Cardamom House, Dindigul - USP: Experience rural India in this cosy family home-stay

If it were not for Chris Lucas' excellent directions, I would have lost my way to Cardamom House on a rainy morning. Tucked deep inside Athoor village and set amidst acres of paddy fields, the resort is near the monsoon-fed Kamarajar Lake. The Western Ghats, with its slopes full of cardamom estates, encircles the eight charming little cottages. I am heady with the stunning views and the smell of wet earth.

Retired British physician Chris, who runs the eight-year-old resort, adds to its charm. His team of local boys - with no formal education - floor me with their accented English.

They are perfect hosts at this non-invasive eco-friendly resort, which mostly receives seasonal guests and tourists from abroad. The food tastes even better after a brief walk in the gardens of Cardamom House that boast of a wild profusion of tropical flowers, shrubs and trees. A small pond in the middle of the garden is home to a few ducks and the occasional kingfisher. Magenta and white bougainvilleas cascade down to the rooms below providing natural shade.

After a hearty meal, I sit in the verandah sipping coffee while Chris tells me how he came to India as a traveller with no experience in the hospitality industry. He was so enchanted with the place that he chose this site to offer tourists from all over the world an experience of the real India.

There are eight twin-bed deluxe cottages (including one honeymoon suite), each named after a spice; so there's cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, pepper, and more. Food is served in an open-air dining area, with a fixed daily menu, taking into account the special dietary needs of the guests. Chris takes pride in the fact that only the freshest of produce from their eco-farm is used in the food they serve.

After this friendly chat, I head off for a siesta in the tastefully done-up rooms equipped with modern amenities. I drift off to sleep as a mild sun penetrates the veil of clouds and a flock of birds fly across the lake.

Tariff

Twin bedded deluxe rooms cost Rs. 4,100 and the Pondicherry suite costs Rs. 5,000. An extra bed costs Rs. 1,500.

Breakfast costs Rs. 300, lunch Rs. 450 and dinner Rs. 500.

Book in advance if you want to stay overnight because there is a long waitlist. For enquiries call 0451-2556765 or 9360691793.

Things to do

Bird watching is one of the most popular activities here.

Take a stroll around the lake (the circuit will take atleast three hours) or walk up to a cave temple about 2 km away.

Or trek to the waterfalls, about three hours away.

Go on a half-day escorted trip to Athoor village and get a taste of rural life.

How to get there

Cardamom House is located in Athoor village in Dindigul district. While travelling from Madurai (65 km), take the road to Coimbatore up to the Sembatti crossing and then follow the road to Palani all the way to Athoor. Turn left from here, and 1.5 km later, you'll reach the village square. Turn right and drive till you hit a T-junction and spot a church. Turn right again and drive another seven km till you see the Cardamom House signboard.