Sadly, Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year, which means that we all miss out on the chance of a nice long weekend. But, don’t worry: Tuesday, 18th August 2015, is Parsi New Year, and for those whose offices recognise this tiny minority and give you the day off, you can still enjoy a long weekend. All you have to do is take the day off from work on Monday, 17th August.
Once you’ve done that, pack up and head to one of these charming properties across the country for some much needed R&R.
I. Jim’s Jungle Retreat (Ramnagar, Uttarakhand)
This beautiful boutique property is located on the southern fringe of one of India’s most famous wildlife parks, the Corbett Tiger Reserve, also known as the Jim Corbett National Park, named after the famous hunter-turned-conservationist. Jim’s Jungle Retreat has 18 cottages divided into three categories—Jungle Lodges, Jungle Cottages, and Family Cottages—each one of which is perfect for travellers with different needs. The property offers excursions into the park ranging from fishing trips and cycling journeys to jeep safaris and heritage walks. While the reserve’s tigers are naturally the biggest draw, you can also spot elephants, sloth bears, wild boar and deer, apart from a wide range of reptiles and birds, so keep your camera ready. Finally, after a long day of trudging through the forest, the in-house spa Aranyam will probably offer some relief with its traditional deep-tissue and Ayurvedic massages. It’s important to take into consideration that most areas of the park are closed during the monsoon, except the Jhirna Tourism Zone, which remains open throughout the year for safari—depending on the road and weather conditions. Make sure you get your entry pass.
Cost: Jim himself would approve at Rs. 12,000 per night.
II. Chunda Palace (Udaipur, Rajasthan)
Udaipur is no stranger to luxury accommodation, and Chunda Palace, with its 46 rooms and 16 opulent suites is very much a part of the pack. It might be an ancient palace, but it offers every modern amenity we’ve come to expect from a hotel, from Wi-Fi to flat-screen TVs. Some rooms and suites have traditional, elaborate work on the ceiling, while others have gorgeous hand-carved wooden furniture and mouldings, miniature paintings and even crystal chandeliers—plus views of the Aravali Range. The hotel also has two swimming pools: a stunning pool on the terrace, which overlooks Lake Pichola, and an indoor temperature-controlled pool. While Rajasthan doesn’t usually spring to mind as a popular monsoon destination, it can definitely be a beautiful experience. Apparently, Maharana Sajjan Singh even built the Monsoon Palace in 1884 to track the progress of the monsoon clouds in the desert state. Surely, he was on to something?
Cost: The terrace view alone is worth it at Rs. 16,000 onwards per night.
III. Rann Riders (Kutch, Gujarat)
This eco-friendly resort has been built using locally sourced materials in the style of a village. The rooms resemble indigenous homes, or kooba, of Dasada’s Bajania community and the bhunga houses of the Rabari tribe of Kutch. The resort organises jeep and camel safaris, camel cart tours, village safaris, horseback riding, and ‘catch and release’ fishing at its own lake. While the endless salt plains of the Rann of Kutch mesmerise travellers year-round, it is during the monsoon, when the plains are submerged that the stunning landscape becomes even more dream-like. If you’re lucky enough to be there during a full moon, the best time to book a camel safari is at night, when the soft white light illuminates the surrounding landscape.
Cost: Surreal, submerged salt plains and desert safaris at Rs. 7,300 per night.
IV. Mitali Homestays (Shantiniketan, West Bengal)
Made famous by India’s most famous Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, Shantiniketan has seen an influx of curious travellers in the recent past. Having opened its doors in 2011, Mitali is a large, beautiful whitewashed house surrounded by well-manicured lawns, orchards and a greenhouse that grows the vegetables that go into your food. The homestay also has its own in-house label called DesignAsia, which stocks clothing and textiles made by local artists. Most importantly, Mitali requests its guests to remember that it is first and foremost a home that has rules it would like them to keep in mind—particularly relating to noisy children and eco-consciousness. If those chosen pet peeves appeal to you, as much as they did to us, look no further for your monsoon getaway.
Cost: Unleash the struggling writer within at Rs. 3,000 per night.
V. Talayar Valley Bungalow (Idduki, Kerala)
Eighteen kilometres from Munnar, the four-bedroom Talayar Valley Bungalow lies on the way to Udumelpet. Set amidst 2,500 acres of tea and coffee plantations with a 360-degree view of the surrounding hills, this quaint bungalow even has its own tea-manufacturing workshop. Sign up and spend the morning in the fields plucking tea with a bamboo basket on your back. You’ll be taught how to pluck tea the correct way before returning to the small, on-site factory where you can witness the next steps in the tea-making process: withering, cutting, tearing, curing, fermenting and drying. Then, of course, you can take your tea back home with you. Talk about a well-earned souvenir. And since tea picking tends to induce serious hunger pangs, your best bet is to come back and light up the outdoor BBQ or bonfire pit, sit back and relax. We don’t need to tell you that the hills are beautiful in the rains. If you have time, Munnar is an hour and a half away by road. Prepare yourself for plenty of misty mountaintops and the photo opportunities that follow.
Cost: Contemplate starting your own tea empire at Rs. 8,800 per night. *Price varies based on room booked.
VI. Amar Mahal (Orchha, Madhya Pradesh)
Orchha was the capital of an erstwhile princely kingdom. While the royal life may not remain, the palaces sure do and they dot the landscape along with many cenotaphs and temples. One of these old palaces is Amar Mahal. Built in 1895, the palace hotel’s deluxe rooms, super deluxe rooms and suites are full of reminders of its royal past—marble floors, carved four-poster beds and ornate mirrors. Activities include river rafting, trekking, bird watching, village tours and heritage walks, amongst others.
Cost: Live like a prince without having to pay like one at Rs. 4,200 per night.
VII. Clifftop Club (Auli, Uttarakhand)
Nestled 10,000 feet high in the Garhwal Himalayas, Clifftop Club is approachable either by the steep mountain road from Joshimath or by cable car. The resort offers views of the towering Nanda Devi, as well as smaller, nearby mountain ranges like Kamet and Trishul. Clifftop Club has studio rooms as well as one and two-bedroom apartments so you have plenty to choose from. While here, be sure to take advantage of the hotel’s tour guides and make your way to the Valley of Flowers. Home to 300 species of wildflowers, the valley also supports medicinal plants and rich wildlife like the tahr and Himalayan black bear. Naturally, the monsoon is the best time to visit the valley as everything is in bloom—all you’ll be able to see is a vast expanse of colour.
Cost: It’s hard to put a price on all that beauty, but if you had to, it would be at Rs. 12,000 per night.
VIII. Jaipur House (Mt. Abu, Rajasthan)
In 1897, His Highness Ram Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur, chose a cliff overlooking Nakki Lake as the site for this palace. Today, Jaipur House is a heritage hotel. With 23 rooms decorated with antique furniture and crystal chandeliers, a gorgeous terrace for an evening drink and beautiful lawns it’s the kind of place that leaves you wanting for little. The monsoon is definitely the perfect time to visit too, as being Rajasthan’s only hill station Mt. Abu receives the most rainfall in the state. Frankly, with all the mist, greenery and waterfalls, you won’t even feel like you’re in Rajasthan after a while.
Cost: Feel privileged to experience rain in the desert state at only Rs. 3,200 per night.
IX. The Tamara (Coorg, Karnataka)
Picture this: Stilted cottages, coffee plantations, blossom-scented air and sleepy sunlight filtering through the high branches of the forest’s trees. That’s the setting at The Tamara. Set amidst 170 acres, this romantic resort is a great contender for the best places to be during the monsoon. Whether you choose to stay in a Luxury Cottage, a Suite Cottage or the Eden Lotus, you will enjoy tons of natural light blazing through the large windows, beautiful east-facing sunrise views and a lot of luxury. Go on a plantation tour and navigate through swathes of arabica, robusta, pepper and cardamom; embark upon a nature trail and try and spot the hundreds of species of local birds. You can even squeeze in some yoga and meditation if that’s your idea of an ideal vacation.
Cost: If you love coffee, you won’t want to leave at Rs. 18,000 per night.
X. Dolma Guesthouse (Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh)
Sharing a border with Bhutan and Tibet, Tawang is famous for its monastery, the largest in India and the second largest in the world. Indian and Chinese heritage are deeply enmeshed in the town’s heritage and their influence can be seen everywhere. If you plan to visit, a great place to stay is the Dolma Guesthouse. Choose between deluxe rooms, suites and executive suites, whose lovely wooden interiors will be sure to keep you warm. Apart from the Tawang Monastery, you can also check out the Tawang War Memorial, dedicated to the martyrs of the Indo-China War of 1962, Sela Pass, Urgelling Gompa and Shonga-tser Lake.
Cost: Spiritual retreats are always less about the money, and more about you at Rs. 1,750 per night.
XI. Hotel Villa Retreat (Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu)
This charming little hilltop property has been family-run since 1989. With sweeping views out over the valley, it’s the perfect place to be during the monsoon—imagine watching all that mist roll in while you sip on a hot cup of tea. If the property itself isn’t lovely enough for you, its location makes it all the more enviable—it’s very close to Coakers Walk, which is famous as a place to witness the awesome Brachem Spectre. It is an extremely rare phenomenon, as it requires you to have the sun directly behind you and clouds or mist in front. When that happens, the sun casts your shadow on to the clouds. What’s more, your shadow seems like it has a rainbow halo around it. Don’t forget to go boating on Kodaikanal Lake if you get the chance, and pay a quick visit to Thalaiyar Falls and Dolphin’s Nose as well. They’re the kind of loose ends you’ll want to tie up.
Cost: Hilltop + tea = paradise at Rs. 2,900 per night.
XII. Ri Kynjai (Shillong, Meghalaya)
This boutique property is big on preserving local tradition. Not only is its architecture inspired by local dwellings, its name itself is derived from the local Khasi language—ri kynjai means ‘serenity by the lake.’ All through the resort you’ll see local influences, whether it’s in the upturned boat roofs, the food served or the spa treatments offered. The resort has Supreme Rooms, Superior Rooms and Cottages. Our pick is the cottages—when you see that view, you’ll understand why. This area receives severe rainfall—the Cherrapunjee-Mawsynram belt is known as the world’s wettest area, and it lies on the nearby slopes. As such, you can see why we picked this moment to send you packing, perhaps even set you out on a trek or jungle walk. And though this is highly unlikely, if the rain lets up a bit, tee off at the Shillong Golf Course.
Cost: You’d think learning about another culture would be priceless, but over here it’s at Rs. 7,000 per night.
XIII. Siolim House (Siolim, Goa)
This seven-room boutique hotel in the village of Siolim is a refreshing change from the slew of big hotels and resorts that dominate Goa. Built in the 16th century in the casa do sobrado style of Goan-Portuguese architecture, Siolim House is a great place for a rainy weekend. It is quiet, and cut off from the hustle-bustle—but not too far from Morjim, Ashwem and a few other hotspots. The hotel can organise plenty of activities to keep you busy if you’re rained in, such as cooking and yoga classes. Book the Macassar Suite for a particularly intimate experience.
Cost: Goa doesn’t always equal beaches at Rs. 6,800 per night.
XIV. The Machan (Lonavala, Maharashtra)
A wonderful tree house resort, there’s a reason Machan finds its way into so many of our stories. An off-the-grid property that prides itself on its eco-consciousness, Machan uses renewable energy for power consumption and dedicates10 percent of its profits towards protecting the plant and animal life of the Western Ghats. The resort has five different types of tree house accommodation—Heritage Machan, Canopy Machan, Forest Machan, Jungle Machan and Sunset Machan. Each one caters to a different sensibility so pick the one best suited for you. There are also cabins available if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground. It’s also interesting to note that though the property does not have a swimming pool, it does have a seasonal dam that fills up during the rains and guests are allowed to swim in it. You don’t really need a better reason for visiting during the rains, do you?
Cost: Tarzan would move here if he could at Rs. 12,000 per night.
XV. Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa (Shillim, Maharashtra)
Another resort in the Western Ghats is the 320-acre, all-villa Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa. Accommodation ranges from one to three-bedroom villas, each with a different offering—depending on whether you want a valley or forest view. The in-house spa has an exhaustive list of offerings, from healing techniques like reiki and acupressure to Ayurveda, yoga and even naturopathy. There is also an on-site cooking school as well as studios for pottery and dance. Nearby attractions include the over 2,000-year-old Karla Caves and Pawana Lake, which is perfect for a monsoon swim.
Cost: Perfect for a quick break from Mumbai at Rs. 13,000 per night.
XVI. Suryagarh (Jaisalmer, Rajasthan)
This stunning desert resort looks like it’s been around for centuries when, in fact, it hasn’t. Cleverly built to look as ancient as the rest of Rajasthan’s numerous forts and palaces, Suryagarh is far newer. Each of its rooms, suites and havelis are a blend of traditional and contemporary. Here, in the monsoon, the landscape changes dramatically, and Suryagarh offers camel safaris that take you out into the desert to see the change firsthand. Don’t forget to visit Jaisalmer too, it’s just a short drive from the hotel. Jaisalmer Fort, Patwon ki Haveli, Mandir Palace, and the city’s numerous bazaars are must-visits. If you’ve never experienced the desert, now is the time to go.
Cost: Perfect monsoon bliss starts at Rs. 8,000 per night.