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The Hotels in Kerala That Are Redefining Mindful Luxury

  • July 11, 2017
  • rootroot

Shades of Green

By : MEGHA MAHINDRU

July 2, 2017 | Vogue India

In 2013, when Muthoot Group’s young scion, George M George, acquired the Xandari Resort & Spa in Costa Rica, a 40-acre plantation property featuring 24 luxurious villas, he didn’t just take up the property’s made-up name, he also decided to bring home their sustainable practices.

Today, with three properties across Kerala, the first thing you notice about the Xandari hotels is that they’re not your usual luxury stay.

The harbor-view property comprises just 16 rooms

The Xandari Harbour isn’t a steely skyscraper; it’s a space steeped in history. A spice godown turned boutique hotel, it lies between the buzzing art district of Fort Kochi and the Bazaar Road of Mattancherry. Inside its waterfront suite, there is no television set (just like the other 15 rooms), but the elevated bathtub offers an expansive view of the harbour to soak in. Outside lies 51, their restaurant that forfeits run-of-the-mill buffets to dole out a menu filled with the day’s fresh catch.

Surrounding the rooms is an edible landscape with over 30 varieties of plants
Their other property, the beach-facing Xandari Pearl, located in the fishing village of Mararikulam, features 20 thatched roof villas that open up to an 18-acre edible landscape budding with over 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables— from cashews and cinnamon to brinjal and bananas. The property is, by far, their hero—aimed at the quiet luxury seeker, it has villas with private gardens, a pool strewn with hammocks and a dynamic butterfly park that makes this place a Wordsworthian dream. It’s also a great place for a hands-on Kerala experience—from cooking the traditional cuisine to interacting with coconut-tree climbers, to the customary Kerala Ayurveda massage.

The houseboats come in one- to three-bedroom variants
Then there is Xandari Riverscapes, their third property, which is actually a moveable fleet of luxurious houseboats to explore the famous backwaters. “At each of our resorts the fundamental ideas are the same but design-wise each offers a different story,” says George. Community, collaboration and conservation are at the heart of their practices. Serving locally sourced food, all properties have a no plastic policy. So, rooms don’t have the regular Bisleri bottles, and mocktails here (thanks to Kerala’s tough liquor policies) come with straws made from leaves. In the bath, horth, an environment friendly, thin cotton towel made by women’s self-help groups in Kerala, takes the place of Turkish towels. “The idea is to be mindful of how much of the natural resources we are consuming,” says George. “We source locally, so, for us, success is measured by how many entrepreneurs we create from the community.”

Up next is an expansive 2,000-acre organic farm that will house a 250-acre wellness resort in Sawantwadi, slated to open in 2019, and help expand their sustainability plans.

Once a bustling traders port, Kochi’s history is a smorgasbord of global influences. While fishermen benefited from the now-iconic Chinese fishing net, the traditional Kerala home, too, has evolved by borrowing from Dutch architectural engineering. Inspired by this cultural exchange, George sees his hotels more like an idea-sharing platform. “A Norwegian guest could suggest an efficient technique for the fishing community. In turn, they can understand our culture. So our job is to connect the global community with the local,” he adds.

Without compromising on luxury, Xandari, with its warm hospitality and sustainable plans, is creating an ideal space for a conscious traveller. George, naturally, wouldn’t call himself a hotelier. “We are like memory spinners. We don’t treat our guests like a room number; we are not in the business of selling rooms, we are in the business of selling experiences.”

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