The Zuri Kumarakom, Kerala, India
December 05, 2017
LOCATION: The hotel is set on an 18-acre site directly adjoining Lake Vembanad, the longest lake in India, in the country's southwest.
LOCATION: The hotel is set on an 18-acre site directly adjoining Lake Vembanad, the longest lake in India, in the country's southwest. The two-hour drive from Cochin International airport travels through the scenic backwaters of Kerala.
FIRST IMPRESSION: Lush serenity, beautiful landscaping and plenty of water. The villas surround the property's own tranquil lake, with an abundance of vegetation and palm trees providing a peaceful environment. This is five-star luxury based on natural beauty and outstanding service rather than glitzy opulence. It is the plushest property in the Zuri Hotels portfolio, which includes four other hotels in India, one in Kenya and one, oddly, in Liverpool.
THE FACTS: The Zuri Kumarakom offers 72 rooms including 10 lake-view villas. All boast a 32-inch flatscreen TV, complimentary wireless internet access, 24-hour room service and minibar.
I was lucky enough to stay in one of the 10 presidential pool villas. This house-sized accommodation was immaculately fitted out with stylish modern furnishings fused with Indian touches.
Despite just the one double bed, I had two bathrooms and a total of four showers to choose from, including an outside rainshower. But guests in these villas are unlikely to spend long washing – the real attraction is the small private swimming pool, neat little lawn and, beyond that, the very edge of the serene Lake Vembanad. With two thick hedges between each villa, the seclusion is almost total, allowing guests to sit on their own terrace and gaze across the lake at the passing egrets, cormorants and kingfishers, as well as at the occasional fishermen.
Further relaxation can be had at the award-winning Maya Spa, a 14-room complex that offers a very wide range of massages, treatments and wellbeing programmes, all supported by a full-time on-site doctor. A five-day rejuvenation therapy programme, for example, includes a total of 13 sessions of various treatments and costs £255.
For the more energetic, regular activities include yoga, painting, fishing, swimming lessons, nature walks, cycling and cookery demonstrations. All of which cannot fail to build up an appetite for the hotel's restaurants. The Lime Tree serves oriental, Mughlai and Kerala delicacies, while fine dining restaurant Laguna Bass specialises in seafood.
Service was extremely good if, at times, almost slightly over-attentive, but that is the merest of quibbles.
What helps the Zuri Kumarakom retain its Indian flavour is its popularity with the domestic market. About half the guests are Indian, while British and German clients currently account for no more than 10% of guests, even in high season.
WHO'S IT FOR: Couples seeking luxurious relaxation, an extensive spa, exquisite food and peaceful, cultural sighteeing excursions. But remember, this is not a beach property. Familes are also welcome.
A GOOD BASE FOR: Exploring the beautifully serene Kerala backwaters and taking a houseboat cruise. Other options including visits to exponents of kathakali, the traditional performance art, lunch at an island farm, birdwatching and a consultation with an astrologer.
WOW: Hire the hotel's own houseboat, The Laguna, for your own, exclusive overnight cruise on Lake Vembanad. Popular with honeymoon couples, this one-bedroom vessel features a whirlpool bath on the top deck. It comes complete with its own crew, who serve meals, and costs about £280 for 24 hours.
HOW MUCH: From £980 for seven nights B&B.kuoni.co.uk