Drive to any of these lovely places to escape the noise and smoke of Diwali.
This hill station is nestled in the Nilgiris and is surrounded by tea plantations and lush greenery, making it the perfect Diwali getaway. Coonoor isn’t as popular as Ooty, but that only means less crowd, more peace. For a pleasant evening walk, the Sims Park is your choice. Keep your eyes peeled though, for Coonoor has a large variety of bird species hiding away in the trees.
Where to stay: The 32 rooms at The Gateway Hotel Church Road offer luxury and privacy in equal measure. The cottage-like rooms, some with fireplaces, are perfect pods for the chilly November nights.
The Gateway Hotel Church Road Coonoor, the Nilgiris, Coonoor (+91 423 222 5400; www.thegatewayhotels.com) Doubles from Rs 5,000
“Give time a break” is the ad-line used by the Puducherry Tourism Department. It seems to hold true with this town that has everything from pristine beaches to cultural heritage sites. In Puducherry, dump your phone, put away the watch. Enjoy a long evening walk on the promenade, take in the best of French architecture and enjoy a quiet meal at a cafe overlooking the shore. The international city of Auroville is just a few kilometres from Puducherry and is definitely worth a visit as well.
Where to stay: With 38 rooms and beautiful views of the Bay of Bengal, The Promenade is located in the heart of Puducherry. Its rooftop restaurant, aptly named The Lighthouse, specializes in grills and sea food and should offer a memorable dining experience.
The Promenade,23, Goubert Avenue, Puducherry (+413 2227 750; http://www.sarovarhotels.com) Doubles from Rs 4,800
Formerly known as Tranquebar, this coastal town is far from traffic jams and blaring horns and offers a much needed peace and quiet. With sprawling beaches and a rich Danish heritage that lives through its forts and many of its buildings, Tharangambadi is the perfect rustic getaway that will set the tone for a happy festive season.
Where to stay: With a 14th-century Pandya temple on one side and a 17th-century Danish fort on the other, The Bungalow on the Beach is a great place to be.
The Bungalow on the Beach, 24 King Street, Tharangambadi (+91 4364 288 065; http://bungalow-on-the-beach.neemranahotels.com) Doubles from Rs 3,000
Gorgeous beaches, chickoo orchards and beaches fenced by cloud-scraping casuarina palms. Oh, and barely three hours from Mumbai. What’s not to like about Alibaug? An idyllic beach town that sits on the same latitude as Mumbai, Alibaug has enough to make you forget the din of the city. Scamper across the sands at low-tide to the lovely Kolaba Fort, or drive across to Nagaon beach nearby for some water-sports. There’s also the Akshi beach for those in the mood for seriously long walks in the stiff sea breeze. The Korlai beach is a bit of a visual spectacle with its alternate black and white sands. And then there’s the Kamarkar Museum for some exquisite sculptures. But that is only if you manage to pull yourself away from the beach.
Where to stay: The Radission Blu Resort and Spa is spread over 16 gorgeous acres between the hills and Lake Veshvi. The resort sports Thai and Balinese-style décor and has 156 stylish and contemporary rooms to choose from. The acclaimed Mandara Spa, fine dining at Kokum and Spice and a variety of other amenities at the Radisson Blu may leave you spoilt for choice.
Radisson Blu Resort & Spa – Alibaug (+91 2141 302 400; www.radissonblu.com) Doubles from Rs 8,999
One of the few eco-sensitive regions of India, Matheran is a small hill station in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. The ridiculous number of look-out points at this hill station is matched only by the population of Hanuman Langurs and Bonnet Macaques. Vehicles are not permitted in or around Matheran, and the best way to get around is on foot, or on horseback. There are activity options aplenty. Picnic at the green, picturesque Louisa Point, or take a walk along Charlotte Lake or if you’re up for it, try valley crossing at one of the adventure sports centres.
Where to stay: The Verandah in The Forest, the second house to be built on the isolated Western Ghats by Captain Barr in the 18th century, is a lovely heritage hotel. The rooms range from the grand Sasson and the deluxe Elphinstone, to the functional Kotwal and simple yet romantic Chenoy. All 11 rooms have exceptionally charming interiors. Top of Form
The Verandah in the Forest, Barr House, Matheran (+91 2148 230 810; http://the-verandah-in-the-forest.neemranahotels.com) Doubles from Rs 4,000
Surrounded by misty peaks and cloaked in beautiful weather, you are assured of a good time at Aamby Valley. Go horse riding into the mountains, or skim the lakes on a jet ski. There’s also golf, for those who want to have a go on the greens.
Where to stay: You can choose from the city’s Aussie and Burmese Chalets, romantic Cabanas on stilts, Spanish Cottages and English Villas, all fitted with most modern conveniences. Features range from private balconies, to jacuzzis to pools.
Aamby Valley, Post Ambevene, Via Lonavala (+91 020 3988 7000; www.aambyvalleycity.com) Doubles from Rs 10,800
Coorg has earned a reputation for offering a bouquet of experiences to weary city-slickers. Get up close with elephants at the elephant camp, or gape at the beautiful Abbi Falls. The walk down the winding road peppered with clouds is an experience by itself. End the day at the Raja’s Seat from where you can watch the sun set beyond the hills.
Where to stay: The Vivanta by Taj - Madikeri, Coorg is a 62-room property nestled in the rainforest. You can walk through the Buddha Garden or the strawberry farm at the hotel. The ceiling to floor windows in each room give you the best views of Coorg.
Vivanta by Taj – Madikeri, Coorg, 1st Monnageri, Galibeedu Post, Madikeri, Coorg, Karnataka, India (1800 111 825; www.vivantabytaj.com) Doubles from Rs 12,000
A (thankfully!) little-known destination, Bheemeshwari offers the perfect retreat for those looking for a quiet Diwali. The quaint town sits amid forests home to leopards, wild boar, deer, jackals and crocodiles. A zippy 100km drive from Bangalore, this place is equal parts calm and charm
Where to stay: The Bheemeshwari Nature and Adventure Camp offers more than just good accommodation. Trykayaking on the Cauvery, or the zip lines at the camp. The parallel walk on a two-rope bridge across the river also promises to be fun. The camp has eight river-facing log huts on stilts, as many riverside cottages and two cottages closer to the forest.
The Bheemeshwari Nature and Adventure Camp, Bheemeshwari, (+91 80 2559 7944; www.junglelodges.com) Doubles from Rs 4,000
Just 60km away from the city, the Nandi Hills offer Bangloreans lung-fulls of clean air, views of a lush green landscape, a cool climate and the perfect family weekend. At 4,851ft above sea level, the hills peek above the blanket of clouds. Nandi Hills is a birder’s paradise, with flycatchers and kingfishers aplenty. For history buffs, the well-maintained Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace and Fort offers an excellent insight into the region’s past.
Where to stay: The Nehru House, formerly known as Cubbon House, offers 14 rooms and four suites. The place has hosted Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Queen Elizabeth among other famous dignitaries.
For reservations: The Directorate of Horticulture, Department of Horticulture, Lalbagh, Bengaluru (+91 08 2657 9231; www.nandihills.co.in) Doubles from Rs 500
Referred to as the world capital of Yoga, Rishikesh is a mere 25km from the holy town of Haridwar. The spiritual connect aside, Rishikesh has earned a reputation as a thrill-seeker’s haven. Whether it’s white-water rafting on the Ganga, or kayaking, this town has it all. To top it, literally, India’s first bungee jumping camp opened at Rishikesh recently. More peaceful pursuits include meditation, yoga at one of its several centres and the famous ayurvedic treatments. For those wanting to escape the madness of Delhi, this one should be on top of the list.
Where to Stay: Ananda – In the Himalayas is a lovely destination spa near Rishikesh. It has rooms with spectacular views, and is surrounded by the Sal forest. Ananda has been ranked as No1 Destination Spa in the World at the Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Spa Awards (UK).Through a variety of exotic treatments and therapies on offer, the spa claims to mix the healing touch of the East with the pampering of the West.
Ananda Global Reservations, The Palace Estate, Narendra Nagar, Tehri – Garhwal, Uttaranchal (+91 124 451 6650; www.anandaspa.com) Doubles from Rs 16,20
Known for its lake that shines turquoise blue in the day and glitters at night, Bhimtal is a city in the district of Nainital, Uttarakhand, at an altitude of 4,494ft. The lush green surrounding forest, the Kumaon hills and the cool weather make Bhimtal a wonderful escape. One can enjoy boating, mountain biking, camping at the Pine Riviera, abseiling down rock faces and across exciting river crossings. One can pick up a traditional piece of craft from Mall Road, have a splendid meal at the lake’s island restaurant or even get gutsy and opt for paragliding through the moving clouds, all which Bhimtal readily attends to.
Where to Stay: The all rock and wood Monolith is the perfect place to stay in Bhimtal, promising splendid scenery and a calming ambience. Standing solitary above the lake within the hills, it provides absolutely unimaginable views. Famous celebrities like Hrithik Roshan and Priety Zinta have stayed here, making the hotel a popular and well known destination. Though it has rooms, the definite pick has to be the luxury cottages, complete with stone walls and a fireplace.
Monolith Resorts, Mandir Marg, Bhimtal, District Nainital, Uttarkhand (+91 5942 247 415; www.monolithresorts.com) Doubles from Rs 11,400
Corbett National Park is situated in Ramnagar, Nainital, and is a popular haunt for wildlife and nature lovers across the world. With marshy depressions, riverine belts, grassland, dense forest and a large lake, Corbett is as scenic and exciting as they come. At the park, expect to see herds of elephants, a variety of migratory birds and, if you’re lucky, the Royal Bengal Tiger. In addition to the safaris, you can try angling, parasailing, fishing, abseiling and river rafting. Highly recommended is a solitary walk through the forest, with only your backpack and birdsong for company.
Where to stay: The Country Inn is a luxurious and eco-friendly resort that lets you experience comfort in the wilderness. Its tree-top cottages 50 ft in the sky are most popular. But the hotel also offers regular rooms, suites and cottages. The Inn also organizes trips and excursions, which include hot air ballooning, horse riding, elephant rides and jeep safari.
Country Inn Corbett,Zero Garjia, Dhikuli, Ram Nagar, District Nainital, Uttarakhand (+91 5947 284140; www.countryinn.in) Doubles from Rs 8,500
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