Neeleshwar Hermitage

Malabar, Northern Kerala, India Book from

A beautifully calm and spoiling retreat with a fabulous spa and houseboat on the undeveloped North Keralan coast
A blend of health retreat and hotel on the unspoilt and tourist-free northern coast of Kerala, this is as serene and stylish a hideaway as you’ll find anywhere in India; a place to rejuvenate your body and spirit and feel 'still'. The ethos? 'To start the rest of your life anew'. And after a long and dusty taxi ride up from the steamy south, and a spoiling 3 days of Neeleshwar’s gentle embrace, that’s exactly what we felt we were doing.

Just 18 thatched cottages sit amongst 12 acres of lush gardens filled with frangipani and banana trees, coconut groves and glorious hibiscus flowers. The Hermitage was built according to traditional Keralan Vastu principles, just a few metres back from the thumping breakers of the Indian Ocean. From September to March endangered sea turtles hatch their eggs on the beach, rare birds flit overhead; everything feels in harmony with nature and Neeleshwar's eco principles are spot on. Spend your days in the Ayurvedic spa, walking for miles along the palm-fringed beach, doing yoga, learning to meditate or exploring untrammelled backwaters on their gorgeous 2-bedroom houseboat, The Lotus. In the evening watch the sun sink over the horizon and, who knows, you might begin to feel the workings of Neeleshwar, God of Transformation.


  • The first 'luxury' hotel in northern Kerala, Neeleshwar has opened up miles of unspoilt coastline to the adventurous traveller
  • The Lotus, their beautiful 2-bedroom houseboat offers 1- and 2-night cruises on much quieter backwaters than the popular area around Alleppey
  • The hotel sits just metres back from a beautiful beach (with swimmable sea), with a huge infinity pool and a chilled out-out restaurant serving fresh seafood
  • There's a unique cultural programme of lectures, concerts and guided tours of local temples
  • Charming and friendly staff welcome you with garlands and ice-cold coconut juice


  • It's a mission to get to - an internal flight, then a 2-hour car journey - so not worth going for less than 4 or 5 nights
  • This is an isolated spot; the nearest shops and restaurants are 4km away, so bring some books and be prepared for some serious lazing
  • The seafood restaurant, though delicious, is expensive - but there's cheaper vegetarian fare available
  • A strict cancellation policy during peak season

Best time to go

October to March has the best climate and is the festival season in Kerala. May to October is the low season, during which the sea is often too rough for swimming and it is officially 'monsoon' time. However, it's traditionally considered the best time for Ayurvedic treatments and can be a much cheaper time to visit. The turtles come to lay their eggs between August and March each year.

Our top tips

Stay for a night or 2 on Neeleshwar’s houseboat, The Lotus - it was a highlight of our visit, and we defy you to find a more beautiful craft. On board you’ll find 2 stunning, all teak bedrooms - Sukhima (Happiness) and Lalima (Beauty). You also get a large observation window - with screens for mozzie season - and a private outdoor area. Bathrooms are bigger than you may think: Sukhima’s features a tub and shower whilst Lalima has a wet room. You have the option of air-conditioning up until bedtime when the gennie is switched off and overhead fans keep you cool. All meals are included, and luxurious touches include turndown service and a bedside thermos of chilled water delicately flavoured with Sapen wood.

Great for...

  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Beach Resort
  • 18 cottages + 2 houseboat rooms
  • Two restaurants (one is licensed)
  • 0-12 but not ideal
  • 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
  • Bicycles Available
  • Cultural lectures
  • Houseboat


The traditional, thatched cottages are set nicely far apart in 2 tiers, looking out to sea, over the lush gardens, or onto the pool. Some are paired, making them useful for groups; the Private Plunge Pool Cottage is the most luxurious, with a private plunge pool in its walled garden.

A teak veranda fronts each cottage with rustic, wicker furniture coaxing you to sit and daydream. Interiors are light-filled and airy, thanks to large windows dressed with drop-down, opaque blinds and soaring 5m-high ceilings.

Enormous beds have fabulous matresses and snowy white linen, along with plump pillows and bright bolsters. Bedside tables and Planters-style twin chairs were carved by local craftsmen; there are small writing desks as well as cavernous wardrobes.

Out back, bathrooms are huge and partly open to the sky. Some have frangipani trees growing right through them, others look out over a big palm in the private back garden beyond. The solar showers are powerful and refreshing and some rooms have a tub with views. You’ll find a pile of thick towels, bathrobes and slippers for the spa, and a big range of locally-sourced toiletries whilst stylish surface-top sinks have eco-friendly plugs to help save water.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


You have a choice of 2 restaurants. Annapurna is dedicated to the goddess of nourishment and sits in the middle of the grounds in a high, pagoda-style structure. Roofed with coconut palms and open on all sides, it's a really exotic spot for a meal and the food is fantastic - a mix of North and South Indian, Middle Eastern and European flavours. Mostly vegetarian, specialities include idli and dosa (spicy savoury rice cakes and pancakes respectively), bathal (similar to bahjis) and Keralan-style fish and chicken dishes.

At the Meenakshi restaurant, close to the pool and just a few metres back from the beach, you dine with your toes in the sand beneath the swaying coconut palms. A light lunch time ‘black board’ menu reflects what’s available from the local market that day whilst in the evenings fresh fish and seafood - delivered to the hotel every morning by local fishermen - take pride of place. Expect dishes like Malabar prawn curry or king fish prepared in banana leaves. The food is excellent, though prices are on the high side. The service can be slow but, hey, you're here to relax so why bother stressing? Poolside drinks are also available.

A continental breakfast is available in either restaurant until 10am, and a complimentary afternoon tea with locally made biscuits is served daily in Meenakshi.

Annapurna is also fully licensed for a range of beers and a small selection of Sula wines: chenin blanc and a sauvignon in white, chardonnay and shiraz in red. Drinks are also available from 10am until 7pm at the pool bar which overlooks a small lagoon and the ocean: it’s a perfect setting for a memorable sundowner.

If you take a cruise on the The Lotus you'll find a bar and modern kitchen plus indoor and alfresco dining areas. A personal chef is part of the crew and we couldn’t find fault with any of the meals we had on the boat. All meals, tea and all day fresh fruit are included in the Rates.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Cooking classes
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Take a 1- or 2-night backwater cruise on 32m-luxury houseboat, The Lotus. You can embark either outside Kannur (perfect if you're arriving at Calicut airport or coming up from Kochi) which is a great way to arrive at Neeleshwar, or from a pier close to Hermitage. There will be opportunities for swimming, visiting a coir factory as well as Ori village and its Visnu temple before you anchor mid-river for the night. If you fancy spending a second night on board - we can’t recommend this too highly - you’ll have a more leisurely first day’s programme

  • Unwind in the Priya Spa, built in the style of a traditional temple. A huge range of Ayurvedic massages are on offer along with, beauty treatments and Naturopathic therapies: Thai, Swedish and de-stress massages, reflexology, pedicure, manicure, milk or flower baths, even a special 'Jet Lag Reviver' treatment to set you up for your perfect week of R&R. You'll have a complimentary consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor on arrival to discuss your health and lifestyle, allowing treatments to be tailored to your needs

  • Laze by the infinity pool, stroll along the virtually deserted beach and completely unwind, or practice yoga (with your own teacher or in a group class). Or take a 4-day course to learn the art of transcendental meditation

  • Take a cookery class with one of the hotel chefs; a different dish is taught on site every day and you can buy all the spices locally to take home with you

  • Explore the local area by bicycle (guides can be arranged by request) and visit Bekal Fort, the largest in Kerala, whose impressive bastions looks over the Arabian sea and a long, sandy beach

  • Observe a festival or Theyattam (spiritual possession), which often last all night; the dancers wear dramatic masks and costumes

  • Nature lovers will be in their element: the hotel helped set up a conservation programme for the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles, which hatch eggs on the beach out front. Depending on when you visit, you can watch the turtles arrive, collect the eggs to take to the local hatchery or help release the baby turtles back into the sea

  • Resident and migratory birds include rare eagles, white-throated kingfishers and purple herons; book a bird-watching expedition with an expert guide

  • Alistair Shearer, an expert on Indian culture and the Sanskrit spiritual classics, gives fascinating evening lectures (in high season) and is a mine of local information; if you miss him in person, get a copy of his fascinating book Views from an Indian Bus. Regular concerts are given by local musicians, too

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Ayurvedic treatments
  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga


Well-behaved children are welcome and the cottages can take an extra bed each, but this hotel is definitely aimed at adults and there are no real facilities for kids.

Best for:

Toddlers (1-4 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Baby equipment:

Baby cots can be provided on request.

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

Kid Friendly:

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