1. The Machan, Lonavala
Driving Time: 2.5 Hours
An express weekend in Lonavala might be boilerplate for a veteran Mumbaikar, but this eco-resort manages to have a fresh take on it. An appealing upgrade on glamping, The Machan’s treehouses are pretty much everything you’d like out of a holiday in the wild with none of the camping discomfort. The wood and glass treehouses, rising up to 40 feet above the forest, have the cosy aesthetic of a log cabin that makes you feel like you’re sleeping right in the thick of the woods. A tree bursts through the floor in the middle of your room, leaves make their way into your bathroom (if it isn’t an outdoor one already), the glass walls or ceilings let the night sky surround you as you sleep – the sense of immersion is a truly full one.
You can choose a type of treehouse, or “Machan”, that best gives you the kind of enveloping feeling you’re after. But top spot goes to the Starlight Machan, which is literally a glass house that seems to be floating over the valley. The Heritage Machan, a split-level loft with a gorgeous view and a vintage vibe, is a very close second. In the spirit of social distancing, meals that were only served in the dining hall can now come to your cabin, as can snacks for when you’re feeling peckish. Prepare for some serious withdrawal symptoms to hit you the minute you drive back into Mumbai mayhem.
On The Way
A little shy of 11km from Lonavala are the Karla Caves, ancient Buddhist rock-cut caves, the oldest of its shrines believed to date back to 160 BC. The grand arches and stupas are a treat for any ardent sightseer before heading into the quiet calm of the hills.
2. Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa
Driving Time: 3 Hours
A spa retreat in the hills is just the ticket needed in the throes of what can only be described as a “stressful year”. Tucked away into the cool, spectral Shillim valley of the Sahyadris is the Hilton’s eco-wellness retreat, a short enough drive from the city to zip away for even a not-so-long weekend. The villas are luxurious without being excessive, from the Spa Pool Villa – with its private pool and garden – to the three-bedroom Presidential Villa, which ups the garden ante with a vantage point of the valley. Outdoorsmen might prefer the nature walks, treks and hikes in the gorgeous wilds, but if you’ve been jonesing for a quality spa day, consider your calendar pre-booked.
You can get a mix of treatments that span from old favourites like aromatherapy to unique ones like Ku Nye (herbal Tibetan ritual massages) through its preset wellness programmes – though the treatments aren’t available outside of the programmes right now. There is, however, a tranquil meditation cave and a yoga pavilion, so you can DIY your own relaxation programme as an alternative. Punctuate your days with cocktail hours at the Valley Bar and dinners at the chef’s table at Terrazzo, and you have yourself an enviable isolation routine.
1. Ganga Kutir At raichak on Ganges
Driving Time 2 Hours
Ask anyone who lives in Kolkata about getaways that don’t involve a flight, and the answer is either “I have absolutely no idea” or “Raichak”. While an insanely long drive would land you in colourful Banaras or postcard-bait Darjeeling, Raichak has the luxury of being a tranquil little spot a fraction of that distance away. But the quiet river town isn’t a consolation prize. It’s the ideal long weekend, especially if you stay at this luxury riverside resort by Raichak on Ganges. Though it has other, more popular properties in town (including a resort with a spa by L’Occitane), we’re partial to these bucolic rooms and suites for their isolated setting and serene river views.
The property has its own dining nook, but take a little traipse to Sonar Tori – literally across the glittering green pond – whenever you can. The high-ceilinged restaurant, also part of the larger RoG property, is worth repeat visits both for its waterfront setting and authentic Bengali fare. It’s a sleepy but striking town, which makes it exactly the kind of place to cycle around in the crisp, twilight hours. Who said a relaxing workout was an oxymoron?
On The Way
In a little village called Sarisha is a legendary hole-in-the-wall sweet shop, Sri Ramkrishna Mistanna Bhandar. Driving by for a takeaway box of gulab jamuns from here is never a bad call.
2. The Belgadia Palace, Mayurbhanj
Driving Time: 5 Hours
Mayurbhanj in Odisha may not be your first thought when you imagine a peaceful trip, but this boutique property is a well-kept secret that will change that notion. A restored 18th-century Victorian palace that dates back 200 years and is still home to the royal family of Mayurbhanj, it has ten guest rooms, each designed by the present Maharani of Mayurbhanj and her daughters. The space is an aesthete’s delight, replete with furnishings and royal artwork that could easily veer into ostentatious, but never do. The time-travel effect of the imperial halls, peppered with Persian carpets, chandeliers and century-old oil paintings, is enough to make you feel like you’ve finally eluded the unrelenting bedlam of the city.
What adds to the feeling of escape is the grounds itself, with the palace perched on a small hill with sprawling gardens and flowers encircling it. The checkered, open-air verandahs are a great place to have a cup of tea – or, if you want to give the dining room a miss, a late afternoon repast of home-cooked Odia food. The natural lake at one border will prove the perfect place to sink into deep thought (and maybe sketch), while the manicured paths that traverse the estate make for some truly Downton Abbey-esque walks. Clear space on your phone it’ll fill up with photographs before you know it.
Image: shutterstock (maps, hampi bazaar)
1. Taj Madikeri Resort & Spa, Coorg
Driving Time: 6.5 Hours
The cool climes and coffee-scented air of Coorg (officially known as Kodagu) will never be too passé for the road-tripping Bengaluru crowd. With its rolling coffee and spice plantations, the land of the warrior Kodanavas has an ironic sense of peace about it. Sitting atop a hill, 4,000 feet above sea level, the Taj Madikeri captures that soothing effect and subtracts from it the tumultuousness of tourists.
The villas and cottages that look out into the mist-shrouded valleys and forest are ideal to spend a day lounging in, if you’re not going on hikes or rainforest walks instead. You could also double down on relaxing with a bit of yoga, or a spa day. When you sup, you’ll have your pick of restaurants (Nellaki especially does brilliant Kodava dishes),
but try one of the hotel’s more off-book dining experiences as well; the gazebo dinner or a 101 candle-lit dinner at the amphitheatre come to mind. You’ll head back to the grind certifiably recharged – and not just because you’ll be 80 per cent java by then.
2. Evolve Back Kamalapura Palace, Hampi
Driving Time: 6 Hours
Known for the archaeological ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi is more than fodder for an aspiring photographer’s next exhibit. The world heritage site is a history-lover’s delight, with royal temples, towers and statues dripping with fascinating origin stories. While a tour of the town’s 14th-century art and architecture would’ve been a must, this hotel’s air of regal luxury compensates for having to give it a miss. The suites soak in the palace vibe with the sumptuous (but tasteful) interiors, private jacuzzis, or, if you’d rather go all out, a private pool.
If you can’t resist exploring, they’ll put together a Tungabhadra trek or a Raya architecture trail for you. If not, there’s no time like the present to sink into the suite life with zero guilt attached.
3. The Serai Kabini
Driving Time: 6 Hours
The nemophilist in anyone would wild out in the thick, fauna-filled jungles of Kabini. The safaris, treks and bird-watching might be Kabini’s typical highlights, but the riverside lends itself just as well to a restful, pastoral weekend. Set by the waterfront, the mini bungalows of this resort have a lovely, cabin-in-the-woods feeling about them. For a cosy trip for two, the warm, homey waterfront villas do nicely. One step up are the residences, flanked by the river and a creek on either side, with its private jacuzzi and verandahs giving it a vacation home vibe.
The multi-cuisine Wildgrass is where you’ll head for meals, but you might gravitate more to the river-facing terrace deck of its bar, Outpost. Nothing quite like an Old Fashioned by the water, no?
1. JW Marriott Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, Mussoorie
Driving Time: 7 Hour
If you’re feeling more mountains than beach-slash-river, you could take a few different turns on your drive from Delhi and go to a part of Uttarakhand that offers the perfect hillside detox. Far from the madding Mussoorie crowd (about eight km away) is this oak-ensconced refuge tucked away on a hill of its own. You could spend your days going on hikes, breakfasting at its greenhouse cafe, bowling or eating a Mediterreanean meal at Wisteria Deck.
The lovely Cedar spa by L’Occitane should hopefully be back in swing soon, but till then some yoga and R&R is a happy alternative. After eight months of being put through the ordeal of the capricious Delhi weather, tea and a good book on a chaise across from an ethereal sierra sunset is a prospect appealing enough.
IMAGE: Oberoi Hotels & Resorts (Oberoi Vanyavilās Wildlife Resort, Ranthambhore),
2. The Roseate Ganges, Rishikesh
Driving Time: 6.5 Hours
As close to an idyllic beach vacation as you can get in a drive from the capital, this resort’s private white sand beach is actually a better trade-off than any touristy Goan shore. A spa resort that overlooks the Ganges, with the misty silhouette of the Garhwal foothills playing backdrop, the Instagram potential of the place is infinite. The minimalist villas are ideal for a few days of quiet treatments, yoga and languid, early morning nature walks. There are patisseries and boulangeries in the fray, but the authentic Garhwali and Kumaon cuisine at Chidya Ghar, designed by Rahul Dua and Kainaz Contractor (of Cafe Lota and Rustom’s) is the star. Though the pool is not open for swimming at the moment, you could perhaps have dinner brought out to the poolside for a change of pace?
•It’s advisable to have a negative Covid-19 test ready and isolate for 72 hours before travel.
•If you travel without a test, quarantine or isolation at the property might be required (varies from state to state).
•Check the official guidelines and fill all necessary forms for the state prior to travel.
3. The Oberoi Vanyavilās Wildlife Resort, Ranthambhore
Driving Time: 7.5 Hours
Rajasthan is a fairly natural go-to for Delhi-based road-trippers and their favourite allies. Between the bustling Jaipur, majestic Jaisalmer, historic Jodhpur and empyrean Udaipur, you could really drive in any direction of this culture-rich state and find yourself somewhere fantastic. A touch more uncharted than the usual suspects is Ranthambore, best known for its wildlife and Bengal Tiger trails, and best experienced close up at Vanyavilās. Surrounded by the Aravali and Vindhya mountains and enough lush greenery to feel like a vintage Old Spice advert, the resort’s luxury tents were born for sybaritic isolation.
The resort borders on the Ranthambore National Park, home to deer, leopards, crocodiles, and, of course, those Royal Bengal Tigers that can be spotted via jungle drives. Add to that the resort’s farm-to-fork breakfasts, private yoga sessions and dinners by the lake under the spangled sky, and you’ve got yourself a getaway beau idéal.
On The Way
The NH 148 route lets you stop by the Neemrana Fort Palace for lunch and a tour (if you call ahead), while the NH 248A route takes you through Alwar and past the extremely photographable Bala Quila.
About six kilometres before you hit Mussoorie, stop for the stunning view at Lal Tibba Scenic Point at the top of Depot Hill, Landour. At 2,275 metres, it’s the highest point in the area and has a panorama that is nonpareil.
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