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You don’t need wads of money or long leave for that perfect holiday. 9 dream destinations for short weekend trips from your city:
By Shivya Nath
Ringing in the new year with hordes of other tourists is passé. Mark 2014 with a short break that will take you off the beaten path. Indulge yourself in the local culture, cuisine and life of a place, and do it responsibly. These are nine places where you’ll encounter neither loud music nor drunk gatherings. What you will encounter are the heart-warming notions of India that are buried somewhere deep within us.
You may have been there, done that, in Coorg. But have you sampled the local way of life in a typical Coorgi village, cycling with the maize fields swaying in the backdrop, exchanging smiles with the shy locals? If your answer is no, you have to go back. Dig out the warrior traditions of the Kodagu people. Meet monks at lesser-known monasteries. Trace the journey of your coffee from seed to cup. Splash in the rice paddies in the winter rain. When was the last time you tried something new?
Stay at Narendra’s Organic Farm, a family-run organic farm stay, with accommodation in handcrafted huts made entirely with natural or recycled materials.
In the backdrop of the majestic Western Ghats, colourful deciduous & semi-evergreen forests are interspersed with plantations of coffee, rubber, banana, coconut & jackfruit, and sprinkled with rice paddies and lush tea estates. It is here that clouds descend into the wilderness, herds of wild elephants freely roam on the roadside, traditional tribal folk live along the edges of the jungle in houses made of bamboo and cow dung.The big cat seldom eludes you on a trek through the core forest zone.Tiny freshwater islands are strewn along the length of the district for an anytime dip.
Stay at Bamboo Village, Wayanad, a village homestay initiative that aims to give travellers a taste of farming life in Kerala while offering an alternative source of livelihood to village families.
On the northernmost shores of Kerala, along the most virgin stretch of its backwaters, lies a little piece of paradise called Thekkekadu. This, one of the few private islands on the backwaters, is nature’s most indulgent way of discovering life on the coconut countryside of Kerala.Sleepy villages are hidden away amid palm trees on the shores. Fishing boats occasionally emerge from the mist, and eagles soar in the skies above. This isn’t your houseboat-infiltrated lagoon. Not many people speak languages other than Malayalam here. You won’t find yourself bargaining for a fresh catch of prawn here. This is for those willing to get off the tourist trail and the perfect way to welcome 2014.
Stay on the private Thekkekadu Island, where Oyster Opera works with local village communities to provide alternative sources of revenue through mussel farming and tourism.
There is no better time and reason to visit Uttarakhand than now. The monsoon floods not only caused destruction in the higher reaches of Garhwal, but also destroyed tourism livelihood in lower Garhwal and Kumaon because many people wrote off Uttarakhand as out of bounds. Fix that before the year ends, by recharting your plans to see the snow-clad Himalayas in all their majesty. See the Bhimtal Lake engulfed in the winter mist. Take in the lush forests with colourful birds, butterflies and langurs . Walk along rice paddies, terraced farms of wheat and potatoes, colorful stone houses, and a pretty English church. Bhimtal has it all, minus the usual crowds of Nainital. Hike to Panna Tal, one of the lakes of Sattal, or drive to the terraced fields of Peora to experience a romantic white Christmas!
Stay at Smetaceks’ Colonial Homestay, a colonial house inhabited by the descendants of the family that built it, who use tourism as a means to preserve its heritage character and colonial recipes, and make efforts to conserve the forest around.
It is one thing to visit the city of Jaisalmer, it is quite another to drive 15 minutes out and be pampered like royalty but witness the desert like a local. Spend a romantic night under the starry desert sky over wine and cheese. Settle on a hillock overlooking the wilderness and let the Manganiyar tribe’s music tug at your soul. Visit the famous abandoned villages of Jaisalmer at midnight, one for the brave-at-heart. Off-road into the barren wilderness of the desert to see how people in the desert really live.
Stay at Suryagarh, a luxury boutique hotel built like a Rajasthani fort, near Jaisalmer city, who specialize in personally crafted journeys to explore unknown parts and faces of the desert.
What better time to experience the hearty Punjabi country hospitality than when it’s time to ring in the New Year? Escape to the Shivalik hills to experience the farming life of Punjab for a few days. Volunteer with daily farming chores – milk the cows, harvest the mustard plants, bask in the warm winter sun, and when your tummy rumbles, sniff the aroma of hot aloo paranthas that will be yours after a cooling bath in an open-air tube well. Enough said!
Stay at Prakriti Farm, a family-run organic farm that aims to give travellers a taste of country life in Punjab and farm-to-table culinary goodness.
What better introduction to the forests of India than a national park-turned-tiger reserve that remains largely unknown, despite big cat sightings that made the news (think two male tigers physically fighting to mark territory)? A 2-hour drive from Nagpur, Tadoba could give both Corbett and Bandavgarh a run for their money. Open grasslands here could delude you into thinking you’re in the African Savannahs. Ancient ghost trees change colour every season, migratory birds fly above the picturesque Tadoba lake in the winter months – the natural beauty of the forest is enough to satisfy any world-weary traveller. You are likely to sight the big cat too.
Stay at Svasara Jungle Lodge, built as the summer home of an avid wildlife photographer, now run by his family and their team of wildlife enthusiasts with a focus on eco-luxury and wildlife conservation.
A quaint little island soaked with colonial Portuguese influence on the shores of virgin blue seas, Diu is a mishmash of Pondicherry’s small town charm and Goa’s sun-kissed beaches. Its absence from most tourist maps makes it one of the few places in India where you can find an isolated beach and watch the sun sink to the horizon in solitude, or swim solo in the Arabian Sea. Diu’s designation as a union territory makes it a perfect budget getaway, being significantly cheaper than its cousins on India’s west coast.
Stay at Hoka Island Resort, a bohemian boutique hotel.
Amitabh Bachchan’s “Kutch nahin dekha toh kuch nahin dekha” (if you haven’t seen Kutch, you haven’t seen anything) campaign may have opened the Great Rann of Kutch to mass tourism, but the Little Rann remains a well-kept secret. Its magnificent white salt desert and abundance of rare wildlife make you appreciate nature on a whole new level, while its typically Kutchi villages offer a glimpse of the simple lives we often crave.
Stay at Devji Bhai’s Koobas for a traditional Kutchi experience right at the doorstep of the Little Rann.
*Photos credit: Shivya