Idukki's Narimattathil farm stay: Why foreign tourists love this destination?

Foreign tourists at the homestay (left); the new guesthouse of the farm stay, owners Soji Chacko and Cenia (middle) and children of tourists interacting with Soji's children. Photo: Karshakasree

The farm stay owned by Soji Chacko, a farmer in the scintillating countryside of Chembakapara near Irattayar at Idukki, Kerala has charmed many foreign tourists who visit the state to experience serene village life. Meanwhile, Soji is proud and delighted that he has earned friends in different parts of the world just by opening his humble abode in the beautiful farmland to them. Interestingly, more than one hundred foreigners from Europe, Japan and Korea have visited Soji’s farm in the last five years.

Besides earning a decent income from the rent, and food and by selling the value-added products from the farm, Soji has been making lifelong friendships too. “Soji and his family arranged a dreamy stay for me. Even though I had arrived as his guest, we became close friends by the time we said goodbye. The farmland is mesmerizingly beautiful. Soji was gracious enough to walk us around and patiently explain everything. He even plucked fresh coconuts directly from the coconut tree for us. This is a haven of verdant greenery,” writes Miriam from France who had visited Soji’s farm stay. Meanwhile, Mariana from Vermont cannot forget the sweet aroma of the fresh fruits and vegetables at the farm. She is impressed by how Soji nurtures the plants and animals on the farm with so much care and love.

Interestingly, Soji’s house isn’t a mansion that offers five–star facilities. A part of the house has a sheet roof while the room that is rented out to guests has the facilities suggested by the government for a silver-category homestay. It has a double cot, a table and two chairs, an almirah and a clean bathroom. Interestingly, it was this humble setup that Miriam had called dreamy and beautiful. Soji’s guests do not look for luxurious facilities or over-the-top architecture; all they want is fresh air and the mesmerizing beauty of nature.

Helping on the farm
Like all the farmlands in the hills, Soji’s farm is abundant with organic produce. He grows rubber, coconut trees, plantains, nutmeg, cloves, coffee and cardamom in the steppes. His farm is greener and verdant than many of the protected forest areas. Last year, Soji’s farm entered the India Book of Records for being India’s most verdant farmland.

Most people think that farm tourism is all about arranging luxurious facilities and mouthwatering meals for the guests. Even though these could also be farm tourism, what Soji and his family have been offering is equally desirable. The family lives on a ten-acre land that Soji inherited as ancestral property. His elder brother Saji’s share is also part of this. Foreigners reach the remote village of Chembakapara just to enjoy the beauty and authenticity of Soji’s farms.

Soji and family with tourists. Photo: Karshakasree

Just as Malayalis are eager to see the fabulous apple orchards in Canada, the saffron fields in Kashmir and even the garlic farming in Vattavada, people from all over the world fly to Kerala to enjoy the serene peace that nature offers at Soji’s farmland. Most tourists are fascinated when they learn that the pepper powder that they enjoy comes from the organic peppercorns that are grown, harvested and dried by indigenous farmers like Soji.

The idea that changed life
“Farm tourism is a great way to earn additional income from my farm. I may have to leave agriculture and wait for the customers if I am doing any other business including opening a small shop. However, in farm tourism, customers come looking for us,” says Soji. He had built a room close to the kitchen on an experimental basis. The family could use the new room as an extension in case their endeavour didn’t take off. He designed a website and registered the room at Airbnb.

Soon, Soji began getting enquiries from tourists who wanted to enjoy the simple life in the village. However, in a few months, the arrival of tourists stopped completely due to the pandemic outbreak. But, Soji’s Narimattathil Farm Stay ( has been busy receiving visitors from all around the globe in the last two years.

Foreign tourists enjoy a meal with Soji and family. Photo: Karshakasree

When his endeavour became a success, Soji gained the confidence to build another outhouse for the guests. Interestingly, most guests learn about the farm stay from their friends who have already visited here. However, Soji points out that the great reviews that he receives on Airbnb too play a pivotal role. Soji believes that the reviews would be good if the owners were honest about the claims that they make on such websites. Most tourists prefer natural farmlands where organic produce is grown. There is no need to arrange swimming pools, luxurious vehicles or art performances if you are offering beautiful farmlands that are blessed abundantly by nature. Moreover, the owner doesn’t experience any loss as the rent has to be paid in advance to book the rooms on Airbnb. But, Soji says that taxi drivers might ‘kidnap’ the guests who book directly.

Most guests are interested in helping Soji in his farmland. Tourists who come from Europe where agriculture is mostly done using advanced machinery are curious to know about manual farming techniques and activities. They are fascinated seeing how the soil is prepped using bare hands, the manure is mixed and organic pesticides are sprinkled. Plucking the peppercorns by climbing on tall trees and cutting down plantains are part of the activities in the farmland. Soji says that foreign tourists enjoy such activities as they are eager to learn new things. However, there have been police enquiries about foreign tourists doing farming. However, the police officers were convinced when Soji explained that his guests did not receive any remuneration for the work.

Home-cooked Kerala food is served for the guests too. The family doesn’t prepare anything separately other than ensuring that the dishes aren’t too spicy. Most guests are happy to enjoy home-cooked meals with their family members. Moreover, they are eager to know how organically grown products are used every day in the kitchen.

Tourists take part in cleaning jackfruit before cooking. Photo: Karshakasree

Soji doesn’t charge exorbitant amounts even from foreign guests. The room rent is Rs 1300 while Rs 100 and Rs 150 are charged for breakfast and lunch respectively. The guests often buy the fresh produce that is grown on the farm. Foreigners buy pepper and other spices in sample sizes as they do not want to increase the weight of their luggage. However, domestic tourists often buy them in huge quantities.

Soji says that there will be guests for at least fifteen days in a month. Now, farm tourism has become more profitable than agriculture. The family tries to develop friendly relations with the guests without interfering in their privacy. Moreover, taking care of the guests is a common responsibility in the household. Soji’s mother, wife and children too are interested in welcoming the guests and making them feel at home by arranging everything for them.
Phone – 9495159801

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