Holidays With The Fam: 5 Offbeat Experiences That Are Perfect For Making Memories

Team OT unearths southern India’s best-kept secrets for your next family getaway.

The rolling hills of Ponmudi

Trekking in Skandagiri

Why: Surrounded by ruined forts all round, it is a must visit to witness nature in all its glory. Skandagiri is home to some great sunrise treks
How: Also known as Kelawara Betta, the hills are adorned by the ruins of Tipu Sultan’s fort, demolished during the British Rule, making it even more tempting to trek on. Located in the village of Chikkaballapura, Skandigiri overlooks the beauty of Nandi Hills, often known as Kalawara Durga. At an altitude of 1,350 metres, it is famous for its night trek. The trek is safe and marked for the convenience of travellers. Set an alarm as early as 4am to witness the sunrise on the hilltop or hire a mountain bike to experience the thrill. The Samadhi Caves here will also welcome you with open arms for hospitality.

P.S. Travellers also need prior permission from the forest department and an online ticket from the Karnataka Ecotourism Board

Cacao Roasting in Idukki

Why: The journey of the cacao bean to chocolate can be traced in Kerala’s landlocked district
When: The ideal time to visit is October to November
How: Known as the ‘spice garden of Kerala’, Idukki is fast emerging as one of the prime destinations for the production of cacao in India. Amid the lush forests and wildlife sanctuaries, villages in Idukki are also invested in cacao as an intercrop alongside coconut, rubber, and spices. These cacao-growing areas have become the centre of the bean-to-bar movement. Make your way here to witness the origin of the process that brings your favourite chocolate to the table. Unlike mass-produced chocolates, the cacao beans that are harvested here undergo the processes of fermentation and roasting to enhance the original flavour of the bean. Many organic chocolate brands, both domestic and international, source their cacao beans from Idukki.

Sakleshpur Railway Trek

Why: Nestled in the Western Ghats, it is a perfect escape from the city grind. Witness waterfalls, mountain tunnels and bridges along the way
How: Situated about 130 kilometres from Mangaluru and 225 kilometres from Bengaluru, Sakleshpur is home to the famous railway track trek. This 56-kilometre stretch has over 100 bridges, 25 waterfalls, and several tunnels, and promises  trekkers a mesmerising experience. The trek is also lined with dense flora and fauna. While the monsoon offers a lush view, be careful of the slippery routes. Travellers should also halt at the Bisle Reserve Forest, Mallalli Waterfalls, and Jenukal Gudda—the secondhighest mountain peak in Karnataka.

Inside the Borra Caves

Why: Preserved for their history and gigantic structure,  these caves are located in the Araku Valley
When: The ideal time to visit is from September to May
How: Nestled in the Ananthagiri Mandal Range of Visakhapatnam district, the Borra Caves were first discovered by William King George, who headed the Geological Survey of India. The history of these caves goes back to 150 million years when the Gosthani River in the area meandered over the limestone deposits and formed a cluster of uniquely designed caves. Located at an elevation of 1,400 metres, the caves extend to a depth of 80 metres and are home to an age-old Shiva temple. Adorned with exquisite patterns, the place is best experienced through its natural skylights and colourful artificial lights. 

Wild Trail in Ponmudi
Why: Cherished amid travel enthusiasts, the valley is home to thriving flora and fauna
Where: Ponmudi is an almost three-hour drive from Thiruvananthapuram
Perched at the height of 3,000ft, Ponmudi is most loved for its Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary that houses over 200 species of birds, more than 40 species of reptiles and mammals, and a variety of fish and amphibians. Adding to its lush green beauty is the Karamana River that flows through it. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot tigers, sambar, Nilgiri langur, and bonnet macaques around the place. For bird watchers, the place houses a wide range of species from the Malabar grey hornbill to the three-toed kingfisher to painted bush quail. And for those seeking the best of the wild, the sanctuary has king cobra and python appearing in the dark.