With the way 2020 transpired in our lives, 2021 was shaping up to see an explosion of travel all over the world. However, a new strain of COVID-19 showed up late last year and curbs, curfews and restrictions have begun to be enforced in the affected places. With flights again grounded, there’s a bit of déjà vu settling in, but there’s a case to be made for the lessons we learnt from earlier. Despite all the scares, here are 13 undeniable reasons you need to travel in 2021.
Your Body Needs It
Wellness tourism is predicted to grow rapidly in the coming decade (India’s wellness-related trips went up by 45% in 2017) and states such as Goa, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat are set to be hot favourites with tourists (read our review of this cosy retreat in Haryana). After a year of terrible work-life balance, poor diet and no travel, wouldn’t it be just great to check-in to a wellness retreat and forget about the big, bad world outside?
Because You've Never Paraglided
Who isn’t familiar with the amusing viral video from 2019 where a petrified young man can be seen begging his paragliding instructor to land? Regardless, the young and the bold don’t flinch before surrendering themselves to the skies today. However, if you’re looking to avoid the Solang and Bir crowds, head for Kamshet or Kalimpong. Better yet, try to make it to the three-day festival Adventure@Mechuka or the beautiful Pappu Valley close by.
A Wine Tour is in Order
If France has a wine theme park, India is a tremendous smorgasbord of spirits and heritage liqueurs—ample proof of which can be got in Rajasthan, where you can experience royal tipples such as Chandra Haas, Royal Mawalin and Kesar Kasturi. But if you’re headed in the exact opposite direction, don’t fret—Sikkim has plenty of local brews for you to try. If your wannabe-sommelier pals keep boasting about that one trip to the Sula Vineyards, 2021 might be just the year to put an end to that. And before you travel, don’t forget to check out our takeaways from a wine-tasting masterclass.
For that Amazing Canara Coast Food
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Karnataka oota is one of the south's best-kept secrets in terms of cuisine, and the grub you get in the coastal regions is just unmissable. Let this be the year where you do a road trip from Karwar to Mangalore, partaking of the scrumptious melting pot of flavours the coast has to offer, from Mangalorean and Tuluva to Udupi and delights such as the goli bajje, neer dosa, the Chicken Ghee Roast, kokum and solkadhi. We assure you—it'll be a trip to remember for years.
Get a Taste of What a Workation Feels Like
We all can hark back to the exact point in the lockdown in India when the concept of the ‘workation’ picked up. Remember how Instagram and LinkedIn were filled with posts expressing gratitude to employers? But some of us never got that lucky, which is why this hopefully less restrictive year seems conducive for taking independent workations. Uttarakhand Tourism rolled out special workation packages late last year and so did Madhya Pradesh. Hotels and homestays all over the country came up with attractive work-from-hotel packages.
To Forget About Alarms
Time to wake up from the dream that home is the only place where you can have the best sleep, because home is where the heart is. A lot of people in the workforce struggled to get quality shuteye throughout the latter half of 2020, according to several reports. So, one good reason to travel in 2021 would be to just tuck yourself into a treehouse bed, away from the honking and fumes and flickering lights, and sleep away. However, since sleepcations aren’t yet a huge trend in India, you could instead go for an Ayurvedic massage in a houseboat in Kerala, try napping at the pristine beaches of Dapoli, or just rent a cottage in a sleepy hill station and let your mind relax to the pitter-patter of the rain.
Experience Kashmir in the Autumn
Those who have visited Kashmir in the month-and-a-half-long interlude between monsoon and winter swear by its fiery splendour. The sacrificial glow on the Chinar leaves strewn all around is quite an unparalleled experience. Float in the Dal aboard a shikara, head for the gardens—Chashme Shahi, Shalimar, and Nishat—or pay respects at the Hazratbal shrine to experience the best moments of autumn's short lifespan.
For a Brief Career Change
Don't worry—we never suggest that you go ahead and mail your resignation and ‘get on a flight’. But if you've ever wanted to teach a foreign language or coach younger people in computer skills with a change of scene, you can do it for Tibetan refugees with LHA Dharamshala. CHIRAG Kumaon also offers volunteering opportunities in most fields; the Sadhana Forest Reforestation Volunteer Program is for those passionate about forest conservation. Or if you just want to backpack with a purpose, hit up Spiti Ecosphere. Auroville also offers opportunities to work in animal care, renewable energy, education, village outreach and the likes.
Check Taj Mahal Off Your List
The crowds at the Taj may have gone berserk but the numbers are going to stabilise at some point. A big part of making opportunities count in unpredictable times is to stop putting off that visit to what is one of the seven Wonders of the World. If you live close by, just figure out a weekend to come face to face with the beauty of the marble mausoleum—if not, a Golden Triangle road trip is the way to do it. Read our piece on why you should travel on the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur circuit plus other road trips.
Hit the Road With Your Dream Team
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One has also got to lowkey also love the fact that the pandemic hasn't left one with too many options or too much scope to procrastinate. If you've ever wanted to travel with someone in particular badly—the nerd friend who is into history, your cool uncle who doesn't mind a little fun, a colleague you bonded with during work-from-home—just pick up the phone and ask. The month-long all-women trip to Kerala was never dramatic and it is less so now. Take that jamming-with-your-gang trip to Manali now or just ask your mum to tag along to Kashmir.
You've Always Wanted to Feel Like a Royal
Patiala’s 18th-century Ran Baas palace will soon be a heritage hotel. Gujarat now has a Heritage Tourism Policy. About a couple of months ago, RARE India partnered up with the Singapore-based Secret Retreats, and it’s sign enough of what one could expect in the heritage and boutique stays segment. And anyway, it’s never too early to feel the need for a special experience when it comes to hotels.
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On the contrary, we feel 2021 is high time you checked into a lavish hotel, and it needn’t burn a hole in your pocket. India is full of heritage properties—colonial manors, mansions once owned by nobles, royal family homes, British-era cottage nestled in the hills, rural heritage lodges. In fact, here is our curated list of 10 heritage homestays for you to start with.
Irani in Mumbai, Sulaimani in Malabar, Noon in Kashmir, and masala in Bara Bazaar. If it was not for the endless cups of milky tea and immunity-boosting spins on the underrated boiled kaali chai, would we have really survived the ongoing crisis? So why not travel for chai in 2021? If you’re going to be in Mumbai, don’t miss its iconic Irani cafes. If you know and love tea more than its masala chai form, a tea-sampling session is in order. Back in 2017, The Guardian had named Kolkata’s street tea the best in business, and with Odisha and West Bengal now operating three special road trip packages in alliance, you know which route to take.
Check Out New Hill Stations
Before you beach bums and city birds snigger at our middle-class travel suggestion, let us tell you that India getting a hill station near Zojila Pass that is “prettier” than Switzerland’s Davos, isn’t our only peg. The COVID-19 crisis challenged travel lovers to seek out newer pastures in the hill station department, and the internet has been abuzz with the “discovery” of a new hill haven in the Eastern Ghats called Vanjangi. The hills of Himachal and Uttarakhand and the beautiful rainy ranges down south are speckled with postcard-pretty hamlets and villages (to know why you must visit Sainj Valley and Pelling at the first opportunity, read our special piece here). Make a discovery and brag about it—but don’t forget to be sensible about it.