Gratitude Heritage is a 150-year-old French colonial home in Puducherry.
With the pandemic slowly easing its grip and many places lifting months-long lockdowns, dreams of a long-awaited getaway are inching closer to reality. Many people are resorting to “revenge travel” in a bid to escape the relatively monotonous life that the pandemic brought forth.
“Though the threat of a third wave is still looming, flights are full and people are travelling for various reasons,” says Shoba Mohan, founder, RARE India, a community of luxury boutique hotels and homestays in India and the subcontinent.
“Offbeat, experiential and special interest programs will continue to be popular which is what we had seen during the first reopening before the second wave. Solo travel, small curated journeys and women travel groups have become very popular as a result of the pandemic and we hope this segment increases for destination India,” Mohan adds.
Small is in
With the risk of infection still high, many travellers are forgoing over-touristed holiday hotspots for more remote retreats to avoid large crowds.
“Private villas which were more on the fringe have become the preferred choice of getaways even among the 5-Star and 7-Star loyalists because of the privacy and certainty of service. The thrill of owning the villa and not having to share it with outsiders is priceless in these times. Destinations like Ooty, or even lesser-explored local towns in Maharashtra like Mulshi, Kamshet, Bhandardara, Pali-Khopoli, Karjat and Palghar are no less than an international locales,” says Devendra Parulekar, founder, SaffronStays.
The pandemic has taught us to slow down and appreciate an unhurried life. Travel industry insiders expect this will result in a rise in slow, immersive travel options. “Our small and independent hotels were a big focus for queries and bookings last year after the initial wave of the pandemic. Especially in remote locations, and stand-alone destinations, we saw a lot of interest in wildlife parks and wellness retreats, including those in the hills. Small hotels especially were coveted for buy out opportunities and celebrations,” says Mohan.
And even if you’re not planning a trip right away, here are a few domestic destinations to file away for your travel bucket list. They are not just stunning but also fit in with the trend of socially distanced getaways.
Wake up to the smell of coffee and the perpetual hooting of Malabar whistling thrush birds in this misty land of hills and streams. Fall in love with the jaw-dropping waterfalls sprinkled across the region and the spicy kodava cuisine. From white-water rafting, trekking in the mossy hills to temple-hopping, there’s so much to see and do in Coorg. And if you decide to work from any of the picturesque homestays or retreats at Coorg, there are plenty of incentives both in terms of the views and the packages.
Stay at: Ayatana
Perched on a hill with breathtaking vantage over the valley, Ayatana offers the perfect secluded hideaway. The villas spread across 100 acres are designed to ensure privacy and social distancing. It’s easy to lose track of time as you amble around in the estate. An outdoor bonfire will keep you warm and toasty, before you enjoy a lavish spread of kodava and international cuisines at the restaurant facing a thunderous waterfall.
For bookings call: 099455 02000
ORCHHA, MADHYA PRADESH
Orchha has many astounding palaces and temples dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, built by the Bundela rulers. One of the most iconic sites is the chattris buildings that dot the landscape. The spires against the sky in the morning or at sunset is a magical sight. But the best experience in Orchha is sitting by the river Betwa and seeing the world pass by. Thrill-seekers can indulge in rafting and boating here.
Stay at: Amar Mahal
This heritage hotel surrounded by picturesque hills makes for a reviving stay. The Betwa flows nearby, and offers a mesmerising view. There is an expansive lawn and a terrace to indulge in romantic walks and to watch the sun set.
For Bookings Call: 070074 26150
This beautiful coastal town is popular with celebrities, families, lovers and fans of gastronomy, culture and nature. And not without reason. The quaint colonial-style cafés, beautiful promenades, handicrafts markets and gorgeous sunsets make for a great destination for a seaside vacation. And thanks to the French influence, good steak and wine are served in most restaurants. The best thing to do here – is nothing at all. Just sit by the beach and unwind. Spiritual seekers must mark a visit to Aurobindo Ashram.
Stay at: Gratitude Heritage
This 150-year-old French colonial heritage home is an oasis of calm. With only nine rooms furnished with antiques salvaged from second-hand stores and old homes, this homestay offers privacy and seclusion. But it also isn’t too far from tourist attractions. If you wish to stay in, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. You can amble around the property, sway to the French classics playing on loop on the gramophone or bird watch while seated on the swing in the courtyard.
For Bookings call: 0413 222 6029
DARJEELING, WEST BENGAL
This surreal hill station surrounded by emerald-green tea plantations and towered over by the majestic Khangchendzonga is the perfect destination to recharge your batteries. Buddhist monasteries, mountain biking and the 140-year-old steam-billowing Darjeeling Himalayan Railway are some of the other highlights here. The sunsets are jaw-dropping, so keep your camera ready.
Stay at: Ging Tea House
This colonial bungalow built in 1864 is surrounded by well-maintained private gardens and breathtaking views of the Himalayas. The rooms are regal with wooden flooring, exposed rafters on the high ceiling, period furniture and drapes.
Spoil yourself with bed teas, leisurely walks in the estate or sunrise at Tiger Hill – depending on whether you like to sleep in or wake up early on holidays. In the evenings, gather around the stone fireplace in the library with a glass of wine to listen to stories of life in the hills or try your hand at the antique piano.
For Booking call: +91-9831076877 / +91-9874411414
This hill station with scenic mountains, waterfalls and treks makes for a memorable getaway. No wonder it’s the perennial favourite of Mumbaikars. The Kondana Caves are a must-visit as also the giant Kothaligad Fort for magnificent views over the ghats and the entire Matheran range. Strike a pose or just get drenched at the Bhivpuri Waterfalls. The tranquil Ulhas river is a compelling reason to return.
Stay at: SaffronStays Kairos Athena
This three-bedroom pool villa with whitewashed cottages, blue doors and bright bougainvilleas brings a slice of Greece to Karjat. There is an infinity pool, a mini bar and a private butler for a luxurious stay. The terrace is where you will be spending most hours catching stunning views of the Kalote lake and the surrounding hills. Thrill seekers can look forward to kayaking, lakeside walks and camping.
For Bookings: visit www.saffronstays.com
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