not an exclusive retreat - there are about 50 cottages spread over 10 acres, making it sociable rather than crowded
  • It does still feel new, the cottages more so than the grounds
  • It’s expensive by Keralan standards

Best time to go

November to March is the drier high season, with February onwards bringing increasingly warm temperatures (up to 35C). The wetter monsoon season runs from April to October, when business is slower and prices lower, although there is often some respite from the rains in August and early September.

Our top tips

Allow time for an overnight trip on one of the resort's houseboats, as well as for lazing around the pool. Watching Keralan life and migratory birds from the water is an unforgettable experience.

Great for...

Family
Honeymoon
Spa
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Resort
  • 61
  • 2 restaurants and a bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Snooker Table
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

Spread among 10 acres of flower-filled gardens and palm-lined canals, the wood-walled, red-tiled cottages have been assembled using materials reclaimed from old illam homesteads, or in some cases transported whole from other parts of the state. Some were sold by owners unwilling to make structural changes to support electricity and running water, but that did not deter Kumarakom’s developers, who installed everything from air conditioning to power showers without losing the charming feel of a historic homestead. Intricately carved doors, murals of Krishna and elegant wicker chairs make them feel extra authentic.

You can choose between a standard Heritage Villa, which overlooks the lotus canals, or a larger Heritage Lake View Villa or Presidential Suite, with views of the lake. All have their own pools, an area of lawn and a private courtyard. Within the courtyard is - wait for it - your bathtub, sunk into the ground and open to the blue skies but hidden from prying eyes. Bathing under the warm monsoon rain is an experience never to be forgotten.

Water babies may want to opt for one of the newer Meandering Pool Villas, set around a huge shared pool (250m long) which snakes through the grounds, with direct access into the water from their private sit-outs. Some of these villas are duplex and have sitting rooms inside. There are also several Luxury Pavilion Rooms, hidden among the lush foliage in the gardens with an indoor bathroom and Jacuzzi tub.

If you want to take to the lake, you can stay in one of the resort’s traditional Keralan houseboats (sleeping 2-4). Each has a private dining room, a personal onboard chef and a crew of 2 to pilot you around the waters. You decide where to moor for the night and even the most hardened landlubber will find it hard to resist the lure of floating along serenely, watching life on the banks passing by while your every need is catered to.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Tv
  • Wifi internet

Eating

The ettukettu (eight-sided) restaurant overlooking the gardens has no walls, just wooden columns and a pitched, beamed ceiling. Plus about 50 square wooden tables, elegant and polished, with wicker chairs, neat place settings and service which is equally elegant.

In addition to extensive menus, there is a magnificent smorgasbord dinner buffet of unpronounceable local delights, from dahls and curries to salads and veggie stews, allowing you to try out whatever catches your eye and to go back for more of whatever tickles your taste buds. We sampled various dishes but it was the delicious prawn mappas in coconut milk and spice marinade that had us going back for seconds and, dare I say it, thirds too. Don’t miss out on the freshly-cooked appams, fluffy breads like chapatti but infinitely lighter, and thamarappam, which is the same with soft, warm rice.

Snacks, juices and cocktails are available all day at the Pool Pavilion bar, which can also be reserved for private dinners with the lapping lake as a backdrop, and there is a tea shop serving local brews under the shade of a tree in the garden. Since our visit, the hotel has also opened a seafood restaurant and bar called The Vembanad, set on the banks of the lake. We can't vouch for it ourselves, but the food - centred around fresh catch of the day - sounds tantalising.

Meals are excluded from the room rate, but are very reasonably priced. If you like the sound of them and don’t want to fiddle with cash, you can prebook them along with your room.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Lie by the pool and count your blessings, or enjoy the sunset colours from your terrace
  • Hire a houseboat for a sunset cruise or an overnight trip along the backwaters
  • Go rowing or angling on the lake (bare-handed pearl spot fishing is a current craze)
  • Follow the bund (footpath) along the lakeside and take in the views
  • Spot the migratory birds around you or head to the nearby sanctuary: snake birds, little cormorants, crow pheasants, white-branded water hens and tree pies all pass on their way to and from Siberia, while native kingfishers, night herons and golden-backed woodpeckers add colour (best from November to March)
  • Watch an evening performance of the Kathakali dance show
  • Take the hotel’s speedboat across the lake for a day’s shopping and sightseeing in bustling Cochin
  • Waterskiing can be arranged by the hotel
  • Book an Ayurvedic treatment. You can choose from oily massages, anti-arthritic treatments, yoga, meditation and nutrition workshops, or, for the serious, rejuvenation and weight reduction courses lasting 8, 15 or 22 days. All treatments are provided by an outside company called Dharma and take place in a 200-year-old nalukettu (4-sided mansion) on site. Click here for more information about Ayurveda

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Ayurvedic treatments
  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome and those under 5 will be accommodated free of charge. Cots and extra beds are available upon request. Babysitting can be arranged and there is a (rather basic) children’s playroom, but there are no organised group activities for children.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All accommodation can take an extra bed or baby cot. Duplex villas have additional space for larger families, Lake View Heritage Villas and the Presidential Suite have private pools. There's also the Houseboat for 4 for families with older children who want to go on a backwaters cruise

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available by arrangement

Baby listening:

Baby listening and monitors are available on request

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

  • The pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Backwaters cruise
  • Birding
  • Day trips to Cochin
  • Waterskiing

    Families Should Know:

    You're right on a lake

Distances:

  • Airport: 2.5 hours
  • Shops: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
8/
Value
10/
Overall

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},

Rates for Kumarakom Lake Resort