Although Cornwall based, Cotna Eco Retreat does have strong connections with other parts of the world through our many volunteers from overseas, and in particular we have a long- standing connection with Kerala. This part of South India is a particularly beautiful region with its tropical climate and plants and charming and friendly people. At Cotna we have had several Shivananda style yoga courses with Vasudeva from Varkala, and currently offer authentic Keralan style home cooking delivered to our holiday yurts via our friend Shiva’s Coconut Kitchen 01726 844536
We are also sometimes asked for information and advice about travelling on holiday to Kerala so this page gives you some suggestions on travel, accommodation, Ayurvedic treatment, local food and houseboat trips. There are contact details for some of those aspects below, but do feel free to email us if you would like any further help, or if you would like us to get in touch with anyone. Please do bear in mind that things do change quite rapidly in India, so some accommodation or pricing details might have changed!
We would recommend flying into Kochi as it is more central than Trivandrum and there are good places to stay nearby. They are currently building a new green terminal that will be exclusively powers by solar – bring on the day when planes are solar powered too!
Preferred airlines: United Arab Emirates & Qatar Air
Good agents: Flight Centre and Southall Travel
Arrival at Airport
We know a lovely man called Sudheesh who fixes everything for us out in Kerala, and also has a little taxi / rickshaw company. He can pick you up anytime day & night 00 91 9946 627466 and bring you to a great little beach resort called Cherai 40 minutes away. Here you can sleep off your journey and spend a few days if you like, relaxing and readjusting to a new climate and culture.
Cherai is on Vypin island, next to the island of Fort Cochin. It is therefore a good satellite place to stay and get into Fort Cochin for day trips. Cherai is a charming little place, starting to attract more tourism but still very low key and friendly. Cherai beach area consists of a long strip of beach with a small road running behind it and accommodation dotted along either side of the road. The sea is ideal for swimming, warm with no strong currents. You can watch the local fishermen bobbing along on their latest mode of transport, inflated lorry tyres, as they set their nets and check them for fish throughout the day. Further out there are traditional dhow style fishing boats that cross the bay to their harbour at the mouth of the backwaters. And you can often spot dolphins swimming across too.
Our current favourite is Brighton Beach Resort, down the far end of the beach near the fisherman’s village. It is right on the beach and has 5 simple clean rooms at very reasonable rates (£15-20 per night approx, inc breakfast). The cafe overlooks the sea and is a great place to retreat, eat and while away the hours when it is too hot to be on the beach. The food is very fresh and good, and as well as looking at the menu it is always worth asking what they are cooking up that day for themselves that day eg fish & coconut curries. Divya & Krish are lovely, extremely accommodating and helpful. 0091 9946 565555 www.brightonbeachhouse.org firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no shortage of vegetarian food in India, and Cherai is no exception. Most of the cafes are clustered around the junction where Cherai road meets the beach. There is a great cafe called Le Cafe which serves all kinds of delicious snacks and main meals as well as the cool lemon ginger honey drink that is a must try! It is run by The 3 Elephants, the French Eco accommodation in the fishing village, which is also a lovely location for a drink or meal by the backwaters. Chilli Out along the beach is a good western cafe to hang out and eat pancakes, pizza or fresh fish. You can get fresh tender coconut at the stalls by the junction and yummy banana fries. This end of the beach fills up at the weekends with Indian tourists and then they all disappear in a huge traffic jam on Sunday evening! Cherai town is a 10 minute auto rickshaw ride away and has a good supermarket and local shops.
One of the main attractions for us is the Ayurvedic treatment available in Kerala. See section on Ayurveda below) This can range from full Panchakarma detox treatments in Ayurvedic treatment centres to luxurious one-off relaxation massages. Our highest recommendation is treatment by Suni Cheryan, a traditional Ayurvedic practitioner taught by his father through the family’s lineage. He does a detailed and surprisingly accurate diagnosis with his latest reflexology machine, then recommends suitable treatment. This is ideally a 14 or 21 day series of massage treatments, but he is also willing to do shorter term ones as well. It mostly consists of deep herbal oil massage for several days, followed by Kizhi (a muslin bag he beats you with, filled with organic powerful herbs & dipped in boiling oil – sounds like an awful punishment but its actually lovely!). 14 day treatments cost approx £300. Contact via us is best as Suni doesn’t speak all that much English. Sudheesh is a good go-between and translator once you are out here. For some testimonials, have a look at the bottom of this page – he tends to rescue people from imminent operations and steps in when conventional medicine has failed.
People often ask for advice on houseboat trip on the Backwaters. These are largely based around Alleppey. You will be treated like maharajas as you sail down the canals, being fed the most delicious food cooked on the boat. You moor up for lunch and dinner, then breakfast the next morning. Trips are not cheap by Indian standards, but pretty reasonable in UK terms – approx £70 per night for two. The boats are usually beautiful, the team of staff often charming and the views of riverside and bird life always stunning. The downside is that it has become a huge business so there is a large amount of boat traffic on the waterways, particularly in the morning rush hour after boat embarkation. As you can imagine, the ecology of the backwaters has been considerably affected over the years. There is also a lot of hustling by touts who then pocket a big chunk of the boat income, so it is always worth booking in advance. Our contact is Sudheesh in Cherai who can organise trips, Johnny in Alleppey who speaks English, 0091 984 774 3069 or contact us 01726 844867 or Shiva in UK 01726 844536
Varkala is a popular place with travellers. It is a small town known among Indians for being a holy place with an amazing temple at Pappanasam beach where indians come to do pumas for their relatives who have passed on. There is a high clifftop above the main beach, along which there are many cafes, restaurants and shops while accommodation is mainly set back from the clifftop. It is a fun place to hang out, eat all kinds of food, do yoga, shop for Indian throws, hippy clothes, Tibetan Buddhas and Kashmiri silks. Oh yes, and there’s the beach if you ever make it down there! Several beaches actually: the main one, Pappanasam as mentioned, Black Beach and Odayam Beach which is much more peaceful if you want a quiet time. We usually go to Varkala for a few days to shop for yurt accessories. Accommodation often changes out there, and is pretty reasonable as there is so much competition. The latest place we stayed was Sky Land for £4 per night, clean and friendly, above the Tibetan market on 0091 8714 433775. There’s plenty of other places to choose from though! Sandy Beach Resort is good on Odayam beach, approx £15 per night.
Food – there is all kinds of food to choose from – current favourites are Trattoria at the far end of the class on the way to Black Beach, the Tibetan Kitchen does great momos and vegetable rolls, Juice Shack does all kinds of fresh juice and daily specials. You can get masala dhosas down near Pappanasam beach. There are plenty of other places to go, but that is most of our direct experience over the years. We hope it helps, have a great trip and do get in touch if you need any support!
Suni Cheriyan Ayurvedic Testimonials
I first met Suni in December 2013, having heard of him many times through a friend of mine who had been treated by him, following a serious car accident. Her testimonial is below as SJ Hopehouse, as is my own. Suni is a larger than life character who, as well as being a very impressive Ayurvedic masseur and herbalist, is an actor of great talent. He has toured Kerala with theatre productions that he has written, directed and starred in for over 25 years but he has now chosen to focus on his Ayurvedic practice. His goal is to restore the good reputation of Ayurvedic traditional ways in Kerala which he feels have been lost in recent years, and a few of us who have been fortunate enough to benefit from this decision have written of our experiences below.
I broke my ankle badly 3 years ago and continued to have cramping pain in my foot, with my third and fourth toes still looking out of alignment, affecting the ankle joint. I had many consultations and X-rays as well as an MRI scan, and although physio and osteopathy helped overall, it wasn’t until I saw Suni in December that a dislocated fourth toe was diagnosed. He was able to relocate it back into position by gradual manipulation and consequently eliminated much pain and discomfort. I am impressed at the way he is able to diagnose purely though observation and touch and then able to apply great skill through his extensive knowledge of the body and how it works.
I arrived following an accident when I lost all the movement in my hand. The pain was unbearable. After the treatment I got a full cure and was fully recovered from my illness and pain. Now I am doing my job withy any problem. Thanks and wishing all the very best to Sunicherian and his institution.
Shibu PB, Government Employee
I had giddiness and headaches for several years, and I had many injuries to my head and body due to many falls. Finally I couldn’t stand up or walk a single step. Allopathic medicine was worthless for me. Then I heard of Sunicherian through one of my friends. I came to him in a car and they carried me in for the first treatment. Within some days I was able to walk. Now I can walk and run and do all kind of things I express my gratitude and wishes to Sunicherian and his treatment centre for my good life away from being bedridden.
For the last 10 years I had bad back and leg pain. I saw many doctors and used many medicines but there was no reduction in my pain. In 2004 I went abroad and had treatment over there for 10 months. There I started to have numbness in my legs and gradually I was not able to walk by myself. I came back to my native place and started a treatment for 6 weeks in an Ayurvedic hospital near Thrissur but it was worthless. In May 2005 I met another doctor and started medicines, which didn’t help and that July I was admitted to a private hospital, by which time I was fully paralysed, bedridden and unable to walk a single step. After many lab tests, X-rays and scans I had an operation on my spine but this operation was not successful. The doctor in another hospital in Cochin recommended one more op but couldn’t guarantee any success. I came back home frustrated, but came to know of Sunicherian from a friend. He conducted treatment for some time and managed to cure the paralysis and enabled me to walk. Now I am walking very well without anyone’s help and am completely cured from my back pain and cramping pains. I feel great luck to have found SCS Vadama treatment centre in Mala and I will always have love and affection and also send my prayers.
Kunjuvarky Varghese (63)
For the last 20 years I have been treating many people from Kerala, other parts of India and also from foreign countries through my traditional way of Ayurvedic treatment. My father taught me all that I know, he was my guru and I believe that I always have the prayers and blessings of my God and my ancestors. I also have a lot of prayers from the people I have treated and wish that the same blessings and prayers should continue and be there always in the future. With much love and gratitude I thank everybody in the name of God.
Son of Cherian
Parambarya Ayurveda Kalari Marmani Chikilsakam