It is the summer vacation and the question of where to travel during this vacation is hotter than the summer itself. Leave out the usual suspects. Travel to uncharted destinations this summer. Familiarize yourself with four such destinations.
These locations are different from the usual and more popular tourist spots. But it must be clearly understood that these are not places for boisterous festivities. However, it is possible to cover such noisy spots on the way. On the other hand, the destinations under mention here are so pristine and so very close to the nature that those visiting them get rejuvenated. These are not necessarily luxurious places.
Neither are they endowed with any modern amenities. It may not be worthwhile to stay at these places for four or five nights. The aim should be to spend one or two nights in close proximity of nature and recharge yourself by idling or by enjoying a leisurely walk capturing the scenery.
The ancient town of Banavasi sits amidst villages on the outer fringes of the forest. River Varada flows past on the three sides of Banavasi. The fertile soil here supports the farming of rice, wheat, sugar cane and even pineapples and spices. The air is thick with music and arts. The 8th century Madhukeshwara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the idols of serpent gods within are the main attractions.
Formerly the capital of the Kadamba kings, Banavasi is now in the Sirsi Taluk of North Kannada District. If you are seeking peace and quietude, head for Banavasi. The population here is less than 6000. It offers a clean environment with lotus ponds, shaded trees and belled cows. The life here is very slow-paced. Good vegetarian food is easily available here in the small food outlets. It is better to travel here in very small group.
Banavasi is 742 km (about 16 hours) by road from Kochi. Banavasi can be reached via Coimbatore-Mysore and Shivamogga (Shimoga). The alternative route is via Kannur-Mangalore and from there Shimoga can be accessed through the Kundapura-Agumbe road.
From Bangalore, Haveri is about 6.5 hours by train. From Haveri, Banavasi is about 70km by road.
From Mangalore one can disembark at Bhatkal (2.5 hours) on the Konkan rail and travel from Bhatkal by road to Banavasi (3.5 hours).
One can also travel by rail from Mangalore to Kumta and it is about 2 hours from there by road.
Vanavasi Tourist Home has 11 rooms with limited facilities. There is no television. The stay is pleasant. Homestays are also available but they are a bit far off from Banavasi.
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
A huge rock formation at 660 feet above ground and a castle at the top-something like a castle in the sky. This is Sigiriya or the Lion Rock. The ‘lion’ rears its head from amidst the greenery around. Sigiriya hosts some of the most ancient pruned gardens in the world. There are three different kinds of gardens. This ancient town is one of the UNESCO heritage sites.
It is an exciting experience to go up the castle. From the meadows beyond the forest around the castle, elephant rides are available and different views of the castle could be captured. The Srilankans call Sigiriya the 8th wonder of the world. Tickets are required for going up the castle. The tickets can be purchased online.
There is a daily direct flight from Kochi to Colombo (1 hour and 10 minutes). If traveling from Thiruvananthapuram, the fares are lesser and the travel time is also shorter.
There are two ways to reach Sigiriya from Colombo. By flight, it takes 35 minutes. Alternatively, one can make a 5 hour train journey to Habarana, which is some 15km from Sigiriya (by road, it might take only 3 hours).
There are many accommodation facilities around the lake and the forest regions of Sigiriya.
Yellapetty, Tamil Nadu
Munnar has already become a clichéd destination, say some of the travelers. Yellapatty is quite different from Munnar. One can trek all the way to the mountaintop. The nights could be spent in huts propped against the incessant winds. The food could be cooked and eaten inside these huts.
There is about an hour of trekking involved from the nearest point on road. Once at the top passing the lush green of the tea estates and the foliage around, what awaits the visitor is absolute privacy. There is no crowd like in Munnar and there are no commercial establishments. One can spend a night here and climb down the mountain after the breakfast next morning.
Yellapatty can be reached from Kochi by road (about 5 hours). From Munnar Yellapatty is about 28.8km via Mattupatty.
Different types of tents are available.
Papikondalu, Andhra Pradesh
Rvier Godavari meanders through the Papi mountain ranges. Facilities are there for a daytime journey by boat along some uninhabited coasts. The boat comes alongside a make-shift wharf by evening. The bamboo huts on the sand await the visitors there. The visitors can watch the night descending on Godavari, its sandbanks and the mountain ranges in the backdrop.
Papikondalu offers not just the sunrises and sunsets. The quite nights without the harsh electric lights are worth enjoying. The dinner is in pure local flavours. When the boat comes alongside the next day with new visitors, it is time to bid goodbye to Papikondalu. But it is not yet over with the Godavari. The return journey is through the river.
From Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, it is about 30km to Purushothapatnam. From there the boat journey starts. The breakfast and lunch are served aboard the boat. Some of the temples along the banks can be seen while on this journey. By 3:30pm, the boat reaches the campsite. Tea with snacks, dinner, breakfast and lunch on the second day are all served at the camp. The country chicken curry here is mouthwatering. The morning could be spent trekking in the forest. By 3:30pm, the boat starts the journey back to Rajahmundry.
It is possible to travel from Kochi to Rajahmundry by flight via Hyderabad or Bangalore (4 to 7 hours). By road, it will take about 23 hours to cover the distance of 1238km.
Trains: Ernakulam-Howrah Express, Ernakulam-Dhanbad Express, Ernakulam-Vishakhapatnam Junction Express etc. are available (21 to 27 hours).
On the day of arrival at Rajahmundry, one may need to stay in one of the hotels in the city. The tour operators will arrange for the journey from the hotel to the campsite and for the stay there. The stay is in the bamboo huts on the banks of Godavari River by the valley of the Papi Mountains.