At a Glance
- Wonderful rural retreat in the hills above Tamil Nadu, making it a perfect link if you are combining it with a tour of Kerala
- Some superb walks in the surrounding around
- Beautiful rooms
Set 3,000 feet up in the lushly wooded Palani Hills near Dindigul in Tamil Nadu, Rajakkad Estate is a place for those in the know. Situated well off the beaten track and blissfuly free of mosquitoes, it makes a secluded and tranquil escape from the heat and traffic of Madurai an hour and a half away. Located at the heart of a colonial pepper and coffee plantation, Rajakkad has just seven rooms, and is run almost as a private house with owner Francis Fry the friendliest and most solicitous of hosts.
The house is in fact a re-assembled eighteenth-century palace whose ornate interlocking timbers form a beautiful single-storey building with shady pool-filled courtyards. The seven comfortable and elegantly simple bedrooms all open directly on to the garden and are resolutely low-tech – Rajakkad is definitely a place to come to switch off and absorb the peace and natural beauty.
Guests generally come to Rajakkad Estate to enjoy the deeply civilised British Raj hill station ambience, reading, writing, painting, watching birds or exploring the countryside on foot as the mood takes them, and you can be as sociable or as solitude-seeking as the mood takes you. Meals are taken together, and the food is quite delicious, featuring mainly South Indian dishes, with many of the ingredients coming from the estate itself.
You can, of course, use Rajakkad as a base from which to make expeditions to the temples of Madurai and Palani, or explore the tea estates around Kodaikanal, but the magic of a stay at Rajakkad lies in enjoying the simple pleasures of your immediate surroundings. Spend your time relaxing with a good book on a hammock beneath a shady tree; head off with the estate guide and a picnic lunch to hike the estate trails through river gorges and forested escarpments, perhaps stopping off for a cooling swim in a rock pool; inspect the coffee-drying yards and pepper plants; take a pair of binoculars and tick off some of the 200 or more bird species; or step into a novel by R.K. Narayan by visiting one of the surrounding local villages with its panoply of South Indian life set our before you from temple festivals to local trade.