Vizag: A Beachside Metropolis Experiencing A Food Revolution

One of India’s oldest harbour towns replete with calm beaches is today an IT hub and home to leading restaurants serving international as well as coastal Andhra fares.

DO

► Satisfy your curiosity of being in a Russian submarine by visiting the Submarine Museum of Vizag.

Vizag

► A three-hour drive from the city, the coffee plantations of Araku Valley will leave you spellbound with its picturesque scenery.

STAY

► Four Points by Sheraton Vizag offers warm hospitality and great South Indian cuisine.

► Opt for a sea-facing executive suite at The Gateway Hotel Beach Road Visakhapatnam.

Puducherry: History, Sea & Coffee

The French colony of Puducherry is home to some of the most hip cafes in the country, undisturbed beaches, and the experiential township of Auroville.

DO

► Be it a film festival, coffee roasting class, water therapy, or yoga, the township of Auroville has something for everyone.

► Take a walk around the only sea facing French quarters of Puducherry that reeks of its historical past.

Temple Tree Retreat

Temple Tree Retreat

STAY

► French architecture and luxurious setting of La Villa give a break from cookie-cutter stays.

► Stay at Temple Tree Retreat to be closer to all the action at Aurovilte.

“For a heritage experience, Earth Cafe located at Palais du Mahe, offers artisan hand-pulled espressos and home-baked cakes. Dreamer’s Cafe in Auroville brews great South Indian coffees along with Italian affogato and healthy smoothies.”

Thalassery: An Amalgamation Of Europe And Kerala

A significant seaside town during the centuries of colonisation, Thalassery is the land of three Cs: Circus, Cakes, and Cricket as all these three found its entry to India, here.

DO

► Drive your car onto the sands of Muzhappilangad drive-in beach, voted by BBC as one of the world’s top six beaches.

 Muzhappilangad Beach

Muzhappilangad Beach

► Go hunting for speciality oysters all across the town, from the beach to the bus station.

STAY

► Ayisha Manzil Homestay was built in 1900 in traditional Kerala style-architecture. The bungalow has deluxe rooms, a pool overlooking the sea, and serves delicious Mopilah dishes.

► SwaSwara Resort overlooks the Om Beach and it is one of the best wellness properties along the Konkan coast.

Karnataka: Dolphin Spotting & Scuba Diving

A temple town till the late 90s, Gokarna is fast becoming the go-to beach destination for travellers who are looking for a quieter version of Goa. The Hindu pilgrim town, away from the coast, has ancient temples: the Dravidian-style Mahabaleshwar Temple, the Maha Ganapati Temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, and Bhadrakali Temple, a shrine to Goddess Uma, the protector of Gokarna are the most popular sites.

Karnataka

DO

  • Complete one of India’s only beach treks from Paradise Beach to Om Beach via Half-Moon beach and Kudle Beach, with Thrillophilia.
  • Try adventure activities on Om Beach including jet-skiing and dolphin spotting.

STAY

  • Swa Swara Resort overlooks the Om Beach and it is one of the best wellness properties along the Konkan coast.

Explore The Memorable Cuisine Of Malvan

The small fishing town of Malvan has everything you want from a coastal holiday—beaches, water sports, medieval forts, and most importantly, excellent seafood.

DO

► Take a ferry from Malvan to the famous Sindhudurg Fort built by Chattrapathi Shivaji.

► Scuba dive or snorkel in the Malvan waters and experience under-water life of the Arabian sea.

malvan

Maachli, Malvan

STAY

► Stay with the Samant family in a cottage surrounded by spice, coconut, banana, and beetle nut plantation at Maachli. Go to a heritage village, learn the nuances of Konkani cuisine, take farming lessons, or simply appreciate nature at this eco-friendly homestay.

Surat: A Paradise Of Solitaires And Textiles

A colony of merchants, Surat was once known for its silk weaving and brocade fabrics. Even today, you can visit its bazaars and buy silk saris and embroideries. The city is also famous for its diamonds: Surat is the world’s largest diamond processing cluster. A makeover is on the cards for the city to transform it into a smart city with automatic fare collection system, intelligent traffic control, solar street lighting, and a skywalk.

surat

DO

► Get spooked on the haunted Dumas Beach known for its unique black sand.

► Download the Heritage Walk app and discover historic monuments, Hindu and Jain temples, and heritage homes in the city.

STAY

► On the banks of Tapti, The Gateway Hotel Athwalines is a great option—the highlights include river-view Gateway Suite, multiple dining options, and a spa.

► Stay in one of the 170 rooms of The Grand Bhagwati which is designed for an urban traveller.

Ratnagiri: An Indian Hidden Paradise

Located 335 kilometres from Mumbai, Ratnagiri has hills on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other. Close to town, there are undisturbed and underrated beaches such as Velas, Diveagar, and Guhagar that offer an insight into the Konkan lifestyle.

DO

► Home to the famous Alphonso mango, Ratnagiri is the perfect spot if you want to indulge in mango picking, and of course, eat them fresh from the tree.

► Try Konkan-style fish curry and balance its spicy flavours with sol kadi, a pink-coloured drink. Local snacks such as ambapoli and phanaspoli are must-try.

Ratnagiri

STAY

► Blue Ocean Resort & Spa offers a classic beach resort experience with comfortable rooms.

► Set amidst coconut and mango plantations, Atithi Parinay Homestay is an example of Indian hospitality. Stay here for its traditional food and outstanding location.

Diu Has Wonderfully Uncrowded Beaches & Delicious Food

An erstwhile Portuguese territory, Diu is connected by a lattice of bridges and ferries to Gujarat on the mainland. It has a distinct Mediterranean-meets-Kutch look where houses are painted sunshine yellow, creamy white and powder blue under a scorching sun and clear sky. With a Union Territory status, it is a refuge for travellers to get a real drink as its neighbour is a dry state. Some call it Little Goa, and some call it Gujarat’s Ibiza. But it’s actually a charming and quiet island with clean beaches and delicious food. Wander at the old Portuguese churches and dine on fabulous seafood including rockfish, calamari and prawns.

 Azzaro Resort and Spa

Azzaro Resort and Spa

DO

► Rent a bike and drive to the quiet beaches of Goghla or Ngao and explore the Naida Caves.

► Plan a day trip to the Gir National Park to spot the endangered Asiatic lion from an open-roof jeep.

STAY

► Azzaro Resort and Spa offers 40 rooms and suites, a bar, and a spa.

► Close to the Gir National Park, The Fern is an eco-friendly resort with two restaurants, a spa, and simply decorated cottages and villas that bring you closer to nature.

The Impressive Life Of A Safari Guide

At least 30 per cent of safari-guide training is about learning to evade death and acute suffering, both for I you and your guests. Encounter the Mozambique spitting cobra, for instance, as I did in our camp kitchen one morning, and you risk being hit by a shot of venom that can blind you from eight feet away.

Once you’ve got a grip on how to avoid this and countless other potentially lethal species, the process is exhilarating, and at times extremely challenging— something I discovered during a stint at Eco Training, a professional guide school near South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Over four weeks, the school’s instructors taught me and 18 other aspiring guides to identify 90 bird calls, 12 frog calls, and 60 trees. We learned to locate the constellations, dug around in different types of soil, and squished a whole lot of dung between our fingers.

safari

We were taught a trick called ‘kudu ears,’ which involves cupping your ears to mimic the giant-eared antelope. This allowed us to catch the faint rumble of an elephant in a thicket, and save our guests from being trampled. Within days, we were looking in entirely new ways at the bush, the tracks, the scat, scanning the mall with the beady eye of an African fish eagle. Then we came to the important stuff, like how to keep guests entertained when you’ve seen nothing but impalas for the past hour. “Know your arthropods,” advised David Havemann, our stern South African instructor, who could spin the life cycle of a fig wasp into a drama worthy of Game of Thrones.

But for many of us would-be guides, the biggest challenge was graduating from the obsession with the Big Five most people arrive on safari with. Our goal? To have guests feel as inspired by insects, birds, and grass as by a group of playful lion cubs, and leave the bush, as I did, overcome by the profound, symbiotic beauty of it all.

tiblisi-featured

An Endless Weekend in Tbilisi

Located at the heart of the Caucasus mountains, Georgia’s colourful capital is brimming with culture

Marvel at the architectural mash-up of East meets West that defines Old Town

tbilisi

Tblisi old Town

European, Russian, Asian and Middle Eastern influences intertwine among narrow winding streets, crumbling arches and hidden courtyards. While Tbilisi’s Old Town evokes images of faded grandeur, this enchanting hillside community and UNESCO World Heritage site is a riot of colour from its blue painted wooden balconies to the terracotta rooftops.

Enjoy an elevated perspective of the city

narikala-fortress-georgia

Narikala Fortress

     

Narikala, the 4th-century ’Mother Fortress of Tbilisi’ has dominated and defended the city since it was founded. Overlooking the Mtkarvi River, take the 1,500-metre- long tourist trail that has stunning views at every turn. The vista is especially charming after dark due to the city lights twinkling far below. For the easy way out, take the aerial tramway back down.

Get closer to nature at the National Botanical Garden of Georgia

National Botanical Garden of Georgia

An aerial view of National Botanical Garden of Georgia

Nestled in the city foothills, the 300-year old gardens are a showcase for more than 4,500 species of flora from the Caucasus region and as far afield as Japan and Siberia. Take your time wandering through the fragrant gardens and forested slopes before taking a bracing dip in its picture- perfect waterfall.

No trip to Tbilisi is complete without a visit to the Dry Bridge Bazaar.

dry-bridge-bazaar-1

Dry Bridge Bazaar – Tbilisi

This vibrant local market is a great spot to spend an hour or so with a captivating collection of jewellery, antiques and bric-a-brac on display. Following independence from the USSR in 1991, this is where cash-strapped Tbilisi residents would come to sell their prized possessions. In a reversal of fortune, today it is the haunt of entrepreneurial local traders selling to tourists. Open daily, weather permitting, be prepared to haggle for a bargain.
Follow your nose to Tbilisi’s famed sulphur baths for a skin-softening soak.
Favoured by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and French author Alexandre Dumas, the city’s legendary baths are a novel way to feel rejuvenated. Located in Abanotubani, on the edge of Old Town, and topped by distinctive dome-shaped roofs, the oldest bathhouse has been around for over 300 years. Follow your nose through the narrow alleyways to building number five, for a hammam-style session. More modest bathers can opt for a private room and menu of therapeutic treatments.

For a taste of authentic Georgian cuisine, head to Sakhli 11

Chakapuli dish

Chakapuli dish

In a city filled with endless dining opportunities, Sakhli N11, which is a short walk from Freedom Square, welcomes visitors as if they were family. The menu may be a bit more expensive then other Georgian restaurants, but is worth every lari. Try the Chakapuli – a heartwarming stew made with lamb and herbs, or go for fried local trout and traditional honey cake.

ASK A LOCAL:
“A trip on the restored funicular railway to the top of Mount Mtatsminda is a favourite summer activity for visitors, due to the amazing views from the Funicular Restaurant terrace. Get to know the locals and you may be invited to join a traditional Georgian feast (Supra) with singing and folk dancing.”
Otar Bakhtadze, concierge, Radisson Blu Iveria

Did you know?

If you feel like taking a sneak peek inside one of the city’s grandiose old apartment blocks, don’t forget to carry some small coins. Why? Step inside the elevator and you’ll spy a small box next to the button panel. Unless you slot some coins into the box, you’ll stay stuck on the ground floor. Trips cost around Dhs1.

WHERE TO STAY

RADISSON BLU IVERIA

radisson blu iveria hotel tbilisi
Located In the heart of Tbilisi, this luxury hotel has a glass facade offering amazing Mtvari River views. Suites feature traditional Georgian design touches and the intriguingly named Andropov’s Ears restaurant is a seafood hotspot.