An eastward extension of the Western Ghat range dividing the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the Palani Hills are a region of deep, forested valleys where elephant, bison and the odd tiger survive. Few foreigners ever make it into the uplands, and of those that do, fewer still pause for long enough to explore the sparsely populated district in any depth. But this is an area whose tranquil atmosphere, cool climate and abundant wildlife deserves to be savoured, ideally from the gentile comfort of Rajakkad.
The property’s pride and joy is an 18th-century former palace made entirely wood and stone, which once belonged to the Maharajah of Travancore. A little over a decade ago it was acquired by chocolatier Jeremy Fry and reassembled at this remote spot on a 50-acre farm, where its seven rooms now host guests wishing to escape the heat and crowds of Madurai.
Relax in a hammock in the garden, or on the colonnaded veranda that runs around the building, as dozens of species of birds flit through the foliage. For the more energetic, guided river walks are offered through pink granite gorges and fragrant coffee plantations, culminating in panoramic views over the treetops to the Tamil plains.
Rajakkad’s welcoming team provide excellent picnics, allowing you to laze at natural bathing pools in the forest. A dreamy yoga platform looking onto woods is another attraction.