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the Vazhachal reserVe Forest
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UttaraKhanD: Gethia, nainital, Valley oF Flowers
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Go
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Get set,
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trip planners

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Want to go to the places we’ve covered? We provide all the details of how to go and where to stay, so that you can concentrate on the important task of doing nothing
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Get there The Vazhachal Reserve Forest is one of a set of contiguous wildlife sanctuaries and national parks spanning the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. To reach the forest, head south on NH 47 from Thrissur in Kerala and turn on to the Athirapally Road at Potta. If you’re coming from Tamil Nadu, start from Coimbatore, take the NH 209 to Pollachi, and then head south into the Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park via Aliyar. stay The closest hotel is Sinna Dorai’s Bungalow (www.sinnadorai.com), managed by the Parry Agro group. Doubleoccupancy rooms start at R8,000 a night, plus taxes. also nearby The Annamalai hills in Tamil Nadu are quite close to the Nilgiris, so you can combine this with a trip to any of the Nilgiri destinations we’ve featured, or you can explore this biodiversity hot spot further: Visit the Parambikulam or Eravikulam national parks, or cross the border into Mudumalai. If you want more pampering, head south to Thekkady, where you’ll still be surrounded by miles of forest, but can stay in a spice plantation resort.
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Get there It’s possible to fly to Nainital: Kingfisher has a daily flight from Delhi to Pantnagar. If you’re driving, it takes at least 7 hours from Delhi. Take the NH 24 to Rampur, and then NH 87 to Nainital. For Gethia, after reaching Kathgodam, take the road to Jeolikot. Valley of Flowers is further down NH 87: Drive or take a bus up to Govindghat. stay In Nainital, The Grand Hotel (www.thegrandnainital.com) has double rooms starting at R2,600 a night, plus taxes. For a quieter experience, head to the Kilbury forest lodge (R1,500 a night for a double room). At Gethia, Two Chimneys (www.twochimneysgethia.com) has rooms from R3,800-6,400 a night, plus taxes. eat anD DrinK In Nainital, head to The Sakley’s for baked goods and to the lakeside vendors for ‘bakse waali pasty’. There are several self-help groups attempting sustainable agriculture in Uttarakhand, and
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their produce is available for sale. Umang (www.grassrootsindia. com) sells pickles, jams, spices and honey all over Uttarakhand. also nearby Uttarakhand’s other travel destinations lie on different routes, and are separate vacations by themselves. Jim Corbett National Park is India’s best-known tiger sanctuary. Mussoorie and Dehradun are as crowded as Nainital, but small homestays nearby remain peaceful and quiet. The hills are much greener now than they were 10 years ago because of afforestation campaigns by the forest department and a crackdown on mining and quarrying by the government.
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McleoDGanj
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Matheran
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Get there Fly from Delhi to Dharamsala, about 15km from McLeodganj, on Kingfisher. Or take a train to Pathankot, and then take the Kangra Valley Railway up to Kangra. You’ll still have to do the last few kilometres by bus, taxi or on foot. If you are driving from Delhi, take the NH 1 all the way to Pathankot, and then the NH 20 up to Yol. Alternatively, at Ambala take the NH 21 to Yol via Baddi and Mandi. From Yol, take the MDR (Major District Road) 45 to Dharamsala and McLeodganj. stay An upscale option is Glenmoor Cottages (www.glenmoorcottages.com), which offers cottages in a forest clearing with a fantastic view of the valley. For smaller budgets, there is Bhagsu Hotel, run by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Board Development Corporation, with rooms starting at R1,700 a night, and for backpackers, the Snow Lion Guest House on Bhagsu Road. eat anD DrinK Momos, ‘thukpa’ and ‘thantuk’ are available at virtually every eatery in McLeodganj, from the hole-in-the-wall Momo Café at the central square to the more upscale Norling on Jogibara Road. At the far end of Jogibara Road is Lung Ta, a vegetarian-only Japanese restaurant with a mean ‘kakiage-don’.
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stay The Verandah in the Forest (http://the-verandah-in-theforest.neemranahotels.com/) offers a luxury experience in a heritage cottage, with rooms ranging from R3,500-8,000 a night for double occupancy, plus taxes. At the other end of the spectrum is Hope Hall, on Mall Road, which offers a five-bed room to travelling groups at R550 a person per night, and which you share with a huge number of dogs, cats and monkeys. also nearby There’s little else, though you could always head to Lonavala or Khandala for more of the same. Alternatively, travel much further south from Neral until you reach Raigad Fort.
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nilGiris: ooty anD wellinGton
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Get there The closest airport is Coimbatore, from where you can catch a taxi to either of these destinations. If you’re setting out from Bangalore, it’s possible to drive to Ooty or Wellington in less than a day. Leave early and head to Mysore. At Mysore, turn on to NH 212, and then finally on to NH 67. After Ooty, Wellington is about 50km further down NH 67. If you’re going to stay in Coonoor or Ooty, book tickets on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (see Page 10). stay The Wellington Gymkhana Club (www. wellingtongymkhanaclub.com) now provides accommodation to non-members. There are limited cottages, so book early. In Ooty,
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Savoy Hotel (www.tajhotels.com) offers suites starting at R9,000 a night, plus taxes. The Nilgiris are now filled with homestays and farmstays, and a Web search will turn up lots of cheaper options. eat anD DrinK Since this is plantation country, make sure you try locally grown tea or coffee. Also worth trying is an unexpected British legacy: biscuits from the local bakeries. Recently, dairies in the Nilgiris have also started making exotic cheeses. also nearby Visit Mudumalai National Park or the adjoining Bandipur National Park in Karnataka for an elephant-spotting vacation.
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PradeeP Gaur/Mint Kerala: KoValaM anD Marari occupancy, and The Leela Kovalam, starting at R13,000 a night, plus Get there taxes. For more affordable luxury, try Kovalam is a local bus ride from The Travancore Heritage in Chowara, Thiruvananthapuram (take the bus Thiruvananthapuram, a converted from Trivandrum East Fort), while mansion with double rooms starting Marari is 80km south of Kochi (taxis at R6,800 a night, plus taxes. are available at the airport or you eat anD DrinK can drive yourself). Kochi and Beach vacations are Thiruvananthapuram are both synonymous with seafood, and linked to the rest of the country by regular flights and trains: Visit your favourite travel portal for fares. stay The Marari Beach Resort (www. cghearth.com) offers doubleoccupancy villas starting at R21,000 a night for a Garden Villa, inclusive of taxes and meals. In Kovalam, the most luxe options are the Vivanta by Taj, starting at R7,600 a night, plus taxes, for the Superior Charm room for double
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Kerala is no exception. Ask for ‘meen moilee’, the local fish speciality, and take advantage of cheap rates on prawns and crabs. Vegetarians needn’t despair. Kerala has lots of vegetarian specialities, including ‘avial’, an ambrosial coconut- and curd-based vegetable curry. Also try to get some ‘kallu’ (toddy) fresh from the tree, but be prepared to spend the next couple of hours recovering from the kick. also nearby If your point of entry into Kerala is Kochi, stay a day and visit the local attractions: the historic Jew Town, the spice markets and the Travancore palace. If you can extend your vacation, cruise the backwaters on a houseboat.
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orissa: chanDipUr
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Get there The closest airport is in Bhubaneswar, but flights to Kolkata may be more convenient. From Kolkata or Bhubaneswar, take a taxi all the way or catch a train to Balasore, 16km from Chandipur. stay Almost the only option available is the Orissa Tourism Development Corp. Ltd-run Panthanivas (www.panthanivas. com/chandipur.html), which is a little shabby and has middling service but is right on the beach and has excellent room rates (starting at R1,550 a night
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for double occupancy). Hotel Shubham, which is farther from the beach, is a little more luxurious (http://hotelshubham. com, starting at R1,200 a night for double-occupancy AC rooms). also nearby Chandipur is a great base for day trips to interesting places nearby. The most popular trip is Panchalingeswar, a Shiva temple in Nilagiri. If you have time to spare, a trip to the Bhitarkanika National Park (about 100km away) is a great idea.
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Goa

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KarthicK raMachandran/WiKiMedia coMMons

Get there There are flights to Goa from every metro, but if you’re starting from Mumbai, you can drive down to the north Goa beaches (see Page 18). Once you’re past Mumbai’s traffic, head down NH 17 (approx. 400km) and you can be there in 8 hours. stay At the Villa Rivercat (www.villarivercat.com), double rooms with attached bathrooms start at R2,650 a night, plus taxes. Prices will rise in the peak season, which will begin soon. For complete isolation from the tourist experience, head to Fort Tiracol (www.forttiracol.com), where you can live in an isolated sea fortress. Tariffs start at €130 (around R8,500) a night, plus taxes. At
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Ashwem beach, there is Rococco@Ashvem (www.rococcoashvem.com), which offers deluxe rooms right on the beach starting at R8,000 a night, plus taxes in peak season (15 December-1 January). eat anD DrinK Visit Thalassa, a Greek restaurant perched on Little Vagator cliff. Open only for dinner, this alfresco, sea-facing restaurant offers spectacular ‘souvlakis’ and seafood salads (for reservations, call 9850033537). also nearby If you want a more packed holiday, head further south and visit the traditional tourist destinations: Candolim, Margao, and the Basilica of Bom Jesus (36km to Panaji, approx. 1 hour by road). Alternatively, skip the beaches altogether and spend a day at the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
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