Winter escapes

Winter escapes
Estate exterior, Rajakkad Garden Hotel,

20 new properties and the holidays they promise for the perfect festive break

March 28 , 2014
15 Min Read

1. Grand Hyatt, Goa

Goa in winter is the good idea that occurs to everyone. But just to gild the lily a bit, consider a luxury hotel overlooking Bambolim Bay, with spectacular water views, a property sprawled over 28 acres of tropical gardens and lawns. You’ll have to admit — this makes it a very, very good idea. The brand new Grand Hyatt Goa, in North Goa, is all of those — it also has a waterfront spa, nightlife lounges, fitness centres and a gorgeous looking pool. What’s more, all this comes with warm Goan hospitality. Grand Hyatt Goa is 25km/30min from Dabolim and 7km from Panaji. Tariff From Rs 10,500 plus taxes but rate of the day could vary Contact 0832-3011234,


2. Aalia
Haridwar town might have turned into a religious Disneyland, so it’s easy to forget how pretty the area is, flanked by the Rajaji National Park and, of course, the beautiful Ganga. The newest place you could stay at to sample the beauty of the place is Aalia, the only high-end resort to be situated right on the banks of the river. So whether you plan to cool your heels in your luxury suite, soak in the infinity pool by the riverside or head out on safaris into Rajaji, Aalia offers all this and more. The proximity to the hills makes for great day-long outings, especially to the Kunjapuri temple high above Rishikesh for some stunning snow views. Aalia is on the Najibabad Road, 15km from Haridwar. Tariff From Rs 12,500 doubles plus taxes, including breakfast Contact 011-47077520,

3. The Park on Candolim Beach
Purple’s the theme at The Park on Goa’s Candolim Beach. Not surprising work from a hotel group that’s known for its fondness for contemporary design. The modern-looking rooms are made up in white with purple accents and that’s the choice for the pool as well. But that is only to soothe you down after all that partying you’re going to do — because located as it is among the most popular beaches in Goa, The Park is a bit of a hotspot for the jetsetters who’re floating by. The rooms are comfortable and equipped with wi-fi and iPod dockets in case you can’t do without. Lie about in cabanas, read, snooze, drink, dance — it’s the good life. Candolim is 45km/1hr from Dabolim airport. Tariff From Rs 14,500 doubles Contact 1800-11-7275,

4.  Hulivana
The one true luxury in these well-travelled times must be isolation. Which is what you’ll get with this rough-and-ready, genuinely remote resort in the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Hulivana is located at a dead-end — a tract of land hemmed in from three sides by Jenkal Betta, the highest peak in Sakleshpur. It is nestled 11km deep into the forest, and you’re promised that the only light you’ll see at night will come from fireflies. Spine-tingling stuff! Only two villas and a lumberjack cabin are offered here, but the whole experience is a real taste of the wild. Hulivana is 253km/7hrs from Bengaluru and 33km/2hr from Sakleshpur town. Tariff From Rs 1,300, including all meals Contact 9141635634,

5. Rasa
North of Jaipur, the historic, many-levelled Amer Fort stands aloft the Aravali hills. A combination of marble and red stone, a blend of Mughal and Rajput influences, a maze of ramparts, gates and cobbled paths, all framing the serene Maota lake. Adjacent to the meandering fort wall is Rasa Resorts, where you’ll find a sharp juxtaposition, a contrast of tastes: forty futuristic cubed tents that are reminiscent of Indian nomadic tents of yore, but nevertheless a radical departure from them. The tented rooms wear an air of reined-in luxury and the aesthetic is strongly contemporary. Rasa is 15km from Jaipur. Tariff From Rs 10,200 doubles Contact 0141-3057211,

6. Shivavilas Palace
Steeped in history, rich in architectural beauty and a significant religious centre, Hampi can never be a wrong choice for a holiday. On the southern edge of the ruins of Vijayanagara, amid which Hampi nestles, is the town of Sandur — home to the newest WelcomHeritage property. Shivavilas Palace, poised to open this month, benefits from proximity to Hampi as well as from its setting: a scenic 20-acre estate backed by a belt of hills. The property itself is a revamped heritage palace that dates to the 1900s, and has a choice of only 12 rooms and suites. After a day of sightseeing at Hampi, return to a spa treatment, an al fresco barbecue or rooftop views of the sun setting behind the hills. Shivavilas Palace is in Sandur, 60km from Hampi. Tariff From Rs 8,000 doubles Contact 011-46035500,

7.  Latitude 30°N
Good news for adventure junkies and Himalaya addicts. Tucked away on a two-and-a-half-acre plot of tree-clad slopes overlooking the Ganga, away from crazy Rishikesh, is Latitude 30°N. While finishing touches are still being added (it will open sometime between now and January), the property looks promising. For starters, it’s not just your average luxury resort (yes, you can expect 20 attractive, glass-fronted cottages with river views and a pool, among other things) — it’s the first of many ‘activotels’ its promoters plan to open, which will offer structured outdoor activities. Rafting, camping out, biking, birding, kayaking and a host of indoor activities… Or, you can simply kick back and relax (the cottages guarantee privacy and the lawns are lovely for barbecues), or head into Rishikesh for action of another kind. Latitude is 30km from Rishikesh. Tariff Rs 11,000 doubles, including all meals and activities Contact 011-41636101,

8. Ajmer Bungalow
Rajasthan is always a much-desired winter destination but Ajmer — invariably pigeon-holed as a pilgrimage centre — hasn’t found its place in the pale sun. It should, because it has quite a few attractions, even apart from the famous dargah of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti. Not the least of these is the colonial homestay Ajmer Bungalow, a century-old house in the city’s Civil Lines area. This remarkably well-kept remnant of another era comes with elegant rooms, home-cooked food and the warm hospitality of Naveen and Rajika Capoor. Ajmer is 130km/2hr by road from Jaipur. Tariff Rs 2,900 per person with breakfast Contact 0145-2628759,

9. Saj Resort
The Raj didn’t just make a beeline for assorted Himalayan ridges whenever it wanted to get away from the heat and dust of the Indian plains. Officers and memsahibs and khalasis simply turned towards the nearest hills they could find. For Bombay residents, that meant Mahabaleshwar, a land of waterfalls, lush forests and incredible cliffs. A great new place to park yourself in Mahabaleshwar is the Saj Resort, a sprawling five-acre property on the road to Panchgani. With a wide variety of rooms as well as cottages, this is the closest you can get to a ‘pucca burra sahib’ holiday. The resort offers some great views of the surrounding greenery, and also organises sightseeing trips. The resort is located at Metgutad, 5km outside town on the Panchgani road. Tariff From Rs 9,000 doubles for two nights including all vegetarian meals; service tax extra Contact 02168-272001,

10.  The Goralkot Bungalow
A growing number of people are heading for the lovely high-altitude forest of Binsar in Kumaon and it’s not hard to see why. Situated atop a high ridge, in the middle of a forest teeming with birds and leopards, Binsar is great for birding, to hike around the gorgeous forests or to simply soak in the breathtaking view of the Great Himalayan range and its chief peak, Nanda Devi. To do all this with a touch of class, take yourself to the heritage estate of Nanda Devi. It is home to the old bungalow of Goralkot, which used to be the residence of Raj-era district magistrates. You can rent the place in its entirety, which comes equipped with all mod cons. The Bungalow is 30km from Almora within the Binsar wildlife sanctuary and a 10hr drive from Delhi. Tariff Rs 15,000 doubles plus service tax per night; includes meals, laundry, beverages and all activities Contact 8006658964,

11. Chittoor Kottaram
The more you think about it the more it seems the only acceptable way to approach a heritage hotel in Kerala… you simply have to glide up to it on a small boat. On lake Vembanad, Chittoor Kottaram was the summer palace of erstwhile Cochin royalty, built to serve the royal family when they visited the Chittoorappan temple, 50 yards away. This is now a three-room, single-key hotel that treats you like royalty. Fabulously tasteful décor, authentic Kerala Brahmin cuisine, complete privacy and a palace to yourself. The stuff of dreams. Chittoor Kottaram is in Cheranelloor, 30min by road from Ernakulam and 30km from Cochin International airport. Tariff 2N for two for Rs 45,000, includes all meals and boat for transfers, sightseeing Contact 0484-3011711,

12. Wayanad Silver Woods
The rolling terrain of Wayanad comes gift-wrapped in coffee, tea and cardamom plantations. Warmed by the milky winter sun, it’s even more fragrant and endearing in this season. But what makes it an absolute treat is that for the most part Wayanad is untouched by mass tourism. Barring the odd traveller who decides to camp overnight, most visitors are day-trippers intent on ‘doing’ the sights. So even on long weekends there’s enough room to map the beautiful countryside without bumping into picnicking families. And the cottages at Wayanad Silver Woods, on the banks of the Banasura Sagar dam, fit snugly into this charming locale. With the creature comforts in place and the sound of crickets for company after sundown, it promises to strip the urban grime off you. The resort is 75km/2hr by road from Kozhikode. Tariff From Rs 7,500 for villas, inclusive of breakfast Contact 9447666011, 04936-273311/273273,

13. Villagio Inn
As Goa gets crowded, the hip crowds migrate to the two extremes of the state for that quintessential Goan experience. And Betalbatim in South Goa has all of these in spades, from sandy beaches to old Portuguese houses and churches. Close to Colva beach and the pretty town of Margaon, Betalbatim is Goa in a nutshell. An attractive new place to stay here is the Villagio, a boutique hotel in the heart of the village. With 60 rooms, this is a fairly large establishment and it also possesses a swimming pool as well as a bar-cum-restaurant. The Inn is located in Betalbatim village; 12km from Dabolim airport. Tariff From Rs 6,500 doubles (high season), including breakfast Contact 0322-2880781/82/83,

14. Devi Ratn
Jaipur’s tourist circuit is so well-trodden, there is no need at all to advertise the charms of Rajasthan’s capital. The magnificent forts that dot its landscape, its colourful, throbbing markets, its obsession with all matters lapidary: these are legendary. Although it takes inspiration from the city’s accomplished gemstone craft, the newly opened boutique hotel Devi Ratn offers a dramatic new slant. The architecture is bold: the lines are uncompromising; its interiors flaunt facets at every turn. Its rooms are an exploration of textures, patterns, latticework and colour. The term we should be using for this diamond in the dust is ‘cutting edge’. Tariff From Rs 30,000 Contact 0141-3050211,

15. Woods N Spice
If, for a change, you’re looking for a Kerala holiday experience that doesn’t involve a houseboat on the backwaters or the beach, the forested slopes of Thekkady could be your answer. There are spice plantations to explore, verdant surroundings coupled with fresh winter weather to soak in and, of course, the fabulous Periyar National Park. A new way to enjoy Thekaddy is to check into the three-month-old Woods n Spice, adjacent to the sanctuary. The 53-room resort offers every amenity — from an Ayurvedic centre and pool to even a business centre — for your comfort, so whether you stay in or venture out, a promising break lies in store. On the Mangaladevi Road, Thekkady/185km from Kochi airport. Tariff From Rs 4,000 Contact 04869-223363,

16. Mangalajodi Eco-Tourism Huts
Every winter, tourists of a feather flock together to Chilika’s lakeshore. Not surprisingly, the arrival of the Volvos pushes the lake’s winged inhabitants further and further out of sight. So unless your idea of birding involves spotting a lone egret or a scavenging crow, you’ll have to trek further afield this season to the wetlands of Mangalajodi. One hour from Chilika (on a bumpy road), its vast, unspoilt marshy waters are home to thousands of resident and migratory birds. Indian Grameen Services, a non-profit outfit, organises boat rides (no motor boat ‘safaris’ here) and offers the chance to bed overnight in rough-and-ready but eco-friendly mud huts. 75km from Bhubaneswar and 35km from Chilika town. Tariff Rs 1,000-1,500 per person, inclusive of stay, food, boating and guide Contact 8895295288, 9583619624,

17. Dunagiri Retreat
At 8,000ft, within view of the snowclad peaks of the Himalaya, Dunagiri Retreat may seem like yet another mountain resort but it isn’t. The lure it throws out isn’t luxury — the retreat comprises three beautiful restored houses but the rooms are minimalist, even spartan. It promises spectacular scenery and delivers with mountains, forests, orchards. But the real punch is its spiritual history and energy. Dunagiri — or Dronagiri — has been the seat of a long series of spiritual masters and seekers, and carries an imprint of their work. There is much to look out at, but here you must also look within. Dunagiri is 400km/11hr from Delhi. Tariff From Rs 4,500 doubles, including all meals Contact 9810267719,

18. Lakshman Sagar
There are few things more delicious than winter sunshine. And what better place to savour it than Rajasthan? While the hotspots will always have their place in the sun, there are plenty of untouched corners that also offer great holidays. Such as the rugged badlands, intended for those seeking solitude and the stark beauty of the desert. On the fringe of the badlands, stands the Lakshman Sagar Resort, its gentle white façade in striking contrast to the open bronze wasteland that surrounds it. Constructed as a hunting lodge in the nineteenth century by the erstwhile Thakur of Raipur, the 12-villa property employs indigenous materials like mud and stone for rustic appeal. Come here to enjoy local food, go on nature trails and horse safaris. The resort is in Pali district, 2.5hr from Jodhpur airport/2hr from Ajmer. Tariff Rs 16,000 doubles, all-inclusive Contact 011-26494531,

19. Hadoti Palace
There are so many reasons why Bundi, in the Hadoti area of Rajasthan, makes this list but the short version is that this picturesque town is bursting with historic wealth. There is the Taragarh Fort, an eponymous school of miniature painting, and the famous stepwells of the region. The best perch to take in all this from is the spanking new Hadoti Palace, a pleasing columned hotel on Kota Road. Among value additions, Hadoti Palace throws in a complimentary movie ticket — entry into Ranjit Talkies, a heritage cinema hall once owned by the Maharaja of Bundi. Bundi is 210km/3.5hr from Jaipur. Tariff From Rs 4,500 Contact 0141-2379777,

20. Rajakkad Garden Hotel
Lush estates, architectural heritage and a story: that is what you get with the Rajakkad Garden Hotel. It is located in Tamil Nadu’s Dindigul district, set in the grandeur of the Palani Hills, in the heart of an old plantation called Rajakkad. The curious thing is that this fabulous eighteenth-century wooden structure began life as a palace — in Kerala. Pallam Palace was bought by Englishman Jeremy Fry in pieces and he reassembled the house here in Rajakkad in the 1990s. Eight unique bedrooms are set around a pattern of courtyards and pools. Altogether delightful. Rajakkad is 2hr by road from Madurai. Tariff From Rs 5,500 doubles, with breakfast and dinner Contact 9811797361,

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