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    Travel gurus Uma Krishnan, Malini Gowrishankar and Santosh Kumar suggest six easily-accessible retreats for workaholics

    ith the May Day holiday behind us, it seems like there is a long way to go before the next extended weekend. So if you’re already feeling like you need to get out of the city, why not somewhere that you can reach by car? Travel gurus Uma Krishnan of Footprint Holidays, Malini Gowrishankar of F5 Escapes and Santosh Kumar of Getoff Ur Ass share some of their favourite local getaways.
    Day tripper1
    Mix bird-watching with a dose of culture, and even a trip to the beach, by heading to Nagapattinam. Recommended by Krishnan as a great escape, you should stay at the quaint Mangala Heritage Home (`2,500 upwards per night), which is the perfect base for several day trips— all within one or two hours. Head to the seaside village of Tranquebar to see the Dutch fort or settle for birdwatching in Vedaranyam. You could also head north, to Pichavaram, the country’s second densest mangrove forest. 300 km away. Details: mangalaheritagehome.in
    Sustainable stay2
    Biligiri Rangana Hills, tucked away near Mysore, is another little gem. While accommodation options are limited, Gowrishankar recommends the Gorukana Resort (`3,995 upwards per night), which is locally-run and gives a chunk of its proceeds to development projects linked to tribal communities. Many of the rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, and the food is also homely and locally-sourced. While there, plan a day at the K Gudi forest reserve, which the resort will arrange. 485 km away. Details: gorukana.org

     
    Culture vulture
    Chandragiri is a good option if 3you want a bit of history and culture on your travels. The fort in Chandragiri, near Tirupati in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh, is a majestic 11th century building surrounded by lush fields. There’s also a palace, which is one of the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture of the Vijayanagara era. Krishnan recommends staying at the forest department-run log huts in the nearby Talakona waterfalls area. 150 km away. Details: seshachalavanadarshani.com

     
    River boat4
    Just after the monsoon, Hogenakkal Falls in Tamil Nadu makes for a great weekend trip, as you’ll be able to ride in traditional coracle boats made from reed/bamboo. They are just six or seven feet long, but can take around eight people. As long as it’s not raining, it’s quite an experience to navigate the river in one. Make it a day trip or stay nearby in Dharmapuri, says Krishnan. While there is no luxury tourist accommodation, a good basic option is the Adhiyamaan Palace hotel (`1,000 upwards per night)  350 km away. Details: 043 42270007

     
    Wild side5
    For a good alternative to Ooty or Kodaikanal, F5 recommends Valparai. Meaning ‘tail rock’ in Tamil, it is a beautiful destination nestled in the Anaimalai hills. Driving there is an adventure in itself, with over 40 hair-pin bends and picture-postcard scenery. The Parambikulam Wildlife reserve is close by, where you can trek in the forest (and if you’re lucky, spot a tiger), but only when accompanied by a licensed guide. There are forest lodges aplenty to choose from in terms of accommodation, including Kaanagam (`5,000 upwards per night), a spacious, rustic resort in the Valparai foothills. 600 km away. Details: kaanagam.com

     
    Home away from homeGetaway5a
    Stay close to nature by visiting Echankaranai. Kumar of Getoff Ur Ass recommends staying at the Karadi Malai Camp (`4,000 upwards per night), the farm run by Rom Whitaker and his wife Janaki Lenin. There you’ll be put up in an airy bamboo cottage and enjoy simple, home-cooked food that is served out in the open, overlooking the Vallam Reserve Forest. Relax by the swimming pool or trek around the local area, which is also home to civets, porcupines and jungle cats. For day excursions, Mahabalipuram and the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust are under an hour’s drive away. 70 km away. Details: draco-india.com/karadi_malai_camp

    For personalised itineraries: footprintholidays.com, f5escapes.com and getoffurass.com

    —Maegan Dobson Sippy

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