Chettinad accommodation - Visalam


During the Raj the Chettiars of Tamil Nadu lavished their wealth on the creation of mini palaces. While many now lie in ruins a few have been restored; Visalam is one of the lucky ones. And it’s lucky for us too because it’s been turned into a gorgeous place to stay while travelling just a little off the beaten track.

Originally built for the daughter of a local merchant, this Art Deco mansion in Karaikudi was never used except for occasional family weddings. The central courtyard, monochrome tiled floor, polished teak doors and carved granite pillars have been lovingly restored by master craftsmen and extra materials required are faithful to the originals. The cavernous inner halls have been partitioned to create 15 guest rooms but there have otherwise been few changes except for discrete air-conditioning and a swimming pool.

The members of staff here are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and if you decide to spend some time ‘at home’ they’ll show you how to create local rangoli coloured floor patterns, make a Tamil flower garland or teach you a traditional board game. Head outside and they’ll open doors to other Chettinad mansions and introduce you to artisans in their workshops. Pick up a sari in the bazaar and they’ll show you how to wear it.

Chettinad cuisine is famous throughout India and you’ll find some excellent choices here. If you’re interested in learning more, on a two or three day course the chef will take you to the market to shop for ingredients  and teach you the tricks of his trade to create a variety of authentic dishes.

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