Let me begin this post with a confession. Prashanth and I have always called ourselves offbeat travellers, as we more often than not travel and stay at some really unique places. However, when it came to planning that perfect hill station getaway we’d always settle for Ooty, Coonoor, Kodaikanal, Munnar etc. We must admit that we too had fallen prey for ‘highly marketed’ destinations, which today are being over consumed by the masses of India. Not that they are any less beautiful than how they are being projected. It’s just that they have become way too overcrowded for our liking. We would rather go some place where all we hear are the sounds of nature; far away from the noise of man. Hence, we decided to take a dear friend- Aditi’s recommendation and head to Valparai – the hidden gem of Tamil Nadu!
Valparai is set amidst the Anamalai mountain range. At an altitude of 3500 feet above sea level it is home to some of India’s indigenous flora and fauna. Covered with tea plantations, dense forests, wild waterfalls and whispering streams; co-existing with barely any human settlement is what makes Valparai a charming hill station.
Always take the scenic route!
How to get there
The closet airport is Coimbatore airport that lies 120 kilometers away from Valparai. Thereafter, take a bus or drive to Valparai. This is a convenient and time saving option for those traveling from North India. If you are traveling from Cochin we recommend taking the Athirapally – Valparai route. You will pass through the gorgeous Athirapally waterfalls and reserve forests of Sholayar. And if you are traveling from Bangalore & Chennai then you must take the Pollachi – Valparai route. We’ve traveled to so many hill stations in South India, but amongst all the routes we’ve taken, this has by far been the most exhilarating and picturesque one! With 40 hairpin bends and hectares of plantation one can truly enjoy nature’s beauty and probably even sight a Nilgiri Tahr, like we did!
Spotted these gorgeous Nilgiri Tahrs on our drive.
Pitstops that call for hot lemon tea.
Love road trips that lead to trying humble street side snacks such as this – sliced pineapple with chili, salt and lime (just for Rs. 10!)
Where to rest your head
From heritage bungalows to private estate houses, one can be spoilt for choice when considering a place to spend the night. We opted for the Wooden Chalets at Stanmore Bungalow, which is owned and managed by Briar Tea Bungalows. Today, going offline is the new luxury, and the art of doing nothing is exactly what we exercised at Stanmore Bungalow. We picked this place purely for the uninterrupted 360 degree views of the tea estates it offers from the porch of it’s wooden chalets. Whereas, the food and upkeep of the room was just above average.
Who wants to give up on society and live in a cabin? We sure do!
Dinner room at Stanmore Bungalow.
The range of nature and wildlife oriented activities they have on board is another reason to stay at Stanmore Bungalow. From trekking to tea tasting and from picnic luncheons to riverside walks, they have it all. Moreover, the resort Manager – Mr. Amar helped us in selecting an activity that suited our preference. He recommended the Injipara river and estate hike. Hiking through the tea estate and walking down the riverside sounded like the perfect thing to do on a gloomy afternoon. We will let our pictures do the talking 🙂
Hiking up the tea estate.
Beautiful landscaped vistas on our way to the Injipara river.
Why we like it
3 words – untouched, unexplored and pristine. Valparai offers one the opportunity to get lost in your surroundings, making it the perfect well-earned break. Exploring the hills, stumbling upon waterfalls, tea plantations and toytown villages merely compliments the grandeur of Valparai.
You’re my perfect cup of tea! Grateful for mornings like these.
Scenic panoramas straight out of our cabin porch
Soaking it all in with a smile.
Disclaimer: A wonderful collaboration with the good folks at Pollachi Papyrus and Woodbriar Group is what made this possible. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
Note: Room rates for the wooden chalets at Stanmore Bungalow starts at Rs. 10,000 per night during peak season which is also inclusive of all meals. For Bookings please contact Mr. Pravin Shanmughanandam – +91 8344330416
From time to time we all need a little TLC. And if you are dreaming of Maldives for that perfect pick-me-up beach escape, then look no further! Our insider tips will not only enlighten you but will make that dream getaway possible.
Best Time to Visit Maldives
Located in the Indian ocean, the temperatures in Maldives consistently remain between 29 – 31 degree Celsius all year round. Hence, any month is a good time to visit Maldives! However, the prices of the resorts fluctuate with the seasons. The dry season (from November to April) is more expensive than the wet season (from May to October) with December to March being the most expensive and best time to visit Maldives. However, don’t get put off by traveling in the wet season, as resort tariffs drop by almost 30-40% during these months. The least you will experience are short showers that last for 1-2 hours or at most a sunny day followed by a night storm, which is pretty cool to watch.
Bursts of gold on lavender melting into saffron – magical sunsets like these only in Maldives!
There are frequent direct flights to Male International Airport from most destinations like India, Sri Lanka, Dubai and major airports in South-East Asia. Air India, Spicejet and Sri Lankan Airlines offer fantastic frequency of flights from India to Male. It’s better to book your tickets at least 2 – 3 months in advance to secure a good price on your flights. If planned in advance you could pay as low as INR 16,000/USD 250 approx (Bengaluru to Male) for a return ticket! Check Skyscanner for the best deals available when you want to fly.
Flight time from major destinations in India:
Delhi to Male – 5 to 7 hours with 1 stop over
Mumbai to Male – 4 to 6 hours with 1 stop over
Kolkata to Male – 6 to 8 hours with 1 stop over
Bengaluru to Male – 2 hours, non stop
Chennai to Male – 2 hours, non stop
Flight time from major destinations outside India:
New York – 18 to 23 hours with 1 or 2 stops
London – 12 to 13 hours with 1 stop
Tokyo – 12 to 15 hours with 1 stop
Paris – 13 to 14 hours with 1 stop
Singapore – 4 to 5 hours, non stop
To enter Maldives no pre-arrival visa is required. A thirty day free visa is issued on arrival for all Nationalities, provided, one possesses a valid passport with Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) – (standard ICAO Annex 9, chapter 3.10.1) and is valid for 6 months from the Date of Arrival. It is however recommended that you carry proof of your resort reservation and return flight details when passing through immigration. For more information click here.
Choosing the right Resort (for every kind of budget)
With over a 100+ luxury resorts, all situated on idyllic private islands, one of the most difficult things about visiting the Maldives is choosing one of the many resorts to stay at. Most of these resorts occupy its own island, where you’ll experience seclusion and intimacy.
Our recommendation is to first establish your budget. This will help you filter out amongst the many resorts. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, ask yourself if you would like to stay at a Beach Villa or an Overwater Villa. Our personal recommendation is to stay in an Overwater Villa for that ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, as it’s restricted to only 10-15 destinations around the world! Also nothing like having the luxury of stepping down from your villa right into the reef for a swim.
Your budget will also help you choose your meal plan. There’s Bed & Breakfast, Half Board, Full Board & All Inclusive. We recommend booking an All Inclusive package so that it covers all your meals, daily bottled water and unlimited alcohol. If you don’t fancy alcohol too much, opt for the Full Board/Half Board package and pay for drinks along the way. Be aware there’s no popping-to-a-local-restaurant for dinner; you’ll be dining in the resort so you might as well prepay for your meals. You should also consider choosing a resort based on the activities you are interested in; visiting local islands, diving, spa treatments or snorkeling to mention a few.
Maldives has always been associated with the rich and discerning travelers. So if you are a budget traveler, fret not! Check out this highly useful article by Conde Nast Traveller India that has listed some really nice Hotels and B&Bs in Maldives. It might not offer the luxuries of a Resort but experiencing the sea, sand and sun at such affordable prices is a luxury in itself.
We could get used to living here – Romantic Pool Water Villa at LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives
How to get to your Resort from Male
Now, this is where most people go wrong, especially the ones who try to book their stay online. Whether you are booking online or through a travel agent make sure your package includes transfers from Male to your Resort. Most often, all luxury Resorts offer speed boat or sea plane transfers depending on how far the island is from Male. Sea plane transfers are more expensive, however we chose to go with it as the thrill is just incomparable. If your hotel or resort does not provide transfers and you need to book it yourself – check out Trans Maldivian Airways for inter-island sea plane transfers. Sea plane transfers cost anywhere between USD 250 – 500 per person. Whereas, speed boat transfers from Male to most resorts cost anywhere between USD 30 – 100 per person.
Seaplane operated by Trans Maldivian Airlines
Best Time to Visit Maldives to Spot Marine Life
Whale Sharks are year round residents to the Maldives… Yay! However that doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a sighting. The Maldives, and in particular the South Ari Atoll, are a spot where male whale sharks spend a few of their formative years before moving on. Manta Rays are also year round residents of the Maldives, however they migrate around the area in line with the two seasons: December to April, they can be found on the Eastern side of the archipelago. May to November they are more likely to be found on the Western side. And even if you don’t spot them, there is an abundance of sea-life on display in the Maldives including turtles, dolphins, reef sharks and beautiful coral.
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WIFI on the Island
Most resorts offer free WiFi in public areas, but not all offer blanket coverage of the island or in the hotel rooms/villas. If you need guaranteed access to the web, we recommend purchasing a sim card form Dhiraagu or Ooredoo that offer coverage on the islands. As you get out of Male airport and turn to your right, you will notice the stores of these mobile network operators. We personally didn’t find the need to by a sim card just for WIFI. However on enquiry we got to know that Dhiraagu offers sim cards valid for upto 7 days that cost USD 25, giving you 15 GB data.
If you do not have an International credit card carry a lot of USD
Umbrella – weather gets unpredictable that could sometime lead to rain
Snorkeling gear – most resorts provide it on a complimentary basis. But if not, they charge a rental fee of min. USD 20.
1. If you fancy staying in Overwater Villas then check out this website called Overwater Bungalows. This website will help you navigate and filter out Resorts in Maldives based on your budget and room requirements. We were very particular on staying in an Overwater Villa with a private pool. Hence, this website came to the rescue as it listed out all Resorts that had them.
2. If time is a constraint and all this information seems too overwhelming then consider consulting with an expert. Mr. Pranjal Sarmah is a Maldives Holiday Consultant based in India. He owns and manages Maldives by 360 Degree World. Besides exciting rates and deals he offers amazing insights on traveling to Maldives, especially for first timers. Expect no questions or doubts to go unanswered; this guy knows it all and has scouted almost every island in Maldives looking for the best Resorts and experiences.
3. Your ideal length of stay should be 3 – 7 nights. Therefore, we recommend you stay on one island and discover other islands via day trips through speed boats or traditional Maldivian boats called dhoni. Staying in 2 or more islands will lead to taking more transfers, which is expensive in Maldives. Day trips cost upwards of USD 150 per person and can be organised by the Resort.
The best gift we can give each other is a lifetime of adventures
Lately, we have been raving about LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives. Why, you ask? It’s because you rarely stumble upon Resorts that go beyond the norm, perfecting the art of bespoke hospitality. Today, most of us go on a holiday to escape the routine. Hence, why stay at conventional hotels and resorts that work based on the ‘one size fits all‘ policy? Take it from us and book your next getaway at LUX* Resorts. You’ll see the difference 🙂
We’ve already told you about our experience at LUX* Maldives, but prepare to be surprised with 13 Reasons that differentiates it from other resorts that we’ve stayed at so far:
Beanbags? Check. Fresh popcorn? Naturally. An alfresco cinema experience? You bet! Enjoy watching cult classics, family favourites and blockbusters, in the great outdoors, under the stars!
Open Air Cinema (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)
These vintage red British telephone boxes, aren’t just for show, you know. Step inside and call family and friends for free, wherever they are, whenever you fancy. No roaming charges; no nasty phone-bill surprises.
A holiday without ice cream is like an infiniti pool without water. So LUX* has created their very own ice cream brand, ICI. These are retro-style mobile parlours serving fat free ice creams, which you can relish without any guilt. An array of tailor-made flavour combinations such as Sicilian pistachio variegato, bubblegum, crema with crunchy hazelnut, and mind- blowing Madagascan, are perennial favourites with guests of all ages. Fresh waffle cones are made in- house and baked right in front of your eyes. ICI has truly reinvented the holiday ice cream.
Memorable holidays shouldn’t cost the earth. Which is why LUX* does their best to ‘Tread Lightly’ by offsetting 100% of the carbon emitted during your stay. It is one of the measures devised by their dedicated Green Committee to leave a lighter footprint on the world around us. To learn more about the LUX* Tread Lightly project, click here.
This is an integrated philosophy at LUX* offering a step-by-step path to a healthier way of life. In addition to hosting outdoor classes where their world class trainers specialise in pilates, yoga, meditation, and nutrition, they also offer tailored programs to suit your specific goals. Their Stephen Price Wellness Concierge service can help you create a vitality-boosting regime to ensure you leave LUX* feeling fitter than when you arrived.
Every day at LUX* is a treasure hunt. Spot a bottle buried in the sand or hidden in the gardens, and get an unexpected treat. It might be a candle-lit dinner for two by the water’s edge, a spa treatment, or a scuba diving lesson – there’s only one way to find out; pop that cork and unroll the scroll.
Genie in a bottle (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)
For some folks, great coffee isn’t just a luxury; it’s an essential. That’s why you will notice Cafe LUX* at the heart of the resort. Barista-prepared organic brews, freshly roasted and blended on site. Cappuccino? Affagato? They’ve got it all! Their bean loving team are dab hands with the latest trends and techniques – including Cold Press, Pour Overs and Nitro coffee.
Barista showing off his latte art skills (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)
For as long as any of us can remember, hospitality amenities have been a staple in hotel and resort bathrooms. But they’ve never been quite like LUX*’s Mamma Aroma essentials. From a splash of tropical oil in your tub to that exfoliating sea-salt scrub, LUX* puts a little extra pampering into every bathroom. Their eco-friendly amenities are blended from natural ingredients and island essences that soothe the mind, and uplift your soul. The best part – they’re available for you to take home, so you can close your eyes and pretend you’re still on holiday.
At LUX* guests are spoilt for choice with restaurant options, but there’s something satisfying about savouring food you’ve cooked yourself. Now you can follow the aromas to their outdoor kitchen and get your gourmet on. All you need to do is pick their highest-quality ingredients and rustle up some fresh fish dishes, chargrilled meats or pizzas and cook it to perfection in their wood-fired oven; all under supervision of their Executive Chef.
Who doesn’t love a good Burgundy or vintage Bordeaux? But since the Indian Ocean’s a long way from the vineyards of France, LUX* has tapped into South Africa, carefully selecting 17 special made wines, bottled to taste their best – chardonnay, chenin blanc, pinot noir, sauvignon, shiraz and more. Their experienced sommeliers also have other labels to tempt you, but we don’t know of any other house wines with such fantastic following.
South African bottled wines (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)
Junk Art Studio & Gallery
At LUX*, rubbish artworks are highly appreciated. That’s why guests are invited to their shipping-container studio to try something new and up-cycle the old. Under the guidance of visiting artists, one can let their imagination run wild with salvaged materials, or turn driftwood or drinks cartons into sculptural souvenirs or quirky home furnishings.
Up-cycled home decor (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)
Tree of Wishes
Wishes makes the world go round and at LUX* you’ll find a specially commissioned Tree of Wishes sculpture. Upon check-in you’ll be presented with a unique ribbon or tag featuring your initials and the date of your visit. Tie the ribbon around one of the enchanting branches and make a wish. While there is no guarantee your wish will come true, LUX* can only promise that once a year one tag will be selected and the lucky person who placed it there will win a free stay. Now let’s hope we get lucky 🙂
Make a wish (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)
Aperitifs are often the most delicious and exciting part of a dinner party. Based on this, LUX* Maldives has introduced their new wandering Aperitivo Bar. An ideal socialising spot, packed full with tasty tapas-style snacks, designed to tantalize those taste buds just before dinner. Think daily-changing, signature cocktails, designed by LUX*’s expert mixologists – of course this is no ordinary Aperitivo Bar. The typical LUX* twist is that guests won’t find this bar in the same place twice.
Salute! (Image courtesy – LUX* Resorts)
If you’d like to read more about our stay at LUX* South Ari Atoll – Maldives, please click here.
Disclaimer: We had an amazing collaboration with LUX* South Ari Atoll and the people working there. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
From marrying my long time love and best friend to going on journeys which we ticked right off our bucket-list; 2016 was an unforgettable year! While we’ve known each other for 8 years now, friends who know us, know how much this guy has changed me. Only for the better 🙂
So to refrain from being indebted for the amount of love I have received, I decided to do the unusual this year. And because my not-so-ordinary man deserves something extraordinary; I surprised him with an extravagant getaway to the romantic island of Maldives to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. What a great way to recreate that honeymoon feeling, right?
Our journey to LUX* South Ari Atoll, Maldives began with a 2 hour flight from Bangalore to Male via Air India. Honestly, we aren’t big fans of Air India, but to our surprise the flight was breezy and comfortable. LUX* Resorts all over the world have an inimitable stamp when it comes to service and facilities, which you feel right as you touch down Male Airport. The resort’s dedicated airport butlers escort you to their lounge that is nothing short of a gourmet cafe. After relaxing with some coffee and macaroons they whisk you away into a seaplane operated by Trans Maldivian Airways, which in 25 mins takes you to your heavenly abode.
The journey from Male airport to the resort is so exhilarating, especially when you watch the seaplane land on water. You realise how beautiful our planet is from above, that every passing island makes you wish you were there. As the seaplane make it’s way to the jetty of the resort, you are welcomed with bright smiling faces, waving with vigour. Furthermore, you are hydrated with homemade infused teas, bursting with colours and flavours that’s oh so refreshing.
LUX* South Ari Atoll VIP lounge at Male International Airport
Treats at the VIP Airport Lounge
Stunning views from above
Seaplane operated by Trans Maldivian Airlines
Resort & Rooms
The picture-perfect island of Dhidhoofinolhu is home to LUX* South Ari Atoll. A villa-only luxury resort where your fantasy of a laid-back, tropical island paradise is bound to come true. The first thing you notice as you check into the resort is the beautiful melange of interiors and it’s surroundings. As we made our way to our private villa, we couldn’t help but gaze at the sight of the extensive lagoon with an array of multi-coloured fish.
Dotted at the water’s edge and perched on stilts above a crystal lagoon, we opted for the Romantic Pool Water Villa. This luxurious villa comes with a private plunge pool offering gorgeous views of the sunrise. Wait, that’s not all. It truly had the works of a private hideaway. From furnished terrace, direct lagoon access, generous wardrobes, king sized beds, coffee machines, free minibar, 48-inch curved television to a dreamily suspended gazebo, this uber cool, Maldivian chic villa provided the perfect space for a couple’s getaway that would force one to never venture out. But take it from us, nothing competes with watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S reruns on a 110 projector screen embedded in your room! #thegoodlife
Our gorgeous Romantic Pool Water Villa
Interiors of our luxury abode
In room decor on the day of our anniversary – thoughtful gestures surely go a long way!
Waking up to sunrises like these
Soaking in the views
The cutest pineapple and pizza floats at Lagoon Bar
Disco Toilet + Photo booth = RAGE!
Spa & Well-being
On taking up the All-Inclusive package we were offered a complimentary couple’s spa massage. Now, the LUX* Spa is the perfect sanctuary for your health and well-being. They offer a personalised approach, whether it be a spa, fitness, yoga, meditation, nutrition or a unique combination tailored specially to your needs. Only the best of skin and body care products are used to create a rejuvenating experience. As for the body massage, it was one of the most relaxing we’ve ever experienced. The masseuses hands worked such magic, that I actually fell asleep at the end of the 30 minutes.
Over-water spa treatment rooms
Exclusive range of LUX* Me products at the spa
Sports & Leisure
Chasing whale sharks has been on my bucket list for sometime. While I make a good swimmer and Prashanth can’t swim to save his life, we still decided to embark on a whale shark snorkeling trip. They say love can conquer all – I guess that’s what made my man take the plunge. Thanks to the training and support from the diving team (and of course a life jacket) he was ready to swim in a jiffy. He ticked off overcoming his biggest fear i.e. swimming in the deep sea alongside a tortoise and many colourful reef fish. Whereas for me, chasing whale sharks still remains on my bucket list.
For the love of speed, Prashanth ventured into jet-sking. Slicing his way through the surf, while I sat behind with my eyes closed hoping I don’t fall off and drown. If soft adventure is your style, then try out stand up paddle boarding. Just paddle your way through the calm turquoise waters and experience the thriving nature of the lagoon at its best, while benefiting from a total body workout at the same time.
Prashanth preparing for his training
Going on adventures with him be like…
It’s time to slice through the surf
Restaurants & Bars
If you love your food, then this is the place to be in Maldives. With an extensive choice of 8 restaurants and 5 bars, one can enjoy the very best dishes, flavours and textures that the island’s many cultures and influences have to offer. We opted for an All-Inclusive package that allowed us to wine and dine at any of the restaurants. For our daily breakfast we alternated between MIXE & East Market. At MIXE, tables are set out on the beach under thatched roofs, where guests can sink their feet into the warm sand below while tucking into mouth-watering fresh buffets. Follow the scent of baking to croissants, baguettes, pastries and seeded loaves, fresh from that glass-fronted oven.
While at East Market, one can savour authentic tastes from Thailand, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Think noodle dishes and stir-fries whipped up in woks with unadulterated views of the Indian Ocean. Dim sums for breakfast? Why not!
For lunch we would stop over at the casual and fun Lagoon Bar for some burgers and fries; or at the upscale Senses Restaurant for some Middle Eastern and Indian-fusion delights.
Colourful and healthy breakfast options at MIXE
Senses Bar & Restaurant
Maldivian tiffin lunch at Senses Restaurant
Not just your average burger!
The Ultimate Dining Experience
And finally for dinner we hopped between East Market (Asian), Beach Rouge (Mediterrenean) and Allegria (Italian). We chose to dine at Allegria on the night of our wedding anniversary and it was the best decision ever! Mr. Vijay Rao, Mr. Umashankar Bathina & Chef Nicholas Coelho wowed us not just with the food but with the beautiful beachfront candle light set up right under the stars. The salmon carpaccio, beef pasta and meat filled artichokes were the biggest highlights of our 5 course meal. A true Italian feast that instantly took us back to our roman sojourn. Furthermore, imagine sommeliers treating you to some of the best South African wines the region has produced. We happily ordered 3 of a kind and raised a toast to more love and abundance 🙂
Our intimate beachfront candle light dinner at Allegria
Meat filled artichokes
Luxury of Doing Nothing
According to us, the biggest luxury in life is the ability to do nothing, and the slow island life at Maldives provides the perfect atmosphere to do so. As you walk back to your room every night, the white sand cool beneath your feet, a blanket of stars above, the breeze messing up your hair, you realise the satisfied fullness you feel isn’t because of the exquisite meal you just devoured in, but because of a deep sense of gratitude that you’re here. That for just a few days, this paradise is yours!
Gazing at the stars
Quick Notes & Tips
There are frequent direct flights to Male from most international destinations including India, Sri Lanka, Dubai and major airports in South-East Asia. Air India, Spicejet and Sri Lankan Airlines offers fantastic frequency of flights from India to Male.
Couples should vie for the Romantic Pool Water Villa or Temptation Pool Water Villa. Room rates start at $2000 per night during high season.
We recommend booking the All Inclusive package so that it covers all your meals and unlimited alcohol. If you don’t fancy alcohol too much, opt for the half board package and pay for drinks along the way.
While booking your package, make sure to add in your sea plane transfers. The hotel staff will take care of your luggage, check ins, on boarding and logistics from Male airport to the island. This will also give you special access to their lounge at Male Airport.
The currency of Maldives is the Maldivian Ruffiyaa (MVR). USD and international credit cards widely accepted at the resort. However, there are no ATMs on the island.
The tropical climate is influenced by monsoons, although bright sunny weather with a light sea breeze can be expected most days. So don’t forget to carry your sunbathing essentials. Temperature: 30°C all year round & Sea temperature: 22°C to 28°C
Water is chargeable at the island and it doesn’t come cheap. Hence, if you bump up your booking to an All Inclusive package, you need not worry.
For special rates and bookings you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be more than happy to help!
Disclaimer: We had an amazing collaboration with LUX* South Ari Atoll and the people working there. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
A journey into a 10,000 year old civilization can be nothing short of fascinating. You can only go so far before stumbling upon amazing architecture and ancient temples! What better way to satisfy your thirst for history than by visiting some of Tamil Nadu’s historic towns?
A Passage back to the 6th Century (maybe earlier)
Tamil Nadu as a state can be quite fascinating as you start understanding its history. Known as the Land of Temples, Tamil Nadu is home to nearly 33,000 ancient temples ranging from 800 to 3500 years of age. Our exploration of the Land of Temples takes us to Kanchipuram (also known as Kanchi). Prior to the British rule in India, Kanchi was abode to the rulers of the Chola Dynasty, The Pallava Dynasty, The Pandya Dynasty, the Vijaynagar Empire and the Carnatic Kingdom. The earliest references of Kanchi date back to as far as the 3rd and 2nd Century BC. Its amazing history and architectural wonders make Kanchipuram a historians dream and must visit for every self-proclaimed Indian Traveler!
Kanchipuram is 72km from Chennai and the drive takes about 90 minutes.
Where to Stay
Regency by GRT Hotels in Kanchipuram is the perfect place to stay. Located in the heart of Kanchipuram, the must see spots as well as the shopping hub are easily accessible from the hotel. It offers about 35 guest rooms as well as an in-house multi cuisine restaurant where guests can dine. We arrived at the hotel by 10am and had an ideal breakfast spread waiting for us. The buffet breakfast offers both South Indian and North Indian options as well as the straight forward cereal and bread options for their international guests. As a business and tourist hub, I would recommend making your bookings for Regency by GRT Hotels in Kanchipuram well in advance!
Depending on your interests and how much time you have, Kanchipuram can go from being as simple as a day long trip to a 3 to 4 day immersement in Indian History and Culture. Since we had planned a day trip to Kanchipuram on our way from Mahabalipuram to Chennai, we spent our time visiting and understanding the history of Kanchipuram’s two most popular temples; The Kanchi Kamakshi Temple and the Ekaambareshwara Temple built in the 6th and 9th century respectively.
The Kamakshi Temple is dedicated to the goddess Kamakshi (Parvati) and was built by the Pallava Kings.
Significantly, this is the only Parvati temple in the city of Kanchipuram and is also one of the divine Shakti Peetha temples. The temple also has a marital significance and is considered an auspicious visit for those who are seeking marriage. Walking through the temple, you can’t help but notice its intricate sculptures. We spent a good amount of time just gazing at each of them, wondering about the stories they were trying to tell. The temple also houses a gallery which presents the life of Adisankaracharya.
Walking towards Kanchi Kamakshi Temple
Kalyani or Temple Bath inside the Temple
Sculptors at work
The Ekambareshwarar temple is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
An amazing fact I heard is that there are 108 Shiva Temples in Tamil Nadu; (Read about the significance of the number 108). The primary significance of this temple is that it is one of the temples associated with the Five Elements or the Pancha Bhutas (Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Space); specifically the Earth Element. Furthermore, this amazing temple complex covers 25 acres and is among the largest in India.
Almost every temple in India has an amazing story around why it was built and its role in human well being. On our visit to The Ekambareshwarar temple we were told that this was the location where Parvati worshiped Shiva in the form of a Prithvi Lingam (lingam made of mud). The Prithivi Lingam is one of its kind. Made of mud, it is probably the reason this temple is dedicated to the earth element of nature.
Painting at the temple depicting Parvati’s devotion towards Lord Shiva
Other Temples in Kanchi:
Ulahalanda Perumal Temple
The Magnificent Talent of Kanchipuram
Apart from the temples in Kanchi, a journey into the ‘weaver’s village’ can leave you awestruck. A must visit on every travelers list! The weavers here have mastered the art of hand weaving the famous Kanchipuram Silk Sarees. Hugely time consuming, it takes a weaver about 25 days of 12 working hours each to complete one saree. Even today, the sarees are made largely by hand and a trip to the weaver’s village provide travelers with an insight into the art of weaving. Watching them in action, you can only assume the effort involved in learning this skill! Incidentally, the skills of these weavers have been recognized by both The Central and State Governments. The weavers are provided with financial aid that helps nurture their talent and keep the hand weaving industry alive.
Weaver at work
Working on a split tone silk saree
Stunning intricate work and craftmanship
Millions of threads used in this process
Best Time to Visit
Hate the heat as much as I do? Not surprisingly, the winter months between November and February would be the ideal time to visit Kanchipuram. Temperatures in this time range between 19°C and 29°C. The months of June to September can be considered, but the monsoons could play spoilsport to any outdoor excursions you have planned. Furthermore, Summer temperatures can go as high as 40°C.
Planning the Trip
For anyone visiting Chennai, a trip to Kanchipuram and the Heritage town of Mahabalipuram can easily be forged into your schedule. A road trip from Chennai to Mahabalipuram, Kanchi and back to Chennai forms a perfect triangle with a total driving distance of about 200kms. And finally, do yourself a favour. The Next time you are in Chennai take about 3 days to give yourself the Kanchi and Mahabalipuram experience!
The last couple of months have been insane for us in terms of travel. From personal to professional commitments, which lead us from Dubai to Maldives, Kerala to Goa. And then from Mumbai to Lucknow and Dudhwa (not forgetting the part where we crossed the border into Nepal for 2 hours to try some authentic Nepalese food). We’ve been smitten by the travel bug so bad that we realized we needed another vacation to cool off and JUST DO NOTHING!
They say ‘ask and you shall receive’ and to our surprise we did. We were offered a 2 Nights staycation at the luxurious Radisson Blu Resort, Mahabalipuram, courtesy of the good folks at GRT Hotels & Resorts. An offer so hard to resist that we decided to go despite knowing that the weather might not be on our side. But hey! To our luck we were welcomed with balmy palm trees and a cool sea breeze that we didn’t miss Bangalore much.
Traditional welcome with a modern touch
Nothing quenches thirst like some fresh coconut water on a hot summer day. When you are welcomed with cheerful faces, shell garlands and coconuts served in traditional copper vessels, you know your hosts have got it all right. We loved their modern take to this traditional welcome.
Rooms so warm and elegant, furnished with a resident’s bar and a private patio that overlooks the stunning Bay of Bengal. Above all it had an immense bathtub that came with their signature DIY bubble bath hamper. Yeayiee! The sea view chalet room is the perfect space to stretch those limbs and wake up to the sounds of the sea. Without a doubt, ideal for couples and families who love their privacy.
Sea View Chalet Room
Gorgeous views from our room
DIY signature bubble bath hamper
A space that surpasses your expectations
All luxury hotels seem to be a cookie cutter version of themselves. But the space and offerings at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay took it a notch higher. Imagine an oasis that’s spread across 44 acres. Guests can laze in the world’s longest meandering pool, go stargazing at night or even play a game of golf or two at their nine-hole mini-golf course. That’s not all; adventurous souls can venture on an exclusive catamaran cruise or bike their way through the resort’s private ATV track. Sounds like the good life, eh!
Home is where the anchor drops
Beautiful little corners – Heritage Hall
Let’s just hang here for a bit longer
One of the many pools at the Resort
Located conveniently on the pristine Coromandel Coast at Mahabalipuram, the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay is just 3-5 kms away from all the prime attractions (now a part of Unesco World Heritage Sites).
Places you CANNOT MISS when in Mahabalipuram:
Shore Temple – Built in the 7th century, the Shore Temple is one of the architectural achievements of the Pallava dynasty. Commonly known as the ‘Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram’, only one – the Shore Temple, remains visible today. The other six temples are said to have been submerged under the sea.
Pancha Rathas – Five structures chiselled in the shape of rathas or chariots out of large block of stone or monolith of granite typifies monolithic Indian rock-cut architecture. The five rathas were built in honour of the Pandava brothers and their common spouse Draupadi from the great Indian epic ‘Mahabharata’.
Varaha Cave Temple – The significane of the Varaha Cave story, lies in the panels inside, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi & Goddess Durga.
Krishna’s Butterball – A boulder that defies gravity.
The Shore temple
Varaha Cave Temple
Personalized Wellness Experience
Why have one when you can afford two Spas under one roof. Ayush (Ayuvedic Therapy Center) & Bodhi Spa (Beauty & Wellness Center) are both serene sanctuaries offering some of the world’s best therapeutic treatments. Above all, the staff help you select your treatment based on 3 priorities that fulfill the purpose of de-stressing, beauty and general well being. Prashanth opted for Marma Abhyangam; a full body massage that focuses on releasing blocked energy. I opted for Marine Osmosis, an Oliegodermie body care therapy using marine sea salt for a scrub, followed by a body balm massage and an algae body wrap for a glowing and radiant skin. One of our most relaxing spa experiences. My masseuse in particular did a wonderful job of putting me to sleep with the magic of her hands.
Staff at the Spa attentding to our needs
Getting my zen mode on!
Time spent getting a massage is never wasted – My spa room
The Foodie Affair
Food is not just an expression but a grand affair at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay. On our first day we were treated to a lavish gala dinner that offered over 50 South Indian dishes. Added to that was a super cool Arrack shop that catered to all our beverage needs. The varieties of starters, dosas, pickles, chutneys, curries and desserts were so mind-boggling, we realized we should have worn our fat pants to dinner. Which is exactly what we did the next day when we dined at Waters Edge Cafe for breakfast and lunch. A spread so diverse and global, it makes you feel like the world is on your plate.
Traditional Folk Dance
Water’s Edge Cafe
You can never go wrong with a cheesy masala omelette
Freshly baked goodness
You know the dosa is great when he makes this face!
Gourmet salad spread at Lunch
The best things in life are sweet
If that wasn’t enough, the chefs at Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay had something more up their sleeves. Imagine a posh looking beach shack serving up some fresh seafood and amazing grills just off the bay. Our dining experience at The Wharf reeked of exclusivity and all things that make for a perfect romantic meal. If you are a food lover like us you must try their Jumbo Prawn Skewers with Yakitori dressing, Basiled Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta, Mushroom & Smoked Mozarella Empanadas, Catch of the day (Red Snapper with Cape spices) and lastly the Chocolate Marquise Mud Pie with ice cream. Their Bellini Twist (a white wine based cocktail) makes the meal all the more interesting. One of the best cocktails I have ever had. Tempted already, aren’t you 🙂
Basiled Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta
Catch of the day – Red Snapper with Cape spices
Chocolate Marquise Mud Pie with ice cream
The team at GRT Hotels & Resorts are known for their hospitality and graciousness. Making our stay at the Radisson Blu Resort Temple Bay delightful and memorable. From the moment we checked in, the resort’s staff were utterly attentive to our every need. The Chefs, Resort Manager and Entertainment Manager were most impressive. They went the extra mile to keep us surprised and fulfilled.
Around this time last year, Prashanth and I were newly wed. We were weighing out options in terms of our ideal Honeymoon destinations and determining what kind of experiences we would really enjoy. After much thought, fights and debates (like most couples) we decided to travel on our Honeymoon in September.
However, September seemed so far far way! And that’s when Prashanth said “Hey! Let’s go some place nearby where we could just drive down, getaway, relax and experience the luxury of doing nothing!” That got my attention and I instantly knew the perfect destination – Kabini!
Situated at the confluence of the Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks, on the shores of the Kabini River in Karnataka (West of Mysore), Kabini is the protected land of the wild and home to the largest concentration of Asiatic Wildlife.
Just 250 kms away from Bangalore, you can reach this magical destination in under 5 hours. The Bangalore-Mysore highway is great, offering a good number of roadside dhabbas, restaurants and pit stops. The only hiccup was the last 1 km leading up to the property. That was a bit precarious and tricky. Smaller cars like might face a challenge.
Tip: Drive via Mysore road with the help of Google Maps. Also take our word and stop over for lunch at Poojari’s Fish Land for some authentic Mangalorean-Coastal Cuisine.
The Little Bison Luxury Tent
The Luxury Camp
The Little Bison is a standalone, eco-friendly property with only TWO appointed luxury tents, that run solely on solar power. On arrival, we were graciously welcomed by our personal valets – Babloo, Chickoo & Viraj, who served us refreshing coconut water and provided us cold face towels which was perfect for a hot day. While entering the property we were given a tour of our tent that looked exactly like the luxury canvas tents in Africa. It had a breathtaking indoor foyer equipped with telescopes and an outdoor porch, where we could enjoy the fabulous views. The bedroom was spacious and grand; offering a king sized four-poster bed, a writing table, comfortable seating and en-suite bathroom. Being Wi-Fi free was a blessing in disguise which helped us be one with nature.
Fabulous views from our tent
The highlight of our tent was the open air deck in our back yard that came equipped with an outdoor bed, fireplace and a bathtub. Definitely the most memorable lounging and stargazing experience we’ve had; the glamping way.
Personal bonfire, outdoor bed and bath tub!
Lounge & dinning tent
‘Ghar ka khana’ best describes the food served at The Little Bison. Simple, delicious and fresh. We were told by our valets that most of the ingredients used in preparing the food were organically grown and sourced from farmers in the surrounding villages. Since the property strictly runs on solar power, there is no fridge! Hence, the Chefs carefully prepare food that’s enough to feed all the guests and staff. If there are any left overs they donate it to the tribal communities living nearby. A great food movement that echoes sustainability.
Simple, delicious and fresh Indian food
Food served by our personal valets in our tent
We were also introduced to a concept called ‘themed bush dining’ in the evening. We sat around a bonfire, sipped our favourite wine and listened to the locals sing their favourite songs. All this under the starry Kabini sky, on the banks of the backwaters. We were further dazzled when we were told to take up our torches and look behind. What do we see? Spotted deers right behind us drinking water from the banks of the river! Can it get any more magical than this?
Bush dinner under the Kabini sky!
The Experiences & The People
Going for game drives here is a must. Nothing matches a rendezvous with the big cats or a herd of Elephants. Our Host & Naturalist, Shaaz Jung, also known as ‘The Leopard Man of India’ accompanied us on some of our game drives. His cat tracking skills, breathtaking photography and write ups on Leopards and other wildlife, has won him awards and many accolades. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spot any tigers or leopards. However, we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. We were lucky to witness herds of Elephants gliding through the forest and baby Gaur feeding on it’s mother’s milk.
My game drive look
Elephants gliding through the forest
Baby Gaur feeding on it’s mother’s milk
On the second day of our stay, I decided to sit back and do nothing. All I wanted to do was stare into the distant forest and backwaters while Prashanth headed for his game drive. Vinstant Kian (Former Resident Manager) came up to me and decided to keep me entertained. Walking through the backwaters, teaching me so many things about mother nature, the jungle, the big cats and the tribal communities that co-exists in this man-animal conflict area, was so enriching.
Enjoying the simple things in life
These guys take ‘exclusivity’ and ‘personalisation’ to a new level. We were taken to a breathtaking spot on the banks of the river, and Vinstant surprised us with a Private Sundowner. If that wasn’t enough, on returning to our room, we were further pampered with a relaxing bubble bath under the stars! What better way to end the night 🙂
All smiles for the Sundowner!
Happiness is a long hot bubble bath
Just as we had the fortune of staying here and signing off next to Mr. Rahul Dravid’s notes in The Little Bison Diary (Yes! He stayed at the same tent exactly a week before us), we wish to share this fortune with our readers too. In order to make this happen, we have partnered with The Little Bison to help our readers avail special discounts and freebies on their stay.
The Little Bison Diary
So what are you waiting for? Send us your enquiries to email@example.com
When we were asked, ‘what’s the first destination you would like to explore in India’, our instant response was Rajasthan! Nowhere inspires wanderlust quite like Rajasthan. A state that bursts with colour, royal architecture, mouth watering food, history & grandeur. Whether it was escaping reality in the jungles of Ranthambore, drinking in the views of ‘the blue city’ of Jodhpur as we zip-lined across Mehrangarh Fort, gazing at futuristic time machines at the Jantar Mantar (for that era, no doubt) or stuffing our faces with the legendary kachoris at Rawat Mishtan Bhandar, visiting Rajasthan surely sparked a lifelong love affair.
The Pink City – Jaipur
Rajputs associate the colour pink with hospitality. The city was daubed with pink by Maharaja Man Sigh II in preparation for a visit by the Prince of Wales in 1876. As we strolled through the vedic streets and vibrant bazaars of Jaipur, we realised how welcoming the city is to its regular stream of visitors. Perhaps amongst the most famous of Jaipur’s architectural wonders, the Sheesh Mahal, a pavilion in the Amber fort (known for its intricate mirror work) had us fascinated and awe-struck.
Sheesh Mahal at Amber Fort
Craving for cultural immersion? Look no further than Jaipur, as it offers enduring sights and experiences like roadside ‘tapris’ selling masala chai alongside ghee-dripping ghewar. Beautiful hand painted frescoes, on city walls old and new, narrating stories from the 8th to 18th century. Truly a city that’s devoted to celebrating its arts and aesthetics, from block printed textiles and miniature paintings to finely-crafted jewellery and blue pottery. Not forgetting the sounds of street performers playing traditional Marwari folk music. You can savour it all!!!
Palmist at Choki Dhani
The Blue City – Jodhpur
Honestly, we didn’t have any high expectations from Jodhpur. We thought it would be far less opulent than Jaipur with not much to show case. The picturesque Mehrangarh Fort and world famous indigo-dyed houses were all that we had heard about. But we were taken by surprise! The crooked and narrow lanes of the old city transport you into a world of kitschy charm. Local culinary temptations in the form of makhaniya lassi, mawa seets and doodh phirni certainly add to the experience. While interacting with locals, we were told that the colour blue marked the distinction of the city’s Shaivite Brahmins, which was then adopted by many.
Despite lying on the edge of the Thar desert, the city can be found with sprawling palatial gardens (like the ones seen at Umaid Bhavan Palace), stepwells and bustling bazaars that make you believe that, with faith, one can surely thrive in the desert.
Puppet Dolls at Mehrangarh Fort
The Land of Tigers – Ranthambore
There are few places on earth that combine a profusion of wildlife with valuable historical heritage. The Ranthambhore National Park is one such place. Situated between two iconic hill ranges, the Aravallis and the Vindhyas, the park takes its name from the formidable fortress of Ranthambhore. Sitting at the pinnacle of a hill, surrounded by forest. A place where fierce battles were once fought with swords. A new breed of warriors (tigers), defends this majestic landscape now. It is one of the finest places in the world to encounter wild tigers that roam the dry deciduous forest.
A ruin at Ranthambore
A variety of wildlife thrives across the national park’s spectacular landscapes and diverse ecosystem, including the leopard, bear and a large number of prey species. Tourists flock to the area for the abundant bird life that resides within, or migrates to Ranthambhore across the many seasons.
Have exciting stories about your trip to Rajasthan? Share it with us in the comments section below 🙂