Friday, September 18, 2015

Niraamaya Cardamom Club: Slice of Heaven in Thekkady, Kerala

What is your idea of a top class holiday destination? Being one among tropical evergreen forests? Sharing the border with one of the more popular tiger reserves of India? Waking up to the sensationally human whistling call of the Malabar Whistling Thrush? Staying in absolute luxury amidst cardamom plantations? Watching a Malabar giant squirrel jump from tree to tree from the confines of your balcony while drinking your morning coffee? Enjoying lip smacking traditional Kerala cuisine? Treating yourself to some authentic Kerala Spa massages? Learning how to cook the traditional dishes of Kerala?

Sounds totally insane right? Well, what if I tell you that you can experience all of this in one place?

Independent Cottages at Niraamaya Cardamom Club 

Well, it is true! I recently stayed at one such place on my recent monsoon motorcycling trip across Kerala. That place is the Niraamaya Cardamom Club. Tucked a few kilometers from Kumily and Thekkady and located amidst cardamom, coffee, pepper and jackfruit plantations is this luxury retreat, a hidden gem and according to me a slice of heaven in God’s Own Country! 

Inside the Niraamaya Cardamom Club room 

I have stayed amidst tea estates. I have lived amongst coffee estates. But, this was the first time I stayed amidst cardamom plantations. And boy did I absolutely enjoy my stay here.  The joyous experience started right from the time I turned off the Kumily-Kottayam highway into a steep road winding itself to the property through lush green forests and plantations.

Cardamom Pods at Niraamaya Cardamom Club, Thekkady, Kerala 

The place is pretty exclusive and houses just 6 private villas and cottages. Each place named after a spice enjoys good privacy, a spacious and super comfortable room with all modern age comforts, delicious home made chocolates, a super gorgeous clear roof shower, a balcony with a view and totally surrounded by pristine nature and avifauna that is super active during the early morning hours.

A traditional Kerala meal at Thekkady 

A short walk away is their Samsara restaurant that is surrounded by packed greenery. Gorging on their traditional Kerala food while listening to the sounds of nature was an absolutely surreal experience and was the special highlight of my stay here. The food was so good that I felt like kissing the chef at the end of every meal. I would have loved to pick up some tips from the chef, but I was so enthralled by the charms of this place that I never found enough time to indulge in the cooking classes that they offered. Hopefully, I will find enough time to indulge in this traditional Kerala culinary science on my next trip here. Nearly all of their food was top class, but if I were to pick a few favorites, they would be Olan, Aviyal, Puttu and Kadalai Curry. If you are a foodie, you will absolutely have a ball of a time here.

Early morning at Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady 

As the property is located close to a hill and tantalisingly close to the Periyar Tiger Reserve, I got to indulge in a lot of hikes around the property. While some of these hikes were through plantations,  the others were through forest trails frequented by gaurs and elephants. Personally, I didn’t get to see any elephant or gaur on my hikes, but I did get to see a couple of Malabar Giant Squirrels, a Nilgiri Langur family, some hornbills and a lot of evidence that these trails are indeed trod upon by elephants and gaurs. If you are into hiking or bird watching or if you are a nature enthusiast, you will find a lot of avenues to keep yourself super occupied here. Just make sure that you have your binoculars and good walking shoes with you at all times.

Periyar Forests as seen from hike near Niraamaya Cardamom Club, Thekkady 

Niraamaya Cardamom Club also has a traditional Ayurveda Kerala Spa Center. While, I was tempted to let myself relax, I couldn’t indulge in a spa therapy session as I knew I had many tough riding days ahead of me and a relaxing spa would only make the pain that more difficult for me. But, this is something that I would have done if I had come on a more relaxing holiday. Instead of the Spa therapy, I treated myself to an early morning boat cruise in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, a hike through the forest to machaans and view points and a Kathakali performance in the evening. The Kathakali performance, which lasted one hour and one that described one of the scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana was so good that I was left gaping in wonder for a good part of the one hour performance. In spite of my last minute request to go on the wildlife safari and see the Kathakali performance, the Niraamaya Cardamom Club people were very kind in arranging the tickets for me. Not only is this place magnificent, their people are also magnanimous.

Posing with Kathakali artists at Thekkady 

Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway in Kerala, a nature holiday in the middle of forests and wildlife or a luxury holiday complete with great food, service and a traditional spa, the Niraamaya Cardamom Club will be perfect for you. The best part is is that in spite of all this high class service, delicious food, great location and luxury offering, it doesn’t put a huge dent on your wallet! And that according to me makes this place, a hidden gem in Thekkady and definitely a slice of heaven in God’s Own Country.

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