A Luxurious Getaway To Offbeat Kerala: Neeleshwar Hermitage

Swimming pool at Neeleshwar Hermitage

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.

Fishermen casually gliding along the Tejaswini river in a quaint corner of North Kerala
‘Naalukettu’ that was an integral part of mansions in Kerala are still a common sight in this part of the world

VILLAS

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.

Key Facts

  1. 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.
  2. A hearty breakfast and unlimited tropical fruits are included in the price of your room.
  3. All amenities like safe box, hair dryers, bath robes, torch light etc. are provided, as well.
Bright colours & massive windows : the carefully curated room at Neeleshwar Hermitage
Mornings at Neeleshwar – just idling around our villa

FOOD

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. 

Delving into delicious Kerala-style lunch at ‘Annapurna’
From Porotta to Prawns, you’re in for some lip-smacking meals
Seafood restaurant, ‘Meenakshi’, is located right on the beach and serves excellent fusion meals

EXPERIENCES

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.

Key Facts

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. A clothing boutique and gift shop is also part of the resort for those who love to indulge in shopping on-the-go.
One of the many massage rooms to relax those tired muscles
‘Theyyam’ – a classic Northern Kerala art form that needs to be seen to be believed
Between the beach and the backwaters, there’s a small lagoon where you can ride a canoe
The ultra-gorgeous infinity pool – the perfect way to cool off in the Kerala heat

HOUSEBOAT

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.

Key Facts

  1. All three meals are included in the fare
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. There’s an attached bathroom and an ensuite balcony in each room.
  5. Towels, robes and other basic amenities are in abundance
Our temporary home, ‘The Lotus’, anchored for a short trip to experience island life
The upper deck on our houseboat – perfect setting to watch the sun go down
Sitting in the lounge area and watching the locals go about their daily chores is a key part of the experience
The well-curated bedroom in the houseboat, equipped with all that one needs

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: beyondthewall.travel@gmail.com

[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. 

67 thoughts on “A Luxurious Getaway To Offbeat Kerala: Neeleshwar Hermitage

  1. To me, ‘Responsible Travel/Tourism’ means to realize that every destination is someone else’s home. To ensure that the local community benefits from one’s visit. Wherever possible, offer locally prepared food and provide employment to locals. Finally, as a traveler, we should leave places that we visit as we would like to find them.

  2. Responsible tourism is an extension of responsible living- which means you live (and thus travel) with respect for different cultures, different people and, the environment.

  3. Wanderlust wanderlust everywhere,
    But responsibility far and few,
    To travel isn’t to own,
    To care shouldn’t be new.

    Im a fan of travel stories, and though I personally haven’t seen as many places as id have loved to, I think travel isn’t that much different from usual life. You respect others as you would yourself, their traditions, cultures, and their way.
    Also whatever ‘fun’ you have, you keep it on the D.L.

  4. To me resposible travel means, to be able to go beyond the experiences that a travel book or a movie can provide. Yet while I seek those extraordinary experiences I also am mindful that the culture, people and that the ethos of the place is unadulterated even after I leave. Responsible travel is also being able to share with others what we learn and unlearn. Happiness must trickle down 🙂

    1. To me, responsible travel means seizing every moment to notice the smell and feel of the air to our senses, notice all sounds around us from the moment we awake til the moment we drift off to sleep…..to feel, touch, see the earth beneath our feet….ie, the color, texture of the sand, the soil, all living plants around us, the color of the sky like my amazing Carolina blue sky, moon and star light…..to share with those who can only imagine our travels. In so doing, we create a sense of awe, wonder of our unique world to prompt others to want to protect it, nourish it, cherish it for all those that travel and share to the next generations.

      Melissa Pfitzer

  5. To me, ‘Responsible Travel’ means immersing in the unique culture, traditions and food of each place without looking for soulless material distractions that do not open my mind to the wonders of nature and people alike.

  6. To me responsible travel means treating the place be how I want it to see when I visit again.Als0 shairing my experience & feedback with others which will help the other travellers to have better exposure.

  7. By changing our travel habits and thinking differently about how, where and why we travel. ‘Responsible travel’ means assessing our impact on the environment and local cultures and economies and acting to make that impact as positive as possible.

  8. Thank you Vikas and Divya for this! This looks stunning especially since I’m hopelessly in love with all things Kerela! 🙂

    To me, responsible travel means to soak in the stories of places; stories both told and untold and share them with the world to be in perpetual awe and wonder of people and places around us!

    Eager to hear more about your travels! 🙂

    1. You’re most welcome, Parasnis. Kerala and Keralites – both are beautiful, isn’t it? 😉
      Thank you for taking part. Results in your inbox/ FB on 15th Apr.

  9. To me, ‘Responsible Travel’ means pursuing my passion i.e. travelling alongside being safe and making sure that I do not have any negative impact. Negative impact in the sense that I don’t act like people who while travelling don’t value the importance of Swachhta, make sure that I don’t hurt the sentiments of the locals & respect their culture and obviously give and take respect 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for taking part, Franky. Divya tells me that you’re a big foodie. Next time we’re in Hyderabad, you’re taking us around right? 🙂 ~ Vikas

  10. To me, ‘Responsible travel’ means travelling free spirited yet being sufficiently alert to make the entire travel experience a memorable one.

  11. To me, ‘Responsible Travel’ means a thought through escape from the daily mechanics where nature doesn’t cede to make us breathe better, but, where the winds smile when they welcome and also when they bid their goodbyes.

  12. “To me, ‘Responsible Travel’ means the obsession of wandering through distances in search of absolute gratification, and with the insight of respect and fondness towards well-being of all natural habitat.”

  13. Responsible Travel is a way of enjoying your vacations while respecting, accepting and being sensitive towards the local surroundings.
    Leaving it as is, for your kids to go back to after a few years and still feeling how you felt about the place.

  14. Responsible travel to me is travelling the places I dream of but not forgetting the fact that I am responsible for not just keeping the place clean but also not to hurt anyone(humans or other living beings) , respecting the culture I get to experience and maintaining the integrity.

  15. Responsible travel for me is keeping the travel place intact with respect to its environmental values. Just taking away colourful memories from the place without disturbing and hurting the mother nature. Mixing up with the locals and exchange the culture, food and no doubt love. We humans are exploiting nature in such a speed that we are hardly leaving anything for other species.

  16. To me responsible travel is building an understanding and consequently contributing towards the preservation of biodiversity of the places I land foot on. Each place has its personal rhythm, own wavelength which, I believe, demands sustenance from its explorer. As a responsible traveller, an assurance of providing one’s support to the overall experience of a place by leaving things untainted with harmful interference, stands tall.

    1. Thank you so much for the detailed response, Shubhangani. We’ll announce the results on 15th, keep an eye out.

  17. Responsible Travel means being conscious about the place we travel & to have full respect about the local culture, traditions, etc even though our belief system might be different

  18. To me responsible travel is all about leaving a positive impact on not only the environment, but also the people who live in the places we choose to visit. The result being not only a more ethical and responsible trip when it comes to travellers’ impacts, but also a more authentic, exciting and culturally immersive one for them too.

  19. Responsible travel to me is being able to travel without leaving any negative impact on the natural resources of that destination and being able to respect and abide by the laws laid down by the human resources. The only footprint we should leave behind are those in the sand or grass and not a carbon footprint!

  20. A responsible traveller understands that he never owns the resources or land he sets foot in.And this consciousness will help him leave minimum carbon footprint wherever he goes.I believe in the ‘think global,be local’ mantra.And if I have an opportunity to give back to the place in terms of any of my skill,would be happy to do that.Even if that is by planting a sapling to provide a ‘seed of hope’ for others. Let it benefit the ecology and provide more green cover!

  21. I find it a bit odd that to win the trip, you need to talk about what responsible travel means to you. Yet part of the price is a day on a houseboat. A houseboat that is extremely polluting and damaging to the local environment. To me those two things don’t go together.

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thank you for reading through the article and sharing your opinion. Based on the rules laid down by the Kerala government, each houseboat has to follow norms to be considered eco-friendly like providing oil leakage, having an on-boat waste and toilet collection system and so on. There’s no doubt that some houseboats do not follow these and I see why this is a huge problem. Lotus is an eco-friendly houseboat – not only do they follow the rules diligently but also go to the extent of saving energy by keeping electricity off during the day. There’s a reason why the boat has been nominated as one of the top eco-friendly boats in the area. Also, North Kerala has only 15 boats on its waters to avoid overcrowding of the backwaters unlike what you might see in the southern area. Hope this clarifies your concern 🙂

  22. To me, ‘Responsible Travel’ means “Being conscious of what you take from a place and how you leave it behind. It’s not much different from Responsible Living, just a small part of it. You can’t be littering away at home and be all eco-friendly while travelling”

  23. Repsonsible travel means budgeting for at least one local beer a day and spreading love and smiles everywhere you go. :))

  24. ‘Responsible Tourism’ for me, is to explore a place, admire its beauty and try my best to leave it in the same serene way for the coming generations to enjoy and relive it!

  25. I had no idea there were houseboats in Northern Kerala! Have visited those in and around Kochi & Alleppey, but haven’t ventured further north than Wayanas! Although I did want to visit a friend in Kasargod on my last visit, I didn’t get round to it!

    To me, “Responsible Travel” means travelling to your heart’s desire, but not compromising the beauty of the planet or other’s comfort and safety in the process. Remembering your P’s and Q’s, taking only photos and leaving only footprints, and making sure that Mother Earth is always number one priority!

    1. You seem to know quite a lot about Kerala. That’s fantastic! Yes, Northern Kerala is the perfect definition of an untouched gem. Thanks for your contest entry, as well!

  26. This is a lovely review with beautiful pictures Divya!

    Responsible travel to me is like a big interactive museum; you go, you learn, you immerse yourself in the culture of the place and truly experience it without taking away from the space, environment or local community or spoiling it for the others who would follow you there.

  27. To me, ‘Responsible Travel’ means bringing an easy going and optimistic attitude with you, being open and respectful of different cultures, having a wonderful, fun travel companion and a support system and back up plan in place in case things don’t pan out as smoothly as anticipated. Thank you for the wonderful opportunity!

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