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Visalam, Chettinad 

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Tel: 91 484 301 1711
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From the editors of Condé Nast Traveler:

CGH Earth—known for its eco-friendly, less-is-more heritage approach—has refurbished a magnificent mansion as a 15-room hotel in Tamil Nadu's intriguing Chettinad area of 74 villages of exuberantly ornate nineteenth- and twentieth-century mansions. The Art Deco–style Visalam, built in the 1930s behind a pond of blue lotuses, is a later example, but like earlier mansions, it has a colorful frieze of gods above its entrance, as well as mighty pillars, doors, and rafters of teak, huge rooms with soaring ceilings and shuttered windows, and broad roofed verandas. Meals of Chettinad cuisine (eaten with one's fingers) are served either family style in the upstairs dining room or out on the large terrace, next to the swimming pool, or in the kitchen, where you can learn the famed spicy cooking techniques. A guided tour of the local mansions and temple is a must, as is one to see the handloom weaving of intricate Chettiar cottons and the traditional Authangudi tile making that has refurbished Visalam's handsome floors. At the end of it all, cool off in the 40-foot pool in a walled garden filled with bougainvillea.

—2008 Hot List

When to go: October through December for shoulder season prices and relatively low humidity.

Which room to book: Offering the best views, No. 203, on the second floor, has an antique four-poster bed and a separate dressing room.

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