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    Meet tigers, plow fields and perfect your Chettinad curries—without leaving the state

    A luxury resort, a camera and a tourist map—that’s usually all it takes to ‘enjoy’ a holiday. What we don’t realise is that there’s a whole other India—just a few kilometers away from the tourist spots we know so well. This is where Revathi Ramesh hopes to make a difference.

    Chettinad-(1)“Tourism is promoted in the regular places because of convenience, accessibility and the infrastructure. I’m promoting informed tourism where we try to incorporate lesser known places, arts, crafts, music and literature into a holiday. So, not only do you enjoy yourself, but you also bring back something with you,” says Ramesh, 43, who quit her 12-year career in hospitality to launch UGO Hospitality late last year.

    With summer vacations around the corner, she highlights three unusual offerings:

    Village
    If you’d like to learn how the other half lives (rural India, we mean), head to Puliyangudi where you can stay in a village house, get your hands dirty working in organic farms, learn traditional cooking methods, test your skill at local games and crafts, see if you can milk a cow and even interact with grassroot inventors who specialise in organic farming.

    How to get there: Catch a train to Sankarankoil or Tenkasi.  Puliyan-gudi is 18 km from the former and 30 km from the latter.
    Cost: Between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 6,000 for a one-night-two-day package for a couple.

    Heritage
    Chettinad is not just about its spicy food. There are forts, temples, architecture and more to discover. The two-day package includes Puliyangudi-(3)accommodation in a 110-year-old Chettinad house (which has been converted into a luxury residence), Chettinad cookery classes, visits to nearby villages (to get a taste of local life), a trip to the Thirumayam fort, a chance to see Athangudi tiles being made and getting an up-close look at cotton weaving.

    How to get there: Either fly into the Trichy or Madurai airports and then travel by road to Chettinad (82 km and 95 km respectively). Or you can catch a train to Kanadukathan, which is just 11 km away.

    Cost: Between Rs. 14,000 and Rs. 15,000 for a one-night-two-day luxury package for a couple.

    Adventure
    For the thrill seekers, Parambikulam should be your must-visit destination this summer. The tiger reserve is home to leopards, bears, bison, elephants, deer, a variety of monkeys and, of course, the big cat himself. Once there, you can stay at the forest guest house, take an elephant ride at Top Slip, drive into the jungle for some wildlife-spotting, visit  the scenic Vaalparai, and more.

    How to get there: Either fly to Coimbatore and take a 45-km drive to Pollachi, or catch a train directly to Pollachi, from where it’s 20 km.
    Cost: Between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 17,000 for a two-night-three-day package for a couple.

    Details: ugohospitality.com

    -Surya Praphulla Kumar

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