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Caroline Sylger Jones
Caroline Sylger Jones

Has been visiting and reviewing spas and retreats worldwide for twelve years.

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kalari kovilakom

14 days from £4,490 kalari kovilakom kerala

A former Maharaja’s palace, this is a romantic and uplifting place to undertake a proper two week programme of India’s ancient holistic system of health, Ayurveda.

It’s set at the edge of the village of Kollengode in the foothills of the Annamalai mountains, and well off the Keralan tourist trail. Spacious grounds are dotted with ayurvedic herbs, and contain an authentically-designed yoga and meditation hall and low-rise buildings with light and airy treatment rooms. There is also a Kalari, where you can watch or learn the ancient martial art of Kalaripayattu.

Book a room in the atmospheric original palace, or an elegant guest wing. Meals are specially prepared for your constitution by an Ayurvedic chef and, in true ashram-style, eaten communally. There are other ashram-like qualities to Kalari Kovilakom too – your day starts early with hot water, lemon and ginger, you’re encouraged to go to an early session of (gentle) yoga, and no alcohol, red meat or leather shoes are allowed.

The minimum stay here is two weeks, the time required for ayurveda treatments to have any real effect. Most people have a ‘panchakarma’, or general ayurvedic rejuvenation programme, when experts lead you through a safe and nourishing course of ayurvedic oil massages, detoxification therapies, meditation and exercise. Stress relief, weight reduction and anti-aging programmes are also available.

The yoga focuses on slow, focused stretches in the Bihar School of Yoga’s Satyananda style. When you’re not having a treatment, wander the grounds, read in your room, go for a walk in the nearby paddy fields or commission the tailor to copy some of your favourite pieces of clothing.


  • Authentic ayurveda programmes by Keralan therapists
  • Lovely palace setting with carved doorways and hand dyed frescoes
  • Communal eating means guests bond in a way they rarely do at five star retreats.


  • Having to book for a retreat of 2 weeks or more is a major investment
  • Be prepared for some fairly strong daily herbal drinks, powders and pills
  • Very restless types may bemoan the slow yoga and pace

Healthy Traveller Tip

The monsoon (June to mid August) is a particularly good time to undertake ayurveda in India. The cooler climate means your metabolism increases, making digestion and blood circulation more efficient, and it's also the time they call 'athanakal' in Sanskrit, which is when our bodies accept nature's energy more readily.

Room tip

The lovely Vengunad Suite has stained glass windows and a day bed suspended from the ceiling.

Who goes

Professional men and women travelling independently and in couples, to de-stress, detox or to cure genuine aches and pains.

Other ideas for wellness retreats in India

  • In Kanartaka, also southern India but north of Kali Kovilakom in Kerala, there's Swa Swara on the famous Om beach or, for a bit more luxury, we recommend a Relais & Chateaux country retreat called Shreyas, about an hour from Bangalore
  • Alternatively, head north to the majestic Himalayas for a stay at the Ananda Spa

Top short haul options, and a more clinic type experience

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18 palatial suites that offer the experience of authentic palace living, divided into two wings:

  • The Old Guest Wing, with '20s colonial Western-styled rooms.
  • The Palace Wing, which has traditional Kerala architecture reminiscent of the 'zenana'.


  • Jan - Mar:  These months are cool (well, 28-34 C) and dry.
  • Apr - May:  Peak summer.
  • June - Aug:  These are the Monsoon (rainy) months. In ayurveda, this is considered a specially good time for healing.
  • Sept - Dec:  A pleasant and dry period, usually the main tourist season.


Kalari Kovilakom Palace is located in the old princely capital town of Kollengode (Vengunad) in the foothills of the Annamalai range, Kerala, India.  The nearest International Airport is Cochin, 105 km, or about two-and-a-half hours drive away.  Coimbatore Airport is 75 km away.  Palghat is the nearest railway station (on the Mumbai-Trivandrum route), a mere hours' drive.

28 day anti-aging programme

From £6,995 per person
Treat yourself to a 28 anti-aging programme at Kalari Kovilakom in Kerala and return home blissfully rejuvenated.  More

21 day general rejuvenation programme

From £5,910 per person
Immerse yourself in a 21 day rejuvenation programme at Kalari Kovilakom for a fabulous restorative experience.  More

14 day anti-stress programme

From £4,490 per person
Recover from the stresses and strains of modern life with the   Kalari Kovilakom 14 day anti-stress programme.  More

21 day slimming programme

From £5,910 per person
Experience the power of Kalari Kovilakom's Ayurvedic 21 or 28 day slimming programme.  More


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