A three-day weekend and you’re determined not to get into couch-potato mode. In a first of this series, we help you plan the perfect mini break
Bengaluru is surrounded by gentle mountain ranges, which allow plenty of weekend drives. Head to Coorg if you’re looking for acres of green, great food, and the quick fix of a mini break. It’s barely six hours from Bengaluru, and the drive there will take you past Bylakuppe, a Tibetan settlement that serves up delicious food. Alternatively, drive south through the Nilgiris, to Ooty and Coonoor for some more green therapy.
This is particularly enjoyable if you’re travelling with children. Nagarhole National Park near Coorg deserves its reputation as a birder’s paradise–fly catchers and kingfishers buzz around like flies. Drop by at the Dubare Elephant Camp, which is open all year round. Here, you can watch elephants go about their business, and if you’re up for it, can even hand them a snack. The camp also has 14 luxury cottages should you be tempted to stay back.
Coorg’s coffee makes trips around the world, so don’t miss a chance to sample it right at home. The Orange County Resort sits amid 300 acres of lush green coffee plantation and has cottages styled like Kodava manors. For spectacular views of a seemingly endless forest, stay at the Vivanta by Taj-Madikeri (which appears on the Conde Nast Traveller Hot List 2013). Its rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, and the in-house strawberry farm only sweetens the deal.
If you’re looking for something authentic and intimate, try a homestay in Coorg. The Chengappas run the Kabbe Homestay, which is a gorgeous villa next to their house in a coffee estate. You can’t complain when you wake up on the edge of a cliff every morning (the villa’s location is stunning), or when Dilip Chengappa arranges an afternoon of white-water rafting, while his wife cooks up a Kodava storm and a killer pork curry.
Plan a stay at the Bheemeshwari Nature and Adventure Camp, 100km from Bengaluru. This isn’t just another tame camp ground; the forest you’ll be staying in is home to leopards, wild boar, jackals and crocodiles. The camp is along the banks of the Cauvery, and you can sign up for kayaking lessons if you survive the night. At Coorg, the Harangi Dam near Dubare is a coveted picnic spot. It’s best to go here in August or September, when the reservoir is full.
Thirty kilometres from Bengaluru, in a forest in Hessarghatta, is the late Protima Gauri’s dance village Nrityagram. A gurukul system teaches students Bharatnayam, Odissi and Kuchipudi. You can opt for a self-guided tour, or a lecture-demonstration, which includes a dance performance. If you’re in a large group, sign up for a guided tour and a 45-minute dance performance. Nearby is the Taj Kuteeram, where you can complete your meditative weekend.
More information: Nrityagram
Puducherry is nearly six hours from Bengaluru, but feels like another world altogether. French colonial charm and vitality is still alive in this town, and creates a unique hybrid with South India’s Hindu and Christian communities. Take a walk through the French Quarters. You will stroll through lush green avenues and lanes flanked by pastel-coloured houses. These form a lovely contrast to the Tamil Quarters, where houses are built around temples.
The Angsana Oasis Spa and Resort, a few miles outside Bangalore, tailors Ayurvedic treatments for you. If you’re in the mood for romance, make an appointment for a lavish and indulgent body polish, massage and facial for you and your partner. The backwaters of the Cauvery offer perfect angling opportunities, specifically at Valanoor, where you can fish for golden mahseer, maral and mapp.
A golfing weekend with the family? Quite possible, if you head to the Eagleton Golf Village. Spread over 500 acres, the golf resort has an 18-hole course, a cricket pitch, badminton, squash and tennis courts, a gym, and swimming pools. The golf course ranks among the top five in the country, and has a par score of 72. The resort is also equipped with rooms and business centres, just in case you need to stay connected.
If you’re tired of generic farm stays, consider staying at Acres Wild, a family-run organic cheese farm in Coonoor, where a meticulously guided tour ends with what else, but a cheese tasting session. At TranquiliTea, on the Coonoor-Kotagiri Road, you can see the entire tea production process. It’s a boutique property that takes its teas very seriously and you can sample some of the finest blends in the world here. The best part? Both farm stays are surprisingly easy on the pocket.