Philipkutty's Farm

Kottayam, Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from

Reviewed by Yasmin Boland
A charming family-run farm-island with 6 waterfront cottages and great food - a truly personal insight into local life in backwater Kerala
Welcome home! This is how you'll be greeted after a day's boating or bird-watching on Kerala's beautiful backwaters - and it’s exactly how you’ll feel. Guests at Philipkutty's Farm are welcomed and cared for by several generations of the Mathew family (Anu, her mother-in-law Aniamma and son Philip). Even grandfather was involved: in the 1950s he reclaimed the private island on which the farm now sits (5ft below sea level) from beneath Vembanad Lake.

They call it a 'homestay' and are delighted to show you around the 45-acre working farm, where mango, nutmeg and coconut trees thrive alongside bean, pepper and banana plantations. They'll also cook for you, and each meal is a huge home-cooked feast featuring much of what you'll see growing in the gardens. But if you’re worried about privacy, rest assured that your waterfront cottage is completely independent, furnished with antiques and set on the edge of a peaceful waterway (the family live in their own house nearby). All have enough room to create a little family home of your own.


  • A very personal insight into the Keralan way of life; you'll feel like you're living here rather than visiting
  • The home-cooked feasts. Their recipes are so good that Rich Stein came to visit and guests can also request cooking lessons
  • Floating, by punt-powered boat, from the banks of Lake Vembanad over to this tropical inland island will immediately put you in a state of utter relaxation
  • Airy cottages with their own terraces surrounded by the sounds of nature and beautiful backwater views
  • A wonderful combination of solitude and safety, on a peaceful island separate from the chaos of India on the other shore


  • The isolation means contact with the outside world is very limited, and the only WiFi is that belonging to the family home
  • Those wanting a lots of privacy may not take to the friendly, sociable atmosphere
  • The humidity can get unbearable from March onwards, and there’s no pool to cool you down
  • Alcohol isn't available on site, but guests may bring their own for use in the privacy of their room

Best time to go

Any time is a good time here, if you have a few books to read.
October until January are the cooler, more pleasant months; the humidity soars from March until June, after which the rains (and the prices) start to fall.

Our top tips

The Mathew family are some of the most gracious people you’re ever likely to meet. Take the opportunity to chat to them and find out about life in Kerala.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Homestay Guesthouse
  • 6
  • All meals included
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Fishing rods available
  • Sunset cruise


Though it’s billed as a homestay, each of the 6 waterfront cottages has lots of privacy and space. They’re all set in a neat line along the waterfront, with terraces and beautiful views over the backwaters and the passing boats and fishermen.

The 3 older cottages were designed by Swiss architect Karl Damschen, who included some delightful touches such as beautifully carved doors and pillars, and 3 doors to the outside world. Throw these open during the day for maximum breeze, or up the ante with the air-conditioning if needs be.

We stayed in one of the newer cottages and, despite being designed by a different architect (Kochi-based Thomas Dominic), they shared a similar style, layout and spirit. That said, we did enjoy having the added bonus of a separate living area.

Although mod-cons are limited, the shower bathrooms are spotless and all the beds are comfortable. Best of all, the colourful reflections all around make sunset a real treat - and sunrise, with its dawn chorus, even more so.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Terrace
  • WiFi


All meals at Philipkutty’s are lavish communal feasts home-cooked by the graceful and skilled Mrs Mathew Senior, using lots of local ingredients from the farm. They’re often the high point of the day.

For lunch and dinner, guests share a big circular table groaning with about 6 curries and various accompaniments. It’s all south Indian cuisine and there are no menus (you get what you’re given), but expect lots of fish-based dishes, Keralan spices and dhals. We had the fish molee (which Rick Stein cooked while filming here for one of his TV shows), as well as curried prawns, fried fish and banana fritters. Everything tasted fresh and healthy, and our days soon became an easy cycle of eat, rest, repeat.

The cottages’ self-catering facilities are limited to tea- and coffee-making equipment and a refrigerated minibar (no alcohol is provided but they do include free drinking water).

Luncheon parties are sometimes hosted, strictly by prior arrangement, for passing guests who catch a boat from the mainland.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Coffee tea making
  • Communal dining
  • Cooking classes
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Vegetarian menu


  • Sit on the veranda of your traditional Keralan cottage, beside the silent verdant backwaters, and watch the world float by
  • Watch Mrs Mathew Senior ('Mummy') cook another feast and take notes, cooking lessons can often be arranged if requested in advance
  • Take a sunset cruise along the backwaters on a vallam (local canoe); bring mozzie repellant
  • Join an early-morning walk around the farm to learn about everything from the crops (coconut, banana, cocoa, nutmeg, pepper and mangoes) to the harvests and their uses
  • Observe the birdlife, either from your cottage or on a boat-trip to the nearby bird sanctuary: there are cormorants, teals and ducks (Oct-Feb), plus herons, egrets, storks and snake birds (Feb-July)
  • Visit the local markets and temples across the waters
  • Cycle around the villages, stopping to observe coir-making, mat-making and scampi-fishing
  • Try a spot of fishing (rods are available), or go scampi-spiking (September to December only)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Ayurvedic treatments
  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures


Children are very welcome, and older kids will enjoy being immersed in a working farm.

Best for:

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

Family friendly accommodation:

There is a Family Cottage with 2 bedrooms, but the traditional Keralan design means that every cottage is spacious and could easily sleep 3 without feeling cramped. (Expect one large room divided into smaller spaces.)


Available by arrangement.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots (on request).

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

Kids Activities on site:

  • Working farm
  • Backwater cruise
  • Cooking lesson
  • Birding
  • Cycling

Families Should Know:

Those with toddlers should be aware of the waterfront location


  • Airport: 2.5-3 hours
Kid Friendly:

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