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Shalimar Spice Garden Resort

Area : Periyar (thekkady), , Kerala, India

Now you walk across a wooden suspension bridge into 5 acres of cool, landscaped shalimar spice garden thekkady, containing palm and mango groves, nutmeg and cardamom trees, Ayurvedic centre, and 15 thatched cottages and rooms hidden in the woods. Each is built in Malayalam style, with wooden beams and wide verandas, and simply decorated in clean white lines which wouldn't look out of place in a Western interiors magazine.

Rooms : There are 15 rooms scattered around the gardens, comprising 7 standalone cottages and 8 rooms arranged in clusters of two or four. All have private verandas and double beds that convert to twins (so state your preference when booking). The 8 rooms are simple but tastefully decorated with whitewashed walls and terracotta tiled floors, giving an elegant, almost modernist feel. But the thatched elephant grass roofs are pure India,shalimar spice garden thekkadyas are the private verandas with hammocks, the decorative use of wood and the occasional piece of art.

Each of the cottages is different. The simplest is 'just’ a bedroom – but by Indian standards a royal one – while others have a living room or a self-contained mezzanine floor, depending on how large and luxurious you want to go. A secluded, hilltop 'kerala’ wooden house, with a ladder to the bedroom-loft, is ideal for honeymooners. Our room also had a rare Indian treat – a large bath with plentiful hot water. Most parts of India are too warm to warrant it, but the cooler air and exhausting yoga sessions mean you’ll revel in a long hot soak. Toiletries and bathrobes are supplied and hairdryers can be provided. The rooms are not air-conditioned as this is unnecessary with the given climate which is cool at night throughout the year. All rooms have heaters.

Dining : Following the revamp, the restaurant also enjoyed a stylish makeover. Previously open-plan, it is now part-covered and has a new Tandoori oven. Although the kitchen tries to apeal to Eastern and Western palettes alike (there is a pasta option), you'd be advised to try one of the Tandoori Delights - there is a vegetarian Tandoori selection to choose from as well as a full range of chicken and fish dishes, and breads. Other Indian dishes include six different versions each of local fish, chicken and lamb with a comprehensive vegetarian menu - such as vegetables in garlic and ginger, fish Malabari and chilli chicken. We enjoyed a delicious roast lamb cooked in soy and honey - a blessed change from India’s staple fare and, quite simply, mouth-watering.

This was followed by the perfect crème caramel and home-made ice cream. The widely travelled chef, Richard Graham, creates a huge range of visually stunning Indian dishes.shalimar spice garden thekkady With the evenings being so cool – and very wet in the monsoon season when we were there – the restaurant is set behind glass walls around the main foyer, giving an intimate feel, with views over the whole property. Pre-dinner drinks are often taken around the fireplace in the lobby. Staff can also serve you your meal wherever you choose. Breakfast can be taken in the restaurant, the garden or on your balcony, and ranges from Western continental (toast and jam) to North and South Indian dosas and fruit, washed down with locally grown tea and coffee.

Facilities : Succumb to a massage, with natural oils prepared in the traditional Ayurvedic way (find out more about Ayurveda) - you can have treatments all day long. Learn or improve your yoga (find out more about yoga) at classes in the morning and evening by request. open but secluded in a natural sunbowl. Explore the 5 acres of woods and Shalimar Spice Garden Resort on foot. Look out for birdlife (including the local ducks!). Wander down to the local town, Kumily (5km), and get an auto rickshaw back up. Visit a nearby tea or spice plantation.Go elephant or tiger spotting in the nearby Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary ('Thekaddy’), one of India’s most beautiful, with a lake at its centre.Exotic animals like macaques, sambar, langur, antelopes, Indian bison, leopards and wild boar can also be seen. Take a day trip to the forests and waterfalls of the Cardamom Hills.Enjoy wonderful mountain views on an organised hike (such as the Sabarimala pilgrimage) or a car tour.