Paradisa Plantation

Near Thekkady, The Hill Country, India Book from Book from £98 per night

Peaceful hillside resort, with traditional Keralan cottages and a gorgeous pool, set amid a 40-acre coffee estate
Set on terraces carved into the precipitous Cardamom Hills and reached by a private track, this nature resort is a haven of peace, where city souls and tourists come to rest their overheated brains and bodies. The founders, Simon and Maria, bought the neglected coffee plantation with the intention of building a personal retreat, using a salvaged traditional wooden house with carved windows and doors. Pleased with the result, they thought: ‘Why stop...?’

Now there's a clutch of cottages, dotted amid organic Robusta coffee plants and banana palms and connected by a network of stone pathways and steps. The round dining room is open to the elements, with a panorama across the valley; the wonderful swimming pool - endearingly built in the shape of Maria’s foot - shares the same plunging views. In 2018 the plantation changed hands, but it remains charmingly eccentric. And that’s why you come here rather than to a clinical 5-star hotel.

Highs

  • The spectacular setting in the tree-clad hills means sweeping forest views and no traffic noise - only birds and insects
  • Lots to see and do, from on-site yoga and plantation tours to wildlife treks and Ayurvedic treatments in the surrounding area
  • The smiley staff are very friendly, creating a more authentic sense of Kerala than you'd get staying at an impersonal hotel
  • The fresh air and cool breezes are a wonderful contrast with the sweaty, polluted lowlands - great for families wanting space to spread out and relax

Lows

  • The plantation doesn't always work like clockwork - we experienced lapses in the hot water - and we haven't visited since the change in ownership
  • It's remote, so there are no other eateries nearby and you'll ideally need a car and driver
  • The owners don't use pesticides, so be prepared for some insect life (beds do have mozzie nets, though)
  • Despite the location, rates are B&B so the extras can start to add up
  • Yoga lessons are not always available - if that's important to you, check when booking

Best time to go

October to April is the optimum time to visit, with temperatures ranging between 15C and 30C. It's quieter (and cheaper) outside these months, especially during the monsoon season from June to September. April to June can be very humid, though not as unbearable as in the lowlands. If you plan to do any hiking, avoid November and December because of the post-monsoon leeches.

Our top tips

Discover your inner child: there are kites for guests to borrow and you can take advantage of the hill country breezes (and the whipping winds at the top of the higher peaks).

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

The Deluxe Rooms are actually free-standing cottages, built in traditional style with jackwood walls, shuttered windows, heavy carved doors and terracotta-tiled roofs. Interiors are pleasingly simple and authentic, with tiled floors, whitewashed walls, dark wooden furniture and a minimum of decorative touches: a candle-lantern by the bed, fresh flowers in a vase and Chettinad-style pillars framing the entrance. Most have twin beds which can be pushed together to form doubles. If, on cloudy days, it gets a little dark, just open up all the windows and the expansive, misty, blue-green views become the décor.

Shower rooms (there are no tubs) open on to little private walled courtyards, and there are private verandas with recliners for soaking up the hill country panoramas. Towels and sheets are changed every couple of days and hairdryers are available on request.

The two 2-bedroom cottages are perfect for families or anyone wanting a bit more space. We loved Cardamom, a 300-year-old timber house which was painstakingly dismantled, transported here and rebuilt. It also has unbeatable views over the plunging valley.

Features include:

  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdyer (on request)
  • Mosquito net

Eating

Delicious and plentiful Keralan cuisine, with set dishes at each meal, is served at your table in the open-sided dining pavilion.

You can blend continental and Indian breakfasts, switching from idli (steamed rice dumplings) and crisp dosas (pancakes) with fragrant vegetarian sauces and relishes to eggs and toast with homemade banana jam. A highlight is appam (rice flour pancakes) with spicy egg curry or coconut milk and honey. Needless to say, the coffee - harvested from the plantation itself - is heavenly.

Lunch and dinner may start with a tasty tomato, garlic and cracked pepper rassam (a traditional Tamil Nadu broth to make you sweat, thus cooling your body), and continue with spicy chicken or fish and vegetable dishes such as thoran, all using crisp vegetables like beans, carrot and cabbage, chopped up with coconut, chillies, onions and mustard seeds. Desserts include a much-loved Keralan version of flambéed bananas. A word of warning: don't eat too much at breakfast or lunch, as dinner is a multi-course extravaganza with large portions!

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children's meals
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Tour the plantation to learn about coffee and spices, then visit a nearby tea factory to find out how the leaves make it from field to cup
  • Hike for half an hour to the top of Panchali Medu, a hill sacred to Hindus that has also been claimed by Christians (the walk takes you past crosses and shrines)
  • Head to the Periyar Nature Reserve (37km away), where you can go boating and spot wild elephants
  • Book a treatment at the nearby Ayurvedic hospital - one of the best and most authentic in Kerala. After a massage you can tour the centre, with its witch’s brews of roots and bark, and pungent bundles of herbs and spices (find out more about Ayurveda here)
  • Enjoy a round of golf against a stunning hill country backdrop: Paradisa Plantation is a member of the Peermade Club, an old planters' club dating back to the Raj which has a 9-hole course
  • Wake up with a dawn (7am) yoga class by the pool, or wind down with a private session later in the day (available on request). Please note, as of Febuary 2017, yoga lessons are tempoaraily unavailable
  • Learn how to whip up mouth-watering Keralan feasts by arranging a cookery class with the chef
  • End the day by watching Indian classical dance performances as you dine. These range from Keralan Kathakali (story-telling through dance) and Mohiniattam (known as the ‘dance of the celestial enchantress') to Bharatanatyam, a style borrowed from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Ayurvedic treatments
  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome and the staff at Paradisa bends over backwards to make their younger guests happy. There are few activities for little kids but older children may enjoy splashing in the pool and exploring the plantation.

There is no charge for children under 5 sharing their parents’ bed; baby cots are provided for free and extra beds are available for a supplement.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Cardamom Cottage has 2 bedrooms, making it a good option for families. There is no charge for children under 5 sharing their parents’ bed; baby cots are provided for free and extra beds are available for a supplement

Children's meals:

Have a picky eater on your hands? The kitchen will turn out kid-friendly favourites: pasta with fresh tomato sauce, fried chicken cutlets, hot chocolate and banana ice-cream

Kids Activities on site:

Paradisa Plantation offers kid-friendly cooking classes and a customised tours of the property, pointing out exotic fruits, flowers and spices along the way

Kids Activities nearby:

The Periyar Tiger Reserve offers boating and wild elephants (and the occasional tiger)

Families Should Know:

The many stone steps and pathways mean it may not be ideal for toddlers and kids who are scared of creepy crawlies should stay away

Distances:

  • Airport: 4-5 hours
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 3 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

Absolutely superb place where we had the most wonderful time. The plantation is in a beautiful location with panaoramic views and the soundtrack of amazing jungle sounds. The only other human settlements you can see are tribal fires at nighttime. The mist is magical and you really feel like you are in another world and definitely away from it all. The facilities are beautiful. The rooms are renovated old houses which are beautiful and calming spaces where you feel at peace and very comfortable. The pool is fab and is always ready with towels and the restaurant offers wonderful views interspersed with beautiful pieces of art. The food was delicious with a yummy high quality dinner and a fab breakfast. Each time offering a different menu and local products such as palm sugar, banana jam, homemade masala from the plantation and guava jam. Finally, the experienve was like nothing we have experienced. You don't feel like you are going to a hotel, you feel like you are staying with friends who are so so attentive to your every need and do everything to ensure you have the best time possible. On top of all this the staff supporting Simon are attentive, discrete and extremely dignified giving you personalised service and anticipating your every need before you realise it yourself.
The most fabulous place to stay and it really made our trip in India.

10/10,

We were upgraded to a wonderful bungalow overlooking the mountains and private outdoor lounge. The host was in residence and was informative and charming. The service was impeccable. The food was excellent. This may not be for everyone, but it was just right for us. The location is very remote, nothing much is nearby, but that is the beauty of the place. A member of staff took us on a 3 hour walk of the plantation, there is an aryuvedic hospital with massage facilities, a sister who owns a tea factory, and...a local golf club which made my husband's holiday. A 9 hole course accompanied by the caretaker surrounded by tea gardens and jungle.

10/10,

This was one of the highlights of our Kerala trip. You should cancel any cons! The place is looking great. And above all Simon the owner was a fantastic host and exceptionally helpful. Simon is the expert and arranges lots of good tours. We've made many trips to Kerala - north and south - and Paradisa plantation is superb.

10/10,

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Rates for Paradisa Plantation