For many, India evokes images of bustling streets, sepia hues and the magnificent Taj Mahal.
Mumbai, Jaipur and Delhi may be the country’s most popular destinations, but unbeknownst to most the world, Kerala is South India’s most serene state, fondly referred to as “God’s Own Country”. Known for its beautiful backwaters, Kerala is an oasis brimming with natural beauty and religious coexistence. The slender coastal strip is defined by a uniquely layered landscape. It is here where you can find almost 600km of glorious Arabian Sea coast juxtaposed with protected wildlife reserves coupled with tranquil backwaters that come with tea-covered terraced-hills.
Here, touch base with the languid state and head to its most intriguing city: Kochi (Cochin). From its iconic Chinese fishing nets and a 450-year-old Jewish synagogue to ancient mosques and an eclectic blend of Portuguese and Dutch era houses, we guarantee a vacation unlike any other in India. It is also home to a delightful combination of traditional and contemporary Keralan art, and a great place to see kalarippayattu (traditional martial art) and kathakali (Hindu performance art) first hand as well.
Set on the beautiful Princess Street, Forte Kochi Hotel is a short 30-minute drive from the Ernakulam Junction railway station and a leisurely hour drive from Cochin International Airport. Here, find 27 luxuriously crafted rooms that feature a beautiful blend of old-world charm and modern luxury amenities. The rooms are decorated with cushioned wicker sofas and a medley of coloured tiles interspersed with wooden floors take guests back to a time of colourful colonial India. Spend your days here strolling along the picturesque Beach Walkway on Mahatma Gandhi Beach, or take a tour which covers a history lesson of India at the Our Lady of Hope Church and the Mattanchery Palace. The hotel’s in-house multi-cuisine restaurant, The Jetty, also offers a choice of British, pan-European, and Indian dishes for peckish guests throughout the day.
Brunton Boatyard is an elegant boutique hotel situated within a Victorian-style building on a former boatyard. Right by the Fort Cochin Waterfront, the establishment is a short two-minute walk from the Fort Kochi-Vypin Ferry Terminal and less than three kilometres away from the 16th-century Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. Each of the 26 spacious rooms and suites is fashioned with traditional Keralan decor, antique furnishings and four-poster beds so high, steps are required to get on it. During the day, head out to the outdoor swimming pool overlooking boats along the stretch of sea, or head to the Ayurvedic Centre for basic treatments and massages. Cooking sessions are also available for foodies interested in local cuisine.
Guests who are used to the contemporary decor can spend the night at Grand Hyatt Kochi Bolgatty, an upscale establishment just seven kilometres from Puthuvype Beach along the Laccadive Sea. The hotel is home to 264 luxurious guestrooms and suites, including three two-bedroom villas and one three-bedroom villa. Guests can choose between waking to unparalleled city views of the tranquil backwaters of Vembanad Lake. For a start, spend your day soaking in the sun at the outdoor swimming pool surrounded by lush gardens. Those who can’t take the heat can pay a visit to the beautiful indoor pool as well. After a long day of exploration around the area, head to the hotel’s own Santata Spa, featuring seven treatment rooms and a hydrotherapy area that offer customised rejuvenation treatments.
Fragrant Nature Kochi is housed in an ornate former East India Company office building complete with Fort Kochi’s first-ever clock tower. The deluxe hotel overlooks the Kochi Harbour and is a short two kilometres from the 16th-century Mattancherry Palace. A stay here guarantees all the best sightseeing spots in Fort Kochi, including the Jewish Synagogue, the Dutch Palace and the much famed Antique Market. The hotel also prepares wellness programs and cultural events as part of the Fragrant Nature Kochi experience for guests to truly immerse themselves in their surroundings. Each of its 41 elegant rooms features colonial-influenced decor, and most come with amazing harbour views. Prana, the state-of-the-art Spa is home to a blend of relaxing ayurvedic and modern therapies to soothe your mind, body and soul.
Le Colonial 1506 is a 16th-century heritage hotel housed in the Portuguese governor’s former residence. The exclusive establishment is located just next to St. Francis Church and a mere two kilometres from Mattancherry Palace. The property is home to an exceptional collection of 8 individually styled rooms and suites that exhibit the refined colonial yesteryears, with organically fashioned teak furniture and period artwork. All meals are provided for in the hotel’s stately dining room, serving local and international dishes. Expect only impeccable service, from conscientious babysitting service to relaxing yoga and massages — they’re always here for the soul-searching adventurers looking for a well-deserved break away from the daily grind.
If you’re looking to go on your long-awaited digital detox, consider spending a night at 976 Pananagad. This quaint four-bedroom villa wants their guests to “read, watch birds, go kayaking, swim and essentially just ‘be’”. All bedrooms in this cosy locale have a large glass wall that opens out to the backwaters in front of the property. Two of the four ensuite rooms here also include attached plunge pools. This property is amazing for guests in larger groups who want some privacy to their stay. Here, the view of the Chinese fishing nets in the harbour set the scene for guests to savour a wide array of fresh seafood served in mouthwatering Kerala spices.
Modern luxuries coincide in Kochi Mariott Hotel. The sophisticated outpost is located just beside LuLu Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in India, making it extremely convenient for the busy traveller. The expansive range of rooms includes nine different types of configurations, from the modest Deluxe King Room to the stylish Presidential Suite. All rooms are fitted with sleek modern amenities for the contemporary traveller, and upgraded rooms and suites offer access to a lounge with free breakfast and snacks. Kochi Marriott knows how one cannot skip legs day, so they’ve made the fitness centre stay open 24 hours, seven days a week. Those looking to beat the heat can also dive in the outdoor pool, complete with a pool bar for good measure.