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The setting for Arundhati Roy’s classic novel ‘The God of Small Things’, Kottayam exudes the poetry of its pages. A drive out of the city is to enter a world of verdant paddy fields and lush mango orchards, where the only traffic is a stubborn bullock cart or two. This sleepy city evokes the romance of South India that tourists yearn for, yet seldom find, along Kerala’s well-traversed tourist trail. Our pick of the best places to stay in Kottayam evoke the romance and tranquillity of the region.
Just a thirty-minute drive from Kottayam are the placid waters of Vembanad Lake. Spend a night in quintessential Keralan style aboard one of its kettuvallam boats.
Kottayam, like the rest of Kerala enjoys a tropical climate meaning there are no distinct seasons. Although, for the best weather visit between December and February, however during the tail end of the monsoon, when the vegetation is positively turgid, is also a beautiful time of year.
Our pick of the best places to stay in Kottayam provide a secluded stay away from Kerala’s main thoroughfare.
What not to miss
- Be sure to visit the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, a large Shiva temple with a serene atmosphere.
- Head off hiking around Vagamon or Illikal Kallu to truly experience the area's beauty.
- Enjoy a dip at Marmala Waterfall - a great place to soak up the sun for a few hours.
- Visit nearby Vaikom and take in the natural beauty of Kerala's famed backwaters.
- Emerse yourself in the vibrant green landscapes of the region and discover beautiful waterfalls and hidden coves on a trek through Elaveezha Poonchira.
- Marvel at the wooden carvings in the small but beautifully formed 1000 year old river-side mosque, Juma Masjid.
- Get a feel for the city's original architecture on a trip to Poonjar Palace.
The best places to stay in Kottayam
For ultimate relaxation
- A favourite of ours, Serenity at Kanam Estate has everything a traveller could want. Laxmi, the resident elephant, keeps the kids entertained, whilst parents can be pampered at the indulgent Ayurvedic PureSpa. Its secluded position amongst this former rubber plantation, quintessential 1920’s colonial décor and some authentic South Indian home cooking make it a totally blissful stay.
- Coconut Lagoon is a good choice too. It offers private cottage style accommodation, some with their own pools, the ubiquitous Ayurvedic spa and of course fabulous food.
- Kumarakom Lake Resort is a serene spot that's perfect for those looking to get away from it all. Their charming villas are traditional in style and boast lovely views out onto the lake. Truly blissful.
- Vivanta by Taj Kumarakom is a lovely retreat overlooking the Vembanad Lake and surrounded by verdant gardens. Stay in Portuguese-style cottages and if you want to truly unwind then head along to the spa.
- Punnamada Resort oozes understated luxury and elegance. The accommodation features lovely four-posters and wooden furnishings; it's the ideal retreat for those seeking a little romance.
- The Zuri Kumarakom Kerala Resorts & Spa is a great spot for those wanting to pamper themselves. They've got an extensive wellness menu, fitness centre and detox packages, whilst the rooms also boast tremendous views.
- Purity features boutique acommodation, lovely surrounds and a restaurant serving up fresh Keralan dishes. There's a range of detox treatments available, as well as a pool to unwind in.
For an authentic homestay
- Philipkutty's Farm couldn't get more authentic! It's a truly unique farm-stay where villa accommodation is set along the sparkling waterfront and the food is to die for.
For something a little different
- Discovery, The Backwaters is a typical Keralan-style boat with two smart rooms and pop colour interiors. Lounge on the large terrace and soak up the sun as you bob along the river...
- The Oberoi Vrinda is a large houseboat with the same 5* service that you'd expect from any of the chain's other offerings. There's both an Indian and a continental restaurant, as well as a bar and sun terrace.
For an apartment or villa
If you'd prefer the privacy of a self-catering option then browse through the wide variety available online with our partner, Booking.com.
- You're probably best off visiting in the winter, from October to March, when the temperature hovers between 24-30°C. The summer, March to June, is sweltering, whilst July to September is Monsoon season.
- Fly into Cochin International Airport before taking the train or a taxi across to Kottayam.
- If you'd like to explore the region further then consider hiring a car from Rentalcars.
Still not sure which to book?
Best Hotels in Kottayam
Vivanta by Taj Kumarakom 28 rooms from £84Kottayam (Kerala)
Overlooking the picturesque Vembanad Lake this property enjoys an enviable position. Eighteen verdant acres are connected by shady walkways, gullies and streams whilst colourful cottages are decorated in a Portuguese style. Plus there's the JIVA spa, and Regional and International cuisine.Families - With plenty of on site activities, kids club, plus family villas this is a great place to take the little ones.Romantic Break - Secluded villas, some with private pools, make this a great stay for couples.Birdwatching - The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is located just next door to the property.Kids Club - Fully staffed.
The Zuri Kumarakom Kerala Resorts & Spa 72 rooms from £101Kottayam (Athikkalam, Kottayam, Kerala)
The Zuri is all about pampering yourself at the Maya spa. With an extensive wellness menu, fitness centre and detox packages - leave feeling completely rejuvenated. Surrounding a peaceful lagoon there are international dining options and on site activities. Modern rooms enjoy Vembanad Lake views.Spa breaks - The Maya spa is one of the largest in South India and includes Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western treatments.Romantic Break - Couples treatment room, pool villas and romantic private boat trips. Ideal for just the two of you.Fishing - Catch yourself a fish (lobster, shrimp or mussel) supper.Birdwatching - The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is just a short drive away.
Philipkutty's Farm 6 rooms from £147Vechoor, Kottayam Dist.
An idyllic homestay on a farm-island in the backwaters of Lake Vembanad. A truly authentic Keralan experience in a magical settingCooking classes - Cookery demonstrations teaching local cuisine secretsBirdwatching - Egrets, Cormorants, snake birds and moreBack to Nature - Best time to visit. October to March.Fishing - Excellent fishing nearby.Recommended by - I Escape
Serenity at Kanam Estate 5 rooms from £155Kottayam (Kerala)
Dating back to the 1920's this small yet perfectly formed five bedroom property is located on the grounds of a former rubber tree estate. Decorated in a colonial style, creating a resplendent feel, rooms are large and bright. South Indian dishes are cooked with homegrown vegetables and fresh fish.Great walks - Through the surrounding rubber plantations. This is real 'God of Small Things' country with lush, ripe fruits aplenty.Cooking classes - Learn the art of healthy South Indian cooking with the in house chef.Full of characterRomantic - Good for couples.Recommended by - I Escape, Tablet, Mr & Mrs Smith
Kumarakom Lake Resort 50 rooms from £206Kottayam
A blissful Keralan resort sitting by a serene lake. Traditionally inspired villas are set beside a river-style swimming pool with doors opening directly onto the water. Teak wooden floors, beamed ceilings and local furniture gives a luxurious air, as do the outdoor bathrooms. A fabulous stay.Hideaway - A tranquil retreat set alongside a picturesque lake in sleepy Kerala.Cooking classes - Learn how to make traditional dishes with the hotel chef.Sailing - Cruise along the backwaters on a traditional rice boat.Swimming Pool - Outdoor poolRecommended by - I Escape, Tablet
Coconut Lagoon 52 rooms from £219Kottayam (Kerala)
Accessible via a small canal this property is located right on the water. Cottages are scattered around the grounds of this former coconut plantation, each with private terraces, sitting rooms whilst the bungalows and villas have their own pools. There is an indulgent pool and Ayurvedic spa for all.Cooking classes - Coconut Lagoon is famed for its cuisine - learn their secrets with a private lesson from the chef.Kayaking - Right on the edge of the Vembanad Lake you can hop straight into a kayak and hit the water.Fishing - Head out on the hotel boat and catch a fish supper.Sights nearby - Cochin is a 45km drive but well worth a visit.