In the Southern Hills
Look out for these lesser-known destinations this summer
Ananthagiri Hills, Telangana
Take a break from the clutter and crowd of Hyderabad and head to the salubrious climes of Ananthagiri. It lies cocooned in the Eastern Ghats. Ananthagiri is made for a laidback break as you kick off your shoes, lie in your hammock and watch the River Musi, a tributary of the Krishna, flow through the undulating landscape. When you want to get active, the tropical semi-evergreen forests covering the hills are teeming with flora and fauna (including pythons and monitor lizards). The AnanthaPadmanabhaSwamy Temple, with Lord Vishnu as its main deity, is located within the forest and is a good excursion. Think of it as a feast for the eyes and balm for the soul.
Get there: Roughly 90 km from Hyderabad
Stay: The GrassWalk Jungle Camp is a good stay option; thegrasswalk.com
Spend a quiet, relaxed time in Chikkamagaluru, in the Baba Budan Hills in the Western Ghats, reacquainting yourself with nature and sipping on some of India's finest coffees. One of the largest producers of coffee in the country, this is where you can stay within a plantation and start your day with a brew grown right where you are. Take plantation tours, go berry-picking, attend coffee-making sessions or simply enjoy the abundant greenery and stunning views. If you love flowers, you can spend time spotting the over 300 varieties that grow around the hills here, or visit the Nehru Rose Garden, where the amphitheatre often hosts cultural events.
Get there: Roughly 250 km from Bengaluru
Stay: The Serai Resort, a luxury property; theserai.in/resorts-chikmagalur; Silent Valley Resort, an eco-hotel;greenplanetresorts.com
Nestling in the verdant Sholayar range, this nook of Kerala remains largely crowd-free. The biggest attraction here is the magnificent Athirapally Waterfall, a wide cascade, almost as wide as an ocean. The waterfall is at its mightiest after the monsoon, which is also the best time to visit. If you like nature, this is an ideal base for you to plan little treks into the jungle, listen to the wind rustle through the trees and the waterfall thundering down in the distance-it will be an experience you'll cherish.
Get there: Roughly 80 km from Kochi
Stay: Rainforest, a lovely boutique hotel; rainforest.in; Kandamkulathy Ayursoukhyam Ayurvedic Resort,if you want to get an ayurvedic treatment along with your holiday;ayursoukhyam.com
Valparai, Tamil Nadu
The most memorable thing about your Valparai holiday will be the drive up to it: 40 hairpin bends up the Anamalai Hills, in the Western Ghats, afford fabulous views of the dams below. (All the bends are numbered to aid anyone who cannot be bothered to keep count!) Once you're there, misty mountain highs and tea gardens unroll in front of your eyes, an unbelievably beautiful landscape filled with acres of manicured greens. Stay at a tea estate bungalow, enjoy fine tea and let your mind, body and soul relax. It's elephant country, so you're sure to catch more than a glimpse of them.
Get there: Roughly 100 km from Coimbatore
Stay: A vintage bungalow with limited rooms within the tea estate; sinnadorai.com. Or choose a homestay to suit your budget at valparaitourism.com/homes.php
Yercaud, Tamil Nadu
A hill station near Salem that offers panoramic views of the Servarayan Hills and the Eastern Ghats. The most striking feature, however, is the lake in the middle of the woods, a greatexcursion with a packed picnic. In fact, it seems Yercaud means the 'lake forest' (yeri is lake and kaadu is forest, in Tamil), and this beautiful geographic feature gives the place its very name. Yercaud is well known for its citrus fruits, particularly oranges, and you can walk among dense and cool orange groves here. They say the temperature never goes beyond 30 degrees here-so get there before global warming does.
Get there: 200 km from Coimbatore, or 170 km from Tiruchirapalli
Stay: The Regent Hill Side Resort, a green stay option; enjoyyercaud.com or GRT Nature Trails, a luxury stay; grthotels.com/yercaud
MUST-TRY LOCAL FOOD & DRINK
FILTER COFFEE: Not just at your hotel but all along the highways, especially in Tamil Nadu, you will find pottikadais (small shops) with big signs advertising filter coffee. We suggest you stop at the Only Coffee outlets on the GST Road (NH 45), and try the strong and sweet 'metre coffee', that's poured out from one receptacle to the other, with a flourish.
SET DOSAS: Spongy and fluffy, enjoy a 'set' or stack of these hot off the tawa on any roadside eatery in Tamil Nadu or Kerala.