The Paradisa Plantation Retreat is an exceptional boutique hotel set in the Sahyadri mountains of the Idukki region ofKerala. The hotel was the brain child of Indian entrepreneur Simon Paulose. Simon rescues and restores old Keralan houses with their ornate wooden ceiling tiles and timber work and then turns them fabulous hotel accommodation. The houses were then moved up into this remote hilltop location amid an organic coffee and spice plantation. Simon then furnished them with beautiful antiques and opened the hotel to the discerning Keralan visitor.Each cottage overlooks a stunning mountainous landscape, which is still tiger country.
A room with a view
Paradisa Plantation – Tiger Country
Tiger paw prints were last seen here at a watering hole some years ago. The country’s national animal is elusive now and few in number, so you are sadly unlikely to encounter one during your visit. Our cottage with its own balcony, was called Tiger Springs in recognition of this last sighting.
Chill out chairs
Tigers might be rare now, but there are many beautiful birds in the surrounding jungle and we saw a huge Brahminy kite wheeling across the valley. Each morning you wake to a chorus of bird song. The outline of the mountains and the Acacia trees etch across the sky as it gradually changes from pale yellow to clear cobalt blue. There is a footprint shaped pool which is a fabulous spot to chill or doyoga and Ayurvedic treatments are available nearby.
Simon and his team
The food here is really very special. Simon’s team of talented chefs take local ingredients and fresh spices and serve up meals worthy of any Michelin star restaurant. A breakfast would typically be a huge fresh fruit platter and coffee from the plantation. Next you will be served a fresh appam, or delicate white pancake made with rice flour and a touch of yeast, served with honey and coconut milk.
Fruit first thing
Meals are served in the open restaurant overlooking this stunning landscape of the Western Gods.
A memorable dinner provided an explosion of fantastic flavours. Kingfish and tomato curry, creamy eggplant curry, snake gourd (a kind of squash) long beans and coconut rice. Dessert was sweet vermicelli with cashew, raisins, coconut milk and nutmeg. This reminded me of a delicious noodle version of our old British favourite, rice pudding.
Anyone for a Tyford’s?
Only the freshest will do!
Paradisa Plantation – tea is served!
Simon’s right hand man Joji, took us on a visit to the nearby family private tea plantation at the Tyford Estate. You see the tiers of tea bushes and the tea pickers at work. You can take a comprehensive tour of the factory where workers still use exactly the same methods employed for generations. The leaves are dried and rolled and sifted.
Nothing is wasted. The finest tea uses the silver tips and even the left over tea dust is used as fertiliser. Even the roots from the old tea bushes are used to power the furnace for the drying machines. BOP tea (Broken Orange Pekoe) is the main tea type, but there are lots of different grades along the process. Workers carry huge 30kg bags of leaves on their heads around the building. Joji told us that carrying tea on your head is something you learn to do when you are young. He himself claimed he could carry up to 50kg of tea on his own head!
There is another fascinating feature about Tyford tea plantation. It is home to the second oldest golf course in India! The Peermade club is an exclusive course created in the 1920’s, but a visit may still be made by special arrangement.
Paradisa Plantation – coffee and spices
Alex who had traveled from Austria to volunteer at the hotel showed us around the coffee and spice plantation. As a yoga aficionado she loves the tranquility of Paradisa too.
Coffee to go
Paradisa also benefits the local population, sharing water, bringing electricity, creating jobs and even providing a telephone exchange! Simon is a passionate supporter of sustainable community tourism. The Paradisa Plantation Retreat is truly a special hideaway – don’t expect it to be easy to find, but it is a very easy place to be. With a stunning location and exceptional hospitality this really is a unique way to experience India.