61. Spend a romantic weekend at Palolem beach, Goa
The sun dips into the shallow waters, the waiters at the shacks bring the cane furniture out onto the beach, the candlelight casts a shadowy arc. And not only are the evenings magical, at dawn, woken up by the mighty hush of the ocean, you can witness frenetic fishermen bring home the catch of the day.
The arc idyll: The golden sand and shallow waters make Palolem beach in south Goa a perfect retreat. (Arjun Razdan/Mint)
Without the hardened party animals that throng the northern beaches such as Anjuna or Vagator, this picturesque stretch on the southern periphery of Goa attracts those who want to hit the slow button, however briefly.
Stay at any of the beach huts (they start from Rs125 per night except during Christmas season), or at InterContinental The Grand Resort Goa at Canacona, which is 3km from the beach. Call 0832-2667777 for details.
62.Watch the sunset over Dal lake from a shikara in Srinagar
The gondola of the East, the shikara, has sailed smoothly over the waters of Kashmir’s Dal lake for centuries. For only Rs250 per hour, hire cushioned boats and lie back in luxury as a boatman pushes you past houseboats, lotus fields and floating mosques. If you’re a night owl, head to the main dock on Boulevard Road a half-hour before sunset to bargain with a boatman for a two-hour tour. The last half-hour in the dark, as the houseboats turn on the lights and the markets close down, is the most magical. Early risers can head out at 5am to hustle through the floating market. Shikaras serving snacks will float alongside.
You can stay at Gulam Butt’s houseboats (his family has owned them on the lake since the 1940s). Call 09419156761
63. Stay at a tea estate, Darjeeling
With 1,000 acres of private forests and two rivers, Rungeet and Rung Dung, passing through it, the Glenburn Tea Estate offers colonial style accommodation in restored old bungalows. Husna-Tara Prakash, who owns the estate along with her husband Anshuman Prakash, says the estate is modelled on the vineyards of Europe. “We do not want it to feel like a hotel where you have to end up signing numerous vouchers,” she says. “Visitors can walk along tea fields, interact with the tea-pickers, take part in a tasting session which can sometimes extend up to 3 or 4 hours.”
Afternoon cuppa: Glenburn Tea Estate offers colonial style accommodation.
Glenburn Tea Estate is an hour’s drive from Darjeeling on the border with Sikkim. The package costs $400 per night for foreign nationals and Rs12,500 for Indians (all inclusive).
64. Cycle through the interiors of south India starting at Tamil Nadu
Eco Adventures manager Rahul Rao says the best way to see the south is on a bicycle. His company organizes a 15-day trip through villages, and “the heritage of India” starting from Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu and culminating in Goa across the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Goa. The ride involves about 3-4 hours (around 30-40km) of cycling every day, along lesser-known tracks. Support staff in a van follows the bikers. Don’t forget to try out local toddy from the stalls that dot the roads along the backwaters of Kerala.
Book with Eco Adventures at www.magical-india.com.
65. Be awed by Jog Falls in Karnataka, during the monsoons
At 829ft, Jog Falls, alternatively known as Gerusoppe Falls, Gersoppa Falls and Jogada Gundi in the Shimoga district of Karnataka, is the highest plunge fall in India.
“The falls are absolutely exhilarating,” says Bangalore-based Abhishek Mudram, associate with corporate advisory company Indigo Edge. Jog Falls are divided into four parts—Raja, Roarer, Rocket and Rani. The best time to visit is during the monsoons. Mudram recommends going in the morning “to avoid the din of the crowd that blocks out even the deafening roar of the water.”
The falls are located 381km from Bangalore; you can drive or take the bus (a ticket costs about Rs400).
66. See sunrise at Tiger Hill, Darjeeling
Tiger Hill can be quite overwhelming, not just because of the sunrise but the crowd of people waiting to watch the sunrise. At 8,500ft, it’s the summit of Ghoom, the highest railway station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, and a Unesco World Heritage site. The hill can be reached by jeep or by foot (which will take around 2 hours or so). To watch the sunrise, leave for Tiger Hill from Darjeeling by 3am.
Hiring a jeep costs about Rs500, and can cost more during the tourist season.
67. Watch a movie at a drive-in cinema, Ahmedabad
It’s like watching a film while on a picnic. You are mentally at ease since you don’t feel tied to a chair,” says Anurag Halakhandi, an advertising professional based in Ahmedabad who has been visiting Sunset drive-in cinema for the past 15 years. The open-air complex can accommodate around 665 cars which have to be parked in pre-designated slots. Accompanying each of these slots are individual speakers, which can be placed on the car’s bonnet to listen to the dialogues clearly. So while the latest Bollywood blockbuster is projected onto a giant screen, families bring out their khakras and popcorn, and move about at their convenience.
A ticket usually costs around Rs50 per person; a ticket has to be bought for the car too. For details call 079-27454600.
68. Rub elbows with royalty at a polo match in Jaipur
Though other countries lay claim to being the land of origin of the “king of sports”, India has the honour of introducing polo to the West. It is believed that in 1930 when Maharaja Swati Man Singh II of Jaipur got married to two Jodhpur princesses, he asked for the then famous Jodhpur polo team as part of his dowry. The Rajasthan Polo Club, and the Jaipur Polo and Riding Club both host popular tournaments in October and January, drawing crowds for an afternoon of champagne, tea, and athletic men in tight pants playing with horses. And if the old royalty doesn’t seem grand enough, King Khan will be there to cheer his favourite team.
69. Introspect at a Vipassana retreat, Dharamsala
Vipassana is the art of meditation whose discovery is attributed to Gautam Buddha. The modern Vipassana course is, however, taught along the lines introduced by S.N. Goenka and the minimum duration is 10 days. “The first few days are crazy. It’s a huge shock to the system because suddenly you can’t talk, you can’t eat non-vegetarian food, you can’t make eye contact, you can’t touch anybody, you are concentrating on yourself and meditating the entire time,” says Swaroop Kanchi, a Bangalore-based filmmaker. “You are not the same person when you come out.”
It is a free service, though donations are accepted. For details, log on towww.dhamma.org.
70. Explore Goa on a motorbike
When in Goa, don’t bother ordering the local taxis. Instead, hire a bike for the day, as it’s the best way to get around. The roads are cleaner, quieter and relatively free of traffic. “Goa’s (don’t) care-a-hang attitude makes biking for girls easy,” says Soni Mehtani, a lawyer from Bangalore who has been to Goa consecutively for the past four years. Gearless bikes such as an Activa mean that riding is not so difficult. “A litre of fuel lasts us a day and a half,” adds Mehtani.
Price of hiring a bike: Rs100 a day, excluding fuel.
71. Try a wine holiday in the Sahyadris
India is the only place in the world where the grapes are harvested at the end of the winter season,” says Rajeev Samant, CEO, Sula Vineyards. His vineyards in Nashik offer patrons the opportunity to sample premium Indian wines in a tasting room with a balcony overlooking the vineyards and the Godavari river in the horizon.
From November onwards, Sula is offering a three-bedroom bungalow on rent for Rs16,000 per day on weekdays and Rs20,000 per day during weekends. Taxes extra. The stay includes complimentary tours of the vineyards and a wine tasting session.
72. Spot Salman bhai, John Abraham or Rekha on Bandra Bandstand, Mumbai
If Mumbai is the home of Bollywood, then Bandra Bandstand is its in-house theatre. A walkway that hugs the edges of the western Mumbai suburb of Bandra, Bandstand is a well-maintained seaside strip that lures more than its fair share of Mumbai tourists for one reason and one reason only: the stars. On any given Id, you get a taste of it outside Galaxy, the apartment building that houses Salman Khan and his family. “Salman bhai, Salman bhai,” the calls echo for miles around. The burly actor comes out onto his balcony, takes off his shirt and throws it into the crowd, while a pack of his admirers scurry to catch the falling manna. It’s one of the most entertaining neighbourhoods in the city, and properties here are some of the most expensive. Crusted with stars like Shah Rukh Khan, John Abraham, Farhan Akhtar and Rekha, to name a few, Bandstand is the spot for some live Bollywood-style action.
73. Rejuvenate at Ananda in the Himalayas
The retreat, one-and-a-half hours north of Rishikesh, combines ancient treatments with modern hospitality. The dramatic castle stands on ground spread over 100 acres. A doctor at the spa provides a consultation and recommends from a list of Ayurvedic treatments from Shirodhara to Sneha Vasti.
Bubbling calm: The wet spa area at the Ananda in the Himalayas.
The spa offers a two-night/three-day package for Indian nationals starting at Rs29,000 a night for a double to Rs115,000 a night for a two-bedroom private villa. Treatments are not included in the package rate.
74. Stroll in Lodhi Gardens, New Delhi
Sure, the Capital’s favourite park has great historical significance, with gorgeous 16th century tombs dotting the lush landscape. And the park is known among birdwatchers for its resident parakeets. It’s also a park of choice for lovers hoping to catch a few minutes alone tucked in each other’s arms on one of the more private benches, shaded by pepper trees. But for hundreds of evening visitors, the real draw is simply the green space and long paths, where executives shed their suits to stroll with their families as the sun sets. Occasionally, you may have to dodge joggers, speed walkers and kids barrelling through on tricycles, in the “Best Urban Oasis” (Time, 2004), but the respite is worth it.
(Text by Arjun Razdan Sumana Mukherjee, Melissa A. Bell and Aarti Basnyat)