One of South India’s most charming hotels. This 1910, French-run Chettinadu mansion makes for a blissfully quiet, beautifully stylish rural retreat. It’s gorgeously renovated, mixing modern-chic design, lavish original architecture, own-brand furnishings, remarkable Indian art and on-point management.
Ideal for anyone in need of an escape from South India’s hectic cities, Saratha Vilas occupies a revamped mansion in little Kothamangalam, one of 70-odd scattered towns and villages that make up southern Tamil Nadu’s fascinating Chettinadu region. The dusty surrounding countryside (best explored with car and driver) is sprinkled with unique Ayyanar shrines and thousands of palatial 19th- and 20th-century mansions. The nearest airport is Trichy (Tiruchirappalli), 45 miles (70km) northwest.
Address: 832 Main Road, Kothamangalam, 630105 Karaikudi Taluk, Sivagangai District, Tamil Nadu, India.
Style & character
This may be a 20th-century Chettinadu mansion, but the elegant, uncluttered, modern boutique style is all fabulous French taste. Architect/interior designer owners Michel and Bernard have meticulously restored the property using just enough fresh, contemporary flair. In typical local style, a pillared lobby unfolds into a series of serene courtyards flanked by grand wood-carved doors and bowls of fresh flowers. Traditional Ayyanar-inspired sculptures are dotted around and overlook the white-tiled pool, surrounded by tropical greenery.
Service & facilities
The owners are huge advocates of Chettinadu’s architectural and cultural heritage and incredibly knowledgeable about Tamil Nadu. Service – from check-in to dinner – is discreet and efficient; most staff come from local villages. There’s a huge array of activities on offer: cooking classes, cycling trips, kolam workshops, countryside walks and guided visits to silk-weavers, tile-makers, temples, markets and Chettinadu’s famously extravagant mansions. Enjoy ayurvedic massages, the soothing pool and the small Indian crafts boutique.
The eight rooms are luxurious, high-ceilinged and individually styled, featuring four-poster beds, sandy-red feature walls and glossy, soft-blue locally handmade tiles. Each has a mix of antiques, sleek teak furniture designed by the owners, and decorations from across the world – South Indian prints, Keralan masks, Chinese vases. Smart bathrooms include walk-in showers, chunky square sinks and organic toiletries from Auroville (near Puducherry). Kettle kits come with Twinings teas. The two ‘Master’s Chambers’ are most spacious, but ‘Heritage’ rooms are equally dreamy.
Food & drink
Breakfasts, in a rust-red pillared courtyard or at tables outside, are a highlight. Bowls of luscious tropical fruits, mango jam, homemade yoghurt and honey, and appams (spongey rice pancakes) with coconut milk typically appear from the kitchen. Market-fresh ingredients also fuel tasty lunchtime thalis (traditional South Indian all-you-can-eat meals), served on banana leaves, and delicious three-course dinners that beautifully combine refined French and fiery Chettiar flavours.
Yes. Bookings are taken for families with two children, and extra beds or cots are provided. There are kids’ menus, and many of the activities on offer are perfect for entertaining children.
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