There’s no better way to sustain the frenetic pace of urban living, than by using the weekend (and there are many long weekends this year) to get out of town. Meeting all the requirements of a quick escape ——- short travel time, good accommodation, outdoor activities and natural surroundings ——— these getaways strike the balance between leisure and activity, and offer some much-needed respite from the rigour of work.
INTO THE WILD AT BHEEMESHWARI (Bengaluru)
BHEEMESHWARI might be a mere 100-km from India’s Silicon Valley, but it’s the other end of the spectrum from Bengaluru’s glitzy urban-scape. The small town, on the banks of the Cauvery River, abuts the thickly-forested Bheemeshwari Wildlife Sanctuary. It goes without saying that this ecological oasis is breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s also a haven for outdoor activities. Enthusiasts can raft (or kayak) over the rapids on the Cauvery, go on a wildlife trek to spot elephants, deer, jackal, wildboar and over the 200-odd species of birds living beneath the forest canopy, or go angling at the river. While there are a number of small hotels, the handful of jungle camps offer a more immersive experience.
TERRACOTTA WONDERS OF BISHNUPUR (Kolkata)
Standing testament to their medieval past, the terracotta temples, strewn around Bishnupur’s vast landscape, are excuse enough to undertake the short three-hour-long drive from Kolkata. Bishnupur, popularly referred to as the ‘terracotta town’, is a repository for some of the finest terracotta art in the world. The elaborately decorated 17th-Century terracotta temples, with unique curved Bangla roofs and intricately detailed carvings, are considered architectural masterpieces. The temples were built by Kings of the Malla Dynasty ——– burnt clay was used due to a paucity of stones at the time. Don’t leave without picking up the town’s other claim to fame ——- a woven silk Baluchari Saree.
BEACHSIDE AT DAMAN (Mumbai)
A short three-hour-long drive from Mumbai, the Union Territory of Daman (no, it’s not in Gujarat) offers all the perks of a Goa vacation, sans the teeming crowds. There are 2 beaches — Devka and Jampore —- of which the latter is infinitely better for sun and sand. Mirasol Lake Garden, replete with an artificial lake, swan boats and even a toy train chugging along the periphery, is a good spot if you’re travelling with children in tow. For the more culturally inclined, this former Portuguese Colony is dotted with architectural remains (Fort of Nani Daman, the lighthouse, our Lady of Rosary Church) that speak of its bygone glory.
ROMANTIC ALAPPUZHA ( Kochi)
Just about an hour outside Kochi, Alappuzha ——- popularly referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’ ——- is one of the romantic getaways in the country. Alappuzha’s enduring image is of winding waterways, which form a network of canals, lakes and lagoons lined by pine and coconut trees. These canals mark the gateways into Kerala’s backwaters and there’s no better way to explore, than board one of the ‘ketuvallams’ (traditional houseboats) that run regular routes on the canals. If you’re feeling flush, rent a luxury houseboat (replete with a staff) and cruise through the weekend. Disembark at Alappuzha beach to watch the picture-perfect sunset, try and catch a snake-boat race and walk in for a couple’s therapy session at one of the Ayurvedic wellness centres to round off your visit.
TRANQUIL LANDOUR (Delhi)
If you are looking for the antithesis to your chaotic urban existence, where all there is to do is read a book, take a quiet meandering walk at dusk or simply admire the vista, then, Landour is ideal. Located about 30 km from Delhi and just past Mussoorie, this quaint cantonment town is cleaner, quieter and relatively untouched, compared to its more famous neighbour. For those who feel the compulsion to sightsee, there are two Churches in the area — St. Paul’s and Kellogg Memorial —- aside from which, your itinerary is wide open. There aren’t too many places to stay (which keeps the crowds in check) and you’ll have to book well in advance.