A casual conversation on Twitter and our love for slow travel got us a humble invitation from the beautiful luxury resort located in an unassuming, offbeat corner of Northern Kerala. Neeleshwar Hermitage , run by ABChapri Retreats, is a responsible, stylish, and luxurious eco retreat situated in the sleepy fishing village of Neeleshwar in Kasargod district of Kerala. But before you read further, we’d like to warn you that our knowledge of ‘luxury’ is as bad as that of Donald Trump’s knowledge of presidency. So, please treat these opinions as our own.
If you’ve been to Kerala, chances are that you traveled the southern region like Munnar, Alleppey, Kumarakom or else. As one travels up North, the state opens up different shades – the culture, the landscapes, the food – it all changes in North Kerala. Neeleshwar marks almost the northernmost tip of Kerala, throwing it completely off the usual Kerala sights that you see in the south. This makes the location of Neeleshwar Hermitage exclusively offbeat, unconventional, and away from everything touristic. Kerala, for us is home and our travel style here is exclusively offbeat – we’ve tried to investigate its corners to find the hidden gems than experiencing the usual. Without doubt, Neeleshwar Hermitage is an exclusive one on the list.
Spread over acres of land, each of the 18 villas at Hermitage are well crafted. A home in itself, these villas remind one of ancestral houses of Kerala with an extra plugin of luxury and comfort. The open air bathrooms are surrounded by bougainvillaea flowers and treetops that sneak into your shower.
We opted for a plunge pool villa, awash with a private pool that brought our skinny dipping dream alive! The villa had a direct view of the sea and we could watch the fishermen go out to the sea from our cozy bed. Our favourite part: an amazing music list pre installed into the room’s private music system from jazz to ghazals. Neeleshwar Hermitage believes in responsible tourism as much as we do and they practice it very well in small to big ways: you won’t find any plastic mineral water bottles in your bedroom. Instead, there’s boiled, herbal water placed in a copper vessel for your use.
- You can select from a range of villas: Garden view villa, Sea view villa or a plunge pool villa. The cost starts from INR 10,000/ 154 USD per night.
- A hearty breakfast and unlimited tropical fruits are included in the price of your room.
- All amenities like safe box, hair dryers, bath robes, torch light etc. are provided, as well.
We’ve eaten and explored Kerala food in abundance to confirm that food at Neeleshwar Hermitage is authentic and absolutely delectable. We particularly liked their fusion preparation, combining North Kerala’s culinary secrets with continental, Thai, or even North-Eastern flavours. The chef creates a new menu everyday and all food is served ‘a la carte’, as they believe that all food should be personalised and served fresh. Try their butter garlic prawns, coconut marinated fish, meen pal curry, and baked apple to start with. You can choose between ‘Annapurna’ or their sea-food speciality restaurant, ‘Meenakshi’, that serves food on the beach front. A fellow traveller got a ‘yes’ for a proposal on this beach – that’s how romantic the dinner setting at Neeleshwar Hermitage is. As part of the responsible tourism initiative, Neeleshwar Hermitage does not serve any red meat in their restaurants.
Neeleshwar is a wellness resort that promotes slow, responsible luxury travel. You come here to slow down the pace and indulge in a sea of relaxation. Start with their complimentary yoga class that takes place near the beach every morning. Follow it up with one of the many massages, flower bath or a wellness treatment. They also offer ‘Transcendental Meditation’ taught by the co-founder himself when he is in town and other meditation forms taught by their in-house yoga guru.
Once you are up and running after the massages and baths, take a bicycle tour through the fishing village to find the pink bougainvillea flowers waving at you, go on a dreamy canoe ride through the lagoon to transcend into slow motion with every breath, walk on the soft beach sand with not a soul around for miles or watch the sun go down as you cool off in the stunning infinity pool. For the cultural geeks, Kasargod has a very unique dance ritual called ‘Theyyam’ to experience. If you happen to visit during the festive season (November to June), you can catch one in an ancestral home or a local temple. Vikas and I had been looking for opportunities to experience this custom closely for quite some time and the wait was worth it.
- Neeleshwar Hermitage has an in-house tailor who can stitch you up an ideal dress for the getaway. A fellow guest got one for herself and it looked like a special collection from Zara.
- Each villa has a spacious veranda furnished with comfortable seating. You can spend your entire evenings here just staring at the sea, reading a book, or chit chatting.
- A clothing boutique and gift shop is also part of the resort for those who love to indulge in shopping on-the-go.
The ‘Valiyaparambu’ backwaters of Northern Kerala, just a few kms off Bekal, is well off the treaded path and barely known to many. Contrary to its southern cousin, the entire region here has not more than fifteen houseboats on it. Our backwater cruise was brought alive by ‘The Lotus’ houseboat, a property of ABChapri Retreats. The luxurious houseboat is built in the classic Malabari style, reminiscent of ‘Tharavadu’ (ancestral) houses in Kerala. Sumptuous meals, freshly made coffee, cold juices and an array of sights throughout the day – a day on ‘The Lotus’ flies by before you know it. We ended our day with a candle night dinner served on the upper deck under a canopy of stars, a memory etched in our heart forever.
Another fantastic reason to cruise over these unknown backwaters is the privilege to dock your boat in the middle of the backwaters unlike docking it on the shore that is practiced in the southern backwaters. So next time, when you plan Kerala – keep North Kerala options open.
- All three meals are included in the fare
- There are two rooms on the houseboat – Lalima & Sukhima. You’re free to book the entire houseboat to yourself or take up just one of the two rooms. Rates vary accordingly.
- The rooms are air conditioned in the night. During the day, you can use the fan or enjoy the fresh wind on the upper deck.
- There’s an attached bathroom and an ensuite balcony in each room.
- Towels, robes and other basic amenities are in abundance
Your Chance To Experience It All – Contest [CLOSED]
In association with ABChapri Retreats, we’re giving away a night stay at Neeleshwar Hermitage, followed by a magical night stay aboard ‘The Lotus’ houseboat to one winner and his/her companion. The prize also includes all meals aboard the houseboat, breakfast & dinner at ‘Neeleshwar Hermitage’, an Ayurvedic massage for two, and unlimited fruits – all worth INR 60,000. All you’ve to do is tell us what ‘responsible travel’ means to you as a comment or via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Update]: The above contest is now closed.
Disclaimer: Our trip to Neeleshwar Hermitage & The Lotus was fully sponsored by ABChapri Retreats. But, the views on the blog are (and will always be) personal.