Purity

Cochin & the Backwaters, India Book from

A serene and romantic waterfront retreat on the western shore of Lake Vembanad
Florentine architect Maria Angela Fernhof built this Indo-Italianate villa with a waterfront garden back in 2003. All sun-washed white stucco and red terracotta, it was a real labour of love, bringing together bits of vintage Rajasthani palaces, antiques, temple carvings and a dash of Cochin's colonial cool, to create a wonderful patchwork atmosphere where India, tranquility and Europe meet.



Since then the villa has been extended and refurbished by the Malabar Escapes collection who renamed it Purity. Stepping inside, after negotiating the bumpy track leading up to the hotel, you’ll be showered with attention by an ever-willing team of staff. Round, stepping-stone plinths lead you across the courtyard fishpond, on through the drawing room/art gallery – it showcases unique antiques and interpretations of modern India - to 14 sumptuous bedrooms and suites. These horseshoe round an idyllic lakeside garden where you’ll find a waterfront pavilion for arrival and departure by boat, a stunning pool, as well as an Ayurvedic spa and yoga space.

 Every inch of the garden is beautifully manicured whilst the décor promotes a healing sense of calm with clean lines and fuss-free furnishings. Laze and gaze, chill and thrill to the blissful serenity of this magical corner of Kerala.

Highs

  • Dreamy views across the lake to Kumarakom; watch out for kingfishers, cormorants, eagles and otters. And take a sikara ride across to the northern shore to the enchanting canals and lagoons of the Vembanad backwaters
  • Lazing on sunbeds by the pool and beneath the palm trees in the garden
  • Candlelit meals by the lake edge; wonderfully romantic, and the traditional Keralan food is good
  • Staff really know the area and are happy to help organise activities - boat trips, backwater cruises, temple tours and day trips to Fort Cochin or Alleppey
  • Sister hotel to the stylish Malabar House, Serenity and Trinity - ask about packages featuring all 3

Lows

  • You’re way off the beaten track but that’s what the essence of Purity is all about
  • The approach to the hotel through the swampy back-end of a village might give a poor first impression though this will be immediately forgotten once you’re past the gates
  • No restaurants within walking distance so you'll need to eat in-house or take a tuk-tuk
  • With only 14 rooms it can get booked up

Best time to go

October to March is the best time to visit India, though in Kerala the monsoon season often lingers into November. The peak season, December-February, offers the best weather, as it starts heating up from March onwards. If you want to catch Alleppey’s famous annual Snake Boat Races, they take place on the second Saturday of August.

Our top tips

Visit the Hindu temples in Cochin for a redefinition of the word 'pagentry'. Hindu festivals in Thrissur from April-May include elephant processions, while northern Keralan temples hold trance dance rituals from November-May.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 10
  • Breakfast + dinner on request
  • 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
  • Bicycles Available
  • Art gallery
Room:

Rooms

Remember that Diana Vreeland quote ‘Pink is the navy blue of India’? All that bright colour can be overwhelming, but boy, do they know how to use it. Splashes of green, turquoise and yellow somehow manage to look both vibrant and harmonious together (the backdrop of pure white sheets and whitewashed walls helps) - even restorative and peaceful - whilst the red and crimson palette in some of the rooms adds a more sensual note.

There are 14 bedrooms and suites in which beds are dressed in fine linen topped by bright cushions and double banks of pillows, and where eclectic modern art mixes well with antique wood carvings (which in some rooms are the focus of your bed wall). Each room has air-conditioning, a flatscreen TV, a fridge loaded with cold drinks, a kettle and a really snazzy bathroom where you’ll find a stack of bathroom goodies: Rama shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser and body cleanser, and Holy Lama soap. There’s bottled water by the bed, a vase of cut flowers on your writing desk and a folder listing the spa treatments on offer along with recommended local visits. Lighting is used to excellent effect though it did take us a while to master the controls.

All rooms come with a terrace or veranda with views out to the lake; the suites and 2 of the Deluxe Rooms also have a bathtub, a couple of these being sunken and mosaic-tiled. The palatial first-floor Vembanad Suite is as big as the lobby. It has a large living area and a romantic swing seat on its private terrace. The 5 Garden Suites are a little smaller, though just as plush, with glass-fronted living areas and cavernous bathrooms where there’s room aplenty for his-and-hers sinks and an Ayurvedic massage table to be set up for private in-room treatments.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Your day gets off to a special start at breakfast which, weather permitting, is taken at one of the lakeside tables: early mornings are magical here as the water-born bird and boating activity gets underway. An order is first taken for the freshly squeezed juice and tropical fruit platter of your choice. Next comes cereal and toast, after which you choose between eggs or, much more fun, the dosa of your choice. There’s excellent filter coffee from Mysore and organic, loose-leaf tea.

The hotel has a selection of traditional Keralan dishes, these vary according to what’s to be had at local markets: choices might include an excellent fish, or coconut and tomato Thakkali curry, or maybe sautéed marsala mussels in a tomato sauce. The tastiest dish we tried was Pollichathu fish which was steamed in a banana leaf with coconut and a delicate combination of spices. There’s a second menu, too, which includes some classic northern Indian dishes. Even though the hotel’s cuisine can’t be described as gourmet it’s wholesome and very local in flavour.

There’s a simple lunch menu and a Keralan-style thali can always be prepared. Should you fancy something that’s not listed just talk to the staff and they’ll do their best to magic up the meal of your choice. Snacks, including sandwiches, paneer pakoras and cashew nuts are also on offer.

Meals are normally served in the sheltered courtyard at the back of the house where we found the ambience to be a tad claustrophobic, with little space between tables and no view as such. It’s much nicer, when weather and mozzie activity permits, to dine in the covered colonnade overlooking the pool, out in the garden, at a lake-facing table along the waterfront or on your private balcony.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Pavilion the water
Activity: Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Activities

  • Unwind with an Ayurvedic treatment at the on-site spa. Individual treatments and 1-7 day programmes (covering anything from stress relief, detox to body firming) are available; the latter can be split between here and sister hotel Serenity if you're on a 2-centre holiday

  • Take a boat trip on the backwaters - it takes about an hour to cross the lake to reach the canal network - or head off in the hotel’s rustic little sikara and be paddled around the shores of Lake by a local boatman to birdwatch and to see how a Chinese fishing networks. From Alleppey you can join a full-on backwater cruise, either on a tourist boat or - more authentic, and much cheaper - a local water bus

  • Explore Muhama. Right on the doorstep, the village is known for its coir matting, woven from coconut fibre. You could take one of the hotel's tuk-tuk tours around; they are also available to Alleppey or nearby temples

  • Borrow a bike and freewheel around the village

  • Visit Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, a boat-trip away on the opposite of the lake. The 14-acre sanctuary is populated with waterfowl, herons, egrets, cormorants and owls, as well as migratory birds such as parrots, larks and Siberian cranes. Be sure to get going early so as to miss the arrival of a stream of houseboats of all shapes and sizes

  • Visit the enchanting island of Pathiramanal (meaning 'sands of midnight') is another bird haven, just 1.5km by boat from Muhama jetty nearby

  • Walk by the lake and drink in the tranquil scenery; ask reception to arrange a private yoga or cookery lesson

  • Reception can arrange drivers for day trips. Alleppey (Allapuzha) has been called the 'Venice of the East', thanks to its network of narrow canals. In parts it smells worse than Venice, but it’s one of the most interesting of the backwater towns. And there’s fantastic sandy beach, too

  • Visit the 18th-century Krishnapuram Palace and its archaeological museum (a 50km drive south)

  • Fort Cochin - Kerala’s spice port community - is an hour away. Tour the streets of Jew Town, home of the famous Pepper Exchange, or haggle with Kashmiri traders and visit synagogues

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wildlife
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome though the atmosphere here is so chilled that a gaggle of noisy kids may not go down too well with other guests. Baby cots and extra beds can be provided and the hotel has crayons and board games to keep young 'uns amused.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Vembanad Suite is ideal for families as it has a double bed, a day bed, and can fit either an additional rollaway bed or baby cot.

Babysitting:

By arrangement.

Kid Friendly: Hotel pool

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
6/
Food
7/
Service
7/
Value
7/
Overall

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