Tripping on a Budget
You don't have to spend a ton of money to see the best scenic spots
The capital of the Bastar region is not only one of the greenest, most virgin corners of the country-famous handicrafts from the area can be bought directly from the artisans here. Be it products shaped out of bell metal (dokra work) or intricate pieces of woodcarving, you'll get the best quality and reasonably priced products in the bazaars of Jadgalpur--watch out for the weekly haat for a shopping experience filled with local flavour. It's not just shopping, though: Located within 50 km from Jagdalpur is the beautiful Kanger Valley National Park, one of the most scenic wildlife sanctuaries, where you can spot the Bastar hill mynah. You can also visit the nearby Chitrakote Waterfalls, called the Niagara of India.
Stay at: The hotels are not great in the area; Dandami Luxury Resort in Chitrakote is your best bet. Cost: Rs 1,754 per night for a cottage
Located by the Pravara River, this is one of the lesser-known gems in the Western Ghats offering all the delights of a hill getaway. The lush Ghats form the backdrop as the scenic river flows gently by. When you are done frolicking by the water, climb up the Ratangad Fort for a fabulous view of the surrounding mountains and lakes. You can spend hours at the scenic Arthur Lake, taking in the idyllic scenery all around. This is also a great place for those who like some activity during their vacation, as several long and short treks start from Bhandardara. A popular (but challenging, if you are a beginner) trek is from Bari, a village just outside Bhandardara, to the highest peak in the state, Mt Kalsubai. The trek takes a total of four hours and offers some of the best panoramic views of the Sahaydris and the dam on the Pravara.
Stay at: The lakeside MTDC Holiday Resort. Cost:Rs 1,350 per night for two
About 50 km from the capital, Ranchi, lies the sleepy town of McCluskieganj, where time seems to have stopped. Once a settlement of the Anglo-Indian community, that vibe still remains in the air of this small town, where some Raj-era mansions dating back to the 1930s can be seen (most are now guest houses). An open blue sky looks over the lush green and raw natural surroundings. With dirt tracks, wide fields and large houses, the place is refreshingly offbeat. Do a round of the McCluskieganj gurdwara, temple, mosque and, of course, church. You can meet some of the old Anglo-Indian families--most of then came here between 1930 and 1950--who live here to this day.
Stay at: Gordon's Guest House. Cost: Rs 800 a night per room
Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
One of the most beautiful corners of the country, Orchha remains a timeless place of beauty. Founded in the 16th century by the Bundela kings, the river Betwa flows through the town, lending a tranquil loveliness to the historical monuments that dot the area. The Jahangir Mahal is an exquisite Mughal-style palace, while the Laxmi Narayan Temple is equally breathtaking, with its elaborate paintings and murals. A perfect place to spend a few quiet days--reading, walking, discovering a spot of history and shopping for some metal craft in the main market!
Stay at: Betwa Retreat. Cost: Rs 2,590 per night for two
Everyone knows that the Vembanad Lake in Kerala is gigantic, but the Ashtamudi Lake is no less. A backwater cruise on the Ashtamudi, the vast lake in Kollam, makes you feel like you are out on a cruise in
the open sea … except the reassuring palms are always in sight. Offering all of Kerala's delights-great food, ayurvedic massages, cashew nuts and spices to buy, and a lot of peace and quiet--Kollam is less crowded than some of the other beautiful spots in the state, which makes it an ideal place to unwind and recharge.
Stay at: Tamarind resort run by Kerala tourism. Cost: Rs 990 for a room
There are many, many hotels in Ramgarh and there is a very good reason for that. A small town about two hours from the railway station in Kathgodam, this is where you get a 360-degree view of the entire Nanda Devi range-a truly spectacular sight! On a clear day, you do not have to do anything but stare. Almost all the popular spots in Kumaon, including Mukteshwar, Nainital, Bhimtal and Sattal, are reachable within a couple of hours. So, yes, there are many opportunities for day trips. On the days you stay in, go for long walks among the tall pine trees and watch the sun go down on Mt Nanda Devi.
Stay at: KMVN Tourist Rest House, Ramgarh. Cost: Rs 1,300 for two per night. Tel: (05942) 231 436, 236 936; 8650002531