A luxurious weekend steeped in history and nature at The Tamara Kodai

Tamara, in several South Indian languages, means lotus. And just like the lotus it is named for, The Tamara Kodai blooms and blesses travellers coming to the quaint hill station.

You know you’re heading to the heights when you see these beautiful trees lining the route! Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

The suite-only resort was once a thriving monastery, where French monks lived, learnt, and worshipped. Today, it blends the best of its historic charm and all the modern amenities you’d expect from a luxury property.

The impressive entranceway to The Tamara Kodai features the lotus that it is named for. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

As we drive in from Coimbatore, the winding pine-lined roads lead us through the gates and into a high-ceilinged reception area. Sipping on their very welcome drink of chukku kaapi (hot coffee laced with ginger) as the mist swirls around us sets the mood right away.

Few resorts have a reception area this atmospheric! Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Suite symphony
As we’re lead to our luxury suite, we are enchanted by the beautifully maintained trees and flowering shrubs along the way. The suite has a very spacious sitting room, complete with an antique wooden writing desk, cozy armchair, and even more tempting day bed, both of which face the expansive picture window. The amenities at the tea/coffee station are generous and top of the line, as is the selection of goodies in the mini bar.

A spacious and well-appointed suite with a gorgeous verandah and a view! Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

The bedroom area is everything you’d want — a sprawling bed offering excellent sleep quality; plenty of space to stay stash away your bags, a very well-appointed bathroom with two basins, fluffy and fragrant towels, quality toiletries, and a seemingly neverending supply of hot water.

There are two large wardrobes with lights inside that look really pretty when their stained-glass doors are shut, also serving as romantic lighting in the room.

A nicely camouflaged room heater sits near the foot of the bed so you can have deliciously toasty toes even if you visit on a rainy day (like we did), or in winter.

The balcony helps you make the best of Kodai’s fantastic weather. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Sliding doors open out onto a roomy verandah which has both, planters’ chairs and plants. This is a great place to relax in and totally unspool your tightly wound city self.

Where the dining is fine
The resort’s restaurants have a similar effect too, especially as both have spacious al fresco decks where you can soak in the superlative Kodai weather as you dine.

Expect one of the most lavish hotel buffets imaginable at La Providence. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

La Providence has an elaborate buffet laid out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Every dish tastes freshly made and is prepared to perfection. Even the Indian fare has a lot of regional specialties from across the country.

Hot, filter coffee and cool, fresh air, anyone? Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Their live counter team does wonderful waffles, crisp dosas, and eggs in the morning, and fluffy appams, tandoori items, and much more for the other meals.

Their excellent live kitchen team does crisp dosa and perfect waffles à la minute. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

The Bistro 1845 is a stylish a la carte restaurant with a classy bar. It offers a multitude of cuisines, from Italian to Indian to Japanese, and Thai, beautifully plated and presented.

Bistro 1845 is their modern a la carte restaurant with a medieval feel. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

If, like us, you want to have a chilled-out meal in the suite, the in-room dining team is happy to bring over a feast! We especially loved how their serving dishes had an ingenious locking mechanism on the lids so nothing would spill en route. That’s thoughtful hospitality.

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In-room dining, perfectly executed, with plenty of space to stretch out and enjoy it. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

As much as we felt like cosying it up in the simply gorgeous room, there’s a lot to do, both inside the resort itself as well as outside it.

The picturesque pool area is set apart and serene. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

The pretty, temperature-regulated pool beckons, as do some relaxing yoga sessions in an airy room with a spectacular view. In their common areas, we play everything from Carom to Table Tennis to Air Hockey.

Whether you just take pictures here or actually play a game, the beautiful Chess set is a big draw! Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

There’s even a polished wood Chess board if that’s your thing. And the giant Snakes & Ladders board is a hit with the young and young at heart. Every evening, there’s something special on for all ages, karaoke, quizzes, mixology and cooking sessions, and more. Some of these are charged extra, but plenty of guests sign up nevertheless.

The resort has plenty of interesting objects in the common areas to hold your attention. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Kids love playing the life-size Snakes and & Ladders. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

With a total team size of almost 170 servicing 53 suites (42 luxury, eight superior luxury, two accessible luxury, and one Presidential suite), their guest-to-staff ratio is great.

You can’t ignore the absolutely adorable elephant in room! The housekeeping team goes the extra mile to delight. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Eco-friendly golf carts to take you around the 7.5 acre property arrive at the press of a button. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Comfort levels are high. From electric carts to umbrellas when you need them, everything is easily accessible. The lounge has everything to keep your sense of well being high, coffee and tea late into the night, and firepits with more than enough space for large groups to warm up around for a chat, a singing session, or parlour games.

Given Kodaikanal’s pleasant year-round temperature, the two firepits surrounded by cosy seating are perfect for a gather around post-dinner! Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

There are several sightseeing options in and around Kodaikanal, whether you’re interested in boating, hiking, temples and churches, or shopping for locally made cheese and chocolate, or locally grown fruit and garlic. The Tamara Kodai team helps us chalk out an itinerary.

A wooden map in the resort showcasing the routes to sights around Kodaikanal. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

The knowledgeable and hospitable Syed, who manages the front office, takes us on a fabulous walk which skirts the 7.5-acre property and ends at Kodai Lake. It combines natural beauty and Kodai history, both subjects close to his heart. We see fascinating local plants, birds, wild boar, heritage homes, and colonial churches.

A nature walk with their in-house naturalist is highly recommended! Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Birders will enjoy their time here. Consult this book in their reading room if you have any doubts about the identity of a species you spotted. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Deep dive into Kodai history
Syed, who is also a treasure trove of information on the resort’s history, explains how The Tamara Kodai has preserved the 175-year-old heritage building, extending the property using the same mud and stone wall construction with a sloping tiled roof.

The statues of the three priests at the entrance hint at the incredible history of the property. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

In 1845, the first two bungalows in Kodaikanal — Sunny Side and Shelton — were built by American missionaries led by a certain Father Lawrence. The resort’s Bistro 1845 commemorates this year of first establishment.

The settlement then grew, with more American and British looking for a summer respite here. The British built the Baynes Bungalow and the Roseneath Cottage around 1847.

In 1860, a French Jesuit priest — Father Louis Saint Cyr — purchased the Baynes Bungalow, made it a retreat for the priests and renamed it La-providence. They prayed, they cooked, they made their own wine and cheese, all at the same spot where we’re standing. For, yes, The Tamara Kodai has been created on that same land, preserving many parts of the original rectory. That’s why the restaurant is named La Providence. And why it feels as though time is standing still here.

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Splendid water feature or erstwhile rectory kitchen? It’s both, actually! Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

When we walk in its sprawling grounds, we chance upon pear trees, which we find out later, are the offspring of the pear trees that the Jesuit priests planted in La-providence!

The décor in a corner of the spa. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

And the serene spa, with some excellent therapists and therapies, is housed in the erstwhile priests’ living quarters. Each window in the spa reception corresponded with a tiny spartan room of a 19th century Jesuit priest.

The windows in the spa reception. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Enjoying a relaxing massage with your partner in the couple’s therapy room in the spa is a real treat. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Another interesting excursion just a short distance away is the La Salette Church dating back to 1866. It’s one of only two churches in the world dedicated to La Salette, an avatar of Mother Mary, who is said to have appeared to some children in France.

The knowledgeable Syed from The Tamara Kodai explains the special significance of La Salette Church on a misty morning in Kodaikanal. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

It was built by the same Father Louis as thanksgiving for his Madagascar fever being cured by the blessing of La Salette. The three life-large statues at the resort entrance commemorate Father Louis and his two
devout followers.

The quaint La Salette Church is a must-visit even if you aren’t a pilgrim. Image – Luxurylaunches / Priya Pathiyan

Although we’ve been to Kodaikanal before, the perspective and pampering that The Tamara Kodai brings to our exploration of the hill station in South India is unmatched.

How they’ve kept it authentic, local, and sustainable
● The luxury cottages at The Tamara Kodai are designed using French architecture, given the Jesuit priests’ influence in their history.

● At the design stage, concentrated importance was given to the use of
biodegradable and recyclable materials. For example, only reforested wood and natural stones are used, and clay roof tiles and cement structures are reduced.

● The early inhabitants of Kodaikanal were Paliyan and Puliyan tribes, and Kodaikanal sits atop the Palani hills. The Tamara Kodai’s meetings rooms are named Paliyan and Puliyan to gently tie the present with the past.

● To retain balance in the ecosystem, at the Kodaikanal property, 1.5 acres
of land out of eight acres is marked as Open Reserved Space (OSR), dedicated
to plants, trees and organic farming. Construction activities are not taken
up in this designated area.

● There are no false ceilings in the rooms and public areas thus indirectly
avoiding non-eco-friendly materials.

● Natural stones and granite has been used for the compound wall.

● During construction no local trees were cut or wood from local trees used
and consciously used certified wood from imported reforested trees.

● The design incorporates used railway sleeper wood in the restaurant and
porch areas of the cottages.

● Natural clay tiles have been used in the construction. In fact, the whole resort’s roof is made of clay tiles.

The luxe factor is:

8 Location
8 Rooms
8 Service
8.5 Amenties
9 Food and Drinks
9.5 Breakfast
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