Indulgent, eco-friendly and peaceful
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This accommodation in pictures
Eco-tourism | Off the beaten track | Relaxation
Once an art deco mansion in a forgotten corner of Tamil Nadu, Visalam has been carefully restored as a peaceful wellness retreat for those seeking a side of India that is indulgent, eco-friendly and off the beaten track. With an emphasis on environmentally sustainable living, the hotel provides solar-heated water for bathing and naturally-treated, chlorine-free water for the pool.
The village of Chettinad lies in a remote area of Tamil countryside, thirty minutes by car from the nearest city, historic Tiruchirappalli. Chettinad’s small population belies its vast contribution to Indian culture, especially through its cuisine – ‘Chettinad’ describes a caste devoted to the preparation of food. The region is also dotted with palatial 18th-century mansions, built with local limestone alongside expensive materials and furnishings imported from across Europe and Asia.
The rooms at Visalam are generally faithful to the 1950s tastes they originally catered to. Where necessary, modern improvements have been added, particularly in the bathrooms and air-conditioning. An iridescent sheen gleaming from the bedroom walls comes from a traditional painting technique that combines egg white with an unusual admixture that includes ground seashells.
Visalam’s visitors can dine al fresco at the Poolside Cafe or indoors in the mansion’s Dining Room, with the mouthwatering prospect of immersing themselves Chettinad cuisine, which is among the most spicy and aromatic in India. One of the best experiences is the thali, a traditional subcontinental spread involving an array of curried dishes, sambars, chutneys, yoghurts, rice and breads, and once inspired, guests can spend time in the ‘interactive kitchen’ learning the chef’s secrets.
By putting the environment at the top of the agenda, Visalam commits to a range of charming, nostalgic and ultimately low-octane activities, epitomised by an old bullock-drawn cart that serenely escorts visitors around Chettinad. Try your hand at the traditional board game Pallanguli, join dexterous locals in creating Kolam, drawings made from coloured powders, and learn traditional dances. There is also a large pool to cool off in.
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