Aanavilasam offers a fantastic opportunity to sample plantation life up in the cool hills of Kerala’s verdant interior
Natural world | Off the beaten track | Relaxation | Wildlife
Aanavilasam is a luxury plantation house set on a seven-acre private estate, surrounded by the picturesque Cardamom Hills and just 8km from Thakkady and the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Tea, coffee, cardamom and pepper all grow in the region, filling the air with the aroma of fresh spices. Many rare birds are frequently spotted around the plantation, and the nearby Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary has significant populations of elephant, bison, deer, monkey and tiger, all of which might be glimpsed on a lake cruise or guided walk.
Aanavilasam offers an intimate atmosphere with just six airy rooms with private verandas with stunning views over the hills. Individually appointed suites come with luxurious fabrics, comfy furniture and a pervasive plantation-style theme. Two pool villas offer the opportunity for a private dip, and the Presidential Suite provides extreme luxury for longer stays. September to May is the main tourist season, peaking at Christmas/New Year. As the climate heats up from February to May, elephants, deer and bison are easily spotted as they make for Periyar’s lake and waterholes.
Dining at Aanavilasam is a memorable experience. The hotel’s chefs are adherents to the ‘slow food’ philosophy, which means they spend time out harvesting seasonal local produce and creating everything from scratch. Cardamom from the hills, pepper and coffee from the plantations, honey from the bee hives, bananas, mangoes and coconut from the forest – all will be foraged, prepared and cooked freshly for you. You can also take a cookery class to master typical Keralan dishes. European classics are also on offer – but rarely opted for.
Aside from strolling around the plantation gardens, or winding down with an Ayurvedic massage or an anti-toxin steam bath, there are plenty of excursions within easy reach. Fun-filled journeys on a bullock-drawn cart will take you into rustic villages where pastoral Indian life unfolds in front of you, or for a higher vantage point, ride an elephant through the plantations or thick jungle. Also on offer are 4x4 jeep safaris, boat cruises on Periyar Lake and Mullaperyiar Dam, foot patrols searching for tigers, guided hikes and bamboo rafting.
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