Eco-tourism and sustainable travel today are one of the most exciting areas in an otherwise unoriginal tourism industry. The sustainable travel industry gives you the opportunity to experience something completely different on a journey, leaving behind the stereotypical hotel rooms, crowded, dirty, tourist spots, questionable food and the need for a vacation to recover from your so-called vacation.
Nestled in the Palani hills in Prakasapuram near Kodaikanal, Karuna is a farm and a community, with cottages available for single, double, and group occupancy. The focus is on experiencing a natural, healthy, and sustainable lifestyle while you unwind. Everywhere you look there is an explosion of different shades of lush green dotted by colourful flowers, and the little hobbit-like cottages fit right in.
The rules here are clear: consumption of alcohol is not allowed. It is not a place for loud music and parties, and only vegetarian food is served. What is on offer? Winding trails that lead you to rocks overlooking an entire valley, mountain paths leading you to summits surrounded by pine forests, the smell of clean mountain air, the chilly forest breeze, brooks, waterfalls, and more.
Free yoga classes are offered every morning, and dinner is free at night. The cottages come with their own sit out, kitchenette, and gas connection if you want to cook your own meals. The lights in the cottages are energy efficient LEDs, powered by solar panels. The idyllic view and coziness of the various cottages will make you spoilt for choice. There’s something for every budget – you can even pick a cottage based on the view from the loo!
The jeep ride into Karuna is a magical one. Leaving the town of Kodaikanal behind, you wind on to a dirt road, its borders lined with eucalyptus trees that beckon a sense of calm in spite of the bumpy approach road. Once at the farm, you walk down their ‘stairs’ made of upcycled rubber tyres, arriving at the Prashanti Restaurant.
Prashanti is the common dining area and point where you meet the friendly folk who run the farm, guest houses, and cook your food. The staff is polite and accommodating, serving up fresh, healthy food in sizable portions for lunch, dinner, and breakfast on request. You may also meet other visitors, sipping hot tea and looking serene while they wait for their meal – because who can’t look serene at a restaurant that overlooks a gurgling waterfall accompanied by the sonorous score of bird calls?
The farm has its own vegetable garden as well as fruit and coffee plantations. Often you will find delectable jams and coffee powder made at the farm on sale at the restaurant. Honey and wax are also produced from the beehives around the cottages. One of the most intriguing buildings at the farm is ‘the earth ship’ – an unconventional structure designed for sustainability in terms of electricity, food and water, as well as temperature regulation.
Go to Karuna to turn off your cell phone (there’s no signal in most parts of the farm anyway) and learn the benefits of eating fresh healthy food, of exercising, and of living in harmony with the elements. To relax in the mountains, take long walks, meet new people, read a book at the café, jam by a bonfire with guitars, gaze at the stars in the clear sky, and forget time passing by – until it is time to leave at least.
Cottages price range: Rs. 600 – Rs. 1,800/-.
Dinner and yoga classes free.
Breakfast and Lunch available (extra charges).
Don’t forget to take: A torch or two for the night. Sneakers/Covered shoes and socks, and a raincoat.
Karuna Farms is not best suited for the physically disabled and the elderly.