From child-friendly animal farms to attic rooms with glass roofs to enjoy falling show, these stays are perfect to bring in a quiet and magical new year.
With the year end approaching, the dilemma of travel in the holiday season while staying safe in post-Covid times, is real. Here’s a round up of five getaways that can be done with family or friends – to properties that are destinations within themselves, ideal for travel in personal groups and away from the bedlam of celebration.
Soulitude in the Himalayas in Ramgarh, Uttarakhand
Why Go: To watch the magic of a white winter unfurl from the comfort of your plush room, perched high on the Gagar ridge of Ramgarh in Uttarakhand. Away from the milling crowds of Nainital, and with the expanse of the Kumaon Himalayas crowning the horizon, Soulitude is a place to experience the surreal spectacle of falling snow. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the views around, and the glass roofs of the attic rooms showcase nature’s display through the night while staying snug indoors.
What to see and do: The independent suite Awakening lives up to its name with the quietude it offers. Watch snowfall from its private sit out, or the deck below overlooking the valley. Walk across the gentle contours of the property crunching snow and autumn leaves under your boots, and return to the warmth of a bonfire and a glass of wine.
Nanda Stone in Jilling, Kumaon
Why Go: For an honest attempt at organic living. Tucked away in the Jilling village away from the buzz of Mukteshwar in Kumaon, Nanda Stone is a 900 metre walk from the main road, and well worth the gentle climb. An ode to the goddess of bliss, the cottage overlooks the impressive Nanda Devi mountain. From thoughtful design that marries local material with modern sensibilities to local ingredients that are put together to produce farm fresh food with a modern twist, everything here is a journey back to the roots.
What to see and do: On a walkabout with the caretaker Daya, go past terraced fields growing everything from buckwheat to hemp, to maize and millet, and have a meal prepared fresh by his family in his village home. Everything right from salad to dessert, grains and lentils, and spices like turmeric that go into the mains, is
homegrown. Hike back to the comfort of Nanda Stone with pit stops to pick sweet chestnuts fallen from the trees that line the path, and chef Hem will crack open the nuts and boil and serve them to you with some homemade garlic salt. As you savour the subtle flavours of this mountain bounty, you will also taste true organic living.
Fazlani Natures Nest Near Lonavala, Maharashtra
Why go: For its child-friendly animal farm that also offers the unique experience of equine therapy in India. Cushioned midway between the two thriving metros of Mumbai and Pune, Fazlani Natures Nest is a plush retreat spread across nearly 70 acres in the lap of the Sahyadris. It is also home to over ten, majestic, retired horses, who guests have a chance to get up close with. Widespread in the west, equine therapy is slowly gaining popularity in India as a powerful treatment tool that aids people in emotional recovery and positive psychological transformation. Therapeutic experiences include petting, brushing, walking and feeding these gentle animals, which create a sense of calm, safety and positivity.
What to see and do: Other than a stint with horses, the farm also offers a chance to interact with its flock of sheep, ducks, turkey and pheasants that it has fostered. After a day of being out and about, unwind with the alternate wellness therapies offered here, or take a dip in its aesthetic pool followed by a gourmet meal, and retreat for the night to your villa that indulges you with cherries dipped in chocolate.
Meenabagh at Ratnari, Himachal Pradesh
Why go: For trying your hand at permaculture and using the largest privately owned telescope in the country for some stellar skygazing. Eco-entrepreneur Sanjay Austa’s luxury orchard retreat has more to it than meets the eye. A tastefully restored old home complete with its newest addition, the swanky ‘dogri’ (traditional outhouse) cottage, Meenabagh is where Austa practices permaculture, and encourages his guests to do the same. The place also sees many volunteers who come to learn farming techniques, and also those who wish to explore the observatory set up here for night sky enthusiasts.
What to see and do: Pick from a variety of trees to be planted, or attend a workshop to understand permaculture diverse ecosystems. Learn about rainwater harvesting, or count the rings of Saturn through the 20-inch Dobsonian on a clear night, and end the day in the comforts of the accommodation conversing over wholesome meals.
Kairali Ayurvedic Healing Village in Palakkad, Kerala
Why go: For its post-covid detox treatment that guarantees a complete body and mind rejuvenation. Post the pandemic, Kairali has reopened its doors to guests with a detailed program for healing after COVID. The program is designed to cleanse the system completely to get rid of any bacteria that the disease might have left. The week-long detox begins with a consultation to determine the body type, followed by streamlining food habits including eating what grows locally, cooking in native oils and spices, and the minimal use of additives. Despite the health factor, food here is fabulous, from banana stem thoran to pumpkin chutney, and from moong daal payasum to coconut jaggery. The rooms at Kairali are designed keeping astrological charts in mind so book ahead to get to stay in the one that aligns with your birth chart.
What to see and do: A thorough cleansing of the body and mind is the gift of this space, but even beyond that, walks by the narrow canals that meanders through the property, a meditative morning at a thousand-year-old Annapurna devi temple close by, and sunsets in the paddy fields around, all collectively participate in elevating Kairali from a mere health centre to a place of beauty and healing.