Move over predictable itineraries, it is time create new, off-beat experiences
Luxury at the beach.
The first image that comes to mind when you think of a beach is that of crowds jostling for space. But what if you could have the whole beach to yourself?
Imagine long stretches of soft sand and never ending views of the ocean, sunbathe in peace with nothing but the sound of the waves for company and a butler at hand for that glass of champagne. “We curate many bespoke experiences for our discerning guests,” says Mr. Bhagwan Balani, General Manager, ITC Grand Goa Resort & Spa, “from private dining experiences on the white sandy beach to barbecue in the privacy of their suite, to private get-togethers for their friends and family.” If staying holed up is not your thing, you can consider a personalized cruises, especially curated tours or putt your way into the velvety grass at private golf courses.
There are also special tours and views of nature awaiting. “We conduct a private viewing of the Athirappilly falls especially for our guests.” Shana Ninan, Communications Manager at Grand Hyatt Kochi tells us. Her tour takes the guests at the water level of the fall through a private property, instead of looking at it from the top, “it is an experience like none other,” she quips. Sitting by a rock pool, looking up at the 190-feet tall falls, indulging in gourmet lunch indeed sounds exciting.
Healing Walks, Workshops and Historical Trails in the Jungle.
While most of us have returned disappointed from tiger trails at some point or the other (tigers seem to know when not to come out) there are many other experiences that forests have to offer. “One of the most interesting trails at Jim Corbett National Park is The Trail Of The Man-eater,” Faisal Nafees, country head Lebua Hotels and Resorts, who has curated the experience, tells us. “We retrace the steps of the legendary hunter and hike to the point where he killed his last man-eater.” The views from the top, the calls of the wild, and the trek through the dense Sal forests, he says, are not only spellbinding but also therapeutic.
We all know forests can be therapeutic, but did you know that jungles are scientifically proven to be capable of healing humans? With groups like Healing Forest you can not only experience the peace and calm that wilderness brings, but also address parts of your mind and body that need healing. “During our walks we help people slow down and connect with the nature,” says Nitin Das, the person behind Healing Forest, an initiative to help individuals connect with nature. “We do specific activities and exercises that helps people find peace within.” The idea, he says, is not only to take from the forest but to give them back too. Most retreats therefore also entail cleaning up, nurturing, and protecting a certain area of the jungle – thereby not only healing you but also them.
Chasing Heritage in Small Towns
Jaipur is passé, Udaipur is crowded, Mysore has nothing left to see, but there are still many unexplored towns for those who love history and culture. The smaller towns in Bengal with colonial heritage and exceptional craftsmanship, monasteries and ruins of Sikkim and towns of Gujrat and Rajasthan should be on your list in 2019.
“The walled city in Bhuj is unlike any other,” says Jehan Bhujwala who curates tours of the town for his guests at The Bhuj House, a homestay he runs in his ancestral home. “The buildings inside the walled city are centuries old and display the architectural wealth the town has to offer.” The Bhujia Hill, Royal Cenotaphs and Stepped well, meanwhile are some other places that, according to him, set this tiny town apart from others.
“I can never forget the first glimpse of the majestic Kanchenjunga at Pelling, a small town in Sikkim,” recalls noted travel writer Lakshmi Sharath. “Listening to the chants at Pemayangtse monastery and losing myself in the Rabdentse ruins was an unforgettable experience,” she adds. Located just 125 kilometers off Gangtok, the towns of Yoksum and Ruins of Rabdenste are indeed unlike anything you would have seen. Spending time listening to Buddhist prayers, witnessing colourful monastaries and monochromatic ruins of the erstwhile capital should be on your holiday list this year.
Food Meditations and Bespoke Culinary Experiences.
Small towns and fine dining is hardly spoken in the same breath. This season, break that myth even as you enjoy niche culinary experiences that not only surprise you with their concept but also enchant you with their genius. You can chose to dine like a maharaja in a private dining room with a blindfold or indulge in the best of Nawabi fare in the aristocratic haveli. You can also book yourself for a meal at a glass palace or experiment with local cuisines served in novel ways.
“At Azrak we recreate the recipes that were cooked by the personal khansaamas of the Nawabs,” says chef Mohsin Quereshi, Azrakh, who also comes from the family of the personal cooks of the Nawabs. The restaurant set in a 90-year-old haveli in Lucknow brings together the finest characteristics of the town – tameez, tehzeeb, and mehmannawazi apart from indulging your taste buds.
In far off Bikaner meanwhile a maharaja’s private dining hall comes to life with some out of the box offerings. “Our Food Meditations are an ode to the life and style of Maharaja Narendra Singh Ji, the last king of Bikaner,” informs Siddarth Yadav, Vice President MRS Hotels. He personally curates the dining experiences like the Literary Lunch, where every course is dedicated to a 19th century classic, Le Diner Dans Le Noir, a dinner where the guests eat with their eyes blindfolded, and Le Diner en Blanc, a dining experience in the wilderness. The idea, he says, is to use all the senses and also have fun while you are at it.
Wellness in The Dunes
Palaces, forts, havelis; dance, music, food – while a desert holiday typically consists of such lists, this year get yourself a wellness retreat in the desert instead. A luxurious tent catering to your needs, a fort replete with royal paraphernalia laying out the choicest of treatments. With spas as ostentatious as the palaces itself, wellness in the desert is the thing to do.
“When a guest comes to this part of Rajasthan he has already seen everything he wants to; here he wants to rest and rejuvenate,” Devika, the Spa manager at the spa in SUJÁN The Serai, tells us. Located in the middle of nowhere, the spa is set in tents pitched on golden Jaisalmer stone, and runs only from September to March. The signature treatments carried out in these luxurious tents specialize in Sand Scrub and Wrap, a process in which local red sand along with other natural ingredients is first used as a scrub, and followed by a wrap of rose petals, rose oil, vetiver, black pepper and Sandalwood. It is perhaps the best way to spend a day in the dunes.
“At Quan we use immersive therapies like Rose & Ashwagandha Milk Bath and Lagoon Water Pebble bath,” informs Pooja Sohal, Marketing and Communications Manager at JW Marriott, Jaisalmer. The spa, set in the heart of the Golden City, she says, also offers treatments, which bring together a combination of body polish, massages, treatments, and special bath. Relaxing by the pool after a long luxurious morning at the spa, surrounded by chirping birds and golden sand certainly seems like an inviting proposition.
A version of this story first appeared in The Hindu.
Cover picture courtesy ITC hotels; Spa picture by SUJAN The Serai.