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Enjoy a slice of paradise without stepping on a plane or leaving a carbon footprint

From village retreats to farm experiences, cycle trips to snorkeling, these travel experiences will have you  clamouring to ditch the beach holiday and head for the hills. With everything from ‘back to basics’ through  to rustic luxury, there’s something to suit all budgets, and enough eccentric charm to fill your yearly wanderlust quotient. By  Maegan Dobson Sippy

On your bike
Run by self-proclaimed travel fanatics and former classmates Tejaswini Gopalaswamy and Gurudeep Ramakrishna, Unventured aims to get you into the saddle and onto the open road, with cycling breaks across India. Promising to be accessible for anyone with even moderate experience, they run day trips out of Bangalore to help would-be adventurers prepare for their holidays. The latest expedition is Spice Trail, a tour of Kerala that will take you from the markets of Fort Kochi to the spice plantations of Thekkady, incorporating a stunning coastal ride. November 15 – 22. Rs. 35,000.
Details: unventured.com

Girls on tour
Specialising in all-women
group tours that get to the root of a particular culture or region, F5 Escapes is now in its second year, with over 40 tours under its belt. Previous experiences have included stepping into the mud to plant paddy en route to Jog Falls, and lunch with villagers on the outskirts of Pondicherry. They’ve also pioneered talks around the subject of women and travel, held regularly across the city. The forthcoming trip leaves here on November 21, for a weekend explor
ing Wayanad in Kerala. Rs. 7,000.
Details: f5escapes.com

Under the sea
If you thought that you had to head out of the country for snorkeling, think again. West Coast Adventures has underwater jaunts all taken care of, with over 10 dive sites around the Netrani island, just 10 nautical miles from Murudeshwar in western Karnataka. For complete beginners, the day package that starts in the pool before moving out into the open water is perfect, and they also offer four-day PADI open water diving certification. Courses ongoing.
Rs. 5,000 upwards. Details: westcoastadventures.in

Through the lens
If you’re keen to capture your latest adventures on film then the Toe Hold breaks are worth exploring. Their photography-themed tours focus mainly on wildlife, but they plan to add architecture and culture-focused trips in 2015. Right now, you can click amphibians in Coorg or head into the leopard’s lair in Kabini. All tours are led by seasoned photographers, so tips on lighting, technique and framing the perfect shot are guaranteed. Ongoing tours. Rs. 20,000 upwards. Details: toehold.in

Rustic charm
The pioneers of responsible tours to rural India, Grass Routes are now in their eighth year of offering authentic village experiences in Maharashtra. Visitors are housed in an area with tents that’s managed by a village committee, while all meals are hosted by families. Yourexperience will vary vastly at different times of year, with particularly community-centric experiences taking place around festivals, and the diet dictated by the season. “We’ve carefully selected the villages that were most receptive, and it takes years to establish each centre,” explains founder Inir Pinheiro. Tours are ongoing. Rs. 1,995 / night upwards. Details: grassroutes.co.in

Muck in
On the border of Goa and Karnataka, Off the Grid promises a farm homestay within an untouched evergreen forest, and offers activities that include pottery, trekking, white water rafting, as well as work around the farm that varies by season. There’s an ongoing cob building project that visitors can contribute to, or if you’d prefer something a bit more relaxing, there’s an idyllic natural pool under a water fall. If you’re planning ahead, then kids residential camps that teach life skills are planned for April. Their fourth season starts in mid November and runs until the middle of May. Rs. 3,250 upwards. Details: 09623451758

Short stay
If you’re short on time then Aura Kalari is a haven on your
doorstep. Just over half an hour north of the city centre, there’s a bamboo tree house with a bed that you have to climb through the tree to access, and a quaint cottage constructed from mud, jaggery and cut straw. For a quick day break, try the Buddha Stone space, which is set around the base of a mango tree, and incorporates an ayurvedic massage room with a bathing space inside the tree. Kalarippayattu martial arts sessions are also offered. Rs. 1,250 upwards. Details: 09844019891

 

 

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