India

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in India.

pine-tree-lodge

Rokeby Manor and Residences – Mussoorie, India

Landour is the kind of place you should never take older relatives nostalgic for the good ol’ days of the Raj, or you’ll never hear the end of it. Unlike its increasingly chaotic twin, Mussoorie, the cantonment town was spared relentless deforestation, construction and commercialisation under the Cantonment Act of 1924 and remains every bit the bucolic English retreat it started out as in the mid-19th century.

The Pine Tree Lodge, one of three new luxury cottages operated by the area’s iconic Rokeby Manor hotel, is a good place to settle into. Unobstructed views of the lower Himalayas rush in from every window, the Scandinavian-style decor – warm, woodsy, yet uncluttered – is equally good for photographing, and you get used to the butler and chef sooner than you’re comfortable admitting. “What would you like to eat?” is the only hardship here: should you have hot, homemade rajma-chawal, an English fry-up, or sweet tea-and-pakora marathons? Or should you, swaddled in your warmest, settle in the patio outside your bedroom, watching the chef poke the embers of your barbecue? Or then, let Rokeby’s in-house restaurant, Emily’s, bring its British meat-and-potatoes staples to you? Make the right choice: all of the above.

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A suite at Pine Tree Lodge – Mussoorie

You might not see the point in leaving the cottage at all, but Landour offers some good-quality loitering. Follow the 2.4km loop, Gol Chakkar, a deodar-and chestnut-fringed road, which threads all the sights. The Saint Paul’s and Kellogg Memorial churches conjure up Raj-era weddings of pale Chantilly lace and cold roses. Lal Tibba, the highest point in Mussoorie, lets you count off the major peaks of the Garhwal Himalayas through a telescope. Char Dukan, once a cluster of four Indian eateries, has, over a century, expanded to six with the addition of two grocery stores – and is one of the few places in Landour to people-watch.

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view from Lal Tibba, the highest point in Mussoorie

Take a rain check on activities that take you out of Landour, save for two. Sainji (23km) is a tiny tribal settlement above Mussoorie in the Tehri-Garhwal district, famous for its corn decor. Bunches of yolk-gold cobs that need sun-drying so their seeds can be sown are arranged like awnings on both, the squat newer acid-coloured buildings as well as traditional wood homes. Each of the village’s 35-odd residences has its own courtyard where toothless grannies winnow grain and toddlers chase chickens. Jabarkhet Nature Reserve is the other must-do outside Landour, on the Dhanaulti-Dehradun road (www.jabarkhet nature.com; 6am – 6pm;).

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Corn hung to dry forms part of the decor in Sainji Village

The 300- acre private reserve has all but recovered from extensive damage due to logging and overgrazing and is now once more cloaked in oak, pine and rhododendron forests and reclaimed by leopards, bears and martens, and black bulbuls sing their hearts out. In late February, an explosion of violets and deep-blue gentians render the reserve still more beautiful. But until then, make do with a pre-dawn trek to Flag Hill, where you get to stare stupidly as the rising sun sets the forest on fire. By the time you make it back to the Pine Tree Lodge, the neighbouring Landour Bakehouse will just be opening it doors (see Where to Eat). Order yourself a pot of Earl Grey and the warm, crumbly scones with lots of cream; sit down at a table next to the big window looking out to a swathe of deodar. Maybe your auntie has a point after all.

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Kellogg Memorial Church is just one of the sights on the Gol Chakkar circuit

GREAT FROM: Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh

GREAT FOR: Raj-era nostalgia

WHERE TO STAY

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Rokeby Manor

Rokeby Manor and Residences: Of the three luxury residences spread across Gol Chakkar Road, Pine Tree Lodge has the best mountain views and is sited just a 10-minute walk from Bothwell Bank Cottage, which is perfect for a small family. Bothwell Bank House, with its restored 19th-century architecture, parquet floors and sprawling balconies, is perfect for a big group (00-91-135-2635604, 00-91-9634443666; www.rokebymanor. com, reservations@rokebymanor.com; all rates include breakfast, and 30 minutes use of mountain bike per day).

WHERE TO EAT

Anil’s Café, a Landour institution, is a favourite with visitors and locals, including the town’s considerable student population. Between the Nutella pancakes, cheesy Maggi and veg momos, you’ll have your hill station junk food sorted (00-91-135-2633783; Char Dukan; 8am – 8pm;). The 19th-century Landour Bakehouse always smells of bread and coffee and serves several old-timey British breads, puddings and cakes. The chocolate chip cookies, raisin scones and madeleines get our vote (00-91-8755343343; Shop No 152, Sister’s Bazaar; 8am – 8pm;). The Stray Dog Ale House and Stübli is the hotel’s members-only hillside restaurant, which is built like a log cabin and serves a concise, rotating menu of hearty, warming Swiss stews, sausages and puddings. The upstairs Tudor-style ale house’s spicy toddy concoctions and bar bites are good to get a little colour in your cheeks (00-91-135-2635604; Gol Chakkar; 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm).

WHAT TO PACK

You’ll need thick woollens, lip balm and good walking shoes. Carry rain protection, too, as there tend to be light showers this time of year.

SHOPPING

There isn’t that much in the way of shopping in Landour but be sure to stock up on the famous chunky and smooth peanut butters from A Prakash & Co (Landour Bakehouse uses these for their desserts), as well as their excellent cheeses and marmalades (00-91-135-2632544; Sister’s Bazaar; 10.30am – 6.30pm).

CLEAN LOO GUIDE

Restaurants and tea stops between Dehradun and Landour have clean if rustic bathrooms, but it’s best to carry toilet paper and hand sanitiser for emergency stops along some of the forested stretches in between.

SAFETY

Landour is a very safe town and even solo nighttime walks aren’t nerve-wracking in the least.

MEDICAL AID

For emergencies, head to the well-known Landour Community Hospital nearby (00-91-135-2632053; www.eha-health.org; near Tehri bus stop).

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

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Jabarkhet Nature Reserve

Kids will love the wide open spaces and friendly local dogs, but will need entertainment if you plan to stay more than a couple of days. Jabarkhet Nature Reserve could be fun with a good guide.

GOOD TO KNOW

*Landour is home to Anglo-Indian author Ruskin Bond who has had a hand to play in most of our childhood imaginings. You might ‘casually’ lope past Ivy Cottage, his home on Mullingar Hill, to try and run into him. Or, just show up at the Cambridge Book Depot on Mussoorie’s Mall Road at around 3pm on any Saturday to meet Bond in the flesh.

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Eating in Alibaug – Maharashtra, India

Sun setting over the beautiful ocean, golden rays bouncing off gleaming waters, waves crashing on the beach providing  a background score, happy chatter enveloping you. It’s easy to see why the city’s cacophony is but a distant memory at Alibaug – plus you don’t have to travel too far to get here. While local cuisine  is always a hot favourite, a few Mumbai restaurants have trickled in, bringing  with them trendy spaces and gastronomic experiences that are slowly changing the culinary landscape in this sleepy hamlet.

Don’t waste any time upon arriving  at Mandwa Jetty; plonk down at the waterfront Boardwalk by Flamboyante even before you get to the parking lot (see Where to Eat for all details).

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One of the specials at Boardwalk by Flamboyante, the Grilled Fish pairs well with the watermelon and feta salad

Run by  the team behind Flamboyante in Mumbai’s Cuffe Parade, this open-air, Mediterranean- style restaurant does a great watermelon and creamy feta salad and cheesy potato wedges, with a side  of sweeping views of ferry-dotted waters. Don’t miss the Pomfret Peri Peri  and the Grilled Fish in lemon butter garlic with capers, both of which are cooked to mouthwatering perfection. A few feet from Boardwalk,  the cheerful Kiki’s Café & Deli  is the brainchild of Mumbaibased hotelier and caterer Nitin Mongia. Imagine stepping off the ferry for a hearty breakfast of Truffle Oil Scrambled Eggs, a gigantic Brownie Freakshake  and gooey Salted Carmel Tart.

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Kiki’s Café & Deli

But the eclectic café is known for more than its breakfast offerings – try the Spaghetti Aglio Olio with chicken. For a relaxed, hippie vibe, head  to Bohemyan Blue Garden Café, where  you can spend the afternoon at a shaded café next to a vegetable garden, which produces some of the eatery’s ingredients.

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Bohemyan Blue Garden Café

The Guava Juice with Sprite and Mint Lemonade are refreshing accompaniments to its tasty – albeit not authentic – Konkani-style charcoal-grilled chicken or the Prawn Thai Curry, served with rice  and a yummy raw papaya salad. If you like a more hands-on approach  to your food, Colaba’s The Table has just the thing – informative workshops at owners Jay Yousuf and Gauri Devidayal’s home in Saswane, which  has a small-scale working farm that supplies fresh produce to the restaurant. Adrienne Thadani of Fresh & Local, who  is an expert in urban and organic farming, takes you around the farm. Before you know it, you’re wrist-deep in dirt, helping make permaculture beds, transplanting saplings and harvesting micro-greens.

All the hard work pays off handsomely when you sit down to a large spread, prepared by the chefs – juicy pieces  of barbecued chicken and eggplant hot off the grill, freshly-picked salads and creamy pastas with delicious wines, followed  by an excellent apple crumble pie.  While the menu changes with each workshop, you can always expect great food and fresh ingredients. If all this sounds too tedious, round up some friends, rent a bungalow and let  the food come to you.

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Live music at Café Zoe’s Kitchen

Café Zoe’s Kitchen offers weekend delivery of its signature dishes right to your doorstep. Try the half-kilo quiches – the Leeks and Ham  one is delicious and can feed a small village , or the Spaghetti in Truffle Butter Sauce and Smoked Salmon Mousse dip with Melba crisps.

Now all you have to do is sit back  and revel in the food coma.

GREAT FROM: Mumbai, Pune

GREAT FOR: Delicious food in seaside settings

WHERE TO STAY

Countryside Farm: Located about 2km from Mandwa Jetty, and with  a choice of 10 decent stay options, including rooms, a cottage and tents, Countryside Farm makes for a relaxed stay. Bohemyan Blue Stay: The spacious tents, interspersed with quaint lotus ponds, gardens and a tented dining/common area, are ideal for a laidback, romantic escape. Service might be a little slow but it makes up with good food and great surroundings.

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Ccaza Ccomodore

Ccaza Ccomodore: This is a great pick  when you’re travelling with a bunch  of friends. The villa sits amid a manicured lawn in which chairs, tables and hammocks are set up. The villa comes with cosy rooms and a pool.

WHERE TO EAT

Boardwalk by Flamboyante: 00-91-9920569772, 00-91-2141-237787; www.flamboyante.in; Mandwa Jetty; 11am – 9pm; reservations are mandatory.

Kiki’s Café & Deli: 00-91-9820132158, 00-91-8308802678; near Mandwa Jetty; 8am – 9.30pm

Bohemyan Blue Garden Café: 00-919823481829; www.bohemyanblue.com; Plot No 1, Agarsure, Alibaug-Rewas Main Rd, opp Fountain Head, Zirad; 11am – 7pm.

Café Zoe’s Kitchen: 00-91-9833490490; Alibaug-Rewas Main Rd; only on weekends; 9am – 9pm (for placing orders), delivery between 11.30am and 10.30pm.

SAFETY

The area is quite safe though it is better for women to travel in groups. Most beaches don’t have lifeguard facilities,  be careful while taking a dip in the ocean.

MEDICAL AID

Primary Health Centre can handle minor ailments (00-91-2141-237831, 00-91-9833955370 [Dr Abhijeet Ghase]; Dhokawade; 9am – 6pm daily except for public holidays, call for emergencies).  It’s best to head back to Mumbai  for serious medical issues.

GOOD TO KNOW

*Kiki’s Café & Deli opens at 8am,  but don’t expect service for the next  30 to 45 minutes.

*Rickshaws are easy to find  at Mandwa Jetty till 9pm. If you don’t have your own vehicle, make sure  to take down contact details of a few rickshaw drivers beforehand, or fix  a time for pick-up.

*Café Zoe’s Kitchen also delivers marinated, uncooked meats for barbecues and whole roasts with sides which needs a five-hour notice.

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Backwoods Camp – South Goa, India

Wild melodies

Picture yourself in Goa, wide awake at dawn — no hangover or beach in sight. Instead, you’ve been walking in the woods, listening to birdsong, watching flashes of colour play peekaboo among the leaves.

Backwoods Camp draws you into Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary‘s earthy interior, where giant squirrels run amok in the trees and unusual feathered creatures are visible at close range. Peace cocoons you as you switch to the simple life: rising early, going for long walks in the sanctuary’s buffer zone and befriending other birding buffs at the rustic property.

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Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary

Over 170 species of endemic and migratory birds can be found here  in winter. The forest surprises you with nature’s unsung marvels at every turn. Huge wood-spiders hang over the gravelly paths while butterflies and damselflies flit about the thick shrubbery. With neither phone network nor any signs of urban life close by, every sighting becomes a conversation piece here.

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An orange-headed thrush stops to catch its breath

An entire morning can be spent tracking rare species like the Malabar trogon or Indian pitta by their distinctive whistles. Resident guide Leio makes birding easy with his sharp ears and powerful binoculars that show crests, beaks and plumes in bright detail. He leads the way on walking trails that wind around the camp, behind which flows a secluded little stream. The colourful Oriental dwarf kingfisher likes to frequent such watery spots and you might see one flying by when you wade in for a dip.

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A green bee-eater on the lookout for prey

The camp itself is far from luxurious, but it gives you the luxury of exclusivity. Few visitors come to this part of Goa, so every walk feels unspoilt. At Tambdi Surla, a few kilometres away, you can wander through tall grasses warmed by the winter sun, before seeing the ancient stone carvings of a 12th-century Mahadev temple. It’s the perfect place to just be in the moment — or share it with a friend. In this simplified milieu, small talk revolves around the habits of barbets, sunbirds and other pretty birds.

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The Mahadev Temple at Tambdi Surla

It can be tricky to identify them at first, but Leio’s light commentary on the birds makes you wiser. If this place were to have a winged mascot, it would have to be the weirdly adorable Ceylon  frogmouth. Romantics at heart, frogmouths are commonly found here roosting with their mates after dusk within the camp itself. They’re superbly camouflaged even at head height, but, once you spot that grumpy, froggy face, you won’t forget it.

By night, things get more intriguing. There are no large predators in the sanctuary, but Leio and his helpers are happy to take you on night drives to help you look for owls, nightjars and encounter other wildlife — if you’re lucky. Packs of wild dogs, or dhole, can be found roaming the forest, and deer’s eyes often shine through the quiet darkness.

Though it’s cut off from civilisation,  the camp makes a nice base for exploring other locations in Goa. The Dudhsagar Falls, tucked into a corner of the sanctuary, are worth visiting for the drama of driving through shallow streams, smelling the red earth of the forest and swimming under the large, frothy, three-tiered waterfall.

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Dudhsagar Falls makes a pleasure to walk around the camp

And when you return, tea and pakoras await in the camp’s cosy dining room to be enjoyed to the soundtrack of birds chirping merrily in the birdbaths outside.

WHERE TO STAY

backwoods-camp

Backwoods Camp: This camp is ideal for a mellow getaway in the woods. The guest rooms in the main house are more airy and spacious than the small cottages scattered across the property, which offer more privacy. Facilities here are simple but clean and efficient.

WHERE TO EAT

This isn’t a foodie destination, so expect basic meals with veg and non-veg dishes. As the camp attracts foreign visitors, the flavouring in the food is on the mild side, and might be bland for the Indian palate. So carrying your own condiments and some snacks is not a bad idea. The market is far away from the camp  so dietary preferences should be mentioned at the time of booking.

WHAT TO PACK

You’ll need thick-soled walking shoes when you stroll on the pebbly trails, as well as mosquito repellent, a hat, sunscreen, any medication that you regularly need, and binoculars — if you own a pair. The forest is slightly cooler than the beaches, but comfortable enough for lightweight clothes. If you’re travelling in a group, consider carrying some games for the evenings.

Falls both take about an hour, so you can use the restrooms at the airport, camp or entry point to the falls. The walking trails lack loos, but you’re never away from the camp for more than three hours at a time.

SAFETY

This is a safe destination, but do stay with the group and watch out for snakes while walking in the forest. Life jackets are provided at Dudhsagar Falls.

MEDICAL AID

There’s a first-aid kit at the camp and there’s the government-run ID Hospital for emergencies (00-91¬832-2312115; Ponda) as well as a private hospital— Savaikar Clinic & Nursing Home — both are about an hour’s drive away.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

Babies and children are welcome at Backwoods Camp, but, unless your kids are very passionate about avian life and can survive in a quiet place for 48 hours, we suggest leaving them at home.

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Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway – India

SMACK YOUR LIPS

“Should I get a massage or head to the infinity pool and relax all day with a drink for company? Should I try the delicious buffet at Feast or the home-made pastas at Bene? Should I try the Paired Menus at the Lobby Lounge or the Smoking Cocktail experience by the pool? Maybe I’ll just stay in this comfy bed with fluffy pillows and order in while I make up my mind.” These are some of the tough decisions you’re faced with at the Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway.

The main draw here is the food, so you will spend your staycation in a happy haze of gourmet bliss. Bone, the hotel’s   Italian restaurant run by Chef Guiseppe Lioce, offers you treats like Capesante Mare e Monti — scallops cooked to perfection in truffle honey and served on a bed of pumpkin puree, asparagus and crispy Parma ham, or Branzino alla Livornese — oven-baked Chilean sea bass cooked in a light tomato sauce with garlic, capers and anchovies.

For delicious grills, and international, Asian and Indian delights, try the all-day dining Feast. The massive buffet brims with delicious pan-Asian sautés, North Indian curries, an array of desserts and chefs’ homemade pickles  with flavours from around the country. Or try sampling from one of the themed live counters that serve up delicious grills, Tex-Mex and South Indian delights.

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Lobby Lounge

Early evening, head down to the Lobby Lounge for a taste of the delectable Paired Menus — small plates of goodies like Lamb Sliders or Bira Blonde Battered Sea Bass that are pre-paired with wines or beers. smoking-cocktail-sheratonRemember to leave enough room for the Middle Eastern feast by Chef Gopal that awaits you at Persian Terrace. Start with cold mezzes like Burani Spinach and babaganoush, followed by platters of juicy chicken, lamb and seafood kebabs and end with Om Ali — a traditional Arabic puff pastry served with saffron and pistachio ice-cream. Set by the pool, this open-air restaurant has pretty cabanas and a fire pit, which adds a touch of drama to your meal. And, if you’re looking  for a really dramatic experience, try the lit-up Smoking Cocktails (left), which are essentially hookahs filled with alcohol, fruits, tobacco and ice.

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Persian Terrace

Having achieved the ‘Grand’ status a year ago, the service here steals the show. It isn’t just about making your stay comfortable; the staff takes care of little things like cars fitted with wi-fi, charging docks at the table, Champagne breakfasts at the Club Lounge and romantic dinners by the poolside.

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Offering stunning city views, the room here are built for comfort

And, since the whole idea of a staycation is to do nothing, the hotel is really quite perfect. Apart from copious amounts of delicious food, tasty brews and cocktails as well as indulgence available at the hotel, its proximity to Onion Mall (see Shopping) means you can indulge in some major retail therapy and entertainment, take a leisurely walk around the lake at sunset or party the night away at High Ultra Lounge located at an altitude of 420 ft on the rooftop of the World Trade Centre (see Good to Know). With everything located literally a stone’s throw from the hotel, why would you ever want to leave?

WHERE TO STAY 

 Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway: Located inside the Brigade Gateway complex, this hotel boasts 230 superb rooms, luxurious service and facilities, brilliant restaurants, a spa, an infinity pool and a fitness centre.

WHERE TO EAT

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Bene Pizza

The hotel has quite an array of restaurants serving up delicious treats. The open-air Persian Terrace is a great option for dinner on a breezy evening (level 4; 6.30pm -11.30pm). The hotel’s warm and friendly Italian restaurant, Bene, has a pizza bar, pasta counter and a spectacular selection of wines and spirits (level 4; 12pm -3pm, 6.30pm -11.30pm).

Feast is an all-day dining restaurant that does huge buffet spreads that include Asian and Indian treats as well as themed live counters like grills and Tex-Mex. The a la carte menu offers international, Asian and Indian cuisine (lobby level; breakfast: 6.30am -10.30am, lunch:12pm -3.30pm, dinner: 6.30pm-11.30pm, Sunday brunch:12.30pm- 4.30pm).

The Lobby Lounge is open 24X7.

MEDICAL AID

The hotel provides first-aid facilities and has a doctor on call. The nearest hospital, Columbia Asia, is five minutes away.

SHOPPING

Head to the adjacent Orion Mall.

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Muchukunda Murals – Thiruvarur, Tamil Nadu

You enter the ancient hall, with its ochre pillars extending upwards in the dark, cavernous depths of the structure. How plain, you think. That’s when your guide taps your shoulder and points upwards. There, on the ceiling, lit by weak shafts of sunlight, are long rows painted in vivid reds and greens, featuring a motley crew of very small people. And that’s when your jaw drops, and the dance begins.

And what a dance it is. Observing the murals at Muchukunda, panel after panel, row after row, requires you to pirouette as you walk along the length of the corridor so you can take in every single detail illustrated on the ceiling.

The motion makes you wonder if the arrangement of the panels was, in fact, intended to make you circumambulate the panels from below — making the little people above your head seem like gods.

You are in the Devasiriya Mandapam of the Sri Thyagaraja Swamy Temple, which predates Thanjavur’s ancient Brihadeeswarar Temple. The painted panels tell the story of the mythical monkey-faced Chola king Muchukunda. It is believed that Lord Shiva took up residence in this temple in the form of Thyagaraja Swamy only after Muchukunda correctly identified the former’s real image from a set of seven nearly identical ones.

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Your neck might ache from constantly looking up the murals but it’s all worth it

These murals were painted only in the 17th century, during the Nayaka period, a more recent addition to the temple’s landscape. However, they suffered damage over the centuries, and have been recently restored by the Prakriti Foundation and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (IN TACH).

The Mangala Rural Retreat, in the vibrant town of Thirvarur, is the perfect place at which to base yourself to see this beautiful piece of history.

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Base yourself at Mangala Rural Retreat, which offers the quaintness and warmth of a village home

Built to resemble a traditional Tamil house, it has five rooms, each different from the other, and overlooks the historic Agneeswarar Temple and its expansive tank. Set in Thirupugalur Village, about 22km from the site of the murals, the hotel is run by the Prakriti Foundation, giving you direct access to the murals, which are otherwise not always open to the public. So it’s worth staying here, despite the distance. Besides there’s enough to do in and around the village  to keep you occupied for the rest of your trip. Take a leisurely walk (3pm-5pm) or borrow a bicycle and pedal past lush fields and quaint houses, and meet friendly locals. If you’re lucky, you might also be able to feed the temple elephant.

Agneeswarar Temple

Agneeswarar Temple

That’s not all, though. You could also visit a potter’s home in nearby Thirukanapuram and learn the craft from him, or head to Nanilam, 10km away, to perfect the art of bamboo-weaving from the villagers (both activities can be arranged by the hotel; 9.30am – 5pm).

For meals, you don’t need to look any further than the property itself. With only vegetarian fare available, the thalis here are generous, featuring a dozen items, from sambhar and rasam to poriyal and kozhakottai (appams stuffed with grated coconut and jaggery). Breakfast, too, is a truly traditional affair, starring fluffy idlis and chutney or pongal, among an array of other dishes.

The town and its murals might not enjoy the same popularity as the relics in nearby Thanjavur. And perhaps that is a good thing. Because, when you visit, you will understand why this hidden gem requires quiet and solitude for your dance to be magical.

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The locals are a friendly bunch

WHERE TO STAY

Mangala Rural Retreat:

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The property is run like a homestay and has five rooms. Although equipped with modern amenities, the vibrant house — painted a happy yellow —exudes old-world charm, with courtyards, red oxide floors and stone and terracotta tiles. The caretaker Arun, who lives nearby, is always on call and will take care of your every need.

WHAT TO PACK

Light cottons, sunblock, comfortable shoes

CLEAN LOO GUIDE

You won’t need to use the loo as the drive from Tiruchirapalli takes about an hour. Use the airport toilet if you must.

SAFETY

While the locals are friendly, it’s safer to not venture out too late.

MEDICAL AID

Mangala Rural Retreat has a doctor on call. For any serious medical issues, head to Thanjavur (68km away), which has many hospitals. The super-specialty MVK Hospital is a good bet.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

There isn’t much on this trip to keep kids entertained. Unless your little ones are interested in art or history, we recommend leaving them at home.

SHOPPING

poompuhar-india

Muchukunda doesn’t offer much by way of shopping. Make a stop at Thanjavur, en route to Tiruchirapalli airport, for a wealth of interesting options. Among these, Poompuhar, run by the Tamil Nadu Government, sells handicrafts from Thanjavur and around.

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Camping in Satpura Tiger Reserve – Madhya Pradesh, India

The morning fog has begun to disappear and you’re trudging along on the nature walk. The langurs on the teak tree  are swinging from the branches  and a couple of racket-tailed drongos  are chirping away. But what happens  next breaks the spell you’ve been lulled  into, and you remember you’re in an actual jungle, where encounters rarely  end amicably. There’s dried blood on the walking trail. You walk into the bushes  to investigate and come across the bony remains of a sambar; the tree nearby  has leopard claw marks all over its trunk, suggesting the cat dragged the deer up the tree to devour it. The brutal beauty of nature is one of the many things you experience on the camping and nature walk, organised by the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge in the Satpura Tiger Reserve.

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Reni Pani Jungle Lodge

The programme includes one or two nights of camping, depending on your preference, as well as half- and full-day walks. Located at the confluence  of the Nagduari and Denwa rivers,  Reni Pani’s Jamanidev Under Canvas Mobile Camp is nestled in a splendid valley. The fun begins with a drive to the campsite from the lodge. It’s a bumpy 22km ride in a 4×4 that will get you ready for the adventure ahead. On the way,  the forest guard accompanying you keeps a look out for animal sightings while the in-house naturalist peppers the conversation with titbits about the jungle and its inhabitants.

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Wild dogs usually roam in packs and can take down animals 30 times their weight

Depending on how sharp your eyes are, you might see leopards, deer, nilgai, sloth bears and boars in the abundant foliage. Once you reach the campsite, it’s time for some pampering. You’re welcomed with a hot towel that instantly makes  the chill in your bones disappear, and the tents remind you that the term ‘glamping’ was invented a few years ago for a reason. Equipped with everything you might need for a couple of nights under the stars – toiletries, a torch and a whistle, in case you need help in the middle of the night, or if an animal comes visiting – the tents are spacious, but cosy.

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Dining at the campsite is at Gol Ghar, which makes even simple food like dal, rice and sabzi seem romantic

After a sundowner, a simple meal of dal, rice, curries and parathas awaits. An after-meal coffee around the bonfire later, you’re ready  to be tucked in along with a hot-water bag – a lifesaver in the winter months.

The next morning, it’s time for a full day (about 7km) of nature walks. Taking muffins and sandwiches along, you’ll begin a day full of surprises. You’ll stumble upon deer and nilgai, who are startled by your presence. You’ll hear sounds you never have before from beautiful birds you didn’t know existed.

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The nature walk in the reserve’s buffer zone is a learning experience at every curve

And you’ll learn more about  the forest than you did in your geography class at school. By the end of the day, you’ll know the crested hawk-eagle from the grey-headed fish eagle, and the satin wood bark tree from the crocodile bark tree. By night, you might even hear an alarm call ringing out from the woods that breaks the laughter around the bonfire, and puts everyone on high alert.

A juvenile crested hawk-eagle peers out from behind a tree. Apart from the crest, they’re known for their distinctive yellow eyes

A juvenile crested hawk-eagle peers out from behind a tree. Apart from the crest, they’re known for their distinctive yellow eyes

Is a sambar going to be killed?  Is the predator likely to come sniffing around the campsite? The naturalist laughs off your questions, assuring you there’s nothing to worry about. The first question is answered the next morning during the morning nature walk (3.5km), when the guard from the anti-poaching camp informs that all is well with the deer. As you’re walking past large meadows  and ponds, home to kingfishers,  and you hear the songs of the white-browed wagtails, you realise you need  to come back.

GREAT FROM: Bhopal, Mumbai, New Delhi

GREAT FOR: A weekend of adventure

WHERE TO STAY

Jamanidev Under Canvas Mobile Camp by Reni Pani Jungle Lodge: The lodge has 12 very comfortable cottages of varying sizes – six Nallah Units, four Forest Units and two Hill Units. The campsite has single and double occupancy, well-equipped, spacious tents and hot water on demand.

 WHERE TO EAT

The lodge and the campsite offer mostly Indian food and some Continental dishes. Share your preferences with the staff and they’ll accommodate your requests. All the meals at the lodge are buffet-style. At dinner, try the Mohua Martini, a specialty considering mahua trees don’t grow everywhere in India. The food at the camp is prepared fresh on-site. It’s usually simple but delicious fare with a vegetable and meat curry, rice, dal and hot rotis and parathas. The gajar and doodhi halwas are yummy! The nalli nihari and baingan bharta are popular dishes at Reni Pani Jungle Lodge. Since the camp is situated in a jungle, the food served here is your only option.

baingan-bhatra

The baingan bharta is one of the most popular dishes at the lodge, but you can ask the staff to prepare it for you at the campsite, too

WHAT TO PACK

Forest-friendly colours are ideal for jungle excursions. Carry a pair of good hiking shoes, as sneakers don’t quite offer good grip; winter gear, including a hat, is a good idea, as is a pair of binoculars if you own one.

CLEAN LOO GUIDE The loos and bathrooms set up at the campsite are better than anything you’d expect. On the way to Reni Pani Jungle Lodge from Bhopal, Highway Treat, run by Madhya Pradesh Tourism in Bhimbetka (45km), offers a decent toilet and good coffee.

SAFETY

While the lodge, campsite and the jungle are safe, be aware of your surroundings on the walks as well as at the campsite at all times.

MEDICAL AID

There is a well-stocked first-aid box in the cars and at the campsite. However, there is no mobile network or electricity at the campsite, and a doctor is available only at the lodge. Dr Sitoke is a GP and his clinic is about 10km from the lodge. There’s also a government hospital 14km away in Sohagpur. Inform the lodge staff if you need assistance.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

Even though the camp is comfy, it’s not the best idea to travel with very young children, considering their various needs. This trip is better suited for kids aged 12 years and over.

GOOD TO KNOW

* Satpura Tiger Reserve is closed on every Wednesday afternoon.

* If you’re looking for more rigorous activity, you can opt for the Panchmarhi Trail. It involves two-day treks of about 13km each with overnight camps in Dehelia and Manakachar villages.

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Be Part of Madhya Pradesh’s Strong Culture – India

REWA

When history and nature intertwine, it is one of the most beautiful things of all. Such is a place called Rewa, in the north-eastern part of Madhya Pradesh. Its forts tell a tale as old as time, and its waterfalls gush through the landscape.

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The Keoti Falls (37km) here are a major attraction; their height and beauty are well worth the travel. Visitors from all across the land come to look upon this force of nature. The water sprays into the air, creating a mist through which the surrounding precipice is shrouded, and it gushes with such a force that one is taken aback The Chachai Falls (37km) nearby should not be underestimated either; the surrounding flora and fauna adorn it like adoring fans.

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The Chachai Falls

Further, the city’s princely rulers have left their mark upon this land; their legacy stands strong in their forts and palaces, in their temples and their monuments. There is much to see here, starting with the  Govindgarh Palace (13km).

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The Spectacular Ruins of Govindgarh Palace

This is where the Maharaja of Rewa made his cosy nest (and, by nest, we mean palatial haven), and where his possessions still lay, including the skull of the famous white tiger caught and housed by His Highness, the first time anyone had ever done so. To view more priceless antiques, one may visit the museum at the Rewa Fort (3km), which stands as a testimony to Rewa’s rich history.

Venkat Bhavan is also a show-stopping example of beautiful architecture, and for a religious experience one can visit the massive supine statue of Lord Shiva named Bhairav Baba, carved out of a single obsidian stone. With so much to see, Rewa will definitely keep you occupied and leave you with many beautiful memories.

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KHAJURAHO

Once home to about 85 temples, Khajuraho is spread across three sections, several centuries and various architectural styles. It is a buffet of culture for any historian or history-lover, and its fine carvings are noteworthy for their beauty and attention to detail.

This UNESCO World Heritage site now cocoons 20 preserved temples, the most notable being in the western section, containing the magnificent Shaivite temple Kandariya Mahadev (2km; sunrise ¬sunset) with high porches and regal spires.

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Kandariya Mahadev temple

These temples are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country and were built during the golden period of the Chandela rulers. They are wonderful expressions of human imagination, creativity, hard work and spirituality. The carvings often feature erotic images, in an expression of faith through sexuality. While these may be startling, they depict an ancient human ritual that straddles both the past and the present and becomes symbolic on a universal level.

You can sign up for a bicycle tour, which will take you around the sights in the most hassle-free manner possible. Visit in the last week of February for the Khajuraho Dance Festival, which features classical Indian dances like Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Odissi and Manipuri by talented dancers. This festival is internationally recognised, and draws crowds from across the world.

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Khajuraho Dance Festival 2016

CHITRAKOOT

India is a land of demons and Gods, of myths and legends, of stories that sound incredulous and yet many fervently believe in. In modern India, the true origin of such stories lie shrouded in mystery, and yet, they are endlessly enthralling.

Chitrakoot is allegedly the place in which Lord Ram, his wife Sita and brother Laxman took refuge during their exile. The borders between myth and reality are blurred in its densely-populated forests, as these sites are where the deities apparently lived and breathed. Janki Kund (34km) is where Sita used to take a bath during her stay in Chitrakoot, where the waters once flowed pure and crystal clear.

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Janki Kund

The place where Lord Ram would bathe, Ramghat, is one of the most popular attractions in Chitrakoot and it is a place of peaceful meditation, punctuated by  evening aartis that light up the scene.

The Kamadgiri Mountain (32km) is also one of immense religious significance; it is the place where Lord Ram and his companions are said to have stayed.

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The Kamadgiri Mountain

The name of the maintain means ‘one who fulfils wishes’. And for someone with an interest in Indian history, his or her wish will certainly be fulfilled with a visit here. The landscape is replete with ancient sites, such as the Bharat Milap Temple, where Bharat and Lord Ram had an argument in logic. The Gupt Godavari (44km) is a hidden cave with natural running water in which Lord Ram and Laxman supposedly held court, as the rocks form a curious throne-shaped formation.

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Bharat Milap Temple

For beautiful panoramic views of the lush landscape visit the Hanuman Dhara (31km), a spring on a steep rocky face, located on the rolling hillside. They say it was created by Lord Ram himself!

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Hanuman Dhara

The stories of the Ramayana you heard from your grandparents come alive in this beautiful, natural setting, and they make you start to question the difference between myth and reality.

CHANDERI

The name rings a bell. “Hey, isn’t that a hand-woven silk sari?” you wonder. Yes, these exquisitely-crafted fabrics originate from the town of Chanderi, but it should be famous for a lot more. The town has a simple elegance that has been lost in many tourist hot-spots; its radiant sunsets and regal monuments lend  it an air of old-world charm. Be swept away into a world of Rajput kings and magnificent palaces, of festivities and times of war.

This town is well founded in folklore, but it is unique because it is considered sacred. Legend has it that King Kirtipal of the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty witnessed “The Miracle of Water” on a hunting expedition here, when he was supposedly cured of leprosy by its rivers. Since then, it became his capital, and has been revered for generations.

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Koshak Mahal

Today, this town serves as a major center of Jain culture. Interesting sites here include the Koshak Mahal (4km), built by the Sultan of Malwa with three majestic arches, the Shehzadi Ka Rauza (3km) with unusual serpentine brackets and the Purana Madarsa (4km), a tomb with intricately carved jails and exquisite geometric carvings.

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Purana Madarsa

The Ramnagar Palace and Museum here is also a window into a fascinating and colorful history. This settlement is also known to have had 1,200 baolis or stepwells, and they are worth a visit for their intricate structure.

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The Ramnagar Palace and Museum

One thing is for sure, if the walls in this town could talk, one could listen forever ¬history has seeped into the very bricks of this religious haven.

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A Royal Vacay in Narendra Bhawan – Bikaner, Rajasthan, India

Walking around Narendra Bhawan is like taking a quick refresher course in the history of design. There’s a delightful confluence of elements from around the world – a hat tip to its former inhabitant’s eclectic tastes. Banarasi weaves framed and mounted on the walls play up a contrast with Art Deco’s chevron patterns, Ming vases share space with European porcelain figurines, the intricate designs of usta art, a Bikaneri specialty, fight with the delicate beauty of Portuguese tiles for your attention. Almost every corner of the hotel, once the residence of the last king of Bikaner, Narendra Singh, transports you to a different time.

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The Royal Exploration takes you to Devikund Sagar, where members of the royal family of Bikaner were cremated

Geared mostly towards a young, urban crowd, this 82-room property officially opened its doors to visitors in October 2016. Narendra Bhawan offers traditional hospitality with a cool, hip vibe. Rooms are furnished with modern conveniences, the terrace houses an infinity swimming pool, Edith, the red piano, tempts you to unleash your inner Beethoven, and a well-equipped gym calls out to fitness enthusiasts. If your idea of a perfect holiday is curling up with a book and endless cups of chai (that you don’t have to brew yourself), you will be spoilt for choice here. Sit cross-legged on the asana chairs in the lounge area or sink into the comfort of large cushions placed in designed seating areas in the corridors with sunlight streaming in through the jaali work. And don’t fret if you’ve forgotten your Kindle at home, you’ll find well-stocked bookshelves here. While deciding what to read, get acquainted with the maharaja’s family, and his dogs, through the picture frames on the shelves.

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The Prince Room comes with details like pearl-studded bottle holders

Narendra Singh’s love for animals is legendary – he once owned 500 cows and 90 dogs! In the evening, head to the terrace, done up in a pleasing combination of white and beige, with pops of blue. It’s the perfect place at which to mull over existentialism, or to think of an alternate ending for How I Met Your Mother with your toes dipped in the pool, as you take in views of the city. For those who want to explore what Bikaner has to offer (besides excellent bhujia), the hotel offers thoughtfully-curated experiences. For first-timers, the Royal Exploration is a great way to learn about the city’s 500-year history. Architecture buffs will love the Merchant Exploration trail through the winding lanes where traders lived in their grand havelis, the oldest dating back to the 17th century.

The elaborate facades of these havelis, with British, Mughal and Rajput influences, make for a visual treat. The trail ends with a Marwari lunch at one of these palaces. There are other fun outdoor options too. Grab a pair of binoculars and head to Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary, 35km away, for a chance to spot blackbuck, spotted deer, cranes and peacocks. It’s enjoyable as long as you keep your expectations real. What is very memorable though is Sundowner at the Pastures – a truly spectacular set-up designed to please all the senses.

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The Sundowner at the Pastures offers an opportunity to take in the raw beauty of the desert from a fancy set-up

Marvel at a fiery orange sun sinking into the sand dunes, as you swirl the wine around in your glass and nibble on ker sangri tikkis while listening to the soothing notes of the flute – it’s a pretty good way to wind up the day.

GREAT FROM: New Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur

GREAT FOR: A lazy, relaxed, fun vacation

WHERE TO STAY

Narendra Bhawan: Currently only two categories of rooms – the Residence and Prince – are available at the hotel. By March 2017, three more room categories in different themes and sizes are expected to be functional. The hotel is located in the midst of a residential area, so don’t expect stunning views from your balcony.

WHERE TO EAT

Meals are served at Pearls and Chiffon. Chefs Sachit Jha, Ram and Bhanwar Singh whip up dishes to suit every palate and the menu has excellent Marwari cuisine options. The bajra poori with methi ki sabzi is a great choice for breakfast and the pyaaz kachori hits the spot. The tangy tikkis made with ker sangri – a berry-bean combination unique to Rajasthan – will make your tastebuds tingle. Satiate your sweet tooth with a slice of the apricot-brandy cake or dig into the ever-popular and equally sinful chocolate lava cake with ice cream ). If you want something a little more exclusive and a lot more royal, dine in the private dining area, which can accommodate up to 10 people. Don’t bother carrying theplas or other snacks if you’re prone to late night cravings. The kitchen is open and in-room dining from a separate midnight menu is available 24 hours (from 11.30pm).

SHOPPING

The local markets are just 10 minutes away from the hotel. You can shop for mojdis at Mahendra Jooti Corner. Pick up bhujia from Chotu Motu Joshi, one of the oldest shops in the area. Help the dying usta art by picking up souvenirs like jewellery boxes, perfume bottles, photo frames, table lamps and paintings from Azmal Hussain Usta’s shop.

CLEAN LOO GUIDE

There aren’t many clean public loos in Bikaner so it’s best to use the hotel facilities before stepping out. The drive to and from Jaipur Airport is at least five hours long, and the dhabas en route have very basic toilets. It’s best to use the loo before embarking on the long drive. Carry hand sanitiser.

MEDICAL AID

For any medical emergencies, head to MN Hospital and Research Centre.

SAFETY

Bikaner is relatively safe, but it’s best not to wander around by yourself. Take the usual precautions.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

The hotel has board games and organises movie screenings to keep kids busy and entertained, but it’s best to carry along games they enjoy. They will enjoy splashing about in the pool, too.

GOOD TO KNOW

* The property is pet friendly, but keep in mind the presence of at least one golden retriever on the premises.

* A spa, which will offer flower-based therapies, is slated to open by July 2017.

* If forts fascinate you, pencil in a visit to Junagarh Fort, which enjoys the distinction of never having been invaded.

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Junagarh Fort is a delight for history and architecture buffs

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The Music of Kayal Island Retreat – Alleppey, Kerala, India

There are some sounds you must like before coming to Kayal Island Retreat. Rustling palms, chirping birds, and the song of the cicadas. But, most of all, you must like the sound of your thoughts, because that will be the loudest of all. Perched on the banks of Vembanad Lake, Kayal Island Retreat is a meditative space.

It’s located on Kakkathuruthu – the island of crows – named after its former inhabitants, just a half-hour drive (22km) from Fort Kochi and a 10-minute ride on a powdery blue canoe from the Kudapuram Jetty. Though the island is now home to 300 families, many of them farmers and fisherfolk leading the simple life (though most of their offspring now hold day jobs in the city), this bite-sized boutique resort feels completely isolated. This is the sort of place where the cell phone signal is iffy at best, where cloudy skies create dramatic reflections on the lake, the green verges on fluorescent, and staying in means ticking off all the books on your reading list. In short, it’s where you go when you want to disconnect and recharge for a bit.

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Enjoy guided walks around the lush island

Two years ago, founder Maneesha Panicker turned this abandoned former artist’s residency on the backwaters into a luxury retreat. Rooms are decorated with cute curiosities and black-and-white photographs of the locals, and have outdoor bathrooms that are roomy enough to rain-dance in. But don’t hole up inside – the lush village deserves exploration. Head out for winding strolls and you’ll observe locals going about their day. If you’re lucky, you might spot the toddy tapper high up in the tree, or the fishermen building dykes around natural fish farms. Follow the path behind the retreat to the island’s singular grocery shop and stop off for a jeera soda – possibly the only purchase you’ll make while you’re here.

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A patio at Kayal Island Retreat

Instead, you’ll spend days on the woven chairs overlooking the lake, taking in the sublime view and marvelling at the odd neighbour floating past in a sari blouse and skirt, catching fish with her bare hands. Each day a local makes pit stops to every home to pick up each family’s catch and pays them for their efforts. Wake early one morning for a canoe ride (included with your stay) along the lake, through winding canals swathed in green and wider expanses, and past paddy fields and brightly-painted local homes with boats in matching colours. If you’re adept at recognising birds, there are a quite a few to observe in addition to the ubiquitous crow.

Look out for elegant cranes and brilliant blue kingfishers. Follow your boat ride up with an hour-long morning yoga session and, once you’re limber and ravenous, make your way to the waterfront dining area for a hearty breakfast of something local – spicy kadala (chickpea) curry and swirly idiyappam (rice hoppers), or boiled kappa (tapioca) smeared with crushed chilli and shallots in coconut oil. The resort prides itself on its simple, home-style cuisine and the produce it uses is fresh and largely organic. Lunches and dinner, more often than not, include the day’s catch and are usually communal, so you can have conversations with other guests if that’s your thing and, indeed, if there are any others.

GREAT FROM: Bangalore, Ernakulam, Trivandrum

GREAT FOR: Pulling a disappearing act

WHERE TO STAY

Kayal Island Retreat: Accessible only by boat, this is a small property, offering four cute rooms, two large and two cosy and two communal areas to relax in. The amenities are few but the staff is warm and accommodating.

WHERE TO EAT

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You can pick where you want to eat your next meal

Meals at Kayal Island Retreat are bountiful, homestyle and a necessity, as there aren’t any options on the island itself. Expect Kerala specialties such as avial, pachadi and thoran, plus fabulous fresh seafood caught by local fisherfolk. Inform them in advance that you’ll be joining them for meals. Kudapuram Toddy Shop by the pier on the mainland sells karimeen (pearl spot) fried to perfection and fluffy appams to go with glasses of toddy – a heady fermented brew. It’s best visited  for lunch on arrival or departure.

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Don’t miss the fried karimeen at the toddy shop by the jetty

SHOPPING

There’s not much by way of shopping here unless you count the tiny stall selling veggies, toothbrushes and locally-bottled jeera soda. Follow the path behind the resort.

WHAT TO PACK

Clothing in light fabrics, plenty of mosquito repellant, a light pullover for the night

CLEAN LOO GUIDE

It’s not a terribly long journey, so use the airport facilities.

SAFETY

The island is peaceful and safe, but be cautious around the water.

MEDICAL AID

First-aid is provided at the resort. The closest medical facility, Moham Hospital in Eramalloor, is a 10-minute boat ride and a five-minute drive from the mainland jetty (00-91-478-2564376). For major medical emergencies, it’s best to make your way to Ernakulam.

CHILD-FRIENDLINESS

Kids will love the boat rides and the open play space. Don’t forget to pack their favourite books or games to keep them occupied.

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Going Wild in Madhya Pradesh – India

The heart of India offers the best wildlife-watching opportunities in national parks that are accessible from Maharashtra

PENCH NATIONAL PARK

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The dense jungles of our favourite childhood story still tremble with Shere Khan’s roar and ring with the tunes of the Bare necessities. Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh embodies the green paradise that Mowgli and his friends capered in – it was, after all, the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. And certainly, the tigers here are not any less fierce, the foliage any less dense and the species of jungle cats any less abundant than in that classic book. Enter the famous Baghin Nala – if you dare – and try to spot Collarwali, Pench National Park’s resident celebrity tiger, who headlined in the popular documentary series Spy in the Jungle.

If you don’t see Her Majesty, don’t fret; there are many other majestic predators to watch out for from among the park’s population of leopards, wolves, wild dogs, hyenas and jackals. This spacious park also has the highest density of herbivores in India, with Indian bison, cheetal, sambar, nilgai, wild pigs, sloth bears, chousinghas, chinkaras, barking deer, porcupines and more. Other points of interest include Pench Reservoir, whose still waters are graced by the Brahminy duck, pochards, barheaded geese and coots, and over 285 resident and migratory birds that spend time here; and Sitaghat, where exotic birds glide over the tranquil Pench River. Squint into the leafy curtains of the Piyorthadi outcrop; be still as a mouse as you seek out the elusive leopard and quiver in anticipation as you hear the distant vultures scream as they swoop down over their prey.

There is also a variety of options for accommodation that allows you to luxuriate in the lap of nature while still affording a true jungle experience. Enjoy a pleasant stay in the cooler months and make sure to check out the Wildlife Tour Packages for the best deals.
Season: Oct 16 – Jun 30
Closest airport: Nagpur Airport (117km)

SATPURA & PANCHMARHI

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SATPURA Range

Panchmarhi, the queen of Satpura, sits atop her throne in the upper reaches of the Hoshangabad District in Madhya Pradesh. Perched 1,000m above sea level, she won’t take any less than awe-inspired wonderment from all those who look upon her beauty. And for those who make the extra effort, she pours forth crystal-clear waterfalls, scenic forests and unique wildlife. Panchmarhi is known as ‘Satpura-ki-rani’, and is considered to be the highest point in Central India. It forms a part of the larger Satpura National Park, which is home to a delightful variety of bird species, as well as the majestic tiger. Wildlife-lovers will revel in exploring this beautiful UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserve, which is also home to a wonderful range of fauna.

Panchmarhi reveals her wealth of history in cave paintings and legends – the Pandavas are believed to have stayed here during their exile. Ancient paintings can be found at the famous Pandav Caves. Lush gardens welcome visitors as they enter these Buddhist caves, some supposedly hewn as early as the 1st century ADE. Priyadarshini or Forsyth Point has stunning views of rolling hills and misty mountains, and the waterfalls in Panchmarhi are another beautiful sight to behold. Jamuna Prapat might cause you to lose the ability to speak, while an exhilarating 10-minute trek will lead you to a steep drop and Rajat Prapat.

An impressive ravine with dramatically steep sides and a 300m precipice, Handi Koh is also an exciting place to visit. A great spot to picnic at with family is Apsara Vihar, which has a shallow pool that makes the perfect backdrop to a visit. This beautiful landscape further abounds in exciting trekking trails and sunset points; it bewitches all kinds of travellers.

KANHA NATIONAL PARK

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Watching tigers at Kanha National Park

They say the bagh, or tiger, can strike its victims dead with just one swipe of a paw. This majestic animal is as deadly as it is beautiful. With its population of the regal tiger, Kanha National Park offers the chance for a glorious sighting on a jeep safari. The adrenaline filled euphoria at being on the lookout for the wild ferocious beast is very different. On safari, you might also catch a glimpse of bison, gaur, sambar, chital, black buck, jackal fox, black deer and many others.

A faint rustle, the slightest snapping of a twig will have you whipping around trying to spot the elusive animal. In the open grassy meadows you are likely to see the park’s herds of barasingha (or swamp deer) in all their horned beauty. Their grace and agility as they lope across the landscape may surprise you. In the cold winter months, you may hear their husky alarm calls as they run from the mighty tiger and her cubs. It is possible to see leopard as well, if you get lucky, although the park’s tour guides make no promises. The rare few who do behold this sight however, get a special view of the animal in all its spotted splendour. Also look out for the panther, sleek and deadly like Bagheera in The Jungle Book. And, no matter what, do not forget your binoculars, as these will be your eyes into a hidden world of feathered fowl. Home to more than 300 bird species, the park offers views of storks, teals, pintails, egrets, pond herons, peacocks, cuckoos and more.
Season: Oct 16 – Jun 30
Closest airport: While Jabalpur Airport is closer (165km), Nagpur’s airport (280km) has more frequent (and cheaper) flights.